A new organization is forming here in the Sacramento region specifically to address issues of public transit. This group was seeded and led by 350 Sacramento, and while 350 Sacramento is still one of the coalition members, there is now a core group of active citizens leading the organization. The organization is a combination of individual members (about 50) and a coalition of other organizations (about 25). Though I am pleased to be a member and one of the core leadership, this post does not speak for the organization, but is just a report on it.
The Sacramento region has great organizations for walking advocacy, WALKSacramento, and for bicycle advocacy, SABA (Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates), but it has never had a strong regional group focused on transit. STAR intends to fill that gap. Given the origin in 350Sac, a focus of the group is on reducing greenhouse gas emissions by getting people out of their cars and on to transit.
The organization has formed three committees to look in detail at issues in public transit in the region. The committees are policy, structure, and outreach. The committees have met about once a month, and there has been a general meeting of the members about once a month. A calendar of public events and STAR meetings is available.
Though the organization will have a regional breadth of the six counties that are part of SACOG (Sacramento Area Council of Governments), the focus to date has been on SacRT (Sacramento Regional Transit) and Sacramento county.
The first major public issue for STAR was the SacRT fare increase proposal, which was presented by SacRT staff in January, modified slightly based on feedback from the board of SacRT, presented again in March, modified further by board action, and adopted at the March 14 board meeting. STAR developed a position paper on the fare increase. Though the STAR proposal was not adopted, this voice for more reasonable fare increases, and the voices from many other people and organizations, particularly the disability community, against any fare increase, did influence the fare increase motion made by Steve Hanson and generated board opposition that resulted in the fare increase passing by only 67%. Most board votes are 100%. Most significantly, the board indicated that it would not consider additional increases until after the November election, and had no stomach for the steep second year increase proposed by staff. The board and staff said that it would be necessary to eliminate or significantly modify up to four bus routes in order to balance the budget in fiscal year 2016-2017, even with the fare increase.
The next major issue up for the organization is a response to the likely half-cent sales tax measure to be offered by SacTA (Sacramento Transportation Authority – better recognized as Sacramento GO) on the November ballot. This measure would increase funding from a half cent under the existing Measure A to a full cent. However, marketing by SacTA indicates that a significant part of the funding will go to the SouthEast Connector and widening of the Capitol City Freeway. These type of sprawl-inducing motor vehicle projects not only take funding from transit, but actually harm transit by subsidizing privately owned vehicles at the expense of public transportation.
STAR does not yet have a web presence on Facebook, the Internet, or Twitter, but it will soon. In the meanwhile, if you’d like to get on the email list, please email Delphine Cathcart.