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  • Writer's pictureZack Deutsch-Gross

A Win and a Loss for Transit Advocacy in Sacramento


As Governor Gavin Newsom signed and vetoed bills passed by the legislature, transit advocates saw mixed results. The governor vetoed AB 819, which would have decriminalized transit fare evasion that TransForm strongly supported. But he signed SB 434, which requires transit operators to collect and publish data on harassment on their systems.


Governor falls back on policing myths in veto of AB 819


Under current law, transit agencies can levy fines of up to $400 on people ticketed for riding without paying the required fare. Repeat offenders can be charged with a misdemeanor and jailed for up to 90 days. AB 819, authored by Assembly Member Isaac Bryan, would have removed the possibility of jail time, placing transit fare evasion penalties more in line with those for common traffic violations, such as speeding.


In vetoing the bill, Governor Newsom cited a single provider reporting that most crimes on its system were committed by people who didn’t pay. Aside from basing his decision on insufficient data, the governor’s veto relies on a failed “broken windows” model of policing that believes prosecuting people for minor violations will deter more serious offenses. This theory has been proven not to deter crime, but it does disproportionately target and victimize people of color and lower-income individuals.


By vetoing this bill, the governor perpetuates a penal code that levies much harsher punishment for failing to pay a few dollars than it does for potentially life-threatening infractions like running stop signs, as Haleema Bharoocha pointed out in a recent Streetsblog op-ed.


Senator Min’s bill for transit transparency becomes law


On the positive side, the governor signed SB 434, the Transit Transparency Bill, authored by Senator Dave Min. The bill will require transit agencies to survey riders about harassment on the street and on transit. The new law specifically requires agencies to reach out to riders who are normally underrepresented in surveys, including women, non-English speakers, LGBTQ+ people, and people with disabilities. The agencies must make this information public, giving advocates, planners, and elected officials visibility into harassment so they can forge better solutions for transit safety.


We applaud Governor Newsom for signing this critical measure. Safety is essential to getting passengers to return to public transit post-pandemic because the perception of risk is a major transportation decision point, especially for vulnerable riders. Diminished ridership post-pandemic has made many riders leery of returning to transit.


TransForm’s new report on transit safety outlines a framework for enhancing transit safety that moves away from over-policing and recommends more effective ways to increase perceived and actual safety. We will host a webinar to discuss our new framework on October 27. Register today.


Look for an end-of-session update on all the legislation we supported this year after the governor finishes signing and vetoing bills.


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