By Adam Shanks, San Francisco Examiner, May 15, 2023
Editorial Team Note:
After the release of the governor’s budget in May, the responsibility fell to the state legislature to prevent a collapse of many of the Bay Area’s transit agencies.
“In revisions to his state budget proposal released on [May 12], Newsom made no commitment to funding public transit operations and maintained about $2 billion in cuts to public transit capital funding — money that pays for infrastructure work like rail repairs and bus purchases — that were already included in his initial proposal in January.
“BART, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and other Bay Area public transit agencies are projecting major deficits in the coming years. The federal emergency aid that kept them afloat through the pandemic is nearly depleted. Meanwhile, ridership and revenues remain far below pre-pandemic levels.
“[“Sen. Scott Wiener, D—San Francisco, who has spearheaded efforts in the legislature to secure additional transit funding”] and fellow transit boosters were given some reason for hope, as Newsom signaled he’s at least willing to continue to negotiate.
“Senate Democrats have proposed $1 billion a year in transit operations funding for the next five years, but Wiener stressed they explored creative ways of paying for it to minimize the impact it would have on the state’s general fund to a few hundred million.
“Public transit agencies and their advocates have warned of a potential ‘death spiral’ without intervention. In such a scenario, agencies would be forced to make steep cuts to service, which would further disincentive already transit-wary riders from returning. The further drop in ridership would reduce transit agency revenues even further, requiring even deeper cuts to service and setting off a hellish cycle.”