Congressmember Salud Carbajal chatted with transit employees during a visit to Chapala Street on Tuesday. | Credit: Courtesy

In the wake of the passage of the monumental $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Congressmember Salud Carbajal paid a visit on Tuesday afternoon to one of its major recipients in Santa Barbara — the Metropolitan Transit District. Chatting with ticket sellers and bumping fists with passengers at the newly upgraded Transit Center on Chapala Street, Carbajal explained to reporters how the bill will bring nearly $90 million to Santa Barbara County over the next five years for public transportation. Initially, MTD is planning on using its portion to upgrade and maintain the bus fleet and transit facilities, according to MTD spokesperson Hillary Blackerby. She noted the agency has had electric buses since 1991, “before it was cool,” and is planning to roll out nine more full-size 40-foot buses next year. 

When Carbajal was asked about the equally monumental news that Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia would not vote for President Biden’s Build Back Better bill, which holds billions toward climate- and society-related infrastructure improvements, he said, “I am an optimist. I’ve been in Washington long enough to know that negotiations are fluid.” Carbajal said that if he were in West Virginia, he’d emphasize that Manchin’s opposition undermined helping families pay for childcare and prescription medicines, as well as financing universal pre-K for children and more grant funding for higher education. Carbajal believed that the prosperity Build Back Better would bring to the country would be a “motivating force to get everyone back to the table.”

Carbajal’s optimism may be borne out as Senate Leader Chuck Schumer has vowed to bring the bill to a vote in January. Schumer convened Senate Democrats in a caucus call Tuesday night, and Democrat Manchin iterated his opposition to the bill for inflation reasons, adding that the rich should pay more in taxes, according to a report in Politico. But Manchin’s own business is in coal, and much of his state’s economy is in coal, electricity, and natural gas; multiple media reports point to his long-standing opposition to the fee on methane, a potent greenhouse gas, in the bill and other nuances related to energy production and the encouragement of electric vehicles. What the bill will look like in January is a large unknown.

Carbajal tried out MTD’s new contactless payment system as he boarded the 12 Express to Goleta. Credit: Courtesy

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