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Looking For A Fix For Bay Area's Transit Woes

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With transit agencies across California suffering from the double-whammy of the local economic recession and the state's decision to stop funding transit operations, the question of what needs to be done to ensure transit not only survives but thrives grows large.

One key to that future is transit-oriented development, according to an article by the Bay Area News Group and published in several of the group's newspapers.

"This is the way of the future," Reconnecting America's Allison Brooks explains in the article. "The trend is there, and a lot of cities want to make this happen. But the investment isn't there."

Land use and planning will play a key role in the future of Bay Area transit, according to the article.

"The most recent government survey available, from 2000, shows those living within a half-mile of a Bay Area ferry or train station were four times more likely than others to take transit. Only 4 percent of those whose homes and jobs were more than a half-mile from a station used transit, compared with 42 percent for those with both within a half-mile," the article notes. (Read the full article here.)

But as the article noted, land-use advances will do little to help Bay Area transit  if operators can't solve their financial problems. And the outlook is not good.

According to an article in The Sacramento Bee, the governor has proposed an accounting gimmick that will shift gas taxes from gasoline sales taxes to gasoline excise taxes. This slight-of-hand parlor trick will allow the state to get around a recent ruling that found California had improperly diverted gasoline sales tax monies that were supposed to be dedicated to transit operations.  While the governor distracts voters with visions of a 5 cent drop in gasonline prices, his other hand will be pocketing as much as $1 billion that would have gone to support transit.

"Apparently, when you have the power to get laws changed, you don't have any obligation to follow the ones already on the books," Josh Shaw, head of the California Transit Association, told The Bee.

In a bid to thwart the governor's efforts to balance the state budget by eliminating traditional support to transit and local governments, transit officials, the League of California Cities and the California Alliance for Jobs have launched a petition drive that seeks to put a measure before voters in November.

The measure, called the "Local Taxpayer, Public Safety and Transportation Protection Act of 2010," would protect transit funds, redevelopment funds and other local revenues from the state. (Read the full article here.)