Tag Archives: FTA

FTA to BART & MTC: You’ve run out of time on the OAC; reallocate $70 million in stimulus funds to the transit agencies

12 Feb

Wow.

After almost exactly a year of trying to make the Oakland Airport Connector (OAC) project equitable and cost-effective, it looks like we’ve finally won the original battle. Back in February 2009, more than a 100 advocates urged the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) not to provide stimulus funds to the OAC and instead to provide the funds to all the regional transit agencies to prevent service cuts and fare hikes.

MTC didn’t agree, but a year later, the Federal Transit Administration has told MTC that this is the only reasonable course of action.

FTA sent a letter to BART and MTC today saying that there’s simply not enough time to implement BART’s corrective action plan that had been mandated by FTA, and that MTC should turn to plan B and revert the $70 million in stimulus funds back to the regional transit agencies.

The letter, which you really should click on and read in full, is beautifully worded:

I am required to reject your plan for the following reasons. Based on the timelines submitted by BART, there is no way the agency can come into full compliance with Title VI by September 30, 2010. The requirements of ARRA dictate that any funds not disbursed by September 30, 2010, must be lapsed back to the Treasury. And since I cannot allow BART to draw any funds for the OAC project prior to coming into full compliance, it is clear that pursuit of the OAC project would result in the funds either being reallocated out of the Bay area or lapsed. Both scenarios are unacceptable to me as I am sure they are to you. Let me say that, based on FTA’s experience in other cities, BART is being realistic in admitting that the process of coming into full compliance will take considerably longer than the 8+ months that remain before the September 30 deadline. I appreciate and respect your honesty in this regard.

Given the fact that the initial Title VI complaint against BART was well founded, I am not in a position to award the ARRA funds to BART while the agency remains out of compliance. Moreover, it is clear that, if FTA were to pursue such a course, the likelihood of protracted litigation with the parties that made the initial complaint is extremely high. Given this situation, and the fact that we are now only 3 weeks away from the March 5 deadline, I must bring these discussions to a close so that we can work together to ensure that the ARRA funds can create and preserve jobs in the Bay area.

This is all very surreal. After so many losses, so many frustrating days and nights knowing that we were doing the right thing but still getting nowhere, it’s a bit hard to believe that the FTA has validated our arguments.

I don’t know what BART’s next move is. I hope that they sit down with transit and social justice advocates and explore a more equitable bus rapid transit project. The Oakland Airport Connector could still be a highly successful project that creates jobs and provides a cheap and convenient connection to the airport.

Regardless, $70 million in stimulus funds will go to good use, and I couldn’t be much happier about that. AC Transit desperately needs these funds. Muni can close their entire budget gap with these funds. And of course BART will greatly benefit from these funds.

Thanks to everyone who’s pitched in over the past year. Our efforts have finally been proven to be well worth it.

Previous posts on the Oakland Airport Connector:

Take Action: Last chance to ensure an equitable Oakland Airport Connector

4 Feb

Disclosure: I am again doing some work for TransForm on the Oakland Airport Connector campaign.

As you’ve no doubt heard, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) voted last week to give BART a bit more time to convince the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) that it has its act together and can complete its equity analysis in time to secure stimulus funding for the Oakland Airport Connector (OAC). The drop dead date approved by MTC is February 16th – by that date, if FTA does not approve BART’s equity action plan, the $70 million in stimulus funds will be redistributed to the regional transit agencies that desperately need it.

If FTA does approve BART’s action plan, MTC will meet on February 17th to vote on what to do. At that point, they can vote to keep the funds with BART for the OAC and pray that BART will follow through on its equity analysis. Or, they could vote to re-appropriate the funds to the transit agencies.

So there are still two decision makers at play here – FTA and MTC.

Many people have been asking me if there’s anything left to do. They want to take action. They want to make sure that the MTC does not roll the dice and gamble $70 million away, when the transit agencies desperately need it and BART has shown repeatedly that it is unable or unwilling to move forward with an equitable connector.

The one year fight for an equitable connector is likely coming to an end – either we’ll be stuck with an unequitable overhead connector that does not improve transit to the airport and wastes the region’s limited funds, or BART will have to start over and will hopefully embrace the bus rapid transit alternative that TransForm proposed last year.

