If they get a chance, a majority of California voters would repeal the new statewide gas tax that went into effect last month. A new poll by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies found 52 percent of likely voters would support an initiative repealing California’s recent increases in gas taxes and vehicle license fees, while 46 percent said they “strongly” support repealing the charges.
High rates of water conservation helped California manage limited supplies during the 2012–16 drought. But conservation can have a downside. New research shows that indoor water conservation can reduce the quality and quantity of wastewater, making it harder for local agencies to use treated wastewater to augment their water supply.
Two multibillion-dollar bonds are expected to go before voters that promise to boost water supplies, offer flood protection and restore rivers and streams. One measure, sponsored by the Legislature, also would fund new parks and hiking trails. The second, a privately backed initiative, would go further to improve the infrastructure that moves water to cities and farms.
The Legislature’s $4.1 billion measure on the June ballot was forged as a compromise among several interest groups, with the support of Gov. Jerry Brown. Its water-related components lean away from traditional infrastructure projects such as new dams, and toward funding for recycling, construction of flood-control levees and cleanup of polluted waterways.
Some regions have seen catastrophic drops in ridership since 2010: 30% or more in Detroit, Sacramento and Memphis; 20% to 30% in Austin, Cleveland, Louisville, St. Louis and Virginia Beach-Norfolk ; and 15% to 20% in Atlanta, Charlotte, Los Angeles, Miami, San Antonio and Washington.
Adding rail service hasn’t helped. To pay for new light-rail lines that opened in 2012 and 2016, Los Angeles cut bus service. The city lost nearly four bus riders for every additional rail rider. Atlanta, Dallas, Sacramento and San Jose have seen similar results. The rail system in Portland, Ore., is often considered successful, but only 8% of commuters take transit of any kind to work. In 1980, before rail was constructed, buses alone were carrying 10% of commuters.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s ridership has been falling steadily since 2014, losing on average 69,000 daily riders each month. The most recent 12 months of data show a decrease of more than 10% compared with the same period three years ago, and Metro’s current “annual boardings” — just under 400 million — represent a drop of almost 20% from the system’s 1985 peak, even though the county’s population has increased by nearly a fifth since then.
It wouldn’t be difficult to turn these figures around, as Metro’s history shows: The transportation authority should stop focusing primarily on building new rail and use a fair share of its voter-supplied wealth to lower fares and improve the bus system.