The Mills bus pass proposal comes at a time when public transportation funds are a point of controversy.
Out of the $341 million the federal economic stimulus plan set aside for transit agencies, California legislators plan to use $70 million for a proposed BART connection from the Coliseum to the Oakland Airport.
This leaves transit agencies less than sufficient funds, and agencies like AC Transit are struggling to maintain operations.
With a $57 million deficit, AC Transit was hoping for around $40 million from the stimulus package. They only received $25.7 million.
AC Transit has decided to raise fares, which will include adding $.25 to the adult fare. They hope to offset the deficit by $5.7 million.
Junior Alex Stokes was interested in the issue and attempted to attend the meeting the Metropolitan Transportation Commission held on Feb. 25. This meeting determined how much federal money would go to which transportation projects and agencies. So many people showed up that the meeting started late, and Stokes had to leave before it began.
She said many people in the community were concerned that more money was going to BART, which she said is used by wealthier people. This means that less money will go to buses, which many locals use to get to work.
Giving most of the money to BART is “privileging the privileged,” Stokes said.
Before the decision, she said,”if the money was not given to AC Transit, they would have to make some major cuts in their service such as laying off workers and increasing fares to make ends meet.”
Plus, these changes will not affect just the transportation business. “Anyone who takes the bus will be affected,” said Stokes.
ASMC Sustainability Senator Katie Johnson said that she understands both sides of the issue.
“I think AC Transit is really under-funded and they serve a community that is really dependent on them,” said Johnson.
But, she also recognizes the economic need for high capital projects like the BART connection for the long run because, “we have to think about the objective of the stimulus package.”
The stimulus package was designed to promote economic growth by creating jobs and increasing consumerism. Johnson and others who favor the BART project see the BART extension as a way to boost Oakland’s economy by bringing in new business.
The federal stimulus package provides $495 million for Bay Area transportation projects. Transit agencies are set to receive $341 million. Road projects are in line to receive $154 million.
$70 million for the elevated connector between BART and Oakland International Airport
$11 million for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to install 67 ticket vending machines
$9.4 million for Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District to refurbish ferries
$1.2 million for curb ramps and sidewalk repairs in Oakland