There is one last thing you can do. Write to the FTA. Applaud them for their actions to date to ensure an equitable project, and urge them to insist that BART objectively and publicly complete the required civil rights analysis.

It’s easy to do. Visit TransForm’s action page and personalize your message. I know you have a lot to say. Say it, but keep it civil and positive. FTA has shown that they care about equity and that they will hold BART accountable for its actions. Let’s make sure they continue to do this. Send an email now and ask your friends, family, and coworkers to do the same.

Previous posts on the Oakland Airport Connector:

Heminger to MTC – let’s give BART some more time; Advocates to MTC – reprogram the money now

27 Jan

Disclosure: I am again doing some work for TransForm on the Oakland Airport Connector campaign.

As Streetsblog reported yesterday evening, MTC Executive Director Steve Heminger has recommended that the MTC should:

provisionally support the OAC and “accept the risk that the funds could be lost to the region if BART fails to remedy any Title VI deficiencies to FTA’s satisfaction.” If commissioners choose this option, Heminger recommends mandating that BART submit its “action plan” to the FTA by February 16, 2010. If FTA should find deficiencies in BART’s action plan at that time, then Heminger recommends his commissioners program the money to transit operators for their operating budgets.

How a reasonable person could believe that BART can get its act together on this project’s civil rights issues in just a couple of weeks when they’ve repeatedly failed to do so over the past year, I have no idea. But BART has always had MTC in some sort of trance when it comes to the Oakland Airport Connector, so why should that change now?

MTC commissioners do not have to follow Heminger’s recommendation and could still vote today to immediately reprogram the funds. That is what a large group of leading Bay Area organizations asked them to do, in a letter that was sent out yesterday:

Dear MTC commissioners,

You are being given a tremendous opportunity to do something great for the region. On Friday, January 15, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) delivered a letter to BART and MTC explaining that the $70 million in ARRA stimulus funds are at risk of being lost to the Bay Area. These funds are at risk because BART has failed to conduct an equity analysis or to consider an equitable alternative to the controversial Oakland Airport Connector project.

The Oakland Airport Connector has changed dramatically since you last voted to support it in February, 2009. BART has acknowledged that they are planning to serve a mere 600 new daily riders, at an average travel speed of only 23 mph. Instead of greater convenience, travelers will also have to drag their luggage 2-3 times further than they currently do from the BART train to the Airport.

We have serious concerns that this project will not attract sufficient ridership to justify this significant public investment. The project has become so expensive and slow that it will not likely benefit anyone – BART riders, the airport, jobs, and especially low-income families who can’t afford to use it. When there is such an urgent need to preserve vital transit services, jeopardizing ARRA money on this questionable project is a risk we should not take.

We would ask that MTC, the largest funder of this project:

  • Re-obligate the $70 million in ARRA funds to the region’s struggling transit agencies for the purpose of saving jobs and transit service, and;
  • If the agency is considering continued support of the OAC, require an objective, independent analysis of the alternative the FTA is requesting before allowing any further regional funds to be committed.

Sincerely,

Natural Resources Defense Council
Sierra Club
TransForm
San Francisco Bicycle Coalition
Urban Habitat
East Bay Young Democrats
Genesis
City CarShare
Alameda Transit Advocates
Public Advocates
Bay Area Parent Leadership Action Network (PLAN)
Bay Localize
CarFree City, USA
CC Puede
Friends of BRT
The Greenlining Institute
Livable City
Walk San Francisco

It should be an interesting meeting today. If you can’t make it, you can listen online or you can follow the meeting on Twitter. I think a lot of people will be live-tweeting, but this is the list I’ve compiled so far: OaklandBecks, MaxAllstadt, and StreetsblogSF.

Bay Area bloggers unite to urge MTC not to gamble stimulus funds on Oakland Airport Connector

26 Jan

Disclosure: I am again doing some work for TransForm on the Oakland Airport Connector campaign.

