350 Petaluma’s Measure M letter
April 9, 2020
Chair Susan Gorin
Sonoma County Transportation Authority
11 King St.
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
Re: Measure M Transportation Sales Tax Measure
Dear Chair Gorin and SCTA Commissioners,
Thank you for requesting continued input from various stakeholders about a future transportation sales tax measure.
We understand that many voters prioritize fixing potholes and smoothing roads. However, the current 35/65 percent split does not reflect the urgent need to (1) move our County away from car-centered transportation, (2) improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians, and (3) provide better access to jobs and services for low-income and working class residents.
For the last 50+ years, the County has been prioritizing auto-oriented transportation. But despite billions of taxpayer dollars invested, our traffic and roads are not improving; in fact, many argue they are getting worse. And although other sources of emission are on the decline, the County’s transportation emissions are growing.
Another billion dollars invested in auto-oriented transportation will not solve our problems. Now is the time to shift our focus and investments to improve public transportation, promote active transportation and shared mobility, and help low-income and working class residents reduce their transportation burdens.
As you prioritize transportation funding for Measure M, it is critical to view all decisions through the lens of the climate and equity crises, and to ensure that the measure reflects state mandates to reduce vehicle miles travelled (VMT) and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
As such, 350 Petaluma supports a 60-40 percent split in favor of investing in a next-century network of frequent bus service and public transit alternatives to solo driving, connected bike and pedestrian pathways, and priority projects that will reduce VMT and GHG emissions. This is the only way we will begin to achieve climate resiliency, economic and environmental justice, and, yes, traffic mitigation.
The following are features we also consider essential to the new measure:
- Any road construction projects funded by the measure within the “Move Traffic & Increase Safety” category shall meet strong “complete street” criteria, include class I or II (not class III) bicycle lanes, and be designed to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety.
- No funds shall be used for new capital road projects unless an expert study finds that (1) investment in a new capital road project is the most effective method of reducing VMT in a community, (2) the project (including the road and any buildings constructed as a result of the road’s construction) has no risk of (a) being compromised by climate-induced hardships such as wildfire and sea level rise or (b) increasing the community’s risk of being compromised by climate-induced hardships such as wildfire and sea level rise, and (3) the project (including the road and any buildings constructed as a result of the road’s construction) substantially increases transit ridership, active transportation, and accessibility to services for low-income residents within the affected community.
- Prior to allocating any Measure M funds within “Move Traffic & Increase Safety” category, all Measure M fund recipients shall be required to complete a study that optimizes the allocation of funds to projects based on the project’s ability to (1) reduce VMT, (2) reduce GHG emissions, (3) improve disaster preparedness, and (4) improve pedestrian and bicycle safety.
- Bus funding shall (1) prioritize reducing headways on major commuter routes during commute hours and (2) achieve or move towards a fare-free bus system by (a) eliminating fares for all riders, (b) eliminating fares for all low-income riders, and/or (c) reducing fares a minimum of 60 percent for all riders.
- At least 50 percent of funding for bikeways/pathways shall be used to create class 1 and 4 bikeways/lanes (as opposed to unprotected bike lanes).
Finally, we offer this parting message: In the coming months and years, there is a real chance that many of our neighbors and loved ones will be facing unprecedented economic stress and hardships as a fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is critical that SCTA carefully construct any new tax measures so that they address transportation equity and deliver real benefits to Sonoma County residents. As currently constructed, the SCTA proposal will do more to line the pockets of the fossil fuel industry than provide economic relief to residents or improve our climate resilience.
Following the defeat of all new tax measures in March 2020, and in the face of a potential recession the likes of which most have never seen, it is hard to envision a tax measure passing without the unified support and endorsement of Sonoma County’s climate and equity communities. We look forward to working with SCTA to craft a strong transportation measure that we can fully support and help pass.
Thank you for your work during these challenging times. We truly do appreciate your service to our community.