In a just released poll by the Bay Area Council a majority of respondents indicated an expectation that traffic congestion in the Bay Area (the San Jose-San Francisco combined statistical area) is likely to get worse.
It is already bad enough. The Bay Area includes two major urban areas (over 1,000,000 population), with San Francisco ranked second worst in traffic congestion in the United States, closely following Los Angeles.
With little fanfare, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) released its fourth quarter 2016 ridership report last week. When ridership goes up, the lobby group usually issues a big press release ballyhooing the importance of transit (and transit subsidies). But 2016 ridership fell, so there was no press release.
The report showed that light-rail ridership grew by 3.4 percent, probably because of the opening of new light-rail lines such as Seattle, where the opening of the University line increased ridership by 60 percent. In the past, light-rail ridership has grown with the addition of new lines, but the number of passengers per mile of light rail has fallen, indicating diminishing returns to new rail construction.
Commuter-rail ridership grew by 1.6 percent, mostly due to growth in New York City. Trolley bus ridership grew by 1.8 percent, almost all of which was in San Francisco. Demand-response (paratransit) grew by 0.7 percent.
The two most important modes, however, both declined: heavy rail fell by 1.6% and buses by 4.1 percent. Since these two modes together carry 86 percent of transit riders, their decline swamped the growth in other modes. “Other,” which includes ferries, monorails, and people movers, also fell by 0.2 percent.
. . . Los Angeles light-rail ridership grew by 8.7 percent, but for every light-rail rider gained, Los Angeles lost nearly six bus riders.
California drivers will pay more to drive in the state under a bill the Legislature passed Thursday to raise $52 billion from new taxes and fees to repair roads and bridges. That bill, SB1, will be sent to Gov. Jerry Brown, who has said he will sign it.
Reservoirs and rivers are overflowing as storms have pounded California this winter, and after years of drought that should be good news. The problem is that misguided environmentalism is wasting the water windfall and failing to store it for a non-rainy day.
Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislators have caused a stir with their plan to increase taxes to pay for the state’s unquestionably decrepit infrastructure of roads and bridges. Instead of thinking of this as a new transportation tax, however, Californians should see it as a pension tax, given the extra money plugs a hole caused by growing retirement payments to public employees. Consider this sobering news from the CalMatters’ Judy Lin in January: “New projections show the state’s annual bill for retirement obligations is expected to reach $11 billion by the time Brown leaves office in January 2019 – nearly double what it was eight years earlier.” That’s the state’s “annual bill,” i.e., the direct costs taken from the general-fund budget. That number doesn’t even include those “unfunded” pension liabilities that according to some estimates top $1 trillion. That’s more than double the $5.2 billion a year the Brown administration hopes to raise from a plan that would boost gas taxes by 12 cents a gallon, raise the vehicle-license fee by $25 to $175 a year (depending on the value of the vehicle), impose a $100 annual fee on electric cars because they don’t currently pay gas taxes and include a large hike on diesel fuel. Money is fungible, so if the state overspends on pensions, it has to make it up somewhere else.