Alameda Contra-Costa Transit (AC Transit)
As the transit agency for more than 230,000 people a day, and the employer of more than 2,100 bus drivers, mechanics and other personnel, AC Transit is a vital component in the San Francisco Bay Area’s transportation network. But with a projected deficit of $57 million by 2010 and more immediately impending service cuts and layoffs, we are now confronted with a huge challenge to maintain routine operations.
The decline in consumer spending brought on by the souring economy has severely reduced sales tax revenues and, consequently, the subsidies that normally flow to transit agencies like ours. In addition, we have been hit with across-the-board cost increases, most notably for employees’ medical insurance and pensions.
But the lion’s share of the blame for the financial stew we’re in can be directly attributed to a catastrophic diversion of transit funds by state officials. This year AC Transit was entitled to receive $26 million in State Transit Assistance funds. Instead we got only $3.4 million and the ominous promise that for the next five years there will be no state transit funding at all.
So, when word came that our region would get about $500 million in federal stimulus funding for public transit, we at AC Transit breathed at least a small sigh of relief. Based on a regional formula used by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (the regional agency that distributes the funds) AC Transit’s share was figured to be nearly $26 million.
Given our dire financial forecast and our immediate needs, we are spending the federal stimulus dollars on preventive maintenance. It was clear that we need to do so to avoid or at least delay deep service cuts and layoffs of critical personnel.
Phoenix Public Transit Department
Like the entire country, the financial climate for Phoenix has been severe recently. With the housing starts and building development boom officially bust for us, the Phoenix Public Transit Department is working to provide service in a time when one of our primary sources of revenue, the citywide voter-approved Transit 2000 sales tax, is being battered by the economy. The sales tax has served us well, bringing more than $884 million in operational and capital revenue into Phoenix’s transit system nine years into the program. Without the support federal stimulus funds will bring, many long-range plans to improve Phoenix and the area could be delayed or halted.
Garnering federal stimulus support has become a priority of the Phoenix city council and our city manager. We will work to expand commuter service into new areas, enhance passenger facilities, and continue investment in new and better bus stops and accessibility infrastructure. Most importantly, we have been striving to be innovative as an institution, looking into the ways that green enterprises like the expansion of clean fuels throughout our fleet can improve service, and advanced security and technology infrastructure can permanently change our operation for the better.
Mayor Phil Gordon has even taken the case for our efforts to the nation’s capitol, using the stimulus program as a starting point of turning Phoenix into “America’s first carbon-neutral city.” Phoenix will employ many methods to “go green” as part of this new plan, including transit-focused programs like an airport automated rail system and solar-powered transit facilities.
Such goals are far-reaching, but attainable. And, since we work in partnership with other area cities to provide a uniform and customer-friendly transit system, collaboration on our approach to federal stimulus is key. As the largest member of Valley Metro, the regional transit system, our actions have implications for more than 60 million passenger boardings a year. We will continue working to maintain transit services that our residents and customers depend on, participate in the recovery of our local economy and plan ahead to what opportunities that restoration will bring.