Will Senate Bill 1 be an Investment in the Transportation System of the Future—or a Return to California’s Past?
SB 1 is California’s landmark transportation funding package. With its passage in April of 2017, Senate Bill 1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act, funds improvements to the state’s transportation systems to the tune of some five billion dollars per year in new revenue. SB 1 is a landmark because it represents the first state gas tax increase in over twenty years, and for the first time in modern history directs more funding to fixing our existing roads and bridges than it does to expanding or building new roads.
Before SB 1’s passage, advocates from across the state worked hard to make sure bicycle, pedestrian, and public transit funding were a priority as we create the transportation system of the future, and that work is even more important as the implementation of SB 1 moves forward. We achieved some success in that SB 1 significantly increases funding to public transit and active transportation programs, but the vast majority of the new funding is still designated for roads that will subsidize driving and auto-oriented development. The legislative process to develop and approve SB 1 was full of ups and downs; read CalBike and our partners’ statement on the passage of SB 1.
Now in the implementation phase, we know that advocating for better, safer, more equitable investment in transportation through SB 1 has to happen at every level.
CalBike helped develop Senate Bill 1, and today we remain deeply engaged in its implementation. SB 1 provides over $5 billion per year in new transportation funds across California. We are committed to a truly accountable implementation process, so the funds are spent in a way that serves all Californians, but especially low-income communities of color. Since SB 1 infrastructure projects will shape our transportation for decades to come, CalBike is focused on redressing transportation injustices and making sure that the many documented inequities and unsustainable practices that are embedded in the current systems are addressed. Our organizing is focused on keeping SB 1 investments consistent with current state policies and goals related to social equity, climate, health, economy, and natural and working lands conservation.
The transportation sector naturally intersects many different governmental silos and our charge has been to connect those silos to create a more comprehensive and sustainable transportation system. We are engaged in transportation-related processes that involve non-transportation agencies, including the Air Resources Board (ARB), the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), and the Workforce Development Board (WDB). CalBike also works with our elected legislators on oversight of this important funding source.
CalBike has been, is, and will be here every step of the way—from pushing for every road project to create complete streets to standing up to the trucking industry to representing the interests of the most underserved Californians in the Capitol and across the state.
SB 1 creates an opportunity for California to grow smarter and fairer. Over $5 billion per year could transform our transportation system, incentivizing smarter growth, leading to equitable community development, and ensuring environmental justice. If we change transportation planning and investments to be forward-looking and inclusive, SB 1 could advance true livable, healthy, and sustainable communities for all. First, we must lift up the needs of low-income communities, communities of color, and our most vulnerable users as the priority and put them at the center of decision-making.
CalBike and our coalition partners have proposed 10 Guiding Principles that make up a smart growth, equitable development, and environmental justice platform for SB 1. Our principles outline strategies to overcome economic, social, and racial inequality inherent in the design of California’s transportation system. Now is the time – as the state prepares to invest an additional $54 billion of taxpayer dollars in transportation over the next ten years – to ensure we create an efficient, clean, sustainable transportation system that supports healthy, equitable neighborhood development, basic civil rights, and quality of life for all.
To realize the promise of SB 1, implementation across all of its programs should emphasize the following 10 principles:
1. Funding the ‘highest needs’ should be based on social equity.
2. CTC should undertake inclusive outreach and engagement with community groups to solicit input for guidelines’ development across all programs.
3. Reduce air pollution, climate change impacts, and incorporate climate resilience especially for the most vulnerable communities.
4. Projects should promote healthy communities and improve health outcomes, and seek to avoid worsening health impacts, especially in disadvantaged communities that have faced significant and persistent health inequities due to historical marginalization.
5. Expand access to workforce training and jobs for individuals with barriers to employment.
6. Develop strong performance measures tied to state goals.
7. Support mode shift to healthier and cleaner transportation options across all programs.
8. Complete Streets should be a requirement of all projects.
9. Projects should avoid impacts to natural and working lands and enhance regional sustainability.
10. Planning should advance housing affordability, and both planning and projects should seek to mitigate displacement.