March 4, 2009

Your monthly pass to better transit and more wonderful, walkable communities.

These days, good news is hard to come by. But here's a glimmer of hope: the majority of Americans favor improving transit, walking, and biking options over building new highways, according to a recent poll by the National Association of Realtors.

Read on for the latest on the federal economic stimulus plan (mostly good news), what's happening with the state budget (really bad news), our new satellite Sacramento office (great news!), and more:

  • What the federal economic stimulus plan means for transit
  • TransForm opens a Sacramento office
  • TransForm's March 16 regional meeting tackles road pricing – RSVP now
  • Other events
  • Summer internships at TransForm
  • Showcase your organization, agency, or company with a booth at TransForm's Annual Summit on May 16

What the federal economic stimulus plan means for transit

When President Obama signed the $789 billion economic recovery package into law, he designated billions of new dollars for roadways and bridges, transit, Amtrak, and high-speed and intercity rail.

Exactly how funds will be spent is now being determined. The Bay Area's Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) already voted on how it will spend its portion of transit and roadway funds. About 80% of the region’s roadway funds will be distributed to the counties for fixing local streets and roads. MTC will give 80% of the transit funds directly to the region’s different transit agencies for projects ranging from maintenance and repairs to new low-emissions buses.

However, MTC Commissioners agreed to spend more than $70 million of the transit funds on the Oakland Airport Connector project, which TransForm and allies oppose because its price tag has tripled since it was sold to voters in 2000 (it's now $500 million for just 3 miles of rail)! Even BART staff admit this project is nowhere near "shovel ready." TransForm is calling on BART to quickly study a Bus Rapid Transit alternative for the project, which would cost much less than rail while emulating the best features of rail through dedicated bus lanes, state-of-the-art buses, and more.

TransForm will continue watchdogging the Connector project. For more on what's happening with the Connector, contact John Knox White.

TransForm is also working on influencing how federal funds will be spent at the state level and keeping an eye on the Obama Administration's proposed $1 billion-a-year high-speed rail state grant program (in addition to the $8 billion provided for high-speed rail in the Economic Recovery Act). We need this funding to quickly get California high-speed rail on track – and create jobs!

TransForm opens a Sacramento office

The state budget is a huge, awful mess. And it couldn't have been worse for public transportation this year. In the recently passed budget, the only state source of transit operating funds (i.e. money to actually run buses and trains) was essentially eliminated for the next five years. Plus, over $200 million in transit funding for the current budget year was cut.

But with your encouragement and financial support, we've just opened a TransForm satellite office in Sacramento to turn things around for transit. Nick Caston, our new State Transportation Advocate, will help build a statewide coalition to protect and expand state funding for public transportation. Thanks to so many of you for helping TransForm launch a real presence in the Capitol with your donations! The Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund and the Surdna Foundation also provided critical support.

Learn about Nick Caston, TransForm's new State Transportation Advocate.

Then take action to create new funding sources for public transit.

Finally, to help us increase our presence in Sacramento, donate now to TransForm.

TransForm's March 18 regional meeting tackles road pricing – RSVP now

Road pricing is on its way to the Bay Area. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission has proposed a network of high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes, which would allow non-carpool users to pay to use carpool lanes.

HOT lanes have the potential to move more people on our existing highways, improve public transportation, and fight climate change. But if the Bay Area's HOT network is designed poorly, it could put an unfair cost burden on low-income commuters and lead to unwise highway expansions.

Learn more about the proposal for a regional HOT network, hear from the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) about their proposal for HOT lanes in the South Bay, and kick off TransForm's efforts to shape road pricing in the Bay Area.

The March 18, 2009 regional meeting will be held from 5:30pm – 7:30pm in the Sierra Club's 3rd floor conference room at 85 2nd St., San Francisco (Montgomery St. BART/MUNI station).

Regional meetings are a great way to learn about current transportation and land use issues, meet advocates from across the region, and hear from organizations working on similar issues. TransForm holds an orientation starting at 5:00pm before the regional meetings for those who are new to TransForm or the issues. Regional meetings are free and open to all – spread the word!

RSVP for the regional meeting so we have enough seating and food by emailing or by calling Ebonie at 510-740-3150.

Learn more about HOT lanes.

Other events

March 6: Carbon Free Mobility Conference in Preservation Park, Oakland. Peter Calthorpe, the renowned urban planner will give the keynote at this all-day conference exploring the future of public transportation in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, including potential "personal rapid transit" systems for the San Jose Airport, Alameda Point, Pleasanton, and Santa Cruz. As a recipient of TransForm's e-news, you get a $30 discount on the conference (simply register as an "ATRA" member). Register now.

March 16-18: Green California Summit, Sacramento. Learn about a range of issues impacting California, including transportation and land use in the era of climate change. Register now.

Summer internships at TransForm

TransForm will have several summer internships available, and we're excited to announce the first two (and yes, there are stipends available!): a part-time development intern and full-time media intern. Please spread the word to any students you know.

Showcase your organization, agency, or company with a booth at TransForm's Annual Summit on May 16

Want more than 300 non-profit and labor leaders, community activists, agency staff, legislators, students, and policy practitioners from throughout the Bay Area learning about what you do? Then sign up for booth space at the Summit! You'll have folks eating and mingling where you're on display all day. Register now for booth space at the Summit.