By now you have received mailers about Measure B, the sales tax increase on Tuesday’s ballot. Proponents proclaim that it will make it better for people who ride bikes, walk or take transit throughout Sacramento County.
Kenisha Deed is a working mom who has been riding Regional Transit for more than 15 years. She is taking night classes to advance her career, and her daughter takes flute and basketball lessons after school. When RT cut service and changed routes, Deed had to adjust her schedule. Sometimes she rides her bike or walks for miles, despite her foot pain, to catch the nearest bus, or relies on classmates to drive her home. When she finishes school, she will no longer get a discounted pass and will have to pay $110 a month.
Deed’s story is similar to dozens I have heard from those who live in areas without adequate bike lanes or sidewalks, where bus routes have been reduced or cut and who struggle to afford bus fares or parking near their jobs.
What will Measure B do for them?
Supporters say that Regional Transit is in dire straits, and without this funding it might fold entirely. They say that mandating that the first several years of funding go toward fixing existing roads will help ensure that existing infrastructure gaps will be filled. They say it’s too late to change the language in the measure, but will work on ensuring equitable implementation.
In short, they’ve told me this is as good as it will get. But I’m not sure it’s good enough.
I’ve watched a lot of transportation investments go into more affluent parts of the county, partly based on bicycle and pedestrian master plans that have not allocated enough money to reach underserved communities.
Measure B lists several expensive road projects that will increase traffic congestion over time, which isn’t conducive to safe streets or alternative modes of travel.
I know that Regional Transit is desperately trying to improve service under new leadership, but there have been significant cuts to bus service outside of downtown Sacramento. I’m not sure that the new money from this measure will increase access to services for those who need it most, especially when light rail extensions and the downtown streetcar are on the project list.
I really don’t want to vote against Measure B. I understand how desperately our transportation system needs more resources. But I’m hesitant to commit our region to a 30-year measure with so little assurance it will be spent well.
The central city organizations that support this measure aren’t invested in making sure this works for those of us who don’t live downtown. If we want to reduce traffic congestion, improve transit and complete our bicycle and pedestrian networks, then all residents will need to commit to going to meetings and pushing decision-makers to spend this money wisely and equitably. Otherwise this just doesn’t work.
Katie Valenzuela Garcia of Sacramento is a member of the California Air Resources Board’s Environmental Justice Advisory Committee. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.