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Transportation Funding

More than 30 Organizations Ask the Governor to Lift Transit Funding Freeze

The letter comes a day before Governor Newsom is scheduled to announce his May Budget Revision

Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

On Friday, Governor Newsom will announce his revised budget proposals, based on hard numbers that were not available in January when his draft budget proposal was due. Great news is not expected, since tax revenue projections are down.

But in the meantime, his administration called for a freeze on funding that had already been awarded for transit in this year's budget. The announcement of the freeze was a surprise move that came on the day that transit agencies were expecting the funds. This sent them into a scramble to figure out alternative budget plans, which are due to their own boards before the "temporary" freeze is over. It also jeopardizes funding agreements in those programs, undermining transit agency recovery and threatening to derail the state's climate commitments.

Now a group of thirty organizations have sent a letter to the Governor requesting he immediately release the promised funding, including some for the Transit and Intercity Rail Program that had been awarded earlier this year.

The organizations are advocates for climate, environment, safety, and mobility justice. The letter expresses their frustration that the many months of negotiation and work that went into making sure agency programs were lined up with funding requirements were set aside by the freeze.

"This is why we, collectively, express deep concern over the Administration’s decision to freeze critical funding for public transportation operations, maintenance, and capital projects," they write. The letter continues:

While we are not oblivious to the fiscal challenges that our State faces, cutting this essential public transit funding is not the way to address these concerns. Putting transit in peril will create a disastrous “death spiral” that will further imperil the State’s budget as workers are left stranded by their transit systems and unable to get to work, school, appointments, and more.

In addition, this decision will set back California’s efforts to achieve its ambitious climate goals. As you stated when signing SB 125 last year, you reiterated that it is part of your vision to create a culture of “yes” in California, helping to deliver “transportation projects we need to deliver on our world-leading climate action.”

Driving in California produces more planet-heating gasses in our state than every power plant and the entire building sector combined. Unless we reduce car usage by 25 percent by 2030, we will not meet the carbon reduction targets set by the State, even if we achieve vehicle electrification goals.

Public transportation agencies have already expressed concern over how transit agencies will meet these unplanned operating deficits, leading to extreme service cuts, including cessation of weekend service, station closures, fare increases, fewer trips, and discontinued lines. To meet the state's carbon neutrality goals by 2045, significantly more people will need to choose transit instead of driving. To encourage this shift, the California Air Resources Board has urged the state to support efforts to double local transit coverage and service frequencies by 2030, a goal that would be increasingly out of reach if this funding is not restored in a timely fashion.

The freezing of funding also threatens the important work being conducted by the S.B. 125 Transit Transformation Task Force (Task Force), charged with developing legislative, budgetary, and operational recommendations for improving the travel experience for our riders, increasing transit ridership, and compelling better performance from our transit systems.

The full letter [PDF] is signed by representatives of Move LA, Circulate San Diego, Climate Resolve, Environmental Health Coalition, Natural Resources Defense Council, TransForm, Active SGV, SPUR, People for Mobility Justice, and others.

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