Research Team: John Gahbauer (lead), Jaimee Lederman, Esther Huang, Martin Wachs, Juan Matute, and Brian D. Taylor
UC Campus(es): UCLA
Problem Statement: The California’s Transportation Development Act (TDA) of 1971 is an important source of funding for the state’s public transit agencies, representing approximately 18 percent of their total (2018) revenue between the TDA’s two funds (LTF and STA). Since the TDA’s passage in 1971, the transit operating environment in California has changed, in some cases dramatically. The state has nearly doubled in population (20.4 million in 1971 to 39.8 million in 2019), traffic has worsened considerably, climate change is now a central public policy focus, and many places around the state are investing heavily in making public transit a viable alternative to driving.
Project Description: This research examined the TDA’s performance requirements and their effects on the state’s transit operators. The research team also considered alternative approaches to both transit finance and performance requirements, by studying transit funding programs in 13 other states that invest significant amounts of funding in transit. In brief, the researchers find that the TDA’s use of performance measurements to allocate funding is unusual. The states studied do not, for the most part, make funding contingent on performance, thereby avoiding the unproductive and difficult-to-implement “death penalty” of withholding subsidies for a much-needed public service. In several of the cases analyzed, by contrast, states guarantee specific levels or amounts of funding for transit service.