Jacob opposes road funds going to transit

County Supervisor Dianne Jacob was unsuccessful in her bid last Friday to have the San Diego Association of Governments (Sandag) Board reject shifting more TransNet sales tax money to public transit.

“Here we are only one year into a 40-year sales tax program and the discussion of changing the voter-approved distribution formula is already taking place,” said Jacob, one of two county supervisors on the Sandag Board with representatives of the 18 cities in the county.

TransNet, a half-cent sales tax for transportation projects, was approved by voters in San Diego County in 1988 and was to expire in 20 years. In 2004, voters extended it another 40 years. The money is distributed among highways, local roads and mass transit.

“I opposed the TransNet extension in 2004 for the very reason we are having this discussion today,” Jacob told other Sandag board members at their special meeting April 10. “The original TransNet prohibited shifting taxpayer revenue from roads to transit.”

The TransNet extension that voters approved in 2004 included a provision “that the board could at any time alter the will of the people and shift TransNet funds from road and highway projects to transit operations,” said Jacob, who represents District 2 on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. Ramona is among unincorporated communities in District 2.

Jacob believes transferring local road and highway money to bail out the Metropolitan Transit System and the North County Transit District is a breach of public trust.

“Transit operators currently receive more than 34 percent of all TransNet funding while only serving 3.3 percent of the traveling public,” she said. “Transit gets way more than its share. Based on the projected ridership in 2030, transit should only be receiving 7.3 percent of total TransNet funds.”

About 96.7 percent of commuters in the region use roads and highways today, with 92.6 percent projected to commute on roads and highways in 2030, she said.

TransNet’s purpose is to reduce traffic congestion, the supervisor continued.

“If we are to do what the voters ask us to do, we will become more aggressive in building needed road and highway projects to relieve congestion,” she said. “After all, that’s where most people are — on our roads and highways.”

The need for funding  road improvements outweighs the money available, said Jacob.

“Any shift will put the region further behind in addressing safety and capacity issues,” she said. “...In other words, don’t change the distribution of dollars in the ballot measure voters approved in 2004.”

Jacob received support at the meeting from county Supervisor Pam Slater-Price, who seconded Jacob’s motion to oppose giving more TransNet money to transit.

The Sandag Board  will discuss funding options for transit operations at its April 24 meeting.

“My motion would have taken this one option off the table,” said Jacob, adding, “It will take a two-thirds vote of the Sandag Board to shift funds from roads and highways to transit.”

   
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