Decrease in Transit Funding Is Feared

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Fearful of losing $8.4 million in transit funding, Ventura County transportation officials are fighting a federal plan that would link the eastern cities of the county with Los Angeles.

The Ventura County Transportation Commission voted Friday to contest a proposal by the Census Bureau to redraw urban boundaries and divide Ventura County in half. Commission staff members plan to protest the action by lobbying the Census Bureau and enlisting the aid of local politicians. Simi Valley expects to be hit hardest because it could lose $900,000 in federal funds used to subsidize its bus service. City leaders plan to meet next week to craft a response.

"That is the most stupid thing I've ever heard of: to move Simi Valley into the Los Angeles corridor," said Mayor Bill Davis. "That's like putting the elephant with the ant. The elephant will squash the ant."

The other cities in eastern Ventura County could also lose under the plan because they would have to compete with Los Angeles for Federal Transit Administration funds. Ventura County would be at a disadvantage because the formula used to divide money favors areas with greater use of mass transit.

"It's a major hit on funding throughout the county and really serves no purpose," said Ginger Gherardi, executive director of the transportation commission. "We're trying to orchestrate a pretty strong effort to make sure the Census Bureau knows we are in opposition."

Every 10 years, the Census Bureau adjusts urban boundaries to reflect the most recent data. This time, the bureau plans to create new boundaries using 2000 census results. Federal agencies will then use the data to distribute transportation funds.

Under the proposal, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, Moorpark and Camarillo would be joined with the Los Angeles urban area. Ventura, Oxnard and Port Hueneme would be in a separate area.

Census officials said boundaries are redrawn based on population density, not funding concerns. Simi Valley is more closely tied to Los Angeles than to Ventura, said Tim McMonagle, a geographic coordinator with the Census Bureau. "We try to link all urban development," he said. "That area is within jump distance of the San Fernando Valley."

The bureau will make its final decisions in March. The new plan would go into effect during the 2002-03 fiscal year.

Times staff writer Margaret Talev contributed to this story.

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