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hobos riding the rails

By enelson
Thursday, February 14th, 2008 at 11:27 pm in Amtrak, Caltrain, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), rail.

mmm-free-lunch.jpgNews flash from the California Transit Association:

SACRAMENTO — Less than two weeks after a Superior Court judge ruled that a $409 million diversion of public transit funding in the current state budget was illegal, the Senate Budget Committee last night re-instated the cuts by re-configuring the law on which the judge’s decision was based.  Public transit advocates blasted the move as a deliberate end-run around the court’s decision.

“We argued that the cuts were illegal, and, on that portion, the judge agreed with us,” said Joshua Shaw, Executive Director of the California Transit Association and primary plaintiff in the suit.  “So, rather than work with us to implement the judge’s decision, it looks like the Governor and the Legislature have instead decided to thumb their noses at the court.”

The Senate Budget Committee action was echoed today by the Assembly Budget Committee as part of the Extraordinary Session process of addressing mid-year reductions in the state spending plan.  The matter is expected to be taken up by both houses of the legislature during special floor sessions on Friday.

 So, um, the state legislature can raid transit funds if it wants to?

<yawn>

This whole idea of sacrosanct transit funding from a time when dinosaurs (and Ronald Reagan) ruled the state was bound to wind up in the dustbin, what with budget shortfalls and guaranteed funding for so many other things.

What transit supporters need now is their own proposition on the ballot to really guarantee a cut out of every budget pie. After that, poor people and people who need health insurance can line up. Then we can pass an initiative that divides the entire budget in to neat little slices, and the legislature and governor can spend more time at campaign fundraisers.

I’m not saying that our transit systems don’t need solid funding, but I just don’t think that the idea of a gas tax “spillover” from odd years gas rises and everything else remains stable is something that any sector should be hanging its hat on. If people really want to support transit, they’ll find a way.

Of course, I can also see the argument that it’s better than nothing this year and nothing next year and nothing the year after that.

Speaking of suffering public transportation:

Oakland, CA February 13, 2008 — In an effort to protect the State of California’s 18-year investment in passenger rail, an “Intercity Passenger Rail Day” in Sacramento will be held where legislators, transportation executives, corridor managers and elected officials will discuss strategies to sustain and expand intercity passenger service.

The media is invited to the lunch reception and program, which will be held at Capitol Plaza (Temple Ballroom), 1025 9th Street in Sacramento on Thursday, February 21, 2008 at noon.

“Since 2001, California’s population grew 11%,” said Capitol Corridor Managing Director Eugene Skoropowski. “In that same period, vehicle miles traveled grew only 8%, while ridership on California’s three intercity passenger rail lines increased a whopping 46%—train ridership is exceeding all growth expectations. Now more than 20% of all Amtrak’s riders are in California.” Skoropowski added.

Now regular readers of the blog know that I rarely pass on a free lunch, so allow me to butter up my benefactors:

I think it’s really cool that the rail folks are fighting for more funding, which, if you believe the numbers, is sorely needed. I’ve seen the seats filling up on the Capitol Corridor and it would seem that expanding service would make sense.

Never mind that it might allow me to leave work at more convenient times. I don’t let my personal relationship with public transit influence my views. Lunch is another matter.

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3 Responses to “hobos riding the rails”

  1. david vartanoff Says:

    if the citizens cannot trust the representatives to allocate the funding correctly tying their hands is the next best tactic. the annual budget follies tend to include skewing the budget back to the most useless but powerful “special” interests like the prisons. Echoing an old anti war concept, what if the prison system had to hold bake sales to raise funding?

  2. Capricious Commuter Says:

    I think there are advocates for better prison conditions who would argue that bake sales would be an improvement.

  3. miked Says:

    California will continue to have these sort of problems as long as our legislators are unwilling to raise new revenue. Legislators are willing to cut taxes when they have excess revenue (or to cut deals) but not willing to raise taxes when they need revenue. Until this changes, unpredictable cuts in funding will remain the norm.

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