Big bucks for more buses

To expand public transit to the masses, Sacramento leaders need to make a $2.4 billion investment

Glenda Marsh is the transportation team leader for 350 Sacramento.

Sacramento Regional Transit has boldly crafted a budget for the future of mass transit in our county, which clearly states what we need to invest so mass transit can meet our quality of life, mobility, economic and environmental goals here.

SacRT is asking the Sacramento Transportation Authority to invest $82 million per year over 30 years through future county sales tax revenues, as has been done in other cities and counties in California and around the nation.

This investment isn’t optional; the STA Board of Directors needs to make it happen.

I am calling on the public, our local media and elected officials on the STA board to make the investment in mass transportation we must have. You see, our local cities and six-county region have quality of life goals that depend on a higher level of mass transit service and use. Our community’s health and future climate depend on having public transportation available.

Over the last year, I led a community-based collaboration initiated by our local climate protection organization, 350 Sacramento, to learn about our transit system, its deficiencies, what community members and riders want it to be like, and how much it will cost.

We need Sacramento County’s cities and suburbs to hum with clean, green buses and light rail to get around town—to get to your job, your school, your doctor, your date. Boomers are getting older and can’t drive as much, and Millennials don’t want the expense. Many people can’t afford a car. But we all still need to get places to shop, dine, work, go somewhere you haven’t been before. This is what we should be talking about and making happen.

We need a few more “yes” votes from the STA board to fund a real countywide transit system, likely through future county sales tax revenues that could be proposed by our local jurisdictions. While the STA board isn’t scheduled to vote on anything now, it could be asked to consider a new sales tax measure for transportation projects, including transit funding, next spring. Demand our elected officials get on board.

Local elected officials, well-heeled business groups and developers with a sweet tooth must stop treating RT’s budget like a candy store. They are the ones making cavities in RT’s budget, diverting millions of dollars from weekend and evening routes, affordable fares and transfers, more frequent service, clean and walkable bus stops, walk-on/ride-on no-steps light-rail cars, decongested freeways, and protecting our air quality from vehicle emissions.

This is the story that must be talked about all the time.

Every member of the RT board, made up of elected officials from Sacramento County and the cities of Citrus Heights, Elk Grove, Folsom, Rancho Cordova and Sacramento, must step up and show that they believe in the services and benefits of RT to their constituents. And right now, voters must tell the STA board they want it.

Let’s all ask every RT board member to go full throttle campaigning for a real public transportation system. RT board members did that for Measure A 20 years ago. Will they step up again?