Mallon: State budget cut threatens transit in Silicon Valley
High-speed rail trains will share Caltrain lines in the future. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

    In January, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced his budget proposal, which includes a drastic $2 billion cut from public transit projects in the state. This would lead to delayed projects and service cuts at agencies throughout the state.

    During the pandemic, federal relief money allowed transit agencies to keep service running despite declines in ridership and tax revenue. However, some agencies will run out of funding soon and face dire cuts.

    While VTA has experienced strong ridership and revenue recovery and has more time to come up with funding solutions, other agencies in Santa Clara County, including Caltrain and BART, could run out of the federal relief funds that have sustained service in just a few years. For Caltrain, federal funds could run out as soon as fiscal year 2024 and BART by fiscal year 2025 — forcing the agencies to cut service if new funding isn’t secured. This would mean less frequent service and shorter hours of operation, making transit a less viable option for residents.

    This is the opposite of what we need if we want to address the climate crisis and improve quality of life for residents. In California, transportation accounts for about 50% of emissions, so we need to get people out of their cars and on to transit to reduce emissions.

    While EVs can help lower emissions, they won’t help with traffic which is getting worse. A recent San José Spotlight article reported that commuters in San Jose spend around three days a year sitting in rush-hour traffic. This will only get worse as time progresses and more employees return to in-person work.

    On a more personal note, transit cuts will impact people. As a transit rider without a car, I see how transit impacts people every day, and I can’t help but think about what would happen if service was cut. Would the students I see every day be able to get to school on time? Would seniors be able to get to the hospital? Would workers be able to make it home from work after a long shift?

    While some may argue that transit shouldn’t be prioritized because most people drive, everyone is impacted by transit — even if they don’t take it. Maybe you don’t take transit, but the teller at your bank does, or your coworker does, or someone else you rely on does. Even if it’s not always obvious, we are all connected to transit, and transit plays a key role in our communities and our state.

    California can’t have a vibrant and sustainable future without transit, and the state needs to step up to make sure that transit can survive and thrive in the future.

    San José Spotlight columnist Monica Mallon is a transit advocate and rider in Santa Clara County. Her columns appear on the first Thursday of every other month. Contact Monica at [email protected] or follow @MonicaMallon on Twitter.

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