Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | santa cruz transportation
Our transit district is in trouble
Demand far exceeds supply on the popular Highway 17 route from Santa Cruz to San Jose. With global warming, we need more public transit, not less. Photo by Debbie Bulger
by Peter Scott
The Highway 17 Express bus service between Santa Cruz and San Jose—a service that began following the 1989 earthquake and has been consistently improved since then—provides the essential public transportation link to the outside world for Santa Cruz County. If you want to go to San Jose, or San Francisco, or their airports, or for that matter, anywhere else in the world, this is your bus. Providing 26 round trips on every weekday and 15 round trips on weekends and holidays, the Highway 17 Express is increasingly popular. It’s so popular, in fact, that on many trips there are more passengers than seats on the bus, so riders must either stand or sit on the floor for the 50-minute ride to San Jose.
But don’t expect this service to improve any time soon.
As a result of demands by Governor Schwarzenegger and minority members of the State Legislature, the State budget adopted on February 20 eliminates major support for public transit systems statewide. The result is a loss for the Santa Cruz County Transit District (METRO) of approximately $46 million over the years 2009 through 2013, an amount that is far from being offset by the expected $5 million in Federal Economic Stimulus funds. Particularly egregious is that the State Transit Assistance Program, which would have provided approximately $24 million to METRO, is being phased out statewide.
In addition, METRO will not receive $22 million from the Public Transportation Modernization, Improvement and Service Enhancement Account, which derives from Proposition 1B, a $3.6 billion bond measure passed in 2006 to benefit public transit, but which has yet to provide any money to public transit owing to diversion of funds by Governor Schwarzenegger and lack of the sale of the bonds.
The transit funds that are being cut would have gone primarily toward completing the MetroBase maintenance, storage and administrative facility ($22 million) and replacing 30 diesel buses ($15 million) with cleaner compressed natural gas vehicles. Additional maintenance and improvement projects make up the remainder.
METRO is currently under order from the California Air Resources Board to replace its diesel buses with less-polluting compressed natural gas buses by 2012. However, unless that deadline is extended, METRO will have to reduce its fleet from the current 83 buses to 52 buses, which would mean a 38% decrease in METRO bus service and the loss of jobs for 150 METRO employees.
Halting construction of the MetroBase facility will not only mean that our bus fleet will not be efficiently and effectively maintained; it will also mean the elimination of some 325 jobs in 2009.
Without funding, progress toward complying with statewide global warming laws—AB 32 and SB 375—will just not happen.
What you can do
• Write to State Senator Joe Simitian and Assemblymember Bill Monning. Urge them to work to ensure the sale of the Transit Bonds as soon as possible, so that work can continue on the MetroBase facility and that our aging and polluting diesel buses can be replaced. Also urge them to advocate for effective long-term State funding for public transit.
• Keep up to date regarding developments on this issue. For updates visit http://sensibletransportation.org.