The past couple of years have been rough for public transit in the Bay Area.
With the pandemic decimating ridership, transit agencies across the region have seen a severe decrease in the revenue they generate through fares. BART for example, which is heavily fare-dependent, saw its ridership drop by 90% to 95% during the pandemic. As a result, many of these agencies are on the brink of a potentially disastrous fiscal cliff.
Without funding from the state and federal government, agencies like BART and MUNI may be forced to cut service on numerous transit lines and decrease spending on the day-to-day operations integral to our transit systems’ quality, safety, and reliability.
While Governor Gavin Newsom and the California Legislature agreed to a budget deal in June that would provide a $1.1 billion subsidy over three years to help CA agencies facing major deficits, public transit still needs additional sources of funding.
That’s why HAC has been fully supportive of a piece of new legislation — Senate Bill 532 — introduced by Senator Scott Wiener aimed at generating more funds for transit agencies. Named the Safe, Clean, and Reliable Public Transportation Emergency Act, SB 532 will require the Bay Area Toll Authority to temporarily raise the toll on the Bay Area’s seven state-owned bridges by $1.50 – indexed to inflation – over the 5-year period from January 1, 2024, to December 31, 2028. The increase is expected to yield roughly $900 million, which will be distributed among the Bay Area’s transit agencies.
SB 532 is a win-win solution. For those who rely on public transit, the investment will ensure agencies can keep their transit systems safe, clean, and reliable. For the people who either want to or have to drive, they will avoid the significant increase in traffic congestion that would arise if transit agencies are forced to cut services.
While the Bay Area needs to find a long-term funding source for transit, SB 532 will buy our region more time. Agencies like BART and MUNI are critical to the health and sustainability of the Bay Area. We are committed to doing everything in our power to ensure the future of public transit is safe and strong.