Our Top Five Priority Transportation Bills
Imagine a state where public transit is frequent and reliable. Where housing is abundant around transit stations and you can reach essentials like groceries and parks in a short walk, roll, or bus ride from your home. Where students enjoy free transit and a car isn’t an absolute need to get around in your community. This year’s legislative session offers many bills that will help us get closer to that reality, and there’s a lot to be excited about as it comes to a close. Now we roll into the home stretch where bills sit on the Governor’s desk waiting for a signature, or a veto.
Here are five bills we implore Governor Newsom to sign:
AB 1919: Free Student Transit Pass Pilot Program
Improving transit access for students is a no-brainer to increase ridership, connect more Californians to opportunity, and attract the next generation of transit riders. Assembly Bill 1919 would create a five-year pilot program to offset operating costs for transit agencies to offer a fare-free Student Transit Pass. This bill received resounding support in both the assembly and senate and will be a game changer for students across the state, especially those who need it most. A majority of California public school K-12 students qualify for free or reduced-price meals. Fare-free transit for students reduces the financial strain for millions of Californians while also reducing personal vehicle congestion. We’ve already seen similar programs roll out in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Transportation is our largest source of greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions in California — and a lot of this pollution is caused by cars — so increased transit access is imperative to help us meet our clean air standards.
Earlier this year, TransForm met with 10 Senate and Assemblymembers’ offices to articulate the need for increased funding for frequent transit and fare programs at the state level. Students, people with disabilities, and transit riders showed up to advocate for better, more accessible transit across the state. It’s time the California Legislature steps up to increase transit funding to support our low-income residents and address the climate crisis.
AB 2097: Eliminate Parking Requirements Near Transit
This could be our chance at a parking revolution. AB 2097 would eliminate minimum parking requirements on developments within ½ mile of frequent transit. Requiring that new construction provide a minimum amount of parking worsens our housing crisis and takes up space that could be housing or parks. The cost of parking in construction is passed on to households whether they own a car or not. Eliminating parking minimums paired with improved transit access would help reduce car dependency and free up space for more housing production near transit.
More housing near transit means residents can get around easily without driving. The bill would apply to rail or bus rapid transit (BRT) stations, transit lines with service every 15 min or less, or intersections of two or more major bus routes. Ferry terminals with bus or rail connections would also be exempt from parking minimums under this bill. A previous version of this bill, AB 1401, did not make it out of the legislature last year, but momentum has been building across California to chip away at parking requirements.
AB 2438: Prioritize our Climate and Public Health in Transportation Spending
If we truly want to lower pollution and give people alternatives to driving, we need transportation spending to prioritize low- and zero-emission transportation options like buses and bikes. AB2438 would require the state’s largest transportation funding programs to incorporate applicable principles from the California Transportation Agency’s Climate Action Plan For Transportation Infrastructure (CAPTI). California has a complex web of transportation decision-making, and so far there has been a disconnect with ensuring that factors such as pollution and congested roads are taken into account. AB 2438 would require our transportation agencies to develop a selection process that is publicly available and shows how projects are evaluated based on CAPTI strategies, such as our state climate goals and vehicle miles traveled (VMT) reduction. Low-income Californians suffer disproportionately from air pollution, so we need AB 2438 to direct our transportation dollars to fund a transportation system that will improve safe, reliable and multimodal access to transportation.
AB 2011: Streamline Affordable and Mixed-Income Housing on Commercial Corridors
California is in desperate need of affordable housing. We must identify ways to build more housing that prioritizes low-income residents. To address the housing crisis, the state needs 2.5 mllion new homes over the next eight years – including at least one million units affordable to lower income households. However, the state produces less than 100,000 new units per year on average, and has never built more than 20,000 affordable homes in any year. AB 2011 would allow for housing to be built “by right” on commercial land if labor, affordability, and site requirements are met. This means that housing developments that meet these requirements would not be subject to a local government's discretionary approval process and would be exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act. This creates an opportunity to boost housing production as it pairs the ability to build housing on underutilized commercial sites with strong labor standards that ensure all construction workers earn high wages and receive health benefits. AB 2011 would allow for 100% affordable housing projects to be built in any commercial zone that is not adjacent to industrial land or oil production. Mixed-income housing is also allowed by right on commercial sites if it includes at least 15% affordable units. This bill gives builders access to new sites for housing development while also providing competitive wages and benefits for construction workers.
SB 457: Personal Income Taxes: Car-free Tax Credit (still in the Assembly as of this blog’s publication)
I thought we were talking about transportation — isn’t this bill about the economy? Well, it’s all connected! And this one is exciting: SB 457 would create a tax credit for car free households! The tax credit is equal to $1,000 for each household with zero registered vehicles. Owning and maintaining a personal vehicle is incredibly costly and creates a huge burden for low-income communities. This bill can also be viewed as a public transit credit for households who simply can not afford to own a car. We’re saddened to see amendments made reducing the maximum credit amount from $7,500 to $1,000 per household, but this is a step in the right direction to incentivise active and public transportation.
After a whirlwind legislative session, we’re keeping a watchful eye on these five transportation bills as they sit on Governor Newsom’s desk. Do you have time to contact the Governor’s office? You can use this tool to let the Governor know that you support these bills and want to see them signed.