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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Daylighting Public Funding Streams: Increasing Equitable Access to Public Transit Across California

  • Author(s): Amberg, Natalie
  • Dasmalchi, Eric
  • et al.

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This report presents research into the funding categories and other characteristics of active Local Option Sales Taxes (LOSTs) throughout California, with specific focus on the extent to which they make resources available for public transit and the political context that makes it so. LOSTs have grown increasingly popular as a funding mechanism for transportation in California in the context of declining funding from other sources.We find that while LOSTs are increasingly common in California, they vary widely with regards to how they fund transit. In general, LOSTs in rural areas of the state fund transit less, with some of our conversations revealing a preference for additional funds in those areas but others asserting that between LOST funding and other resources such as Transportation Development Act (TDA) funds, rural transit has adequate resources, at least to provide the current level of service. In attempting to characterize which resources are available to transit from each LOST, we also looked closely at local return funds—funds passed on to cities and other local jurisdictions to spend as they see fit, often within some sort of eligibility constraint. Depending on the LOST measure, these funds can either make up a small component or most of the funding program. While our research did reveal that in many cases these funds could be put towards transit, or at least transit-supportive infrastructure such as bus lanes and shelters, we find no evidence of local jurisdictions doing so. Our findings suggest that this is due to local officials and voters seeing road maintenance as the top priority, coupled in some cases with a lack of familiarity with how to support effective public transit.

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