It’s not unusual to get press releases from the governor’s office trumpeting the accomplishments of government, but one I received yesterday was especially worrisome.
It said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was announcing $136 million for transit projects statewide, the biggest of which was $36 million for BART’s Station Modernization Program.
Already working on another story, I didn’t relish the idea of picking up another to turn around in one day. But I called around and ascertained that this “story” was just what I initially thought it was: Read the rest of this entry »
While I’ve spent much of this week on the blog bickering over high-speed rail funding, I’ve noticed a thread emerge that speaks to all forms of transportation, especially the ubiquitous solo vehicle commute.
Time and time again, public transportation advocates, who are fighting for nickles and dimes in Sacramento in these days of $15 billion budget holes, tell me that driving isn’t free. Roads and highways aren’t free.
Yes, even freeways aren’t free.
Every year, state and local governments pay billions of dollars for the upkeep of our roads and highways. You know that guy in the Read the rest of this entry »
Because there aren’t many people around who oppose high-speed rail, I’m finding myself cast in the disagreeable position of honorary naysayer for the program. Most people, myself included, think it would do the state some good to have a way to get from north to south on whatever energy source we’ve developed over the next two decades.
But most people also understand that there are limits to all the good things we can buy or build. I’d really benefit (as would the climate) from buying a house in Orinda, and lousy market notwithstanding, I can’t afford it to the point that I’m sure even Countrywide wouldn’t extend me credit for such a dwelling.
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, Read the rest of this entry »
On Tuesday, May 20, the Oakland-based Transportation and Land Use Coalition will join transit and environmental advocates in Sacramento for a day of lobbying.
The central message is that if ever there were a time to not suck the life out of gasoline sales tax receipts that state law earmarks for public transit, this is it.
This view is shared by a lot of people who don’t collect a per diem for hanging out in the Capitol Building, such as Bay Area transportation officials, people who worry about global warming and people who don’t own cars.
But this year, things appear to be different from last year, when that stash of transit money, swelled from rising gas prices, was too tempting a Read the rest of this entry »
Ok, if a black man can be nominated for president, maybe California can build high-speed rail.
It’s starting to look like the wind is behind this thing, what with college students campaigning for it all over the state from now until November, when voters will have to decide whether they like the $10 billion bullet train bond measure or not.
I’m still waiting to see what sort of borrowing plan Sacramento will cook up to get us through the current budget crunch. I get the sense, however, that even that won’t stop the bullet train measure from going before voters.
Tomorrow between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., students on UC Berkeley’s famous Sproul Plaza will be riding tricycles, jumping on pogo sticks and walking on stilts while wearing “I’d rather be riding high-speed rail” t-shirts.
These students, sold on the idea that the bullet train is public transportation’s answer to the Prius and a major way of fighting global warming, have been pulling off stunts like this up and down the state. While the students’ enthusiasm at first blush might evoke comparisons to Barack Obama’s youthful appeal, I see it a bit differently.
As I’ve noted, it’s difficult to pronounce the word “infra- structure” these days without putting “crum- bling” before it. Our recent story on the Dumbarton rail bridge is yet another example of that not-at-all retorical reality.
That in turn raises the question of how to pay for keeping up our highways, rail lines and ferry terminals, to say nothing of expanding those systems after we gulp down the $20-billion Prop 1b approved by voters in 2006.
Lucky for us, someone did a study about this.
Asha Agrawal, a research associate at the Mineta Trans- portation Institute at San Jose State University, and her colleagues had noticed that various members of the legislature had proposed various iterations of environmentally indexed fees for driving.
Silicon Valley Assemblyman Ira Ruskin, for example, authored AB 2791, which would basically penalize you if your 2011 GMC Sierra pickup upset the Read the rest of this entry »
So, while I was blithely blathering Friday about CalPIRG and their campaign to promote California’s high-speed rail plan, the Sacramento Bee
was getting the real scoop on the future of our improbable love affair with 200+ mph bullet trains:
Democratic lawmakers have agreed to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s request to include public-private partnerships for a high-speed train that could travel from either San Francisco or Sacramento to Los Angeles in 2 1/2 hours.
OK, so I was hasty after all. Seems that my last post did not give enough credit to the Bush Administration’s attempts to help improve intercity passenger rail. I suspect its efforts have more to do with Transportation Secretary Mary Peters’ pragmatic approach to funding, i.e., we can do more with less if we channel more into public transportation.
I saw your blog entry. I am glad my message was of use to you. Your main point seems to be that $30 million is not enough. We agree. As I wrote in my email cover message to you, the Bush Administration had requested $100 million for this grant program for the current FY08 budget, but Congress Read the rest of this entry »
This morning I arrived to find a phone message from the Federal Railroad Administration. Seems someone in Washington had seen my story about California’s intercity rail services lobbying state government for more money.
What I might find helpful, the message said, was that the FRA had announced on Tuesday that it had started a new program to do just what the operators of the Auburn-to-San Jose Capitol Corridor and two other state-subsidized operators were looking for.