On Friday, June 10, a joint legislation committee of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and Association of Bay Area Governments – the regional governing bodies that focus on transportation and housing – will consider options to provide funding for affordable housing and public transportation.
A $10B bond measure to fund affordable housing is being considered for the 2024 presidential year. In 2019, a law was passed (AB1487, Chiu) authorizing the Bay Area Housing Finance Authority, a regional authority whose board members are the same as the MTC, to raise regional funding for affordable housing. Polling shows that voters see housing affordability and homelessness as urgent issues.
At the same time, there is growing awareness that public transportation is facing a fiscal cliff in the next few years as federal Covid relief funding runs out and ridership has been recovering more gradually. MTC and ABAG are considering pursuing authorizing legislation for regional transportation funding (similar to the authorization they already have to pursue housing funding). The authorizing legislation would have flexible timing on when the measure could be put on the ballot.
The MTC may also consider pursing state funding for transit, especially if a ballot measure takes longer to happen. Priorities for transit funding would include funding for service, and to deliver the provisions for integrated fares, service, and wayfinding signage that were promised as part of the region’s 2021 Transformation Action Plan to recover public transportation from the impacts of Covid by making the system more convenient and affordable for riders.
The federal infrastructure law is providing substantial funding for transit capital projects, and the state budget still being negotiated between the governor and the legislature may well also include substantial funding for transit capital, but that still leaves the fiscal cliff for service unaddressed.
Regional Measure 3, the bridge toll funding measure that was approved back in 2018, is still being held up by a lawsuit, and new regional funding measures won’t be pursued until that lawsuit is completed. That measure also centers capital funding.
Currently, polling does not look promising. Inflation is high, the stocks of the tech sectors that are a large share of the Bay Area economy are down, and almost 2/3 of voters felt the region is on the wrong track in a March 2022 poll from the Bay Area Council. However, 2024 is a long way away.
To be ready for funding, it is important to have a plan. The MTC/ABAG committee will discuss whether to start work including research and polling to assess the needs, voter priorities, and types of funding.