Troubling Silence on Transit in Gov’s State of the State Address

governator.jpgPhoto: Justin Short, Office of the Governor

Despite
continued cash flow crunches facing nearly every transit operator in
the state, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said absolutely nothing about
transportation or fixing transit’s woes in his State of the State
address today. Transit operators are still bracing for the expected budget proposal
this Friday that would thwart the state Supreme Court’s ruling
declaring the governor’s raids on transit funds to fill general fund
coffers illegal.

The Governor’s proposal would eliminate
the sales tax on gasoline and replace it with an excise tax, in the
process eliminating an enormous transit funding mechanism and making it
cheaper to drive.

In a state where nearly half of all
CO2 pollution comes from private cars, and despite national trends
toward fewer cars on the road, the governor said nothing about
providing affordable and reliable transit options. Instead of
supporting proven greener transportation, he quoted from a recent Time Magazine article heralding California’s innovative spirit in clean tech energy:

(California)
is still a dream state. In fact, the pioneering megastate…is still the
cutting edge of the American future — economically, environmentally,
demographically, culturally, and maybe politically. It is the greenest
and the most diverse state, the most globalized…when the world is
heading in all those directions. It’s also an unparalleled engine of
innovation, the mecca of high tech, biotech and now clean tech.

"The
governor’s silence on transit in the State of the State highlights his
lack of commitment to creating a robust economy in California that
meets the vision of the governor’s proclaimed belief in the Green
Economy," said Nick Caston of TransForm, a smart growth and transit
advocacy organization. "The Governor’s rhetoric has in the past ignored
his destructive policies taking transit services from our communities."

Incentives that
make driving more desirable and cut into transit funding are a double
whammy that imperils many of California’s new carbon-reduction and
anti-sprawl legislation, said Erin Steva, transportation advocate for
the California Public Interest Research Group.

"California
already has the worst congestion in the country," she said. "California
often has led the way on numerous issues, including climate change.  If
we’re going to see through those improvements, it needs to include
transit.  The leading cause of global warming emissions in this state
is transportation and it is the segment that is growing most quickly." 

Rather than cut funding from more efficient modes, she said, "We need to put our money where our mouth is."

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