The process is moving quickly, so please act quickly!
An early draft of the economic stimulus bill made provision for funding transit operations in addition to spending on construction projects for a total of $20 billion for transit. In the horse trading that always occurs during the legislative process, the operations grant funding was eliminated altogether along with another $8 billion in transit construction (while highway spending wasn't decreased at all).
Transit systems nationwide struggle to finance their operations in spite of surging ridership. In the Monterey and San Francisco Bay Areas:
San Benito County Express in Hollister and San Juan Bautista raised fares 33% earlier this year and will reduce service 35% effective on February 1, with some routes eliminated entirely.
Monterey-Salinas Transit hiked fares 25% this month, though they were able to avoid service cuts.
BART projects an $80 million budget deficit over the next 18 months. The BART board is contemplating fare increases, charging more for parking, and eliminating planned extensions in Fremont and east Contra Costa County.
San Francisco Muni projects a $90 million budget shortfall over the next 18 months. SF MTA will discuss this at a special meeting on January 27.
SamTrans in San Mateo County (the Peninsula) will hike fares 17% in February.
Caltrain increased fares on January 1. Caltrain is the commuter rail service between San Francisco, San Jose, and Gilroy.
Some of the current problems are due to the budget logjam at the state level, but almost all San Francisco and Monterey Bay Area transit services depend on local taxes for part of their operating revenue. Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District, for example, reported sales tax revenue was more than $100,000 below budget for November 2008, and revenue is expected to drop off much more this year as Santa Cruz County unemployment now stands at 10%.
What good is an economic stimulus of workers can't get to their jobs, or can't afford the transportation to get there? John Kaehny writes this at Streetsblog:
Congress is fiddling with a 1950s-era stimulus package while America's transit systems burn. You name the city, and its transit system is falling off a financial cliff.
So despite big increases in transit ridership, many transit providers are cutting service and even laying off drivers. Yet not one cent from the $825 billion stimulus package would protect America's bus and subway riders from massive service cuts and fare hikes.
The stimulus package is political cognitive dissonance on an epic scale. The proposed stimulus plan not only shortchanges public transit overall, it provides zero aid for day-to-day operations.
Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) plans to offer an amendment to return the $2 billion for operating assistance to the economic stimulus bill, on top of the $10 billion already in the bill for transit capital projects. DeFazio needs the support of the House Rules Committee to ensure that the amendment is in order. The House Rules Committee meets Tuesday at 3:30 PM to discuss this amendment.
The Democratic Party House Rules Committee members are Chairwoman Louise M. Slaughter (NY), Alcee Hastings (FL), Doris Matsui (CA), Dennis Cardoza (CA), Peter Welch (VT), Kathy Castor (FL), Michael Arcuri (NY), and Betty Sutton (OH). The GOP members of the Rules Committee are David Dreier (CA), Lincoln Diaz-Balart (FL), Doc Hastings (WA), and Pete Sessions (TX).