A court ruling Jan. 31 said the state's raid last year on public transportation funds to help balance the state budget was illegal. Well, $409 million of the $1.18 billion taken from the state Public Transportation Account was illegally diverted, the judge ruled.
But since it will likely be an easy task for the state to shift accounts around to make the remaining $409 million theft pass legal muster, representatives of transit agencies are considering taking their cause to the public. According to an editorial:
Transit officials are discussing the possibility of going even further, perhaps forming an alliance with other state transportation interests to back an initiative that would put a gas tax or carbon fee on the ballot, with the funds earmarked for public transit.This is fine. But an effort that focuses only on public transit isn't going to get the majority support necessary for passage in a statewide election.
Sure, people say transit is important. In heavily urbanized areas such as the Bay Area, transit is recognized as a essential service. But in areas such as suburban Sacramento or any of the outlying communities, transit is viewed as something only the poor and disabled folk use. Deserving folks, yes, but additional freeway lanes and road maintenance are viewed as a higher priority.
So transit needs some allies outside the highway lobby.
The purpose of a carbon tax would be to encourage a reduction in our global warming footprint. Therefore, the benefits of the tax should go to all of those transportation options that meet this goal -- not just transit, but funding for improved bikeways and making communities more walkable.
Transit people need to join forces with bicycle advocates and people who promote walking. Such an alliance could get majority support, even in Roseville. Well, OK, in my dreams. But statewide, a carbon tax, or an increase in the fuel tax -- a global warming tax -- that raised money for transit and bikes and walking would go much further than a transit-only proposal.