Tomorrow, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) has the opportunity to do the right thing and reallocate $70 million in stimulus funds away from the Oakland Airport Connector (OAC) and to the transit agencies for maintenance. Whether they’ll do that or not, we don’t yet know, but one thing I do know is that the Bay Area blogosphere was on fire yesterday with bloggers urging the MTC not to gamble the region’s stimulus funds.

All of these bloggers asked readers to do a couple things:

  1. Email the MTC commissioners using TransForm’s online action page.
  2. Come to the MTC meeting tomorrow and the Rally for Justice and Jobs before the meeting (beginning at 9am at MTC headquarters, 101 Eighth Street, Oakland).

These blog posts are worth a read in full, but here are some of the highlights, that when strung together, tell the story in full.

Our Oakland:

If you haven’t been following the story, BART is not proposing an extension to Oakland Airport like the one to SFO. What they’re proposing is a $492 million people mover, that will move slower than traffic for much of the journey. For comparison, the new station in Dublin is being built for about $80-$90 million. So for much less money, BART could build a new station at 98th Ave. and implement a bus rapid transit system (BRT), thereby improving service for airport riders and local residents.

Stop, Drop and Roll:

Last February, this issue sprang back from the dead when $340 million in stimulus (job creating money) became available. But here’s the thing, MTC never looked at whether the project was a good jobs creation vehicle.

In response to an email sent by Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan’s office, MTC acknowledged that:

MTC did not perform/release any reports related to projected jobs created from stimulus funding.

This fact, that MTC did not even consider the job creation potential of this project, was confirmed by KALW reporter Jill Replogle.

Pedestrianist:

BART mismanaged their planning of the project, changing it extensively over the years without adequately reviewing the changes. The MTC gave a large chunk of the federal stimulus money it received to the project, because the MTC totally hearts BART. Some local transit advocacy groups complained to the feds. The feds took a look at the project and were all like, ‘Woah, we can’t give money to a project that hasn’t been thoroughly vetted under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act,’ and told BART and the MTC to meet the Title VI requirements by March 5th or give up the money.

In Oakland:

The Connector is dead, and BART is moving through the stages of grief, with denial the first step. Here’s a initial statement from BART Board President James Fang (Republican of San Francisco) to The Chronicle:

BART Board President James Fang said he was puzzled and distressed by the letter because he believed that “FTA was one of our strongest partners on the Oakland Airport Connector.” But he said he was confident BART could satisfy the FTA in time to capture the funds.

The next state of mortal grief is anger. We saw some of that in BART’s letter to the FTA, which said that “BART takes strong exception” to the idea that their policies favor rich suburban areas over poorer urban ones. BART appears to have moved on to bargaining, attempting to get a five-week stay of execution even though the inevitable federal rejection would cost the region its stimulus funding. Many expect a depressed BART staff when this comes to a head in at a meeting on the 27th. Seventy million dollars of the region’s transit funding depends on whether the regional Metropolitan Transportation Commission will find acceptance of the Airport Connector’s demise on Wednesday.

The N-Judah Chronicles:

However, there’s a silver lining. The Metropolitian Transportation Commission can vote this week to have the cash re-allocated to maintenance projects for Muni, BART, AC Transit and other looted transit agencies. Under the rules, this money cannot be used for big pay for anyone, only actual maintenance projects.

This would be a good thing in a time of budget crapola. Personally, I think that if we’re going to see the feds spend money, the least they can do is spend it on something that might actually be of use, instead of blowing out the deficit for something that doesn’t help.

Future Oakland:

Here’s the choice before the MTC Wednesday: give BART one last but impossible chance to save their Airport Connector and lose $70m forever, or keep the $70m for the region. The OAC, which becomes more expensive and less useful with every passing year, needs to be put out of its misery. Though the federal government won’t give the OAC a penny, BART has been willing to bankrupt every rival agency and steal from every available pot of money to fund their pipe dream, up to and including robbing their own seismic retrofit bond of funding to fix the Transbay Tube, so losing the FTA’s nod may not actually kill this zombie project.

A Better Oakland:

Even if you ignore the fact that the redirection of the $70 million to system preservation among local agencies will save more jobs than the entire OAC project will create, this decision should be a no brainer. The risk of just throwing away $70 million in stimulus funds is too high. First, it makes the MTC look like incompetent morons, and undoubtedly will render us ill poised to receive competitive grants in the future. Second, the impacts of losing the money are just too devastating to justify.

