California transportation and energy issues on the ballot

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Monday, November 03, 2008
By Yokota Fritz

Here are my last minute commentary on the various propositions and a few local measures on the 2008 ballot in California.

Proposition 1A: High Speed Rail. Support. Many environmentalists are concerned that HSR will open up more sprawl in the Central Valley -- the fear is that High Speed Rail (HSR) will enable commuters to buy a home cheap in Fresno or Gilroy and take high speed rail to work in Silicon Valley. Those traditionally opposed to anything other than highway and air travel and who style themselves, oddly, as fiscal conservatives oppose Prop 1A because they believe spending should be reserved to expanding and maintaining only freeways and airports. I believe, however, that HSR is an intelligent and wise use of transportation funds and that there is sufficient travel demand between San Francisco and Los Angeles to make this endeavor more than worthwhile. As energy costs continue to rise (and they will rise), something besides highway and air travel needs to be available. My fear is that this already too late to build -- we needed to plan for something like this three decades ago when land, energy and credit were cheap.

Proposition 7: Renewable Energy Initiative. Oppose. Prop 7 is poorly written and adds considerable expense to regulators and consumers while doing very little to actually encourage generation of renewable energy in California. Prop 7 will just make energy generation more difficult for all providers, make energy more expensive with no benefit, and could even shut out smaller businesses that are working to generate electricity from renewable resources. Read why the Sierra Club opposes Prop 7.

Proposition 10: Alternative Fuel Vehicles. Oppose. Prop 10 provides funding to implement "The Pickens Plan," which borrows money to provide rebates for consumers who purchase natural gas powered vehicles. Taxpayers will subsidize the purchase of new vehicles with no new funding source, and the primary beneficiary will be owners of corporate fleets. Read why the Sierra Club opposes Prop 10.

Santa Clara County Measure B: VTA sales tax increase Oppose. This is the infamous "BART to Fremont" measure. VTA famously mismanages their generous funding. VTA can't be trusted with even more money after their broken promises to county voters and persistently poor service to those dependent on their transportation services. VTA will divert funding from Caltrain and their existing transit services to pay for service to Fremont from San Jose. Much more info at No VTA Tax, especially this page. See also VTA Riders Union, 295Bus, and The Bay Rail Alliance. Those who actually use public transportation on a day to day basis oppose Measure B.

Santa Cruz County. There are no measures that directly impact transportation in Santa Cruz County. The perpetual issue of Highway 1 widening, however, will be discussed (again) along with other transportation issues by county supervisors and Santa Cruz city councilors who will be selected this week. People Power in Santa Cruz has their endorsements for representatives [PDF] with good discussion on the candidates' positions, histories and qualifications.

San Mateo County Measure Q: Commercial Parking Tax. Support. Measure Q imposes an 8% tax on the gross receipts of commercial parking operations in unincorporated San Mateo County. This would affect many businesses who provide parking for SFO Airport patrons.

San Mateo County Measure R: Rental car tax. Support. Measure R adds a 2.5% tax on the gross receipts of rental car businesses in unincorporated San Mateo County, affecting many businesses who rent cars out to visitors coming through SFO Airport.

Redwood City development measures. Redwood City Measures V and W impact future development there. I haven't been following these issues closely but read up on them to be educated on them.

San Francisco Bicycle Coalition candidate and issues endorsements are here.

Marin County Measure Q & Sonoma County Measure Q: Tax for Passenger Rail. Support. This is the proposed Sonoma-Marin SMART service.

Brookings Institute Report: McCain and Obama on transportation issues [PDF]. Via.

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Down south LA county has Prop R, a transit sales tax.

It was originally planned to fund both operation and expansion (particularly subway-to-the-Sea) but with the state's continuing gas-tax grab, it's basically turned into funding to continue the current service level.

You can read about it here:
Thanks for that. I haven't watched what's going on in the Southland lately so I'm glad somebody is paying attention.
Any thoughts on the Monterey County Transportation measure (Z) ... I'm voting no ... not enough "alternative" transportation....I've read more funding for those endeavors are slated for the "next" transportation bill, but I dont buy it.
I'm on the fence about Monterey Measure Z, but I'm also not actively involved in transportation issues in Monterey County.

The problem is that the state legislature has poached the normal transportation funding source -- the gas tax -- for use in the general budget. That leaves serious shortfalls not only for regular road maintenance but also for the facilities cyclists like as well as public transportation. It's a big problem for every county and I think many localities will have to resort to local taxes to support even a minimal level of transportation funding.
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