I collected 378 letters from my fellow classmates (63 letters for 6 legislators) concerned about the severe cuts to California’s public transit systems, the odd routing of OCTA’s rapid bus system, and the disproportionate amount of funding OCTA’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan is dedicating to freeways over transit. I’ll be hand-delivering them to Sacramento on Monday while I’m there lobbying for universal healthcare with about 500 other medical students.
Maintaining and expanding public transit is an important issue to me because I see so many working families, seniors, and persons with disabilities dependent on buses and rail. Believe it or not, a lot of people ride the bus in Orange County; board any bus in Santa Ana or Garden Grove, and you’ll see it’s chock full of riders. And I grew up in an area so choked with air pollution so bad that we were forced to stay indoors during physical education classes because of the poor air quality. This issue especially affects motorists: less transit means more cars on the road, and more cars means worse traffic.
For example, the governor is proposing to wipe out STA, the sole source of funding for transit; for years, Schwarznegger has shunted more than $1 billion in transit funds for other purposes. The cuts are so severe that BART (the Bay Area Rapid Transit system) is proposing to close down stations. I know many agencies (including our own OCTA) have already slashed service frequencies and raised fares.
Here’s a letter we signed; this one is to Assemblyman DeVore:
January 8, 2009
Assemblyman Chuck DeVore
70th District (R)
State Capitol, Room 4102
Sacramento, CA 94249-0070
Dear Assemblyman DeVore,
As future healthcare workers and residents in your district, we support expanded state support for public transit, oppose Governor Schwarznegger’s proposal to eliminate the State Transit Assistance program, and further redirect $230 million in transit funds for non-transit purposes.
We need bold action on our state’s crumbling transportation infrastructure, and adding lanes is not the answer. California’s traditional stance in favor of freeway lane expansion has encouraged increased traffic and worsening air quality and more incidence of asthma and other respiratory problems in our patients.
Public transit is the sole lifeline for many of your seniors, persons with disabilities, and a skyrocketing number of your working families who cannot afford the luxury of an automobile. Orange County has seen a 23.9% growth in bus ridership in 2008 over 2007. Irvine residents, in particular, face packed, standing-room only buses along Culver Drive. Unfortunately, since 2005, our transportation agency has seen a 185% increase in fuel costs leading to fare increases and decreased service.
We need bold leadership on our transportation problems. Public transit is as essential as freeways in our state. Better, not worse, public transit is the answer.