21st Century Urban Solutions:

This vote is a pivotal moment for the future of Bay Area transit: will MTC continue to stand by BART and its wasteful, suburban-oriented “blingfrastructure” project to cater to a few hundred new riders in 2020 in spite of the huge risks that now accompany it, or will they take a stand and prevent service cuts, fare increases, and hundreds of layoffs at transit agencies and support the needs of roughly 1,600,000-1,800,000 transit riders now?  Nothing would be more embarrassing (and disastrous) for the Bay Area than losing $70 million in stimulus funds (well…other than actually building the OAC I guess).  The bottom line is that this vote is MTC’s last chance to make the right choice–the choice that will increase transit ridership, improve service, cut our emissions and oil consumption, reduce congestion, and save jobs–and NOT fund the Oakland Airport Connector.

Please click through and read all of these excellent job posts, and then take action online and make plans for tomorrow morning.

January 25-31 Oakland Political & Community Events

24 Jan

Monday, January 25th – The Future of Oakland and the School Board

Via the League of Women Voters: “The excellence of Oakland’s schools directly ties into the health of our city. Youth who graduate from high school with skills to continue their educations, fill jobs, and contribute to their neighborhoods will not be adding to our national reputation as a top-tier crime scene. What is the role of our school board in promoting OUSD student achievement? How does our school board support effective principals and teachers and personalized learning environments for OUSD students? LWVO invites its members and the larger community to attend this gathering. School Director and LWVO member Jody London will join us in a discussion of issues.” This event will take place from 6:30-8pm at Redwood Heights Community Center, 3883 Aliso Avenue (Just off Redwood Road near Highway 13).

Tuesday, January 26th – Temescal Neighborhood BRT Meeting

Oakland is preparing its recommendation for a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system running through the heart of the East Bay from San Leandro through Oakland to Berkeley. Throughout the month of January the city will be seeking the input of Oakland residents on what they want to see from the Bus Rapid Transit program and how they want this new service to run through their communities. This process will culminate in the submittal of Oakland’s Locally Preferred Alternative to AC Transit to be included in the range of options they consider when they build the BRT system. I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview of Oakland’s plan at December’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee meeting, and it’s pretty astounding, especially the significant pedestrian improvements. This meeting is part of a series of seven meetings throughout Oakland, and I highly recommend attending at least one to see the plan for yourself and to ask questions. This meeting will be held from 6-8 PM at Faith Presbyterian Church, 430 49th St. You can read more about the BRT proposal at dto510’s excellent post about this issue and at OaklandBRT.com.

Wednesday, January 27th – MTC Vote on Oakland Airport Connector & Rally for Justice and Jobs

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) will vote this Wednesday on whether to reallocate $70 million in stimulus funds, since the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) is withholding these funds from BART for the Oakland Airport Connector until BART conducts a full equity study of the project. BART likely does not have enough time to comply – if the study isn’t completed and the funding isn’t approved before March 5, the $70 million in stimulus funding will leave the Bay Area forever and be redistributed to another region. Join us on Wednesday to tell the MTC to redistribute the funds to BART, Muni, AC Transit, and other transit agencies for maintenance. These funds would be hugely helpful to these agencies, all of which are facing huge budget deficits. At 9:00am, meet outside of MTC headquarters, 101 Eighth Street to Rally for Justice and Jobs. Then, at 9:45am, speak at the MTC meeting to urge them not to gamble the region’s funds. For more information on Wednesday’s rally and vote, or to send an email to MTC commissioners, visit TransForm’s action page.

Wednesday, January 27th – Insight Prison Project Kick-Off Celebration

From OneCalifornia Bank: “Insight Prison Project and OneCalifornia Bank invite you to attend the Insight Out Kick-Off Party. Insight Out is a bold new initiative that employs a select team of ex-offenders to work with youth to prevent crime and promote healing in Bay Area communities.” Come to this event to learn more about this new project. There will also be a performance by local youth group and appetizers and drinks will be served. The event will be held from 5-7pm at OneCalifornia Bank, 1438 Webster Street, Suite 100. Find out more at the event web page.

