One of the ways that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s financial folks justify diverting fuel tax receipts that would otherwise be spent on public transit is using it for “transportation,” rather than “transit.”
That means that at a time when $4-a-gallon-gas is driving commuters toward buses, trains and ferries along with driving up the so-called “spillover” fund close to $900 million, this money is being budgeted for school buses and buses and vans that serve regional social service centers.
Make no mistake, these are things that would normally be funded out of the general fund, which is something like $15 billion short without such diversions and other schemes like borrowing against the state lottery or (now here’s a crazy, far-out idea) raising taxes.
But I had an interesting conversation with AC Transit Deputy General Manager Jim Gleich yesterday and he both justified the governor’s logic and repudiated it at the same time.
AC Transit, which like other strictly urban transit systems is heavily dependent on subsidies to move people around, stands to suffer more than most systems from the state budget cuts. BART, for instance, pulls in an impressive amount of money from fares, although it still requires a big subsidy for each rider.
Here’s the funny part: Those categories that money is being diverted into, home-to-school transportation and transportation to regional centers? Well that’s nearly all done by AC Transit in western Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
So what’s “ironical,” Gleich explained, is that this diversion will pay for private contractors to transport school kids and regional center clients in, say, rural and suburban areas not adequately served by public transit, while those same folks in Oakland, Richmond, Berkeley and Fremont will be left with poorer public transit to get them to school and the centers.
Well, it’s lobbying day for public transit money in Sacramento, so I’ve got to head out…