Exactly five months after Plan Bay Area adoption, MTC Commissioners approved a framework for spending $10 billion in federal, state, and local dollars.
As we explained last month, this includes a new Core Capacity Challenge Grant program and general framework for programming over $3 billion in anticipated cap-and-trade revenues. The decision will guide MTC’s advocacy at the state level on cap-and-trade funding. If and when cap-and-trade funds arrive at the regional level, this decision will guide how those funds are spent. This decision prioritizes important transit system needs for our core operators, such as BART’s new fleet and replacing transit vehicles for Muni and AC Transit.
A good development in the past month is that staff included a public process for fleshing out how the money will be spent within each program. This will give us the opportunity to help MTC develop robust criteria to ensure cap-and-trade funds result in benefits to disadvantaged communities, greater greenhouse gas reduction, and increased economic co-benefits. This addition came largely in response to efforts by allies in the 6 Wins Coalition. TransForm and dozens of other groups expressed concern that MTC’s previous proposal ignored Plan Bay Area’s commitment to an inclusive and transparent regional public process.
A not-so-good development is that MTC made a quick decision, without extensive input, on distributing funds they expect to put towards a Transit Operations and Efficiency category.
Commissioners Quan, Campos, Bates, Kinsey, and Liccardo all made especially helpful comments reinforcing that we need a better process and clarity on the formulas before dividing up operations funds; to develop a strategy for comprehensively addressing operations needs beyond cap-and-trade; and to address our region’s great need for affordable housing.
While the funding architecture and Core Capacity program align well with Plan Bay Area goals, we think the public process can and should be better going forward. In 2014, we’ll be engaging our regional leaders in the public process to ensure that cap-and-trade funds go further to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and benefit disadvantaged communities. As importantly, all of this thinking will only matter if the region gets cap-and-trade funds. That in turn will depend on whether and when the state repays last year’s loan of cap-and-trade funds to the general fund and if this and future years’ revenues are allocated according to the state’s own investment plan.
For more information on how you can get involved, contact TransForm’s Community Planner, Clarrissa Cabansagan.