Mass transit and alternative transportation advocates from 22 community organizations called on the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG) to place just one $1.6 billion bond measure on the November ballot, instead of the two separate bond measures — A and B — now proposed. Standing under the courthouse’s massive stone arches, representatives of the Coalition for a Fair Measure D pledged to campaign vigorously for a unified bond that would renew and expand Measure D, the countywide half-cent sales tax passed in 1989 and set to expire in 2009. The speakers argued the two-measure approach was too confusing for voters and too risky for alternative transit projects.
Coalition spokesperson Marc Chytillo charged that only eight percent of the Measure D funds collected thus far have been spent on mass transit, bike lanes, or other forms of alternative transportation. And Harley Augustino noted that Santa Barbara County ranks last of California’s 58 counties in public transit subsidies, with the most heavily subsidized transit service being Santa Barbara’s downtown shuttle that ferries shoppers and tourists up and down State Street. Eva Inbar of COAST (Coalition for Sustainable Transportation) also insisted Measure D needed to do much more for alternative transportation to win over the necessary two-thirds of voters.
SBCAG members embraced the A and B approach in response to polls indicating powerful support for renewing Measure D, but only 61 percent support for increasing it by one-quarter cent. But the speakers complained that the lion’s share of funding for alternative transportation would come from Measure B, which polls indicated was the most politically vulnerable, as it constitutes a sales tax increase rather than a renewal. SBCAG will meet this Wednesday to continue discussing what spending plan to place before voters this November; the final decision is not expected until April 20.