By Jessamyn Sabbag and Jahmese Myres
Public transit is critical to keeping Oakland affordable. The low-income community members our organizations serve often ask: “Is your office near BART or bus?” because they depend on transit to complete their daily routines.
Fortunately, our offices are accessible and we can refer them to the nearby BART stations and major AC Transit lines.
This November, the ballot is one of the longest ever, and voters have lots of important decisions to make.
Many of those decisions are about issuing bonds that would be paid for with new property taxes. For us and the communities we serve, keeping our public transit system reliable, safe and affordable for all of us is absolutely essential, and worth the expense.
Measure RR authorizes a $3.5 billion general obligation bond to fix, upgrade, and replace the aging BART infrastructure that Oakland–and the whole Bay Area–depends on. Whether you rely on BART for your daily commute or just use it occasionally, the system moves so many people around the Bay (more than 400,000 trips per day) that a major track or train breakdown would be a serious problem.
Keeping our transit system strong is also a key strategy for reducing the vehicle emissions that pollute our environment and contribute to climate change.
Measure RR can only be used for maintenance and repairs that are critical to keep BART safe, reliable, and comfortable for its current riders.
Our taxpayer contributions will be spent on repairing tracks and tunnels, replacing the train control system responsible for 20 percent of BART delays, and fixing elevators and escalators that seniors and disabled people rely on. The funds cannot be spent on BART police or policing apps, personnel salaries, or costly expansion projects.
Understandably, many of us are concerned about what Measure RR will cost us. BART estimates the average yearly property tax rate over the life of the bond would be $8.98 per $100,000 of assessed value.
But just like maintenance of our homes, cars, or appliances: if we don’t attend to BART maintenance needs now, a major emergency repair project could cost us much more time, money, and sustained inconvenience in the long run.
If Measure RR doesn’t pass, BART will have to find another way to fund these critical repairs, so they will likely bring forward a new proposal with costly expansion projects that appeal to suburban voters.
Measure RR prioritizes the needs of current riders, especially those who are transit-dependent — like many of our community members.
We also support Measure C1 to keep AC Transit service running without creating new taxes, just extending an existing small parcel tax.
Let’s keep our public transit system on track and approve Measure RR and C1 on this November’s ballot. Our communities deserve a safe and reliable transit system to get where they need to go.
Jessamyn Sabbag is an Oakland resident and executive director of Oakland Rising and Oakland Rising Action. Jahmese Myres is an East Oakland resident and Campaign Director at the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy.