Measure BB Sales Tax in Alameda County

In 2014, voters in Alameda county passed a sales tax, Measure BB, by 70%. This measure is seen as a model for progressive use of sales tax in a county, and the Alameda County Transportation Commission simultaneously achieved recognition as a progressive transportation agency. The measure continued an existing half cent sales tax and added another half cent, for a total of one cent. I think a lot can be learned of use in Sacramento county by looking at the measure and the agency.

Measure BB funds the 2014 Transportation Expenditure Plan, which has these goals:

  • Expand BART, bus and commuter rail for reliable, safe and fast services
  • Keep fares affordable for seniors, youth and people with disabilities
  • Provide traffic relief
  • Improve air quality and provide clean transportation
  • Create good jobs within Alameda County

The plan certainly includes some funds for roadways, but shifts the focus to away from traditional roadway expansion to multi-modal transportation, particularly relative to the earlier sales tax which was heavily motor-vehicle oriented. Of the $7.8B (yes, billion) to be invested over 30 years, the allocations are:

  • BART, bus, ferry and commuter rail $2.8B
  • Affordable transit for youth, seniors, and people with disabilities $1B
  • Traffic relief on streets and highways $3B
  • Clean transportation, community development, technology and innovation $1B

The plan allocates 48% of the total to transit, including expansion, operations, and fare subsidies. Of this, 18% of the total goes to operation of AC Transit (Alameda-Contra Costa Transit) which is the equivalent of SacRT. Without knowing the exact nature of the example projects in the document, it is hard to parse out how much of the 39% “traffic relief” category is maintenance and how much expansion, but it looks like about 2/3 maintenance and 1/3 expansion. The 8% clean transportation category includes a remarkable $651M for “Bicycle and Pedestrian Paths and Safety Projects and Educational Programs”.

The Alameda County Transportation Authority has an Independent Watchdog Committee (page 35 of the plan), whereas Sacramento county has nothing of the sort. The committee holds hearings, reviews audits, and issues reports. The Alameda CTC also works with the Alameda county BPAC (Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Council), whereas SacTA does not work with SacBAC (Sacramento joint city/county bicycle advisory council), and in fact there is no pedestrian advisory function at the county level at all.

There are a wealth of ideas in the plan, and it is instructive to read it. I’ll be going through it in more detail in the future.

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