To advocate for more equitable, inclusive and prosperous communities, we “follow the money” and that means we engage intensely with the CTC.
At the state level, the California Transportation Commission (CTC) controls most of the federal and state sources of the transportation budget—a whopping $18 billion a year—and therefore the priorities of our state’s transportation agencies.
Reforming our state’s transportation system to address the failures of the past must include reforming our transportation decisionmaking bodies at all levels of government.
We attend public meetings across the state, pursue critical meetings with staff and commissioners, work with partner organizations to influence Commission policy implementation to better serve all Californians, and generally provide guidance to their operations and actions while simultaneously keeping a close eye for problematic or promising policies in order to share with mobility groups on the ground at the local level.
While our work is helping our members, constituents, and allies who don’t have the capacity to engage with state policymakers get better results from the CTC, we are also working to improve the CTC. This year’s AB 179, signed into law by Governor Brown last week, called for the Governor to “make every effort” to ensure the Commission has “a diverse membership with expertise in transportation issues,” and to consider “socioeconomic background and professional experience, which may include experience working in, or representing, disadvantaged communities.”
AB 179 is part of a series of efforts to reform the powerful California Transportation Commission, an executive body with far-reaching impact. Transportation investments affect all Californians, and they often disproportionately burden our lowest-income communities. But the CTC currently has no requirements that its appointed commissioners have any experience with important issues like pollution impacts, sustainable and active transportation, or public health.
This particular bill initially proposed a mandate that the CTC must include representation from experts who live and work in underserved and environmental justice communities and eventually evolved that mandate into a mere suggestion—despite the fact that almost two-thirds of the Assembly voted for the mandate. Once it arrived in the Senate, Chairman of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee Senator Beall (D-Campbell) forcefully acknowledged that “we need to have a more diverse state transportation commission.” His call reflects an encouraging shift away from the status quo in transportation decision-making. CalBike will be holding Beall and our other leaders accountable when the next opportunity to appoint diverse representation to the Commission comes up.
In the meantime, we are fiercely urging to the Brown Administration to heed AB 179’s suggestion, and reverse the long history of the CTC operating with zero accountability to the people of California. Relying on AB 179, however, is not enough. In fact, the new law may have unintended consequences by stifling more direct and transformative reform and/or allowing decision makers to use it as an escape clause to pacify growing legitimate dissent. It’s our job to not let that happen.
We’ll never be afraid to stand by our values and will always refuse to give a free pass to unsustainable, unsafe, or inequitable transportation policy decisions. CalBike will continue to pressure the CTC to continue to engage with transportation and environmental justice advocates, residents, and communities.
Photo Credit: David De la Cruz/EYCEJ