Wednesday, January 27th – Downtown Area BRT Meetings

Oakland is preparing its recommendation for a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system running through the heart of the East Bay from San Leandro through Oakland to Berkeley. Throughout the month of January the city will be seeking the input of Oakland residents on what they want to see from the Bus Rapid Transit program and how they want this new service to run through their communities. This process will culminate in the submittal of Oakland’s Locally Preferred Alternative to AC Transit to be included in the range of options they consider when they build the BRT system. I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview of Oakland’s plan at December’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee meeting, and it’s pretty astounding, especially the significant pedestrian improvements. These meeting are part of a series of seven meetings throughout Oakland, and I highly recommend attending at least one to see the plan for yourself and to ask questions. These meeting will be held from 11am-1pm in Hearing Room 2 and 5-7pm in Hearing Room 4 at Oakland City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza. You can read more about the BRT proposal at dto510’s excellent post about this issue and at OaklandBRT.com.

Thursday, January 28th – Broadway Auto Row Planning Meeting

This will be the third in a series of meetings to help plan the revitalization of Broadway Auto Row. At this meeting, project alternatives will be presented. If you’re interested in this corridor (and you should be), please attend this meeting. It will be held from 6-8pm at First Presbyterian Church, 2619 Broadway at 27th. More info on the Auto Row planning process can be found here.

Thursday, January 28th – Walk Oakland Bike Oakland Meeting

This meeting is your chance to meet the newest member of the WOBO family – Kassie Rohrback, WOBO’s first Executive Director! Kassie will be at the Volunteer Meeting to introduce herself, answer your questions, and – with the help of WOBO campaign leaders – give you an update on what campaigns they’re actively running, where they stand, and how you can help out in 2010. Since this meeting is designed to be your chance to get acquainted with Kassie and WOBO’s campaigns, there will be time (and refreshments) after the meeting, so you can get more information about their campaigns and sign up to volunteer. This meeting will be held from 6:30-8:30 pm at Bay Area Wilderness Training, 2301 Broadway, Suite B – enter on 23rd Street. For more info, visit WOBO’s website.

Thursday, January 28th – Elmhurst Neighborhood BRT Meeting

Oakland is preparing its recommendation for a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system running through the heart of the East Bay from San Leandro through Oakland to Berkeley. Throughout the month of January the city will be seeking the input of Oakland residents on what they want to see from the Bus Rapid Transit program and how they want this new service to run through their communities. This process will culminate in the submittal of Oakland’s Locally Preferred Alternative to AC Transit to be included in the range of options they consider when they build the BRT system. I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview of Oakland’s plan at December’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee meeting, and it’s pretty astounding, especially the significant pedestrian improvements. This meeting is the last in a series of seven meetings throughout Oakland, and I highly recommend attending at least one to see the plan for yourself and to ask questions. This meeting will be held from 6-8 PM at St. Luis Bertrand Church, 1410 100th Ave. (@ International Blvd). You can read more about the BRT proposal at dto510’s excellent post about this issue and at OaklandBRT.com.

OMG, OMG, OMG! FTA withholds funding from BART for OAC

20 Jan

This will have to be a quick post, but I had to share this. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has written a letter to BART and the MTC stating it will withhold $70 million in stimulus funds from the Oakland Airport Connector (OAC) project because “BART failed to conduct an equity analysis for service and fare changes for the Project.”

This is what advocates argued all along but none of our local agencies listened. BART, MTC, ACTIA, the Port, and to a lesser extent, the Oakland City Council, all ignored our complaints and brushed them aside, but the FTA gets it.

BART is trying to spin this as a minor setback and is having a press conference right now with Larry Reid and others to try to convince the press that the OAC will move forward. But without federal funding, it can’t move forward.

So one of two things will happen:

1. BART will finally conduct equity studies and improve the project.

2. The OAC will die.

I couldn’t be much happier. Thanks to TransFo, Public Advocates, Urban Habitat, and Genesis for filing the initial Title VI civil rights complaint that led to this!

