Report: Local Bus Riders Shortchanged

By Judith Scherr
Friday December 22, 2006

A study released Wednesday asserts that Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission funding policies maintain “separate and unequal” transit systems. 

The report that can be found at www.publicadvocates.org was written by three organizations: Public Advocates, Urban Habitat, and Communities for a Better Environment. 

The release of the report coincides with the 50th anniversary of the end of a year-long campaign to win integrated bus service in Montgomery, Ala.  

The report points out parallels between the Montgomery civil rights struggle and today’s efforts to win an equitable share of public transit funding for East Bay bus riders, 80 percent of whom are people of color, according to the study. 

At issue is the disparity in funding MTC provides for AC Transit bus riders in the East Bay compared to BART and Caltrain users. The report details both the per passenger funding disparities and the resulting disparities in transit service: BART and Caltrain services have more than doubled, while AC Transit service has contracted by 30 percent, the report says.  

Commenting on the report, Councilmember Kriss Worthington who serves on the Alameda County Congestion Management Agency and the Alameda County Transportation Authority said, “Senior citizens and the disabled have major problems getting around with current minimal transportation services.”  

Worthington, who does not own a car, added: “It is not fair that if you’re a working person with little income and rely on the bus, it takes you a lot longer to get to work.” 

The councilmember pointed to a Berkeley City Council resolution passed July 12, 2005, calling for an end to the inequities: “The Metropolitan Transportation Commission allocates over $1 billion dollars of public transit funds to the various transportation agencies. However, it appears year after year, AC Transit, which mainly serves people of color and the poor, receives an inequitable allocation of these funds compared to rail commuter services such as BART and Caltrain, which serve more affluent commuters.” 

Mayor Tom Bates, out of the country and unavailable for comment, was recently appointed to serve on the MTC.  

“I’m hopeful that Tom will be a forceful advocate for the concerns for equity that this study raises,” Worthington said.