Livable Communities Newsletter
Vol. 11, No. 42
May 2017
Transportation in Ventura County
Quick Links

Welcome to Our Spring 2017 Livable Communities Newsletter! 
 
What is happening with transportation?  We hear about President Trump and plans for major infrastructure, but will there be support for California?  We hear about Governor Brown and the passing of SB-1 that will bring more dollars to state transportation, but at the cost of more tax at the gas pump and higher auto registration fees.  So, we asked three local transportation experts to help us understand more about all of this, starting with a big picture view by Carl Morehouse, Past President of SCAG, Southern California Association of Governments.  Carl 's article is followed by a County perspective by Darren Kettle, Executive Director of VCTC, Ventura County Transportation Commission.  Finally, we explore a local perspective from Steve Brown, General Manager of Gold Coast Transit District.  Please click the links to each article to get the full message from each of these perspectives.  The whole picture is sobering despite some of the bright spots highlighted.  

Let us know what you think by contacting us at  info@CivicAlliance.org .
 
Thanks, 
  
Stacy Roscoe 

The Road We're On...
by Carl Morehouse


 

Transportation.  Like the weather, it's something we all talk about, but, unlike the weather, it's something we can do something about. When we talk about transportation, what are we talking about specifically?  Well, transportation is really a pretty basic principle.  It involves getting from point A to point B, with maybe a few stops in between.  Here, when we speak of transportation, we're speaking about, primarily, connecting where we live with everything else:  work; school; church; shops; recreation.  Getting between those points can take many forms: walking; horseback riding; skateboarding; roller skating/blading; "Razoring"; "Segueying"; bicycling, motorcycling, driving, bussing, train riding, to mention the most common forms on land; though, in most peoples' minds, transportation probably focuses on cars, busses and trains.  Since many of us travel on streets and roads, that's where the focus of most people lies, and it's the source of most of those discussions.

Because of the myriad ways one can get from point A to point B, the solution doesn't lie in one particular mode of travel. Rather it lies in a mix, again with an emphasis on the roadways that we move upon.  So, approaches to fixing our transportation system don't just lie in fixing roads alone, though the 2017 rains have increased the number of potholes and certainly raised our awareness of the condition of those roadways.  If it were as simple as just fixing potholes, wouldn't we have done that by now?  What takes so long and why is it so hard?

Well, if you've been paying attention to the news the past couple of years, you may be aware by now that the funds that pay for fixing the roads have dwindled significantly at both the state and Federal level. The revenue from the Federal tax that is added to the gas you pump into your more fuel-efficient car has shrunk because of that efficiency, and the tax collected hasn't kept up with inflation.  In fact, the last time the federal gas tax was increased the President of the United States was Bill Clinton. The Highway Trust Fund, the Federal source of funding for transportation improvements, went almost broke until a renewal by Congress last year gave that fund some new lifeblood, but only because of an $80 billion fund transfer from the general fund of the United States Treasury. The fundamental concept that the gas tax is a user fee and will pay for transportation improvements in this country is simply no longer the case.  Moreover, I'm not optimistic the federal government is prepared to raise new revenues to meet the country's and the Southern California region's transportation needs.




The Road Ahead
by Darren Kettle
 
It was Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, the morning after Election Day and I woke up to congratulatory notes from friends throughout Ventura County.  They were complimenting the Ventura County Transportation Commission's efforts in what those friends thought was the successful passage of Measure AA.  After all, anybody that was watching the county elections website had seen the measure receive support from nearly 58% of Ventura County voters.
 
Measure AA would have been Ventura County's first transportation sales tax measure, raising $70 million a year for 30 years that would be invested in projects to relieve congestion on the 101 and 118, repair and maintain local city and county roads, and build projects to move freight safely and efficiently through Ventura County.  The measure would have funded improving sidewalks and bicycle lanes and trails, and kept bus fares affordable for students, seniors, and veterans.  It had an environmental component that would fund projects to clean storm water runoff from our roads before that polluted water ended up in our ground water or on our beaches.  Finally, Ventura County would have been able to compete for federal and state transportation grant funds because the region would have had the critical local match that is almost always required.
 
