Transportation of both people and goods is the lifeblood of our economy. While many bonds and measures fund programs that help a small section of the populace, Measure A, which would help fund better transportation in Santa Barbara County, would affect everyone, every day. Passing it is vital to the continued ease and safety in how we all get around.

Measure A is the reauthorization of the existing half-cent sales tax. It wouldn’t raise taxes, but would continue the current sales tax. For the past 20 years, this measure has helped maintain local streets and highways and reduced congestion through funding infrastructure improvements, commuter and local buses, new bike and pedestrian improvements, and programs to increase carpooling and vanpooling. 

The expenditure plan would continue all of those efforts, and also would help tackle our most frustrating congestion by providing local funds for a new lane on Highway 101, as well as a commuter rail pilot program. The new lane would be a high occupancy vehicle (HOV or carpool) lane, which could carry more people per mile as commuters switch to riding the bus and carpooling or vanpooling to save time.  Some may leave their cars behind to take new more conveniently retimed trains, and even those who keep driving alone would benefit from all the cars taken off the road through ridesharing, buses and trains.

The local funds also would enable Santa Barbara County to attract and leverage state and federal resources by providing local seed money.

Measure A’s expenditure plan would divide funds evenly between North County and the South Coast, ensuring local control and that local priorities are met. Significant control also would be given to local cities to spend the money as they see fit. The money would be dedicated toward transportation and couldn’t be taken by the state government for other purposes. This has led to unified support among an unprecedented and diverse coalition of business, environmental, labor, taxpayer, community and transportation organizations all working to pass Measure A. In addition, 43 out of the 45 city council members in our county voted in favor of Measure A, as well as all five county supervisors. Rarely has an issue achieved such a resounding consensus.

While recent polls put Measure A within margins of passing, it is difficult to get the 67 percent vote needed to pass the measure — thus the concerted education effort by local officials and organizations. In these difficult economic times, and with so many other competing measures on the ballots, voters may feel overwhelmed by all the choices.

If the measure fails, many important existing programs would lose funding. A poignant example is MTD, which would have to consider cutting existing service by 20 percent.  This would strand many transit-dependent citizens while also putting many cars back on the road, with the attendant increase in traffic. Funding for commuter buses such as the Clean Air Express and the Vista Coastal Express also would be cut, which means thousands of more cars returning to congested Highway 101.

SBCAG’s Traffic Solutions, which successfully promotes ridesharing, buses, telecommuting and other transportation demand management programs, would be cut. A slower negative effect would be the gradual deterioration of our roads as local crews struggle to keep up with potholes and other maintenance priorities.

Measure A is extremely important for our vital transportation infrastructure and programs to support and encourage traffic-reducing alternative transportation. Please vote yes on Measure A and encourage your friends and family to do the same. Click here for more information on Measure A and how you can help the campaign.

— Dave Davis is executive director and Michael Chiacos is transportation specialist for the Community Environmental Council.