Previous posts on the Oakland Airport Connector:

Fight against Oakland Airport Connector leads to FTA civil rights investigation of BART

17 Nov

I didn’t expect to be writing about the Oakland Airport Connector (OAC) anytime soon, and I certainly didn’t expect to be sharing good news about it. Well, ok, maybe it’s not good news about the OAC, but I do have some incredible news to share about the outcome of our efforts to stop the OAC.

Today, Public Advocates Inc. and TransForm announced that their Title VI civil rights complaint against BART over the OAC has led to a full Title VI investigation of BART by the FTA! From the press release:

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Office of Civil Rights will conduct an on-site compliance review of BART’s entire Title VI program “within the next several months,” based in part on a complaint filed by transit policy experts and community advocacy groups. That complaint charged that in the rush to build the controversial Oakland Airport Connector (OAC), BART officials were evading well-established civil rights obligations…

A letter from FTA to Public Advocates Inc. staff attorney Guillermo Mayer informing him of the action reads in part:

“The specific issues in your complaint are being addressed from a broader perspective by this compliance review, with the intent of resolving any issues of non-compliance identified. If we make findings of deficiencies, FTA will monitor activities until we determine that the deficiencies noted are corrected.”

“We’ll have to wait and see what FTA finds, but the fact they find this case worthy of comprehensive federal review is a giant step forward,” said Mayer. “It also sends a strong message to agencies like BART and MTC that they’re going to have to start taking their civil rights obligations more seriously.”

I’m not sure what will come of this, but one thing I do know is that this never would have happened if we hadn’t worked so hard to stop the OAC. And even though the OAC seems to be moving forward, we could have accomplished something much bigger. Again, from the press release:

“We are fighting for a strong, sustainable BART, one that meets the needs of all Bay Area residents,” said John Knox White, Program Manager for TransForm. “This move by the FTA validates our concerns that the OAC planning process has not openly presented key information about a project that we feel will lead to future fare increases and service cuts on the BART system.”

Thanks to everyone who helped make this happen! I’ll be watching this process closely and will report back when I have more information.

Previous posts on the Oakland Airport Connector:

Random Thoughts on a Friday Afternoon

13 Jun

Some of these items probably deserve their own posts, but I’m exhausted after a long week so this will have to suffice for now:

Mix It Up East Bay was basically canceled last night. Generally, the bar that it’s held at is fairly empty on Thursday nights so the 60-100 people who come to Mix It Up can take over the place and it’s quiet enough to have guest speakers. But there was a game on last night and it was far too loud and crowded for the event to go on. This is unfortunately the second time this has happened. Anybody have suggestions for an alternative location Mix It Up can use when there are big games happening?

– OaklandNews has a great post up about the plans for the Safeway demolition and rebuilding on College. This whole process has been pretty contentious so the meeting on June 19th should be interesting. Check out the post – it has links to the renderings of the new design. What do you think?

– I got myself into a debate over at A Better Oakland about public transportation. V Smoothe’s post was about AC Transit’s plan to run a ballot initiative to raise property taxes instead of raising bus fares. If you’re a regular reader, you might be able to guess where I stand on this issue, but go over and check out some of the other comments.

– The Christian Science Monitor has a really depressing story up about the FTAs push to ban public school buses. It’s not too long and worth reading, but here’s how this change would effect Oakland:

Oakland Unified School District estimates private busing costs would run into tens of millions of dollars. It already costs $8 million a year to privately transport the district’s 1,500 special needs students – a sliver of the roughly 20,000 students that travel daily by public bus.

“It would mean tremendous and unwarranted expense that jeopardizes access to schools for people from underserved communities,” says Troy Flint, Oakland schools spokesperson. It’s not clear, he adds, if private contractors would provide the same “depth and range of services.”

By piggybacking on an existing transit network, Oakland schools can offer a $15 monthly bus pass to students, giving them the flexibility to stay after school. For Keren, that means the chance to participate in volleyball and the Black Student Union.

“I don’t think a private entity can do that, charging the school zero, and charging the kids $15 a month, and then providing them with not just school transit but all the other transit we do,” says Chris Peeples, board president of AC Transit, which serves Oakland.

– The Towards Carfree Cities conference, hosted by the World Carfree Network, is being held in Portland next week and I really really wish I could be there. Luckily, the SF Bay Guardian will be there and has already started covering it. David over at Brooklyn Avenue already knows the joys of carfree living.

