On Board With... Senator Dave Min

Transit California interviewed Senator Dave Min, who was elected in 2020 to represent Orange County’s 37th State Senate District.  He serves as Chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee, which has jurisdiction over the state’s environmental stewardship as well as the Vice Chair of the California Asian and Pacific Islander (API) Legislative Caucus. Senator Min previously served as a law professor at UC Irvine.

Transit California:  You’re the author of Senate Bill 434, which requires the top ten public transit operators to conduct surveys and publish data about harassment and rider safety on public transit and at transit stops.  What changes do you hope to see if SB 434 becomes law? 

Street harassment has become a major issue across public transit agencies, not just here in California, but nationwide. It’s no surprise we’re seeing ridership levels decline even as we recover from the pandemic. If SB 434 is signed into law, we can finally collect qualitative and quantitative ridership data to understand exactly why street harassment is happening and how the state’s top ten largest transit agencies can begin to fully address it.

Transit California:  Your introduction of SB 434 follows your successful 2022 legislation, SB 1161, which required the Mineta Transportation Institute to create a standardized survey tool for transit operators to investigate street harassment on public transit systems.  What led you to introduce these measures?

As the only Korean American in the Legislature, the rise in anti-Asian hate is very personal to me. In a national report, Stop AAPI Hate found that two in three hate incidents involved harassment, the bulk of those experiences taking place on public transit. Equally concerning, these trends also apply to women, seniors, LGBTQ+ Californians, and other vulnerable populations, which signal that street harassment is a much larger issue that must be met with broad based solutions.  We need to take a data-driven approach to bring about statewide improvements that will make public transit safer for everyone.

If you would like more data about harassment on public transit, as it pertains to the AAPI community and other communities, please view Stop AAPI Hate’s recent report: Righting Wrongs: How Civil Rights Can Protect Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Against Racism.  

Transit California:  You serve as the Chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water, which considers legislation on issues related to climate change, pollution, and wildlife.  How are you focusing on transit-related climate change policies as the leader of this committee?

New transportation projects often face an unduly amount of bureaucracy that slows down permitting and drives up costs. The Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee has a strong track record supporting legislation that seeks to streamline and provide advance mitigation for projects that would otherwise get bogged down in delays. As Chair, I intend to continue these efforts by supporting legislation and conducting oversight on ways within the Committee’s jurisdiction we can do our part to fast-track climate friendly transit options for the sustainable infrastructure we need to reduce California’s carbon footprint.

Transit California: You serve as a member of the Senate Budget Committee.  The Governor recently announced $690 million in existing funding to expand public transit and passenger rail operations, while California Transit Association is working with members of the Legislature to secure $5.15 billion to address pandemic-related operations shortfalls in the coming years.  What transit issues are you prioritizing in California’s 2023-24 state budget, and what updates do you hope to see this year?

I support the Governor’s proposals to increase our investments in public transit to keep our agencies solvent and fulfill our obligation to meet the transportation needs of Californians who rely on these services every day. At the same time, it is important that we address the safety concerns that are driving down ridership.  There was recently a hearing of a Select Committee on this very topic and it was clear and there is no single magic bullet but continued partnership with transit agencies to maintain and expand public transit riders. 

Transit California:  You’re a member of the Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Communication.  What role do you see energy policy changes playing in meeting our state’s transit needs while meeting the state’s goals to address climate change?

Orange County is at the forefront of the movement towards 100% sustainable bus fleets and a key example of how state and local partnerships are the key to achieving our climate goals. I’m proud that Orange County Transportation Authority is home to the nation’s largest hydrogen fueling station thanks to pilot funding by the California Air Resources Board. These are the types of creative funding opportunities that the state should bring to scale our zero emissions transition and I look forward to continuing to balance our climate priorities as we navigate a tough fiscal year.

Transit California:  You represent a portion of Orange County that includes all or parts of 11 cities and several other communities.  What do you view as key challenges and opportunities for the public transit systems and the riders they serve in and around your district? 

A looming challenge in my district is that we have now embarked on the very last freeway expansion with the SR-55 improvement project. This means public transit must play a larger role in how we get around Orange County, as well as major corridors throughout the Southern California region. At the same time, I believe this creates an opportunity to rethink how we can connect top destinations for tourism and business hubs in a manner that can help alleviate crippling traffic issues. If we’re to learn lessons moving forward, it’s time to start thinking big about the future of public transit.
Transit California:  As an attorney and law professor at UC Irvine, you taught and researched business law, banking, and housing policy.  How does your experience and expertise in these fields inform your policy priorities in the area of transit?

As a former professor and an academic researcher, one of the things you hear a lot is that the plural of anecdote is not data. When I approach issues like street harassment for example, these are complex issues that require complex solutions. That’s why a number of my bills approach lawmaking with a data-driven lens. The result is more thoughtful, effective public policy and real deliverables for our communities.

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