Essay: Moment of truth on climate

Crews work on the extension of Regional Transit's Blue Line to Cosumnes River College in 2015. RT wants to further expand light rail. (Photo Courtesy of Regional Transit)

Will local officials listen on 2020 sales tax plan?

By David Mogavero

In the next several weeks, our elected officials are writing a measure for the November 2020 ballot to levy a sales tax for transportation funding in Sacramento County.

Will the expenditure plan for this measure provide operational support for transit to get more people off our highways; make walking and biking safer; offer mobility assistance for disabled, kids and elderly; and maybe support for affordable housing at transit stations?

Or will it simply add to our dependence on expensive automobiles by making roads wider and more hazardous and increasing congestion? (I understand that new freeway construction increasing congestion is counterintuitive, but it is true; it is called “induced demand” or “build it and they will come”).

The Sacramento Transportation Authority will meet Thursday, Dec. 12 and Jan. 9 to discuss the expenditure plan.

We know that spending money on widening roads also increases air pollutants, including those that cause climate change, and reduces funds to support mobility for those who can’t drive, such as making suburban roads safer for pedestrian and bicyclists and supportive of new infill development on transit.

Too often, road projects also use taxpayer money to subsidize infrastructure for land speculators who make hundreds of millions of dollars promoting more sprawl development.

The vast majority of Sacramento County residents believe the science that climate change is caused by human activity. We would love to do things in our daily lives to lessen our personal impacts, including where we live and how we move around. We know that reducing car trips is the most important piece of a California climate change strategy. Our regional urban designs and transportation systems, however, often foreclose our ability to make those choices.

That majority would very much like a vision for our community’s future that enhances accessibility, is safer and gentler on our lungs and more affordable. The average car costs about $10,000 per year. If a family can eliminate a car, the savings could make them eligible for $150,000 or more towards a home mortgage.

David Mogavero is a Sacramento architect and past president of the Environmental Council of Sacramento.

Our ironic political challenge is that a possible majority of elected representatives on the STA board likely do not reflect such a vision. Some of them are stuck in the bankrupt transportation paradigms of the 1950s and 1960s.

Los Angeles County has passed two ballot measures that are generating nearly $150 billion focused on transit, biking, and walking. If L.A., the land of cars, can begin the path to an economically more sustainable future, so can Sacramento.

Go to sacta.org/a_board.html, find the name of your elected representative who sits on the board and call, email, text or ask them for a meeting. Tell them:

You don’t want more roads, but want more transit and safer streets for bicycling and walking.

You won’t be fooled by a measure that funds the road project down the street (that your neighbor told the pollsters they like) but sacrifices the quality of our county’s future.

You will only support a transportation measure that moves our community to a socially, economically and environmentally sustainable future.

This is most critical for those who live outside of the city of Sacramento, including in Citrus Heights, Arden Arcade, Folsom, Rancho Cordova, Elk Grove and North Highlands, etc.

Please contact your representative now and voice your concerns. By February, it may be too late.

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