August 3, 2011

Your monthly pass to world-class public transportation and more wonderful, walkable communities.

It’s official: SB 582 has been VETOED by Governor Jerry Brown.

From the White House to California's Statehouse, we are in the midst of strange economic days.  The commuter benefits bill, sponsored by the Bay Area's Metropolitan Transportation Commission and Air Quality Management District, made it through the Legislature but failed to win the Governor's signature on Monday.  The bill's opposition -- anti-tax groups and the California Chamber of Commerce -- decided to kill the bill.  They falsely claimed that businesses, like the 4,000 successfully complying with San Francisco's current commuter benefits ordinance, would be harmed by what the opposition saw as a costly mandate.  Governor Brown cited our "time of economic uncertainty" and vetoed the bill.  SB 582 would have instituted a four-year pilot program to test implementation of commuter benefits programs in different regions of the state.  It was expected to save employers up to 9% on payroll taxes and employees would have seen up to 40% savings in transit costs.

TransForm, through our Invest in Transit campaign, pushed hard for this bill and we're deeply disappointed by the governor's decision.  A huge thanks to all of you who sent letters and made calls of support.  TransForm will continue to work with our allies to promote commuter benefits programs statewide.  If you are an employer or employee and would like to enjoy the cost savings available with commuter benefits, we suggest reading through San Francisco's Commutter Benefits program information.  The City's how-to guides are good for any business, anywhere, looking to take advantage of this Federal Tax benefit.
 

Read on for more news, actions and events:

  • Caltrain service is safe from service cuts for another year
  • Regional decision could trigger more housing near transit
  • Thousands more kids will walk and bike to school as program goes Alameda County-wide
  • Drink cocktails with folks who want to transform land use in California
  • Health advocates more involved than ever in transportation and land use
  • Don’t miss a thing – sign up to get more than just the e-news from us
  • Are you following us on Twitter and/or Facebook yet?

 
Caltrain service is safe from service cuts for another year

The final piece of funding fell into place to keep Caltrain running with all 86 trains and no station closures for the next fiscal year when the Metropolitan Transportation Commission recently approved $3.5 million to run the trains.  The real challenge now is finding a permanent solution to Caltrain’s lack of a dedicated funding source so we’re not back in this same place a year from now.

We’ll keep you posted – and a big thanks to everyone who wrote letters, emails, and spoke at meetings.  The outcry made all the difference, plus Friends of Caltrain did an incredible job organizing many of the efforts.

Regional decision could trigger more housing near transit

Over the years, we have celebrated some big wins in the Bay Area’s Regional Transportation Plan (a.k.a. the “Sustainable Communities Strategy”).  These wins include designated funding to: build a regional bicycle network, expand Safe Routes to Schools programs, improve bike/ped safety on the way to transit, and launch innovative ways to reduce driving.

Now, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission is considering taking the funds for these programs and projects – and putting them together into “block grants” which would be awarded to the places that do the most to accommodate more housing for people of all incomes near transit.  We think that rewarding cities is a good idea, but there’s a lot more details that need to be sorted out to be sure this shift leads to better transportation and smarter land use on a broad scale.  Read our recent blog post on how this could work, and if you haven’t read or signed our Regional Transportation Plan platform yet, do so now!

Thousands more kids will walk and bike to school as program goes Alameda County-wide

TransForm, in partnership with Alta Planning and Design, will receive funding to continue and expand our urban-focused Alameda County Safe Routes to Schools program thanks to a grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission's Climate Initiative.  We’ll now be helping all elementary and middle schools in Alameda County get kids, parents, and the community involved in making the areas near schools safer.  We’ll also be getting thousands more kids actually walking and biking, while giving them the skills to do so safely.  Bonus: we’re starting pilot programs at four high schools!

Drink cocktails with folks who want to transform land use in California

Raise your glass to changing California’s land use policies so they support less driving and emissions!  ClimatePlan, which TransForm co-founded and fiscally sponsors, is a coalition of environmental, social justice, and public health organizations from across California that want to change how the state plans for future growth.  ClimatePlan is hosting a free mixer at Elixir in San Francisco on August 17 at 9 p.m., so if you’re into these issues, RSVP now.

Health advocates more involved than ever in transportation and land use

Our health depends in part on how cities are designed and if there are good alternatives to driving - whether it’s the air we breathe, our access to exercise, or how risky it is to simply cross the street.  Public health advocates know this, and increasingly getting involved in the decisions that shape our environment and how we get around – with tremendous success!

At a recent gathering in Los Angeles brought together by ClimatePlan and four leading health organizations, TransForm’s executive director joined leaders of these groups and nearly 70 health advocates in strategizing how California’s new smart growth law can be harnessed to forward health goals.  The excitement was palpable.  On a related note, check out the new guide released by Public Health Law & Policy and TransForm, a basic how-to for health professionals about local and regional transportation planning. 

Don’t miss a thing – sign up to get more than just the e-news from us

A month is a long time!  As someone who’s only subscribed to TransForm’s monthly e-news, you’re currently missing out on other emails like action alerts and event invitations.  We don’t send a ton of emails, but you should make the switch so you don’t miss a beat with the latest from TransForm.  Change your email subscription now.

Are you following us on Twitter and/or Facebook yet?

Our communities on Twitter and Facebook are growing rapidly and we hope you’ll join the conversation!  Both are great ways to keep up with what’s hot in the news about transportation and land use, share thoughts on issues that are important to you, and the occasional entertaining (but relevant) post.