Functional and efficient public transportation is a key to a thriving city. Decreased traffic congestion, improved air quality and smarter land use are all benefits of a robust transit system. However, our transit system has faced additional challenges because of the economic circumstances at all levels of government. Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) altered its service and increased some fares because of the budget cuts, measures I could not support as a member of the MTS Board.
Our ridership continues to grow to record levels, which is a significant point for an area developed around the use of cars. It is imperative that new ongoing funding sources are created or found for transit operations. Thanks to the federal Supplemental Appropriations Act, 10% of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) transportation funds can now be used for operations, instead of only for capital projects. This freed $5.86 million for operations. Also, SANDAG released a Transit Impediments Study in 2010 which included many funding alternatives.
The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) Board of Directors approved the 2050 Regional Transportation Plan on December 17, 2010. Throughout the development of the RTP, I successfully fought for the inclusion of many transit projects that will prove critical to the sustainment of San Diego's high quality of life for future decades. I may be most excited that the RTP includes much-anticipated new streetcar projects for District Three.
When I-15 was completed through City Heights and Kensington/Normal Heights, the community was promised a functional transit service to benefit nearby neighborhoods. The long-awaited Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line is schedule to start service in 2012 with stations at University Ave. and El Cajon Blvd.
As a member of the SANDAG Transportation Committee, I am working to ensure that transit-focused projects in the 2050 RTP are prioritized. I continue to advocate our federal congressional delegation support increased transit operations funding in the next federal highway, transit, and highway safety authorization bill, MAP-21, and continue to investigate all potential funding mechanisms to maintain and eventually strengthen our transportation system.