What Muni needs is new revenue and transit equity, not Prop B

19 09 2014


Since the 1980s, when our CCHO member organizations were instrumental in developing the City’s transportation impact fund, CCHO has seen transit funding as integral to our community development mission. That is why we support Proposition A, the $500 Million General Obligation bond for transportation infrastructure on this November’s ballot, despite some of the vagueness of the uses specified. On the other hand, we believe that Proposition B, the additional MTA set-aside from the General Fund put on the ballot by Supervisor Wiener, is bad politics and bad policy.

At a most basic level, the proposed increased set-aside for MTA has to come from something else in the General Fund. And typically cuts in the General Fund come from community services of various kinds, whether that’s social services or neighborhood improvements. Without a new revenue source to offset such an increase in MTA expenditures, the measure is tantamount to “stealing from Peter to pay [more] to Paul.” For example, two years ago, when CCHO proposed the Prop C affordable housing set-aside, we worked equally hard to ensure that a companion measure, the Prop E business tax reform, would bring in enough new revenue to cover the affordable housing commitment and other uses.

Second, Prop B was put on the ballot with little involvement of transportation advocates, transit users, or the city’s communities and neighborhoods. This is not how good policy should be developed. We need to support Muni by incorporating not only new funds, but an emphasis on how those funds would be used, including operations funding that directly supports service improvements and equity priorities that address service deficiencies across the system. That is how to ensure a robust transit system that supports the broadest range of transit users, especially transit dependent neighborhoods and communities such as seniors and people with disabilities, and not just “choice rider” commuters, as the transportation planners call them. For the past year and a half a broad set of transportation equity stakeholders, convened by POWER, Senior and Disability Action, Chinatown TRIP, CCHO, Human Services Network and Urban Habitat have been developing just such a proposal. This had culminated with a Transit Equity charter amendment proposal by several members of the Board of Supervisors for the November 2015 ballot, along with a package of progressive revenue measures, including a vehicle license fee measure and an update to the city’s Transportation Impact Fee, extending the program to market-rate residential developments which currently pay no fee to cover their transportation impacts.

What came as a surprise was a last-minute measure to increase the annual General Fund Appropriation to MTA tied to population growth, but without a revenue measure to match the increased appropriation, and with no tie in to the equity baseline concept that CCHO and the transit justice coalition had worked on over the past year.  In fact, it simply undermines that policy goal. CCHO has taken a principled position opposing Prop B and will continue to press all parties to work toward a charter amendment and a complete package of funding measures to win at the 2015 or 2016 ballot.

There are much better ways to support Muni than Proposition B. Vote No.