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MTC Legislation Committee proposes changes to Connect Bay Area regional funding legislation

On, Friday April 12, the Metropolitan Transportation Legislation Committee approved a set of proposed amendments to SB1031.  The amendments refine the funding formula to ensure funding for all counties including those that have fewer agencies facing post-pandemic fiscal challenges; clean up language about a consolidation study; and set guardrails on MTC’s authority to coordinate service. 

The proposed amendments address multiple concerns raised by agencies including Caltrain, SamTrans and VTA that took forceful negotiating positions to oppose the legislation unless amended.

MTC Chair Pedroza strongly encouraged his colleagues, and a variety of stakeholders who’ve been expressing opinions to continue to work together to “get to yes” on legislation that will pass in Sacramento and a measure that will pass at the ballot.

A regional funding measure appears essential to maintain and improve service for Caltrain and other Bay Area transit services, including providing better coordination among agencies.

Getting to yes is important since there does not appear to be a good “Plan B.”  If there isn’t a regional funding measure, the alternative for Caltrain would be a ballot year when voters in San Francisco would be whether to support funding for Muni, BART, and/or Caltrain. This seems like a very risky scenario.

While voting “yes” on the proposal to move it forward, San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan continue to raise concerns for Santa Clara County that they want to protect the ability to reauthorize their local sales tax measures, for example by having a say on when the regional measure goes on the ballot or whether to be able to opt out. These are understandable concern, however, the alternatives also pose significant risks. Imagine a year when Santa Clara County voters are asked to vote to fund transit, but a regional measure has not passed, Caltrain and BART are running skeleton service, and the BART Silicon Valley project is perhaps stalled because there isn’t enough funding to operate the service. It is hard to see Santa Clara County voters being eager to fund transit in that circumstance. 

Important milestones coming up include legislative committee hearings on April 23 (Senate Transportation), April 24 (Revenue and Tax), MTC workshops on April 24 and 25 diving into more depth on MTC’s overall funding for the region’s transit system, Peninsula corridor transit board meetings on May 1 (SamTrans) and May 2 (Caltrain, VTA), and a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing in May.

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