– Yesterday, my girlfriend passed on a link to Forage Oakland, a blog/project that seeks to streamline the harvesting and trading of produce grown in yards around the Bay Area. I don’t have much to share yet, but we’re already reaping the benefits of our hard work in our garden. We’ve been cooking with just about every type of herb, freshly picked. We’ve just started harvesting squash and sweet peas – amazing! And I really don’t think I ever appreciated lettuce enough – fresh lettuce is so tasty that sometimes I just grab it straight out of the dirt and munch on it. We’ve enjoyed a couple blueberries and I picked the first ripe blackberry the other night. Some of the tomatoes should be ready this weekend and in a couple weeks we’ll have more fava beans than we know what to do with. Hopefully I’ll get around to uploading some photos soon and writing a full post about this. Until then, I’ll just continue to cook, eat, enjoy. I love Fridays 🙂

Take Action to Save Transit at the Local, State & Federal Levels

9 Jun

UPDATE: It looks like the AC Transit Board of Directors may not be voting tomorrow on a fare increase! Instead, they’re looking into a putting a parcel tax initiative on the November ballot. So tomorrow at their hearing, they’ll likely vote to postpone discussing fare increases until after the November election. (BTW – last time I’m relying on the SF Chronicle as a source.) Also, the Board will be considering sending a letter of opposition to the FTA’s proposal on nixing school buses from public transit.

This morning, I sat down on the bus to be greeted by a flyer with red, bold writing, proclaiming:

Rider Alert!

Governor’s Budget Cuts $19 Million from AC Transit.
Phone calls needed to protect your bus service!

So I knew I’d be writing about the need to take action for transit this evening. At the time, I hadn’t realized that transit’s being attacked by all levels of government this week. Luckily, there are three ways you can take action to stop these attacks.

1. LOCAL – Remember last month when I reported on the AC Transit public hearing about fare increases? Well, that was just a hearing to take public comments. This Wednesday, the AC Transit Board of Directors will be discussing the four plans and likely voting to implement one of them. This may be your last chance to speak out against fare hikes – especially the increases for monthly passes. Here’s the hearing info:

AC Transit Board of Directors Meeting
2nd Floor Board Room
1600 Franklin Street, Oakland, CA 94612
Wednesday, June 11, 2008 @ 5:00 p.m.

2. STATE – While AC Transit will almost certainly raise fares, the agency’s not content to sit by while the Governor takes $1.4 billion away from public transit, including $19 million from AC Transit alone. This just doesn’t make sense – at a time when gas prices are rising and commuters are finally realizing it makes sense to take public transit, our state is defunding public transit agencies. AC Transit sent out an email, put out flyers, and is featuring an action alert on their front page. I hope other transit agencies are doing the same. If you care about transit, take 30 seconds to call Governor Schwarzenegger:

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
(916) 445-2841 (phone)
(916) 558-3160 (fax)
online comment form

It’s simple – just call and say your name and what city you live in. Then, say that you oppose any cuts to public transit funding. Really – it takes 30 seconds so pick up your phone and call now. And if you’re too freaked out about calling, send in a fax or make a comment online.

3. FEDERAL – Thanks to OaklandNews, I found out that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is trying to prohibit public transit agencies from offering special bus routes to school. I had to read the article twice because it was just so hard for me to believe. I know the Bush administration FTA hasn’t been too friendly to transit, but this is outrageous! Ostensibly, the FTA is trying to protect private school bus companies (in other words, just like with everything else, they want to privatize, privatize, privatize). Congresswoman Barbara Lee is standing up to the FTA about this proposal, and she could use the support of others to urge the FTA to back off from forcing students to walk or forcing parents to shell out even more gas money to drive their kids to school. The Education Report tells us how to chime in:

Want to give the feds feedback on the proposal? You can submit a comment online at: http://www.regulations.gov, or fax it to: 202-493-2251. The proposal is listed under Docket No. FTA-2008-0015.

Well, that’s it for now on the transportation front. Hopefully next time I’ll have some better news, but for now, don’t sulk – take action!