Rep. Salud Carbajal visits renovated transit center
U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal took a trip on a Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District bus Tuesday afternoon to highlight the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
The five-year transportation budget and the addition of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provide $44 million for MTD. The timing overlaps as MTD loses its Small Transit Intensive Cities program apportionment in the next two years. The 2020 Census shows the Santa Barbara Urbanized Area above 200,000, the eligibility threshold to be considered a small city.
The new law creates grants and boosts the formula funding for transit districts. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and transportation budget combined are about double the size of the usual budget.
Jerry Estrada, MTD’s general manager, told the News-Press he feels prepared to apply for grants the bill makes available — even competing against large municipalities.
The money would likely be used to replace aging buses and renovate property MTD owns in Goleta to become a second terminal fit for an electric fleet.
The popular waterfront shuttle is not part of the discussion. MTD paused the shuttle when the city of Santa Barbara stopped subsidizing that route. Dave Davis, chair of the State Street Advisory Committee and chair of MTD’s board, said the shuttle is part of the committee’s considerations.
MTD suspended routes during the pandemic but did not lay off or furlough employees. In late April, it unveiled a fully renovated transit center.
Rep. Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, toured the facility and tried a contactless fare payment method before greeting riders. He asked where they were going. One person was going to work; a woman rolled a small cart with groceries onto the bus with her.
“How often do you ride the bus?” he asked in Spanish.
“Everyday,” she answered (also in Spanish).
“It is the infrastructure, our public transportation system, that enables us to get people to their jobs, to schools, to hospitals. So it’s fundamental to our society and our community,” Rep. Carbajal told the News-Press. “It is essential, if we’re going to reopen our economy and our society living beyond this pandemic, to be able to have those investments.”
More robust public transit nationwide will create jobs, he added.
“Our essential workers are the ones that sustain our country and our economy, and public transit allows them to continue to get to their jobs,” he said.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, invests in roads, rails, airports and more. More than $4.86 billion is allotted for the improvement of California’s roads, bridges and highways.