Advocates urging the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) to reallocate dollars from a recent tax measure to boost public transit funding may not get support from the San Jose City Council after all.
Last month, more than 30 people showed up at a VTA board of directors meeting to implore the VTA to divert funds from a half-cent sales tax hike passed by voters in 2016 to bus and light rail routes. Measure B, which will generate $6.3 billion over the 30-year lifespan of the tax, was sold to the public as a way to repair potholes, finish the San Jose BART extension and improve bicycle and pedestrian safety.
Transit and climate activists, on the other hand, want to use some of that revenue to reduce Silicon Valley’s greenhouse gas emissions by upgrading and expanding public transit routes. Come Tuesday, however, the San Jose council will consider a proposal by Vice Mayor Chappie Jones and council members Pam Foley, Dev Davis and Johnny Khamis to author a letter against those wishes.
“Out of respect for city and countywide voters, it is imperative that we, as a city, take an affirmative position to preserve and protect the original intent of Measure B as originally envisioned and understood by the voters who assented to the sales tax,” the four council members wrote in a Dec. 10 memo. “While we support other transit projects and regional environmental priorities and understand the inclination to reallocate funds for transit purposes, we must remain focused on delivering all Measure B listed transportation priorities as equally important and necessary.”
But more than half a dozen residents submitted letters ahead of the meeting to express their displeasure with the recommendation from Jones, Foley, Davis and Khamis.
“[Sixty-three] percent of greenhouse gas emissions in San Jose come from the transportation sector (mainly cars) so we really need better transit if we want to combat the climate crisis,” public transit advocate Monica Mallon wrote in an email to the council. “The Measure B reallocation is a way to increase bus and light rail funding quickly without increasing taxes. I believe that it is too premature of the San Jose City Council to send a letter opposing this important item before it has been heard at VTA.”
On TUESDAY (1/28), the SJ City Council will be voting on sending a letter OPPOSING the Measure B reallocation for bus service.
Show up and make a public comment @ 1:30pm @ SJ City Hall.
Details ➡️ https://t.co/pHyV86tgrB
— Monica Mallon (@monicamallon) January 21, 2020
Katja Irvin and Gladwyn D’Souza, members of the Sierra Club Loma Prieta chapter, echoed Mallon’s objections.
“The Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter supports efforts to reduce single-occupancy vehicle travel and increase alternatives that reduce greenhouse gas emissions particularly given the extraordinary climate emergency the planet is facing,” they wrote in another dissenting letter. “The reallocation of transportation funding for public transportation is the kind of action local governments need to stand up and support to demonstrate a true commitment to solve this existential situation.”
76 signatures encouraging the SJ City Council to vote against sending a letter opposing the Measure B reallocation for bus service!!! pic.twitter.com/P7evwZISJS
— Monica Mallon (@monicamallon) January 27, 2020
According to the ballot language for Measure B, the VTA Board of Directors can reallocate funding from the measure if it’s approved by three-quarters of the 12 voting members. The transit agency would also need to put out a public notice to every city council in South Bay, as well as the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, that notifies them about any plans to reroute funding to other uses.
The San Jose City Council meets at 1:30pm Tuesday inside the council chambers at City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St. in San Jose. Click here to read the entire agenda.