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Unions, BART staff, Urban Habitat join hands in rallying against cuts in federal funding for transportation

One group blames banks for wants banks for declining support for transit programs

Representatives of BART, Urban Habitat, ACCE, Genesis, the Transportation Justice Working Group and Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 192 rallied together Tuesday in what was called "Don't X Out Public Transportation Day."

Also joining hands n the demonstrations were officials of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, San Mateo County Transit District and Caltrain.

The demonstrations were organized by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) to decry possible cuts to federal transportation funding.

Proposed cuts to federal transportation funding could severely impact Caltrain, BART and other Bay Area transit agencies, officials said.

The U.S. House of Representatives last week passed a six-month extension of the Surface Transportation Authorization bill, which helps support the operations of major public transportation agencies around the Bay Area and across the country.

But a faction in Congress is pressing for a permanent version of the bill that would cut transportation funds by one-third, BART Board President Bob Franklin said.

"We have a choice," Franklin said in a statement. "A House version of the Surface Transportation Authorization that would cut our funding by 30%, or a Senate version - led by California Sen. Barbara Boxer - that would maintain current funding."

"We urge our riders to support Sen. Boxer's efforts," Franklin said.

BART joined other Bay Area transit agencies in the national day of action to preserve funding.

BART staff was out en force at stations throughout its service area to hand out postcards expressing support for public transit to be mailed to Sen. Boxer's office.

Metropolitan Transportation Commission chairwoman Adrienne Tissier, San Mateo County Transit District board of directors member Zoe Kersteen-Tucker and San Mateo County Transportation Authority chairwoman Rosanne Foust were at Caltrain's San Francisco Station Tuesday morning for a news conference to outline what the funding cuts would mean to local

agencies.

A 30 percent reduction in funding would force Caltrain to defer replacement of an estimated 30 vehicles over the next three to five years and eventually reduce its number of hourly trains, spokeswoman Christine Dunn said.

SamTrans bus service would also be impacted, Dunn said. SamTrans would have to defer replacement of about 60 buses, increasing wait times and adding an estimated $2 million in maintenance costs for the older vehicles.

Transportation advocates were gathering riders, transit staff and union members to join the rallies.

"Voters in the Bay Area have consistently supported public transit," said Bob Allen of Urban Habitat. "But with local and state tax revenues in free-fall, we can't have the federal government turn their back on transit riders and our most vulnerable communities who rely on public transit every day."

The Bay Area groups participating in today's call to action want to see a basic shift in the debate over transit funding, Allen said. Up to this point, the only alternatives on the table have been cuts in services that people depend on or more taxes for working people.

"We don't need any more cuts, we don't need any more taxes and we don't need another increase in fares," said Annie McKenzie of ACCE Riders for Transit Justice. "Enough is enough."

The answer, she and other members say, is to make banks pay their fare share in taxes.

"The banks do need to be held accountable for having their money circulate in taxes," said Bennie Love, also of ACCE Riders for Transit Justice. "If they were held accountable, so many people would be helped: disabled people, seniors and low-income people. People would have more access to jobs, to housing, to medical care. If banks paid their taxes, it could help the community thrive again."

Love said that next week ACCE will join other community groups and unions in a national series of actions demanding accountability from the banks.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Derek
a resident of Danville
on Sep 23, 2011 at 9:46 am

I was on the very last Bart out of SF recently, after midnight, and I assumed it would be a ghost train. Wrong. It was packed to the gills. And it was a Tuesday, not Friday or the weekend. Rapid transit works. I understand some less efficient forms of public transit are not as busy as Bart, but there's no way any portion of it should be cut.


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