But it’s more than existential, because as transit limps along under the weight of an airborne virus, its decline will have ripple effects to the economy, equity and the environment, Hayley Currier, of advocacy agency TransForm, says. “Public transportation is required for a green and just recovery,” she adds.
Advocates praised what AC Transit and VTA are doing, but said it should have been directed by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission back in the spring, near the start of the pandemic. “I only wish that every transit agency in the Bay Area had the funding and the wherewithal to put something like this together,” said TransForm’s Edie Irons. Irons and another advocate opined that the free masks will help save lives on and off the bus, since many essential workers don’t have access to fresh, quality masks.
“There is a difference between being safe – based on science and what we understand about masks and ventilation and distancing, for example – and feeling safe,” Hayley Currier of TransForm, a member of the Blue Ribbon Task Force, told Streetsblog. “This plan needs to provide specific, consistent guidance that all the operators must follow, in order for all workers and riders to feel safe,” she said.
“But they won’t hold themselves to a high enough standard,” she added.
“We are pleased to see the safety results from OakDOT intersections around Lake Merritt BART,” Bike East Bay’s Dave Campbell told Streetsblog. He noted that his organization and TransForm worked on helping the city get the grant to build them. “Also happy to see a project we helped coordinate get built and be successful.”
“Generally, I think we’re all increasingly aware of how local jurisdictions and local residents who are anxious about new housing, especially affordable housing, and the traffic and parking implications of that, can block housing production,” says Edie Irons, communications director for TransForm, a sustainable urban planning advocacy organization. “That’s a big part of what’s gotten us into this housing crisis.”
TransForm endorsed AB 2923 not only because it will make it easier to build housing next to transit, but also because of the specific rules it imposes on that housing.“We see the problems with balkanized transit planning everywhere we look in the Bay Area,” says Edie Irons of TransForm.
“There’s also a parallel balkanization in housing production efforts. With each city approving or denying individual projects with their different zoning and housing development laws, there’s nothing to stop each city from passing the buck.”
Other groups are weighing in with the governor in response to the calls for delay and claims of harm. Joshua Stark at TransForm points out that the new rules will benefit everyone, including car drivers, by reducing driving instead of encouraging ever more traffic as the current practice does. See his blog post, here, for more details.
“Just about the only people riding transit now are people with no other option. To leave them stranded… especially during a time of civil unrest and lack of safety, is unconscionable,” said TransForm’s Edie Irons."
“This sounds like a total failure of these transit agencies to provide an essential service that people are relying on right now,” said Irons.
Most of the speakers pushed the commissioners to consider setting aside five percent of the allocation for PPE, pointing out that this was a “small sliver” of the total. Hayley Currier with TransForm said that putting that amount into a regional fund would also be “in line with your own principles, that agencies should have access to money based on need, not on their pre-COVID budgets,” she said.
“Up until two weeks ago our large tech companies were making huge amounts of money off the Bay Area but not investing back in the services. They need to pay into our public system,” said Hayley Currier, Policy Advocacy Manager for TransForm, one of the 30-some advocacy groups pushing for VPT’s approach. Other familiar groups supporting VPT’s vision include Friends of Caltrain, the San Francisco Transit Riders, and Seamless Bay Area.
Currier points to the near-collapse of some transit agencies in the country, and BART being forced to end service at 9 p.m., as further evidence that current funding schemes, based on fares and sales taxes alone, just don’t work. The way transit is funded now depends on the ups-and-downs of the economy to fund something that the VPTers consider a fundamental service supporting a basic human right: freedom of movement.
For now, although “This emergency has underlined the holes in the essential systems (including transit),” wrote Currier in a followup email to Streetsblog. “100 percent of the energy needs to be addressing the COVID-19 crisis and doing what we can to center our work towards community resilience and supporting vital services that are under extreme stress.”
“Of course this pandemic changes everything, and a transportation funding measure may not make sense to put on the ballot this year,” said Hayley Currier, policy advocacy manager for the group TransForm, an organization belonging to the coalition, Voices for Public Transportation.
Listen to audio of Hayley Currier's spot to discuss why voters rejected Measures J and I.
Hayley Currier, a policy advocacy manager with the pro-transit group TransForm and a member of the coalition, said the lesson from Tuesday’s election is not that voters are unwilling to raise taxes for transportation — it’s that they no longer want to pay for it with taxes that are disproportionately shouldered by the less wealthy.
“Last night told us that people are tired of sales taxes,” said Currier, whose organization had backed Measure J in Contra Costa County. “It’s time to think about a new way to fund the public transportation we so desperately need. It’s time to ask corporations who profit off of our region to pay their fair share.”
“There is definitely a consensus that we need a big, transformative investment in our transit system, because it’s not meeting the needs of the Bay Area,” Currier said. But, she added, “It matters how we fund it.”
The entire article was a summary of TransForm's blog post, "What will it take to get upzoning and affordability right?"
The 2016 tax “had too much for roads, it had too much for highways,” said Hayley Currier, a policy advocacy manager with the transit advocacy group TransForm who previously worked with the environmental organization Greenbelt Alliance. Both groups declined to endorse the 2016 measure and are now backing Measure J.
“It’s a substantially better measure,” Currier said. “We’re fighting against 70 years of the wrong kind of investment, but now is the time.”
Clarrissa Cabansagan, new mobility policy director at TransForm, an Oakland nonprofit working on climate and mobility justice issues, said that independent analysis would be the best way to track destination discrimination...
Cabansagan said the issues could be nuanced — drivers might reject ride requests because they’re tired and don’t want to drive too far, for instance. “As a person of color who understands sensitivities about white folks feeling the hood is dangerous, you can’t just automatically assume that cancellations/rejections equal racism, but you can do digging,” she said.
Access to timely, affordable transportation is a lifeline for people who need to get to school, work, stores and doctors. In outlying neighborhoods with fewer public transit options, ride-hailing has improved residents’ mobility.
“We see a lot of our communities in disadvantaged neighborhoods use Uber and Lyft because transit is so infrequent,” Cabansagan said. “That benefits people who otherwise might spend more than a third of their income on a vehicle.”