How to get a free ride on public transit: California
A new report by the nonpartisan California Public Transportation Commission shows that, when all is said and done, Californians spend less on public transportation than they used to.
The study found that in 2020, Californias population grew by 9.3 percent and its ridership grew by 3.6 percent, and transit spending fell by 1.3 percentage points.
The report’s findings come on the heels of a report released earlier this year that showed California residents spent $7 billion on public services during the first half of this year, up nearly 11 percent from the same time last year.
While California is home to a staggering number of transportation services, the new study found many of those services are not as good as they once were.
“The problem is, people are using public transportation less,” said Julie McLeod, executive director of the California Public Transit Commission.
“We’re spending more than we’re getting back in revenue.”
The report found that public transit spending has fallen by nearly a third since 2020, but the impact on the state budget has not been as significant as some previous reports.
“This is a small part of the overall spending we’ve been getting,” McLeod said.
“It’s just a small portion of the money we’ve had to invest in this system.”
The analysis found that a number of factors contributed to the reduction in public transit funding, such as increased funding for Amtrak and commuter rail in California.
The biggest cuts have been made to transit in San Francisco, the state capital, which has seen ridership drop by almost 10 percent and ridership fall by 7 percent.
That’s largely because of an $18 million increase in annual transit fares and the elimination of an entire bus fleet.
San Francisco’s transit ridership has fallen more than 7 percent since 2020 due to the city’s high cost of living, according to the report.
The city has also cut $1.3 billion from bus routes and eliminated an entire line of light rail.
McLeod believes the citys transit cuts are a result of the city being in the midst of a two-year budget stalemate.
“You can’t have a situation where we have to pay for an infrastructure project when the city is in this financial hole,” she said.
The California Public Transport Commission, however, disagrees.
“There is a need for the public transportation system to be able to function,” said the commission’s director of public policy, Matt Dominguez.
“Our funding is tied to ridership and that’s what the governor’s proposal is going to fix.
And it’s not going to change anything with how you spend your money.”
Domingue says the state needs to address the funding problem, but it is not as easy as cutting spending.
“California has the largest public transportation systems in the nation and I think it’s important that we make sure that they have the funds they need,” he said.