With Muni at risk of slashing 20 lines and BART threatening to eliminate weekend service, state Senator Scott Wiener hopes to eliminate their deficits with a $1.50 toll increase on seven Bay Area bridges.
The state of California is back in deficit times, and to trim the debts, Governor Gavin Newsom’s budget proposed slashing $2 billion from public transportation funding. That could result in Muni cutting 20 bus lines staring as soon as this summer, and BART eliminating weekend service and ending train service as early as 9 p.m. The California Legislature did add a $1.1 billion bailout in a revised version of the budget, but according to SFMTA director Jeffrey Tumlin that bailout provides just “one third of what we need to avoid drastic service cuts next year.”
Tumlin said this in a Monday press conference proposing a $1.50 toll increase on seven Bay Area bridges to eliminate Bay Area transit agencies’ combined $2.5 billion operational deficit, as KRON4 reports. It would be a temporary emergency increase over five years for seven state-owned Bay bridges (which does not include the Golden Gate Bridge). The proposal is a state Senate bill called SB 532, and according to the bill’s author, state Senator Scott Wiener, the $1.50 increase would go into effect if/when Newsom signed the bill, and would stay in effect for five years.
Transit service cuts of this magnitude — e.g., BART may eliminate weekend & nighttime service & an entire line; Muni may eliminate 15+ entire bus lines — would be devastating to our region’s mobility, workforce & climate goals. It could send these systems into a death spiral.— Senator Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) June 26, 2023
“We’ve made good progress in this year’s budget, but the future of public transportation in the Bay Area is still under threat due to pandemic-related operational deficits that, without help, will lead to severe service cuts,” Wiener said in a press release. “Bay Area transit ridership continues to climb, but it’s not happening quickly enough to make up for the loss of federal emergency assistance. SB 532 provides critical lifeline funding for our transit systems — ensuring they have the resources they need to provide safe, reliable service for our residents.”
While the Golden Gate Bridge toll would not go up, the toll on the Bay Bridge would. The $1.50 toll hike would also affect the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge, the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, the Dumbarton Bridge, the Carquinez Bridge, the Benicia-Martinez Bridge, the Antioch Bridge.
I am sure you have noodled on this for a while but on its surface it seems like this would be effectively a regressive tax and also act as a disincentive to come into the city at a time when we need people the most.— Todd Davis (@96hoya) June 26, 2023
There will surely be criticism that this is a regressive tax, as not everyone who drives a car is wealthy. And considering that the toll hike is effectively a tax increase, the bill would require a two-thirds majority in the legislature to pass. So it’s hard to be optimistic that Wiener will get his bridge toll increase, because for many California legislators and their constituents, this $1.50 toll increase might be a bridge too far.
Image: InvadingInvader via Wikimedia Commons