Photo credit: Philadelphia Inquirer - Patricia Madej - February, 2020 Photo credit: Philadelphia Inquirer - Patricia Madej - February, 2020
Our take on the state of the region

A Transit Justice Welcome and SB 1031 Update

Author: Ellen Wu

Welcome to Our Newest Team Member!

We are pleased to announce our new Transportation Justice Director, Yasha Zarrinkelk. Yasha will be working with Bob Allen, our Director of Policy and Advocacy, to steer our transportation justice agenda and advance transit equity in the region.

Yasha is originally from Southern California but joins us after six years in Philadelphia where he managed the formation of a newly established transit advocacy coalition. He organized statewide and local campaigns that expanded funding for transit operations and improved bus service for BIPOC and low-income riders.

Yasha’s interests in the transportation justice field lie at the intersection of arts, immigration, and community control.

Update on the Regional Transit Funding Measure

Senators Scott Wiener and Aisha Wahab have introduced new legislation that gets us one step closer to improving and expanding transit service across the Bay Area. Senate Bill 1031 – The Connect Bay Area Act – will raise a dedicated source of desperately-needed operating funds with the explicit goal of protecting and expanding regional transit service.

While we’re excited about the bill, there’s more that needs to be done. Urban Habitat and the Voices for Public Transportation coalition (VPT) have been meeting with legislators to get our amendments included. To fully fund transit operations and not burden those least able to pay, a minimum of $750 million in annual operating spending must go to transit agencies, and progressive revenue mechanisms must be included in the bill. Urban Habitat has been advocating for progressive revenue options since 2017, and we’re encouraged that there are a list of them in the current bill.

Two key concerns are the payment obligations on capital bonds and the amount of money that will return to counties from the taxes generated by the regional measure. Bond obligations and a potentially high “county benefit” – or “return to source” – will severely limit our ability to address the regional transit funding crisis.

Earlier this month, Urban Habitat testified at two key hearings in Sacramento on SB1031, which successfully passed out of committee. The committees voted to include a $1.5 billion floor for transit funding and limit a sales tax revenue option to a half cent. This is a huge step toward getting a regional transportation measure on the ballot in the next couple of years, while protecting the needs of those who use the system the most.

The VPT coalition will continue to work with MTC and the state legislature to ensure our region’s transit agencies are fully funded and services are expanded.

Join us at the next MTC Commission meeting on May 22nd – in person or virtually – to support our amendments and speak out using the SB1031 talking points we’ve put together.

If you have any questions about the regional transit funding measure or other transportation justice related issues, please contact Yasha Zarrinkelk at yzarrinkelk@urbanhabitat.org.