Senator Wiener, Bay Area Lawmakers & Elected Officials Unveil New Bill To Fund Bay Area Transit & Improve Safety, Cleanliness & Reliability
SACRAMENTO – Today, a group of Bay Area lawmakers led by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced SB 532, the Safe, Clean, and Reliable Public Transportation Emergency Act. SB 532 will temporarily raise tolls on 7 state-owned bridges in the Bay Area by $1.50 for 5-years. The bill provides much-needed public transportation funding to prevent service cuts and improve safety, cleanliness, and reliability.
“We’ve made good progress in this year’s budget, but the future of public transportation in the Bay Area is still under threat due to pandemic-related operational deficits that, without help, will lead to severe service cuts,” said Senator Wiener. “Bay Area transit ridership continues to climb, but it’s not happening quickly enough to make up for the loss of federal emergency assistance. SB 532 provides critical lifeline funding for our transit systems — ensuring they have the resources they need to provide safe, reliable service for our residents.”
For months, transit operators have warned that the end of federal pandemic relief funds threatened to cause operational shortfalls that would lead to major service cuts. Massive service cuts could trigger a transit death spiral, where cuts lead to declines in ridership, which necessitate more cuts.
In its two-party agreement (between the Senate and the Assembly), the Legislature agreed to provide $1.1 billion statewide for transit operations, with the Bay Area expected to receive approximately $400 million of that amount over the next three years. This important funding commitment will partially solve the fiscal cliff issue, but additional regional self-help or state funding sources are needed to fully prevent these impending service cuts.
Read more about the transit fiscal cliff here:
- EDITORIAL: Gavin Newsom can’t just let California’s public transit systems collapse - by the SF Chronicle Editorial Board
- Why California public transit is at a pivotal moment - by CalMatters’s Sameea Kamal
At the same time, many transit riders are reporting worse experiences since the pre-pandemic times. For example, a recent Bay Area Council poll found that fewer than one in five BART users would describe the system as safe or clean. Transit operators are taking steps to address these challenges - including a new officer deployment on BART that led to a 38% decrease in service calls - but more work remains to be done to deliver the rider experience needed to restore ridership to pre pandemic levels.
The state has total authority to regulate bridge tolls. It has traditionally relegated the function to BATA (the Bay Area Toll Authority) under limited circumstances and has required the Authority to place bridge toll increase measures on the ballot for the seven state-owned bridges in the Bay Area region. Those bridges are:
- San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge
- San Mateo-Hayward Bridge
- Richmond-San Rafael Bridge
- Dumbarton Bridge
- Carquinez Bridge
- Benicia-Martinez Bridge
- Antioch Bridge
SB 532 requires 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 $180 million annually over the 5-year period. SB 532 directs these funds to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and requires at least 90% of the toll revenues to be used to maintain service at current levels. Up to 10% of the revenues could be set aside for reform initiatives adopted by MTC through its Transit Transformation Action plan, increasing or restoring service beyond FY 22-23 levels, and/or for investing in safety, reliability, cleanliness, and security improvements.
SB 532 is co-authored by a group of lawmakers representing a broad swathe of the Bay Area: Senators Cortese and Becker, and Assemblymembners Haney, Ting, Lee, Bonta, and Wicks. The bill is sponsored by TransForm.
“While the temporary toll increase would be painful, the alternative is worse. We cannot let our transit agencies cut services, if we care about the economy and transportation equity. This stopgap funding measure buys operators time while they seek long-term solutions to financial viability,” said Principal Co-Author, Assemblymember Phil Ting (San Francisco).
“We need to adequately support our communities through transportation by investing in safe, reliable, and affordable transportation. We cannot cut down our transit services. Our communities need to get to work, school, and back home, and SB 532 supports our transit communities,” said Principal Co-Author, Assemblymember Mia Bonta (Alameda).
“SB 532 is a critical step forward for a more equitable, sustainable and thriving Bay Area. Service cuts in the Bay Area would result in over 700 million less transit trips in the Bay Area, leaving transit-dependent riders stranded at the curb, increasing congestion, and blowing our emissions sky high. SB 532 provides the stopgap funding we need so transit can survive and thrive,” said Zack Deutsch-Gross, Policy Director at TransForm (bill sponsor)
“Transit is vital for meeting our goals of safety, equity, and climate action. Senate Bill 532 provides critical stop gap funding Bay Area Transit operators need as they transition to a new ridership model, while continuing to provide essential services to those who need it most, including students, seniors, people with disabilities, and those who have no other means to get around. Protecting transit protects our communities by providing access to housing, jobs, schools, and services. - John Bauters, Chair of the Alameda County Transportation Commission and Mayor of Emeryville
The Bay Area needs convenient, reliable connected, and affordable public transportation for our climate, equity and housing goals. Preventing cuts is a baseline for making service more seamless and providing the greatest benefit to people who depend most on transit. And keeping momentum toward a seamless system will bolster the confidence of leaders and voters we’ll need for long-term self-help to fund transit. Adina Levin, Advocacy Director, Seamless Bay Area
To keep Bay Area transit alive over the next few years as we recover from the economic impact of the pandemic and identify long-term funding solutions, we need funding from a variety of sources. The funding included in the state budget was a great start. SB 532 is another crucial source of funding. It recognizes that we can’t afford to lose transit. Having strong public transit systems is vital to our economy, our equity goals and our ability to effectively respond to the climate crisis. Jeff Tumlin, SFMTA Director of Transportation
“SB 532 will give BART and other transit agencies the additional support needed in the next few years to avoid drastic cuts that would be devastating for quality of life in the Bay Area and our climate goals. These new revenues will allow BART to continue to run robust service and invest in improved safety and cleanliness.” Rebecca Saltzman, BART Director, District 3
"The relationship between housing and transportation is undeniable. Many of our cornerstone housing streamlining laws like AB 2923, the BART TOD Bill and AB 2097, looking at parking requirements, are triggered by robust public transportation service, and therefore ensuring safe, quality and reliable public transportation for residents is essential as we work to solve California’s housing shortage. SB 532 is a needed investment into the Bay Area's future.” Corey Smith, Executive Director, Housing Action Coalition