July 5, 2011

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

Thursday, the California state budget passed… after $234 million in public transportation projects were cut from it.  This included funding to replace some of BART’s aging cars and $4 million for Caltrain to convert their diesel-powered trains into electric ones.

Thankfully, the funding in the state budget for transit operations (money to actually run buses, trains, and ferries) is safe.  We tenaciously defended these funds throughout the budget process and while they are insufficient, their protection is a step in the right direction.  We must end the era where state transit operating funds serve as the piggy bank for California’s budget woes.

Chris S. wrote to me on Friday, “Hearing about Jerry Brown's last minute cuts to transit just shows how important it is to have a stronger presence in Sacramento.” 

It’s true.  We are so grateful to all the generous people who got us to our goal of raising $20,325 to take on Sacramento in bold, new ways (and it's not too late to support this work).  We will build an unstoppable statewide movement to get our leaders to Invest in Transit.  So watch out, Sacramento!

Now onto the rest of the news, action and events:

  • Special interests come out against commuter benefit bill
  • Bay Area needs to look seriously at equity with the Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy
  • RSVP now for July 21 TransForum in San Francisco celebrating all things car-free
  • Seniors will suffer if we don’t invest in transit, report shows
  • Be a model in our July photo shoots in Santa Rosa and San Jose
  • Listen up: podcasts on the latest in transportation and land use
  • Would you be a great addition to TransForm’s Board of Directors?
  • Safe Routes to Transit call for projects now open

Special interests come out against commuter benefit bill

Unfortunately, the State Chamber of Commerce, CalTax and the California Manufacturing & Technology Association are now actively lobbying against SB 582.  SB 582 would require commuter benefits at large companies across California, allowing employees to deduct part of their paychecks (before taxes) to apply towards public transportation and bike commuting costs.  We need to counteract the opposition on this bill, which is especially frustrating since commuter benefits typically reduce taxes for employers, not just commuters.  If you haven’t taken action yet on SB 582, do so now.  

Bay Area needs to look seriously at equity with the Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy

The Bay Area is updating its Regional Transportation Plan (a.k.a. the Sustainable Communities Strategy), which will designate how $200+ billion in transportation dollars is spent over the next 25 years.  How this money is spent will have huge implications on whether low-income people can actually get to jobs, services, and schools without a car – plus whether investments to improve air quality and bike/ped infrastructure in low-income neighborhoods happen.  

We want the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to do a “scenario” (a version of the Plan) that maximizes social equity so decisionmakers can invest in ways that help everyoneSign our platform as an individual or representing an organization in support.
 
Meanwhile, San Diego is close to adopting California’s first Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy since SB 375 passed, the law that requires regions to reduce transportation-related emissions in these plans.  TransForm has been working with groups in San Diego to share what we’ve achieved over the years here in the Bay Area so the plan they adopt isn’t just more freeways as usual.  Read what we’re recommending for San Diego’s plan.

RSVP now for July 21 TransForum in San Francisco celebrating all things car-free

Don’t miss a night of amazing stories, prizes, interactive polls, awards, and more at a special TransForum at the Women’s Building in San Francisco (16th St. BART).  Our speakers will share their experiences getting to Yosemite without a car, bucking the “soccer mom and minivan” lifestyle that often comes with parenthood in the U.S., and taking a container ship across the Pacific.  Come celebrate walking, biking, and taking public transportation at this fun event – RSVP now!

Seniors will suffer if we don’t invest in transit, report shows

As the baby boomers age and life spans grow longer, the number of seniors stranded in their homes as they “age in place” will skyrocket, says a new report.  While the Bay Area fared well compared with other parts of the country, the reality is that a growing number of residents ages 65 and older will live in places where public transportation service is poor or non-existent – and will be increasingly isolated as they have to give up their car keys. 

"We are lucky that so many Bay Area communities are walkable and were built around streetcars and downtowns," said Stuart Cohen, executive director of TransForm, in the Chronicle. "But our transit systems are in big trouble financially. If we care about our seniors and their growing numbers and needs, we need to fund our transit systems now."

Be a model in our July photo shoots in Santa Rosa and San Jose

Want to show off your love of walking, biking, and public transportation?  We need new images to use on our website and other outreach materials so are looking for people of all ages and ethnicities to be in upcoming photo shoots: July 21 in downtown Santa Rosa from 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. and July 27 in downtown San Jose.  Sign up for this fun volunteer opportunity and then invite your friends!

Listen up: podcasts on the latest in transportation and land use

You can now download the recording from the recent Commonwealth Club event with world-renowned urban planner Peter Calthorpe and TransForm’s Stuart Cohen.  We also recommend four fascinating podcasts from NPR on the role of public transportation in building a more livable nation.  Finally, watch the four-minute video on California’s climate legislation, AB 32 and SB 375, and what they means for transportation (hint: it relates to the Regional Transportation Plan/ Sustainable Communities Strategy).   

Would you be a great addition to TransForm’s Board of Directors?

TransForm has grown and changed a lot in the past 14 years.  While we’re the same regional watchdog, coalition-builder, and policy leader we’ve always been, we now push for transportation and land use reforms at every level of government.  We also develop and run innovative programs like our urban Safe Routes to Schools program that are great for the environment, equity, and health. 

What we’ve realized is that with all this new complexity and work, it’s time to transition from a founding Board of Directors comprised of nonprofit partner representatives to a Board of individuals with a range of skills, interests and perspectives. We want to create a diverse and dynamic group of smart, passionate people to guide TransForm - sound like you?  Learn more about joining the Board or the new policy committee of subject-area experts we’re starting.  

Safe Routes to Transit call for projects now open

What do the new Downtown Berkeley Bike Station, pedestrian improvements at the Balboa Park Station, or the improved and security features on Fairfield's Union Avenue have in common?  These projects all received funding from the Safe Routes to Transit (SR2T) grant program.

SR2T awards grants for projects that improve the safety and convenience of walking and bicycling to regional transit stations. The program is funded by Regional Measure 2, the one-dollar bridge toll fee TransForm helped win in 2004.  The grant program is administered by TransForm and the East Bay Bicycle Coalition.  Although only public agencies in the nine Bay Area counties may apply, you can do your part to bring great projects to life by encouraging your city or county’s bicycle and pedestrian planning staff to apply for funds.  Applications are due August 8, 2011.  Learn more about Safe Routes to Transit.