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  • Writer's pictureZack Deutsch-Gross

TransForm Legislative Recap: A Successful Year for Transit and Housing Bills

Seven of the 11 measures TransForm supported became law this year, and we applaud the legislature and the governor for recognizing the importance of supporting transit, active transportation, and policies to build more affordable housing.

The bills that passed included two critical measures that are elements of multi-year plans to provide more funding sources for housing and transportation. The one measure we sponsored, Senator Scott Wiener’s regional transit funding bill, became a two-year bill that may find enough support next year to become law. Only three bills reached a dead end this year; even those may return in future legislative sessions.

Here’s the complete recap of bills TransForm supported in 2023.

Legislative wins for less driving and more housing

Several bills TransForm supported that will improve transit, make our streets safer, and lay the foundation for more affordable housing became law this year. In particular, two bills will unbundle parking from housing and allow businesses to share parking spaces, reducing the financial and spatial burden of parking. Two bills lay critical foundations for the future, making it easier to pass funding measures.

  • Automated Speed Enforcement: AB 645 by Assembly Member Laura Friedman allows six cities, including Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose, to pilot speed cameras to automatically ticket cars traveling at least 11 mph over the speed limit. Automated enforcement has successfully reduced speeding in other states and countries and could lead to fewer fatalities since speed is a significant factor in lethal collisions.

  • Transit Safety Surveys: AB 434 by Assembly Member Dave Min requires transit operators to collect and publish survey data on safety and harassment on their systems. This data collection and transparency, which includes a requirement to seek feedback from typically underrepresented rider populations, is an excellent example of a practical approach to safety, as outlined in TransForm’s Ride Fearlessly framework.

  • Transit Transformation Task Force: AB 761 by Assemblymember Laura Friedman was held in committee only because it was folded into the governor’s transit budget bill in June. It’s funding secure, this task force will make recommendations to improve transit and report its findings in 2025.

  • Shared Parking: AB 894 by Assembly Member Laura Friedman allows shared or flex parking to count toward local parking requirements. This is a smart way to utilize empty parking spots, reducing building costs and the amount of land devoted to car storage.

  • Unbundled Parking: AB 1317 by Assembly Member Wendy Carillo requires landlords to unbundle parking from rent. That makes the cost of an off-street parking spot separate and optional, reducing rental costs for people who don’t own cars. Unbundling parking creates incentives for people to pursue greener transportation options and reveals excess parking supply. It could even encourage developers to build housing with fewer parking spaces, so they aren’t left with unrentable spots, and more units for people.

  • Bay Area Housing Funding: AB 1319 by Assembly Member Buffy Wicks gives the Bay Area Housing Finance Authority more latitude to raise funds to build affordable housing. It’s a much-needed reform that lays the groundwork for a regional housing measure. This is a critical step in dealing with our housing crisis.

  • 55% Threshold for Infrastructure Tax: ACA 1, which had multiple sponsors, is a constitutional amendment to lower the threshold for infrastructure and housing bond measures from two-thirds to 55%. We’ve seen Bay Area measures fall short of the two-thirds requirement by slim margins, so this change will make it easier to pass measures securing the funding we desperately need for local projects. The amendment will create an exception to the 1% cap on local property taxes. It needs voter approval to become part of the California Constitution; ACA 1 puts it on the ballot in 2024. It is a critical first step to passing a regional transit funding measure we expect to bring to the ballot in 2026, so we will work hard to win support from voters in 2024.

Fiscal cliffhanger

Senator Scott Wiener’s SB 532 would have imposed temporary increases to Bay Area bridge tolls to shore up funding for public transit. After concern from Bay Area representatives, Wiener made the measure a two-year bill. We expect to see amendments in 2024 to win support for this bill. TransForm will be co-sponsoring this bill again next year because it is critical for saving Bay Area transit providers from the fiscal cliff in the near term while we work to secure permanent funding mechanisms.

Two stalled bills and one veto

Two of TransForm’s priority bills didn’t make it out of the legislature. AB 1525, by Assembly Member Mia Bonta, would have allocated transportation funding for projects serving priority populations. This measure would have been a step toward repairing the historic disinvestment in disadvantaged communities, but it died in the Assembly.

AB 364, by Assembly Member Isaac Bryan, would have required data about civic amenities like street furniture and public toilets to be gathered and shared. It would have provided a tool for finding gaps in these critical infrastructure elements, which municipalities don’t currently track, but it didn’t make it past the Senate Transportation Committee.

Another excellent measure, the Decriminalize Fare Evasion Bill, AB 819 by Assembly Member Isaac Bryan, would have prohibited transit authorities from imposing criminal penalties on people found guilty of repeatedly riding transit without paying the fare. It got the approval of both branches of the California Legislature, but the governor vetoed it. He justified his opposition with the assertion of a single transit operator that most crimes on its system were committed by people who didn’t pay the fares. However, some transit operators have already removed criminal penalties from fare enforcement with no adverse effects, including no increase in fare evasion. TransForm hopes fare evasion decriminalization returns in a future session because it’s a crucial step toward more equitable treatment of transit riders.


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