Proposed State Bills Support Better Transit and Safer Streets

Proposed State Bills Support Better Transit and Safer Streets  
“Transportation is a Civil Right,” says Coalition of Justice, Climate, and Transportation Groups

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- April 11, 2016                                                                 

Jeanie Ward-Waller, California Bicycle Coalition, [email protected], (916) 399-3211
Kim Chen, California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, [email protected], (916) 447-1299
Joshua Stark, TransForm, [email protected], (916) 706-2035 ext. 302

SACRAMENTO, CA - Everyone needs food, housing, healthcare, and a job, but we rarely acknowledge what is also critical to meeting those needs: affordable, reliable transportation. Many Californians have few or poor transportation options, leaving them without access to good jobs or services. Today, three members of the California State Assembly announced a package of legislation to help change that.  

With their “Transportation and Equity” proposal, Assemblymembers Chris Holden (Pasadena), Eduardo Garcia (Coachella), and Richard Bloom (Santa Monica) aim to shift California’s  transportation investments to provide more access for all. The four proposed bills work together to provide better transportation choices so all Californians can walk, bicycle, and take public transit easily and safely.

  • The Transportation Equity and Job Creation Act (AB 2332) puts disadvantaged communities first when Caltrans determines which roads to maintain and improve, and prioritizes projects for funding that hire and/or train individuals with barriers to employment.

  • The Active Transportation Planning and Education Act (AB 2796) requires a minimum of the state’s Active Transportation Program funding for walking and bicycling improvements to go toward helping disadvantaged communities plan for this infrastructure, and to support safety education and encouragement programs, including those for schoolchildren.

  • The Discounted Student Transit Pass Act (AB 2222) invest $50 million of cap and trade funds into a new transit pass program for all K-12 students, and community college students.

  • California Transportation Commission: Environmental Justice Act (AB 1982) expands the membership of the California Transportation Commission to 15 members to allow the Senate Committee on Rules and the Speaker of the Assembly to each appoint an additional member who works directly with disadvantaged communities that are most burdened and vulnerable to high levels pollutions

“California’s transportation system should truly serve all Californians,” said Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia. “Too many communities have been overlooked for years, suffering without even basic transportation infrastructure. Too many communities have no sidewalks or safe space to walk or bike, or even wait for the bus.”

"Reducing greenhouse gas emissions will benefit all Californians -- and especially low-income communities, who disproportionately suffer from the impacts of climate change,” said Manuel Pastor, University of Southern California Professor of Sociology and American Studies and Ethnicity, and public member of the state Strategic Growth Council. “Providing affordable and safer transportation options -- be it transit, biking, or walking -- is essential to reducing these emissions.”

Assemblymember Garcia’s bill, AB 2332, the Transportation Equity and Job Creation Act, addresses this issue by prioritizing disadvantaged communities for jobs and mobility benefits in transportation investment decisions.

Assemblymember Holden’s Discounted Student Transit Passes bill, AB 2222, enables transit agencies to offer free or discounted transit passes to those who need it most: our youth. “I introduced AB 2222 because I refuse to allow the high cost of transportation to be an impediment to receiving an education in our state, said Assemblymember Holden. “The good news is that we can reduce our state’s greenhouse gas emissions while providing a safe, reliable and low, or no-cost means for California students to get to class, especially for at-risk students in some of California’s most disadvantaged communities.”

Many low-income communities don’t have funds to actually plan where they need transportation investments, however -- and without planning, projects don’t get built. “We need safe places to walk, where we’re not at risk of getting hit by a car,” says Ernestine Mary Houston, mother of five and resident of Lemoore. “Our children need to get to school and we need to get to work. We need more sidewalks so that people can get out and walk.”

“We need our transportation system to work for all Californians and that starts with planning,” says Assemblymember Bloom. “Planning helps our communities identify their transportation problems and find the best solution to improve safety and mobility for everyone.”

AB 2796 (Bloom) addresses this by providing resource-strapped communities with funding to plan for much-needed walking and bicycling facilities, as well as educate and encourage youth and families to use these healthy, clean transportation options. And AB 1982 (Bloom) ensures that our most vulnerable communities - those impacted the most by air pollution from our freeways and transportation facilities - are represented on the California Transportation Commission, who allocates our state and federal funds for highways, public transit, and more.

A broad coalition of advocacy groups are supporting the Transportation and Equity Package:

"The state of California has often led the way on innovating solutions to help all Californians, particularly those who are most vulnerable. AB 2332 continues in that tradition by making sure that our state transportation investments serve the communities most in need by improving mobility and access to services and creating much-needed job opportunities for those with barriers to employment.” 
- Angela Glover Blackwell, CEO, PolicyLink

“From pedestrian injuries to unequal access to public transit, transportation inequities often coincide with health disparities, particularly in low-income areas and communities of color. AB 2332 starts to rectify these inequities by prioritizing the health of our most vulnerable communities.” 
- Sarah de Guia, Executive Director, California Pan-Ethnic Health Network

“AB 2322 will create stronger and more effective accountability mechanisms so that Caltrans - and the investments Caltrans directs - better reflects the priorities of all Californians.”
- Veronica Garibay and Phoebe Seaton, Co-Directors, Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability

“In many parts of the state, students find their bus-fare must compete with the family food budget. Yet education is the surest route to economic competitiveness, for people and places alike. We must listen to our youth leaders to create a California that works for everyone. AB 2222 is a long overdue first step”.
- Susan Shaw, State Director, Gamaliel of California

“AB 2222 provides free or reduced fares for students, which is a proven method to dramatically increase ridership, as well as reduce transportation costs for families, improve traffic congestion, and build a constituency of youth who understand and expect high-quality public transportation.” 
- Stuart Cohen, Executive Director, TransForm.

“Across the country discounted transit pass programs have been proven to reduce driving, car ownership and GHG emissions, and to increase transit ridership and access to economic and educational opportunities -- especially when  targeted to key demographic groups including students, low-income households, seniors and people with disabilities.”
- Denny Zane, Executive Director, Move LA

“AB 2796 is a critical piece of legislation for Safe Routes to School efforts because non-infrastructure projects, such as encouragement programs that promote walking and biking to school and bike safety education programs, are often at a competitive disadvantage in the Active Transportation Program. These programs have incredible value in building capacity and support for larger infrastructure projects in the future, as well as teaching kids how to use this infrastructure safely.”
Bill Sadler, California Senior Policy Manager, Safe Routes to School National Partnership

“California spends billions of dollars every year on highways that divide neighborhoods, worsen air pollution, promote climate change, and put vulnerable road users at risk, especially in disadvantaged communities. We need to change this if we want sustainable communities that are safe for people to walk and bicycle to where they need to go.”
- Jeanie Ward Waller, Policy Director, California Bicycle Coalition

Transportation investments have not historically served communities with high levels of need. We need more voices in the decisionmaking process that understand transportation’s impact on community health and social justice and AB 1982 is a step in the right direction.”
- Matt Reed, Director of Statewide Government Relations, Breathe California

“The state of California has set ambitious goals to fight climate change, improve opportunities, and support public health. We won’t meet these goals by sinking all our transportation dollars into highways. It’s time for healthier, more sustainable solutions." 
- Chanell Fletcher, Associate Director, ClimatePlan

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The California Bicycle Coalition’s mission is to enable more people to bicycle, for healthier, safer, and more prosperous communities for all.

California Pan-Ethnic Health Network’s mission is To promote health equity by advocating for public policies and sufficient resources to address the health needs of communities of color.

TransForm’s mission promotes walkable communities with excellent transportation choices to connect people of all incomes to opportunity, keep California affordable and help solve our climate crisis.