Yesterday, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission provisionally decided on how to divide $3Billion in Transportation funds in the state’s Cap and Trade program over the next 26 years, in preparation for what is expected to be a budget battle in Sacramento this Spring.
Caltrain and SamTrans did proportionally ok according to our analysis on a regional ridership basis – 3% of regional riders respectively, and 3% of transit funding ($35Million for Caltrain and $44Million for SamTrans over the 26 years). This wouldn’t fix Caltrain’s operating gap but will be helpful if the funding materializes.
The biggest operators are getting the most certain and soonest funding. Muni, BART and AC Transit had already been awarded a large chunk of the funding for capital equipment replacement, as well as rail cars for the Santa Clara County BART extension. The argument for these investment priorities were that these operators will serve the largest amount of the region’s growth. On the basis of ridership, VTA comes out ahead, with 9% of the region’s riders and 16% of the funding.
As several commissioners pointed out during the debate, vote was a bit of an exercise in counting unhatched chickens, since Cap and Trade funding for Transportation, which is planned to be available in 2015, is not a sure thing. There are many uncertainties. Last year, the governor allocated the Cap and Trade revenue for non-transportation sources to balance the budget. The High Speed Rail Authority is looking for sources of funding other than Prop 1A bonds which face legal uncertainty. There will be many other claims on the Cap and Trade funding in Sacramento in the upcoming budget debate.
Multiple commissioners, including Adrienne Tissier who also serves on the Caltrain and SamTrans boards, and Sam Liccardo who serves on the VTA board expressed frustration that the allocation was being done rapidly, without considering the climate change goal of the program. Overall, commissioners saw the benefit of agreeing on a provisional program, to provide regional unity in Sacramento, as more important than the getting the details right yet.
The debate yesterday focused on whether, how, and how much to allocate for transit operations. The Capital funding had already been agreed on, with funding going to BART, Muni, and AC Transit to replace aging trains and buses. Yesterday’s debate added $75 million to buy new cars for the BART-San Jose extension. Because the capital funding was weighted heavily toward the largest operators, the operating funding was allocated somewhat more toward the medium sized and small operators with a 40-60 split.
Over the next 6-9 months, there will be a committee process to work out the details on how the climate and social equity goals of Plan Bay Area will be reflected in the specific criteria actually award grants in all of the categories. The devil will be in the details. When guidelines are developed incorporating climate goals, Caltrain has a good chance to do well, since ridership has been increasing, and initiatives on the corridor to reduce the share of driving will have significant climate benefits.
The largest sum of money is slated for the One Bay Area Grant program, which supports transportation and housing in places that have been identified in PlayBayArea for growth. The Climate Initiatives program, which hasn’t been defined yet, was pared back from $400 million to $275 million.