Here is the rub:  I had to respond to all of those good friends who meant well that, while 58% sure sounds like a winning margin, the rules in California require that a measure such as AA needs a 66.7%, or 2/3 rd yes vote to pass.  I have heard some say that the measure was rejected, or failed, and, yes, technically, measure AA did not pass. But when 58% of Ventura County voters vote for a comprehensive transportation investment package, my take away is that transportation is a key element of our quality-of-life, and it matters to Ventura County residents. 


 


Future of Transit - Local Perspective - Gold Coast Transit District
By Steve Brown, General Manager

Next year, Gold Coast Transit District (GCTD) will mark its 45th year of service in Ventura County. As the largest provider of fixed-route and ADA paratransit (dial-a-ride) in the region, GCTD provides nearly 4 million trips each year to residents of Ojai, Oxnard, Port Hueneme, Ventura, and unincorporated areas of Ventura County between the cities. With our fleet of 56 buses and 20 routes, our service is designed to connect neighborhoods to jobs, schools, and shopping.  Our passengers include a diverse cross section of our community including college students, retail workers, veterans, seniors and people with disabilities.

Looking ahead at transit's future, our cities have some challenges to overcome. With Measure AA not reaching the 2/3 vote it needed to pass, local funding for public transit isn't expected to increase much in the next few years.  While GCTD will get a small boost from the passing of SB1, we won't benefit from the additional funding provided by SB1 to counties that have passed 'self-help' measures.  At the Federal level, President Trump's proposed cuts to public transit funding could have a devastating effect to the local service we provide.
 
Our cities also face disruption from popular apps like Uber and Lyft that are bringing more cars, congestion and uncertain business practices into our communities.  These services cater to those with higher incomes (who have access to cell phones and credit cards) and, because of their popularity, many people make the assumption that they would be good "alternatives to funding public transit."  This is troublesome for transit riders, because these companies have no obligation to provide equal levels of service to those who rely on public transit the most.  Uber and Lyft rely on private drivers that can choose to reject rides in neighborhoods where they don't "feel safe" or avoid picking up passengers with disabilities.  Public Transit serves everyone and is required to provide equal levels of service to all areas regardless of demographics.   Additionally, street geometry still dictates that use of high-capacity vehicles (like buses) providing frequent and fast service is more efficient at moving large numbers of people along urban streets (like Main Street, Telephone Road, Victoria Avenue) than single occupancy vehicles which take up a lot of space while only carrying a  couple passengers per hour.

GCTD also faces the challenge of decades of auto oriented land use policy.  We know that public transit works best when routes are designed to be as direct as possible.  However, over time as developments are built away from existing transit lines where land is less expensive, we've struggled with making tradeoffs between coverage vs. frequency. To h elp our cities move away from this pattern, we will need to encourage transit supportive policies that encourage clustering jobs and housing around existing transit lines.





A Special Thank You Goes to Our State of the Region Report Sponsors:

Research Sponsor - 
Ventura County Community Foundation

Presenting Sponsor - 
Ventura County Community College District


Domain Sponsors - 

Aera Energy
AT&T
California Lutheran University
California State University Channel Islands
County of Ventura
Gene Haas Foundation
Limoneira
Montecito Bank & Trust
Southern California Edison
United Staffing Associates
VCDSA - Ventura County Deputy Sheriff's Association


Supporting Sponsors -

The Port of Hueneme
Ventura County Coastal Association of Realtors
Ventura County Office of Education

Contributing Sponsors -

City of Ventura Community Development Department
Ferguson Case Orr Paterson LLP
Gold Coast Transit
Maron Computer Services
Procter & Gamble Paper Products Company
SESPE CONSULTING INC.
Stacy and Kerry Roscoe
Ventura County Transportation Commission

Friend Sponsors -

California Lutheran University Center for Nonprofit Leadership
Dyer Sheehan Group, Inc.
Friends of the Santa Clara River
Kate McLean
Sherie and Joe Gibson
Slover Memorial Fund
United Way of Ventura County
Ventura College Foundation

Media Sponsor -

Pacific Coast Business Times