October 21, 2014

Getting Alameda County students on board with bus passes

Will Alameda County provide each of its middle- and high-school students with a bus pass good on AC Transit, Livermore-Amador Valley Transit (“Wheels”), and Union City Transit (see July-August 2010, page 8)?

Important leaders have spoken out in favor of the proposal, but competition for funds is fierce. The decision-maker will be the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC), which is putting together a Transportation Expenditure Plan to go before voters in November 2012 as part of the renewal of the county’s half-cent sales tax supporting transportation.

In April county superintendent of schools Sheila Jordan submitted a formal application to the ACTC for what is now called the “Eco Student Bus Pass” program. The superintendent is also moving forward with an educational campaign in the schools to bring students up to speed about the perils of greenhouse gases and climate change. They will be given information about how taking a transit bus to school and other places, such as after-school activities, is a great step towards reducing “vehicle miles traveled” (VMT). In May the county Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution to move forward with the bus-pass proposal and the educational campaign.

This past June the superintendents of all 18 public school districts in the county signed a letter to the ACTC in support of the bus-pass program. They wrote that “affordable transportation is essential to ensure equitable access to schools and to preventing student absenteeism.” They also agreed to help with the educational campaign, including “supporting sustainable communities”, an important part of the SB 375 “Sustainable Communities Strategies” requirement now before the Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (see article in coming Yodeler).

In early July state Sens. Ellen Corbett and Loni Hancock and Assemblymembers Nancy Skinner, Sandré Swanson, Mary Hayashi, and Bob Wieckowski (each of whom represents some Alameda County residents) wrote to the ACTC expressing “enthusiastic support” of the bus-pass program. They cited greenhouse gases, traffic congestion, and student absenteeism as problems that the bus pass could help reduce. The letter refers to next year’s sales-tax reauthorization as “the best opportunity we will have to see this proposal become a reality.”

Jordan’s staff will soon sit down with ACTC staff to refine cost estimates for providing the transit service and administering the program in the schools.

Based on public input, including a poll of likely voters, and continuing technical analysis, the draft Transportation Expenditure Plan is expected this November. More detailed information, including workshop dates, will be available at www.alamedactc.org

Matt Williams, co-chair, Sierra Club Bay Chapter Transportation Committee

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