Thursday, June 25, 2009

Special Commentary from our Business Partners in Orange County and Silicon Valley

By Lucy Dunn
President and CEO of the Orange County Business Council

By Carl Guardino
President and CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group

Echo Your Support for Transit
Among the Halls of Sacramento

All of us have experienced the devastating impact of the economic recession on families and businesses across our nation and state. Transit is experiencing the most painful cuts in generations. As someone who may know firsthand the importance of transit, we wanted to share with you our effort to help protect this critical way of moving people.

Partnering for Transit Solutions

In April, the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) made a difficult decision regarding the reduction of bus service in the county. Faced with a record shortfall of $272 million over the next five years, OCTA announced plans to reduce its bus service by 29 percent beginning in September, which could result in the elimination of 400 jobs. Although the outlook may be grim, OCTA is partnering with other organizations to address some of these funding issues. But we can’t do it alone. Your help is urgently needed.

The budget crisis jeopardizes bus systems statewide, leaving customers behind when the rest of America is going green.

OCTA is among many transportation agencies in the state facing difficult times by making dramatic service cuts to balance dwindling budgets. Caltrain, the train service that runs between San Francisco and Silicon Valley, will be forced to raise current rates and cut service.

Asking State Leaders to Restore Transit Funds

Transportation agencies across California are left with few options in response to drastic budget cuts made by the governor and the Legislature in February, which eliminated state funding for transit operations for the next five years in a budget agreement. We are asking state officials to explore ways to restore transit funding. With demand for public transit at the highest level in years, it is crucial that a solution be found to help fill gaping holes in the budgets of transportation agencies throughout the state.

We strongly urge our elected officials statewide to work together with us to find long-term funding solutions for transit. With the passage of Measure M in Orange County and Measure R in Los Angeles County, voters in California have proven that they are willing to pay for quality service in order to have safe and reliable transit solutions.

Google hired a private bus company to transport 1,200 employees to and from its offices in Mountain View, Calif.

Transit Helps Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Transit provides broad travel choices and delivers significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to meet state-mandated targets. Google ranks among large companies across the state that started using private bus services to transport its 1,200 workers on 32 buses. Reliable transit has proven to be an effective way to retain workers at Google while also reducing traffic congestion – a major aggravation for all commuters. Transit service also provides thousands of jobs at a time when the state can’t afford to lose any more.

Looking forward, traffic congestion and the need for public transportation will only grow – especially in car-loving California. Eliminating transit funding hurts Californians. People of all ages rely on public transportation. From students to senior citizens, transit is increasing in popularity because the alternative – sitting in traffic-choked congestion – is becoming less and less appealing.

Your Voice Helps Keep California Moving

We don’t expect the Legislature or other policymakers in Sacramento to magically reveal the golden key to funding transit operations. But what we do expect is a strong, assertive and collaborative effort to work together to address the problem, identify solutions and find ways to implement programs to keep our people and economy moving.

Now is the time for you to make your voices heard in an effort to restore public transit throughout California. We need to work together to find common-sense solutions.

Here are four things you can do:

1. Contact your local representatives and let them know the importance of public transportation

2. Write a letter to the editor to your newspaper

3. Share this information with a friend, family member or work associate

4. Share your personal story on the importance of transit on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter

Thank you for your support and your efforts to help find solutions during this difficult time to ensure that transit systems continue to provide the much-needed services for people and businesses.


Lucy Dunn is president and CEO of the Orange County Business Council,, the leading voice of business on important issues locally, regionally and nationally. OCBC works to enhance Orange County’s economic development and prosperity to preserve a high quality of life.

Carl Guardino is president and CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group,, which represents 300 employers in Silicon Valley on issues that affect the economic health of the Valley and the quality of life.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Milestone Moments as Fiscal Year Winds Down

By Ted Nguyen
Manager of public communications & media relations

With the Board of Directors’ direction and support, OCTA’s most significant milestone was delivering a balanced budget of $1.2 billion for fiscal year 2009-2010, which ends June 30. And it's especially noteworthy because of these troubling economic times.

Moving Forward in Difficult Times

Most of us will agree this year has been difficult because of the far-reaching impacts of the state's budget crisis. OCTA board members made difficult decisions to ensure a balanced budget in response to declining sales tax revenues and significant losses of state transit dollars.

Next fiscal year’s budget includes a reduction of approximately 400,000 service hours for the bus system to address a five-year $272-million budget shortfall. With many negative impacts to our customers, we carefully and thoughtfully balanced the need to protect our core transit service with our mandated responsibilities as stewards of diminishing transit funds.

Freeway Improvements Continue and Transportation Hub Becoming Reality

The budget also includes the close out of Measure M funds for the completion of the construction of the I-5 Gateway project planned for completion in 2010 and the beginning of construction for the West County Connectors project also in 2010.

The budget also utilizes a short-term and tax-exempt financing option called "commercial paper" to accelerate numerous projects in the Renewed Measure M program – improvements to the Orange (SR-57), San Diego (I-405) and Riverside (SR-91) freeways. Progress of the CEO’s goals also includes the required work on capital investments for high-frequency Metrolink commuter-rail service and the award of the design contract for the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC), a planned transportation hub for high-speed rail, Metrolink, Amtrak and other transit services.

Fast Tracking Other Improvements

Other key accomplishments are implementing new state statues to help streamline important transportation projects in Orange County, including streamlining environmental processes, utilizing public-private partnerships and employing design-build authority. This means fast project delivery of much-needed transportation improvements for Orange County.

New CEO Begins Aug. 3

Interim CEO Jim Kenan will work closely with the newly appointed CEO to ensure a smooth transition. Caltrans chief Will Kempton, a 35-year veteran of transportation, hits the (Orange County) ground running Aug. 3.