From the moment Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in January that his next budget plan would include a $2 billion cut in funding for building mass transit, there was bleating from many of California’s leading liberal legislators.

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The budget reduction, warned state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, “could lead to significant service cuts, which is a downward death spiral for some (transit) agencies.”

State Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, added that “I think everyone in the Legislature would not want to have any funding shift, for example, for a public service like transit.”

A look at the numbers, though, gives a pretty good idea why Newsom chose transit for about 10% of the cuts needed to make up a predicted $22 billion deficit. The numbers show that Californians are not as enthusiastic about either light or heavy rail commuting as their elected lawmakers.

Figures from the American Public Transit Association demonstrate that neither the extensive Bay Area Rapid Transit system nor Southern California’s Metro Rail have come close to recovering the ridership they lost during the COVID-19 pandemic, when two things happened: Many office workers began working from home, and thousands of commuters chose to use private cars instead of public transit every day to avoid possible exposure to the many ever-mutating COVID variants.

By the fall of last year, BART was carrying just 55% of its prepandemic passenger load, while Metro Rail was at 71% of prior ridership. Partly, that’s because San Francisco saw a greater shift than Southern California toward remote work. The change also saw San Francisco lose about 6% of its population, with many workers moving to less expensive areas once they no longer needed to live near their employers’ offices.

The specific numbers, available most recently from last July, August and September, did show both systems carrying tens of thousands more people in those months of 2022 than a year before but still not nearly enough to make either system break …read more

Source:: The Mercury News


Elias: California’s transit budget cut makes sense in light of numbers

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