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Car Culture

Transit Ridership Setting Records Nationwide…So Why the Transit Cuts?

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In case you hadn’t heard, gas prices are rising.  Everywhere you look, you see the signs that the higher costs are causing people to actually change their behavior.  In just the past 48 hours we’ve seen stories in LAist, the Los Angeles Times, the Daily News, the Press Telegram, the San Francisco Chronicle, and USA Today just to name a few.

Given the amazing demand for transit services and an overall decline in VMT statewide as compared to last year, you’d have to be either insane or ridiculously out of touch to be slashing funds for transit services at the very moment when America and California is ready to lean on transit.

Enter Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.  The man who has built an international reputation as a crusader against Greenhouse Gas is still proposing to slash transit funding across the state as a way to balance the budget.  I guess the view from the private jet doesn’t look quite the same as it does from the street.

Newspapers are starting to catch on.  In today’s San Francisco Chronicle, under the headline Transit use soars - budget heads the other way, the head of San Francisco rail takes his shots at the Governor’s budget.

"Even with California's massive deficit, scaling back the state's support for public transportation makes no sense environmentally or economically," said Nathaniel Ford, who runs the San Francisco Municipal Railway.

"Every dollar spent on transit helps clean the air by getting people out of their cars. And with gas prices continuing to escalate, we should be doing everything we can to encourage, not discourage, transit use."

Similar articles are popping up in newspapers across the state.  The North County Coast News describes transit funding as “death by 1,000 cuts.”  In May, the Daily News noted that Metro’s balanced budget could vanish if the state slashes state funding again.

So what can be done?  Short of slipping some news articles into the private jets at Santa Monica airport to try and educate our out-of-touch elected leaders, the best way to get the message across is to keep writing and calling our assembly members and senators.  Someone needs to bring a breath of reality to Sacramento, and it’s not going to come from the Governor’s mansion.

Photo: Emerald City/LA Times 

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