As amended, the bill would:
Allow buses that are currently in operation, or in the process of procurement before Jan. 1, 2013, to continue to be used;
Set new weight limits for transit buses beginning in 2019. The unladen (i.e., no passengers) weight of a bus would not be allowed to exceed 21,000 pounds and the laden weight of a bus would not be able to exceed 24,000 pounds; and
Require state regulatory agencies to take into account vehicle weight impacts when establishing new regulations.
Additional amendments are expected to be made in committee to address the interim time period between 2013 and 2019. The amendments would remove provisions requiring local government approval for operation of overweight buses and adding provisions that would allow transit operators to operate and procure buses of any weight up to the heaviest bus in their inventory as of Jan. 1, 2013.
Transit operators are seeking this change in law following a long pattern of regulatory requirements that have pushed bus weights up over the last 40 years. Transit weight limits were last increased in 1975, before requirements for components such as wheelchair lifts, clean fuel systems, and bike racks. In addition, operations funding has been cut, effectively ruling out the option to operate smaller, but more frequent, buses. While buses have been operating in excess of the legal limit for many years, the issue came to a head last year when a city police officer cited a bus in violation of the law.
Cities have been very involved in stakeholder meetings this year in an attempt to explore different options on how to best address this issue. Prior versions of the bill called for a three-year suspension of current weights to allow for a working group and study process lead by the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency. However, recognizing Gov. Jerry Brown’s aversion to study bills, the sponsors amended the bill this week to remove the study and expand the provisions related to increasing bus weights. At the same time, transit operators submitted a request to the Transit Cooperative Research Project asking for a federal study on the issues and challenges facing all stakeholders involved.
The League is committed to discussions with the bill sponsors and other stakeholders. Unfortunately, not all solutions have been thoroughly explored. The League has submitted its opposition letter asking for the bill to be held to allow further stakeholder meetings.
A copy of the League’s opposition letter can be found on the League’s website by typing “AB 1706” into the search box.