Politically speaking, transit in California is like the little kid who always gets picked on by the schoolyard bully. This year at state budget time, the bully - let’s call him Arnold - had no trouble stealing transit’s lunch money. $1.3 billion dollars in gas taxes that had been slated to go to local bus and rail operators went for other priorities instead.
It’s clear transit riders don’t have clout in the Legislature. But the environmental lobby does. Environmentalists should be transit’s natural allies. But this year they stood by and watched transit get bullied, cementing their own image as elitists, who fight for tax breaks for the rich who can afford hybrid cars, but are largely absent when poor people who ride transit need their help.
Transit riders will lose again next year if they don’t get organized. They need to do what nurses did a few years ago – meet the governor at every public appearance. Remind him that they do matter. Forge alliances with environmentalists. Shame them if necessary. If transit users don’t stand up and fight for their fair share of the public purse, they should prepare to sit by the side of the road and wait longer and longer for the bus to arrive.
Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.