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Outcome of “Unmet Transit Needs” Hearing

SBCAG UNANIMOUSLY SUPPORTS VANPOOLS FOR FARMWORKERS

Thursday, January 18
Betteravia Government Center, Santa Maria

In front of a packed room, cameras rolling and reporters covering every
move, the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG) voted
unanimously to expedite delivery of a van pool program for agricultural
workers in the Santa Maria Valley.

The City of Santa Maria and the County allocated $150,000 for that purpose 18 months ago, but lack of political will and bureaucratic inertia stopped its implementation. This the first time that SBCAG acknowledges that farmworkers’ transportation is one of their unavoidable responsibilities.

The original purpose of today’s meeting was to hear testimony from transit
users about specific transit needs, but growing impatience at the glacial
implementation of the promised vanpool program boiled over onto the prepared
agenda. But first let’s review the legal basis for this hearing:

– SBCAG is the Regional Transportation Authority for Santa Barbara County,
the distributor of Federal and State transportation funds allocated to our
area.
– The Board of Directors of SBCAG are the five County District Supervisors
plus one representative from each incorporated city (5+8 = 13).
– Three SBCAG member agencies (Santa Maria, Lompoc, and the County) use some
State transit funds to pave roads. For the 2006-07 fiscal year cycle, they
propose to divert $1 million in each jurisdiction to road maintenance.
– SBCAG must find that there are “no Unmet Transit Needs that are Reasonable
to Meet” before these three jurisdictions can do that.
– SBCAG must conduct an outreach process, conduct public hearings and
prepare a “Transit Needs Assessment” document as part of that process.

18 individuals spoke today:
Jim Talbot, Chair of Santa Barbara County Transit Advisory Committee
(SBCTAC)
Jesus Estrada, farmworker leader
Vibiana Saavedra, SB CAN
Celia Toledo, farmworker
Maribel Romero, farmworker
Ana Rizo, PUEBLO
Natalia Bautista, PUEBLO
Marc Chytilo, Attorney representing farmworkers and transit users
Jose Luis Castellanos, Central Coast Chapter of MAPA (Mexican
American Political Association)
Gabriel Valencia, Central Coast Chapter of MAPA
Barry Stultz, SBCTAC
Deborah Brasket, SB CAN
David Pierce, Lompoc resident
Alex Pujo, COAST
Ken Wolf, transit user
Doreen Farr, Santa Ynez resident
Bernardino Fernandez, farmworker
Mary Jack, CRLA (California Rural Legal Assistance)

Every speaker argued for immediate implementation of a vanpool pilot program
for farmworkers similar to the existing at Kings County.

Other requests:
– Expansion of The Breeze on 246 to Buellton.
– Expansion of The Breeze from Buellton to Santa Maria through Los Alamos.
– Expansion of The Breeze schedule to include weekends.
– Earlier and later hours for the Guadalupe Flyer.
– General requests for expansion and intensification of services by SMAT and
COLT.
– Fulfill transit deficiencies outlined in the North County Transit Plan.
– Provide bus pockets on Bosser, 166 and other arteries.
– Provide bike racks on buses.
– Make transit hearings more accessible to those who do not speak English.
– The 3-minute limit on testimony does not suffice if translation is counted
as part of the testimony.
– SBCAG staff needs to expand its outreach with transit surveys, as it has
done in the past.

Please find attached two graphs I submitted showing the growth of North
County transit in the last 10 years, and the diversion of transit funds by
Lompoc, Santa Maria and the County during that period.

At the conclusion of the public testimony several SBCAG Board Members felt
compelled to respond. Larry Lavagnino, the Santa Maria representative,
expressed his unconditional support for the prompt implementation of a
vanpool program. Supervisors Carbajal, Centeno and Firestone followed suit
and, from then on, it was just a long and happy farmworker love-fest full of
promises.

By motion Carbajal/Alvarez SBCAG voted unanimously to:
1) Direct SBCAG staff to assist Santa Maria and the County to implement the
vanpool pilot program with the $150,000 approved in 2005.
2) Support the City of Santa Maria’s application to the State for a $70,000
grant to plan a van pool program, and
3) Direct SBCAG staff to check with Caltrans and the State to make sure that
no opportunities are lost in the pursue of farmworkers’ transportation
assistance grants.

Alex Pujo, Secretary
Coalition for Sustainable Transportation (COAST)
735 State Street, Suite 207
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
(805) 962-3578
(805) 965-1371 (Fax)

If it is not written, it did not happen.

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