State Sees Historic Transit Investment Amid Budget Shortfalls
$5.1 billion will be coming to local transportation agencies for operations and capital improvements
July 26, 2023: Part of the $310 billion 2023-24 California budget includes a historic investment in public transportation designed to be flexible for agencies impacted by declining ridership fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic. California’s Enacted Budget Summary states, “The Budget preserves investments in the programs that are essential to millions of Californians while closing a shortfall of more than $30 billion through a balanced package of solutions that avoids deep program cuts.” Among the programs deemed essential are sustainable public transportation funding and implementation of the zero-emission bus fleet of the future.
Funding for Transit Operations
The Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP) typically involves a competitive funding process, reserved for capital projects that improve frequency and quality of transit in the state with the goal of reducing emissions from driving. Projects like the Sacramento Valley Station Bus Mobility Center have received funding from TIRCP in the past.
In the last few years, transit agencies have been faced with declines in ridership and revenue that threaten service frequency and overall operations. In response, the $4 billion in TIRCP funding over the next two years has been designed to provide transit operators the option to invest in operations or capital investment, depending on where their need is. Monies will be distributed to regional transportation planning agencies (RTPAs) based on the population of each region. The RTPA will then distribute funding to transit agencies based on guidelines that will be set by the California State Transportation Authority, or CalSTA. The guidelines are expected to be available in September 2023.
In addition to the flexible TIRCP funding, $1.1 billion was allocated to the Zero-Emission Transit Capital Program. The funding will be distributed based on a mix of population and ticket revenue.
Together, the $5.1 billion is a significant investment for transportation in the state that, coupled with the flexibility of funds, sends a loud and clear message that public transportation is critical to the state and its residents.
Creation of a Transit Transportation Task Force
Another notable addition to the budget requires CalSTA to create a Transit Transportation Task Force made up of transit operators, metropolitan planning organizations, and other groups from across the state to gather information to develop a comprehensive understanding of the current state of transit. The group will be focused on developing policy recommendations to improve ridership, transit experience, and services for all