$70 million in transit funding will be diverted to
STILL WE HAVE MUCH TO CELEBRATE… Read on!
The MTC Commissioners DID NOT KNOW WHAT HIT THEM when we streamed into their meeting room and packed the place, til it was overflowing.
At least 125 bus riders and community members from Genesis, ACORN, Alameda Transit Advocates, ATU 192, Berkeley Gray Panthers, BOSS, California Walks, Centers for Independent Living, Earth House, East Oakland Community Center, Grassroots Leadership Network of Marin, Greenparty, LIFETIME, PLAN, Public Advocates, Sierra Club, St. Mary’s Center, Tenderloin Housing Clinic’s Transit Justice Project, United Seniors of Oakland and Alameda County, Urban Habitat, West Oakland Youth Standing Empowered (WYSE) showed up and testified against the costly, wasteful airport connector, in favor of using all of existing funds for transit maintenance.
Our message was LOUD AND CLEAR:
- No more costly transportation projects serving the affluent at the expense of existing transit, depended upon by the poor, elderly, disabled and young people!
- No more transportation decisions that increase, rather decrease, race and class inequities!
- No more MTC decision-making behind closed doors, out of view of public scrutiny: We are here today and we will be here tomorrow!
We made a huge impression on the Commissioners and many were visibly moved by our testimony. That said, it became almost immediately clear from Commissioners’ comments that our greatest enemy is perhaps a culture of ‘going along with the staff and status quo.’ So, the MTC Commissioners almost unanimously voted in favor of the Staff Proposal to divert $70 million from the transit operators for the Oakland Airport Connector.
Here’s THE GOOD NEWS:
1) While $70 million went to the Airport Connector, the bulk of the transit maintenance funds ($270 million or 80%) did go to the transit operators to maintain service and AC Transit will get $26 million of that.
2) This is a much better ratio than previous proposals by Staff that would have diverted over half of the maintenance funds to the Airport Connector and another rail expansion project. And it was our lobbying efforts – attending the 2/11 MTC meeting, calling and meeting with MTC Commissioners, generating media attention – that made this change possible.
3) Also, bear in mind that the $70 million for the Airport Connector could still end up going back to the transit operators and we need to help make sure this happens. The Commission was unequivocal in their desire to see that if the Connector has until June 30 to get the other funds together to receive the Stimulus funds. There is a good chance this won’t happen.
4) Finally, Tom Bates (Mayor of Berkeley), one of two Alameda County MTC Commissioners stood up for transit riders and opposed the Airport Connector, even though it was in his own county! This didn’t happen by accident.. it happened because of concerted effort on our part to educate him, pressure him and support him. He demonstrated that with the right kind of effort, we can move a Commissioner and make him/her our champion.
Please help thank him for BEING THE ONLY COMMISSIONER TO VOTE AGAINST THE AIRPORT CONNECTOR AND SUPPORT OUR POSITION.
You can reach Mayor Bates:
2180 Milvia Street, Berkeley, CA 94704
TEL: (510) 981-7100, TDD: (510) , FAX: (510) 981-7199
As you know, this is not over.. not even close!
AC Transit still faces a $40-50 million budget shortfall over the next 1.5 years and while the $26 million will indeed help, it will not protect all of AC Transit’ fares or service. Let’s be sure that AC Transit minimize the impacts of fare hikes and service cuts on those least able to afford to lose service or pay more.
The AC Board will likely vote on a fare hike and consideration of service cuts at their March 11th Board Meeting (5pm at 1600 Franklin, 2nd floor).. please plan on attending.
Also, if you’re interested in building the power of your organization, consider attending Genesis’ base-building training this Saturday at St. Augustine’s Church 595 29th Street in Oakland from 9:30am – 2pm.
In the meantime, you should feel good about the victories we did win with the Stimulus Package. Because of our efforts $270 million will be flowing to Bay Area transit operators compared to the original proposal of only $133 million.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact:
Lindsay Imai or Bob Allen, Urban Habitat, 510-839-9510
Michael Ohlrogge, Genesis Organizer, 510-227-0136
Lindsay and Bob
P.S. We also submitted a detailed letter to the Commission that Public Advocates prepared on behalf of Urban Habitat and Genesis detailing the Civil Rights and Environmental Justice violations of MTC’s proposal (available at http://www.publicadvocates.org/docs/GenesisandUHlettertoMTCComms2-24-09FINAL.pdf.) We are discussing whether to formally file a complaint.