“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.”
Chris Lepe, regional policy director for at the transportation advocacy nonprofit TransForm, said the region’s public transit systems “are not targeted toward the kind of destinations people want to go to on the weekend.”
... Lepe, as you might imagine, is a pretty avid transit user: From his home in San Jose, he regularly takes Caltrain to San Francisco and Amtrak to the East Bay. But if he wants to visit friends or go camping in Sonoma County over the weekend, he said, “There isn’t a good option.”
So Lepe winds up driving instead — and often getting stuck in traffic. There’s no sign that the factors creating weekend traffic jams will be easing any time soon. As long as money is tight and transportation agencies need to prioritize spending, devoting money to improving commutes rather than weekend trips may not be a bad thing — after all, it would affect more people on more days each week, Lepe said.
“What makes the most sense in terms of bang for the buck?” he said.
Lyft also donated $700,000 to a program administered by TransForm in February this year, which some bike advocates said clouded any public statements the group made in defense of Lyft. But after it netted some public scrutiny on social media — including from local bike advocate Chema Hernandez Gil, who called it a “justice issue” — TransForm released a more definitive statement in support of cash payments. TransForm spokesperson Edie Irons said for cash payments to truly be successful, Lyft would need to invest heavily in making sure target communities are reached.
“It’s a terrible system. We’ve never been satisfied with how the cash system was working,” Irons told the Examiner. “Of course we want to see more locations, that are more accessible, for cash payment. We never endorsed removing cash payment. We’re dismayed our support for prepaid cards was made to look like that.”
At the end of the day, however, Irons said the cost of administering a cash program might be too high for Lyft to desire to engage in. It may be simpler, easier and more beneficial to Bay Area low-income communities to simply make the service free, she said.
“We continue to advocate that Bikeshare For All memberships and low-income scooter programs should just be free, period,” she said.
"In the Bay area, in the last several years, we've added half a million jobs and only 50,000 homes," said Edie Irons, communications director for Transform, a nonprofit that lobbies state lawmakers for more affordable housing and transportation options for Californians.
The average tech worker in San Jose and San Francisco earned more than $111,000 a year in 2018, according to the Computing Technology Industry Association, compared to around $76,000 for non-tech workers. Zillow data shows that Bay Area home prices on average grew from $245,000 in 1997 to $995,800 in 2018. Those figures, combined with San Jose and San Francisco areas building fewer homes, helped cause the crisis. Californians have bemoaned the rising home prices for years and "now the companies that helped to create it are finally stepping up," Irons said.
Irons echoed Sanders' comment and said the $4.5 billion "is a drop in the bucket" when the median home price in San Francisco is more than $1 million.
"It's absolutely throwing money at the symptoms and not very much when you look at the scope of the problem," she said. "That said, it is a step in the right direction and it's absolutely welcome."
TransForm has been working on an idea to make it quick, convenient, and easy to get around the region via transit, offering better-than-decent alternatives to driving. Its vision, called the Regional Express Transit Network, or ReX, is an idea for a new system of “rail-like rubber-tire transit” using managed lanes on area freeways.
TransForm has mapped out potential hubs for the regional system, which would connect to existing regional rail and local transit routes. The idea is to get people from hub to hub faster than driving, with convenient, frequent connections to existing and enhanced local transit at the hubs.
To be clear: this is a vision for the future, set out in some detail by TransForm but with a lot more work to be done. The organization has released it now to provide input to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) on work it is currently doing to model a proposed network of managed freeway lanes. It also lays out potential investments from a future regional transportation tax measure. It’s a roadmap of how transportation investments could be used to improve transit and provide alternatives to driving throughout the region.
“We would expect ReX to increase ridership across the board,” said Edie Irons, TransForm’s Communications Director. “We see it as connecting and complementing existing systems, making transit a more convenient and attractive option for lots of people who don’t currently use transit. It’s a regional transit option with a greater reach than currently exists.”
Imagine gliding from Walnut Creek to Mountain View at rush hour without getting stuck in traffic or settling in for a ride to San Francisco International Airport from the North Bay knowing you won’t have to get up from your seat to make a transfer.
That’s the vision behind a multibillion-dollar idea to ease commute times and reshape transportation in the Bay Area over the next several decades.
Called the Bay Area Regional Express Transit Network, or ReX, the concept from transportation think-tank TransForm seeks to get commuters out of their cars by knitting together the region with next-generation buses that travel on an extensive network of dedicated lanes to ensure they don’t get bogged down in traffic.
Clarrissa Cabansagan, a policy director for California transit justice organization TransForm, said the onus is on the cities to set up a system requiring companies to improve outreach.
“The cities need to be more specific about how outreach should happen in low-income communities … and [be] held to that standard,” Cabansagan told The Hill, noting that she checks the scooter apps every day in Oakland and finds the vehicles aren’t located in poor neighborhoods.