January 6, 2012 e-news

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

We are incredibly happy that so many generous people contributed to the work of our advocates on the ground in 2012. If you love TransForm’s work and meant to give, we came up just a few thousand dollars short of our goal and could still use your support. There’s so much we want to do this year... but need you to make it happen!

Meanwhile, we are very sad that Congress did not extend the federal commuter benefit that allows employees to deduct up to $230 per month from their paychecks (before taxes) to apply towards public transportation commuting costs. Without the extension, the benefit dropped back down to $125 as of January 1, while the monthly deduction car commuters get for parking expenses actually increased from $230 to $240!

There is still hope for bringing the full benefit for transit riders back as part of the upcoming tax extension debates. So if you haven’t emailed your Congress members about this yet, please do so now.

Now onto the rest of the e-news:

Shape how $7.7 billion will be spent on transportation in Alameda County

In November, Alameda County residents will vote on a ballot measure to increase the current transportation sales tax from a half-cent to a penny, plus make the tax permanent. With the increase the tax would raise $7.7 billion over the next 30 years. But how that money will be spent is being decided now – and will be locked down for 30 years! And there are very different ideas for the spending plan.

That’s why we really need you to join us at two pivotal meetings of the Alameda County Transportation Commission on January 26 starting at noon in downtown Oakland. We need as many voices as possible speaking out for a plan that focuses on fixing our existing transportation system, making streets safe for walking and biking, restoring AC transit service, and only investing in new projects that are cost-effective. Learn more about this campaign and read the Community Vision Platform developed by TransForm and partners. Email Manolo if you can attend, for talking points, or if you can help us with outreach to get more folks to the meetings.

Thank Senator Boxer for supporting safer streets for people NOT in cars

Last month, a Senate committee approved an amendment that would require minimum standards for roads to maximize safety not just for cars, but those on foot and bicycle. If the amendment passes through Congress as part of the new federal transportation bill, the U.S. Department of Transportation would ensure that any transportation project built with federal funds provides safe and adequate accommodation for both motorized and non-motorized users. This is a huge step forward for federal transportation policy!

California’s own Senator Boxer voted yes on the amendment. Please join us in thanking Senator Boxer for her support of the “Safer Streets” amendment and urge her to continue fighting for strong policies plus more funding for public transportation, walking, and biking in the federal transportation bill.

We need a bold transportation, land use, and housing plan for the Bay Area

Thanks to SB 375, each region in California was assigned transportation-related emission reduction targets for 2020 and 2035. Regions must now work to meet those targets by integrating transportation, land use and housing planning into one “Sustainable Communities Strategy.” The Bay Area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission released five different versions (called “scenarios”) of the Strategy… but none of them meet the greenhouse gas targets!

Come out to a public workshop in your county to urge a bolder Strategy. Heads-up: we've heard Tea Party activists may flood these workshops arguing against more transit and smarter land use, so your voice is especially important. Learn more and find a workshop near you.

Free webinar on how we can grow smarter near transit January 11

GreenTRIP is TransForm’s cutting-edge program that certifies residential and mixed-used developments that reduce parking plus offer incentives for new tenants to drive less and own fewer vehicles. The Switzer Foundation is featuring GreenTRIP in the next installment of their webinar series. Tune in 10 a.m. Pacific Time on January 11. TransForm’s Executive Director, Stuart Cohen, and Program Director, Ann Cheng, will discuss GreenTRIP and we can create a paradigm for growth that fosters more affordable homes and transportation. Get the details to join the January 11 webinar.

Spread the word: TransForm is hiring!

TransForm is hiring a Safe Routes to Schools Site Coordinator to engage parents, schools, and cities in getting thousands more kids walking and biking to school in Alameda County. Read and share the job post.

Federal smart growth program survives

After the House of Representatives initially zeroed out its budget, the Environmental Protection Agency’s smart growth program was brought back from the brink and fully funded in the FY12 federal budget. Many thanks to Smart Growth America for their leadership and coordination in efforts to keep this important program alive.

Unfortunately, all funding for the Partnership for Sustainable Communities’ regional grant program was cut in the federal budget. This program gives regions the resources they need to develop and implement a community-based strategy to expand economic opportunities for low- and moderate-income residents, plus create dramatically more housing for low-income workers. We’ll work to restore funding for the Partnership’s grant program in the next budget and keep you posted.

New report shows Californians want to live in places served by public transportation

An excellent new report from the Urban Land Institute makes clear that the future of the golden state is in transit-oriented development as the demand to live in homes on smaller lots and in multi-dwelling developments grows.

For example, the report finds that the existing supply of conventional-lot, single-family detached homes exceeds the projected demand for these homes in 2035! And as many as 9 million households want the option to live in locations served by public transportation, but only about 1.2 million California households can claim to have it today. This is all more evidenceas to why we must reform land use and invest in public transportation. Read the report now.

TransForm welcomes fantastic new Board leadership

Last month, 5 people representing a diverse range of issues and expertise joined TransForm’s Board: Barnali Ghosh, Jennifer Jeffers, Yoriko Kishimoto, Brian Raymond, and Rick Theis. The passion of these individuals for TransForm’s mission was palpable at their first Board meeting, and we couldn’t be more excited for the ways they’ll boost our program work, governance, and fundraising.

We’re also thrilled to have Corinne Winter as TransForm’s new president. Corinne is executive director of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition and was recently honored as one of 100 Women of Influence by the Silicon Valley/San José Business Journal. Read more.

Join the revolution in East Bay bus service

Bus Rapid Transit is revolutionizing bus service around the world by mimicking rail with features like dedicated lanes, state-of-the-art buses, and traffic signal priority. After years of advocacy, final decisions to start construction of Bus Rapid Transit in the East Bay are within sight!

AC Transit will release their final plan for the route between San Leandro, Oakland and Berkeley any day now based on community input about pedestrian safety, traffic, stations and more. Want to be the first to hear about the final plan and when you can speak out to bring the plan to life ASAP? Join our Friends of East Bay Bus Rapid Transit Facebook group or contact Joél.

Affordable housing takes a serious hit

While many people were on vacation last week, the California Supreme Court effectively abolished redevelopment agencies – and with them the largest single source of funding for creating affordable homes and rental housing. With over 5 million people living in poverty in California and an outrageously expensive real estate market, we need to fill this funding hole ASAP. TransForm will be working with our friends at Housing California on a legislative strategy to restore funding. Learn more at Housing California.