FBA Painting Castles in the Sky?

Castle in the clouds

On October 4th, Bay Area Transportation Working Group (BATWG) issued a statement setting forth three pre-requisites to gaining public support for the Faster Bay Area (FBA) $100 billion transportation megatax. NoMegaTax.org is a fast-growing coalition of Bay Area elected and appointed officials, environmentalists, transit advocates, tax payer groups and civic organizations. The following nomegatax.org letter was recently sent to 430 Bay Area officials. It effectively outlines the concerns that if not fully addressed soon, will generate overwhelming opposition to the proposed FBA plan, its enabling legislation and any ensuant tax-raising ballot measures.


Dear Councilmember,

We are environmentalists and transit and taxpayer advocates who have joined together in response to the Faster Bay Area proposal for a $100 Billion sales tax for transportation. We wanted to offer for your consideration our nuanced thoughts on the opportunities posed by this proposal:

We agree with the proposed measure’s sponsors that “Bay Area congestion is worse than ever and won’t improve without a plan and major investments” and “We need transit that works for everyone – that means fixing it, expanding it and making it fast, frequent, reliable, affordable and easy to access.” 

While we applaud the sponsors for bringing forward these themes, we recognize that their interests differ from, and are adverse to, the interests of the general public. We have come together as the NoMegaTax.org coalition, to represent those broader interests. 

Before asking the public to shell out a hundred billion dollars, we want to first see the tech industry pay to mitigate the impacts of its growth boom on the region’s transportation and housing. We don’t believe a publicly funded tax would be fair without Tech first contributing its share. 

We strongly agree with the Mercury News Editorial “Slow the train on $100 billion Bay Area transportation tax” which concluded with “Rather than another grab bag of projects, we need a holistic approach in which the business community steps up.” 

Our critique of the meager information currently available has identified the following: 

We are concerned about both the size of the proposed tax and its regressivity. It would exacerbate our era’s heightened income inequality and make our region even less affordable. 

We recognize that a sales tax is a poor tool to fund transportation because it does not impact travel decisions directly enough to affect overall demand. Roadway congestion can only be successfully addressed by introducing pricing that balances travel demand with available supply. We need convenient alternatives to driving, however, before road pricing can work equitably. 

The last thing our region needs is yet another politically designed Christmas tree measure, where every interest group gets something. These policy-less measures have never delivered results for this region. Let’s not commit a massive amount of money to making that same mistake again.

No more lofty plans
that turn to pork!

If you are invited to add your name to a list of endorsers of Faster Bay Area, we urge you to decline and instead request its sponsors to: 

  1. Develop and support legislation to place a tax on business activities that create travel and housing demand in the Bay Area and surrounding counties. 
  2. Develop a comprehensive regional strategy and implementation plan for reducing the need to drive alone. 
  3. Advocate for said plan to be adopted into MTC’s Regional Transportation Plan, to utilize its existing funding with maximal effectiveness. 
  4. Come back with a request for new public funding only after having completed these first three items. 

We suggest you consider Seamless Bay Area’s ideas on the need for new regional governance of transit. We wholeheartedly agree with their analysis, except that we do not believe it wise to bring significant new funding into the region until improved governance is actually in place.

Thank you for considering our request. We invite you to keep up with our website, NoMegaTax.org, which is currently under construction. Our coalition is interested in hearing your thoughts about the future of our region. Please write us at the address below. 

Gladwyn D’Souza
Convener, NoMegaTax.org Coalition