New Treasure Island transit and tolling plan takes shape

Fees would begin in 2024, with exemptions for low-income drivers and current residents

With apartment buildings under construction and new residents arriving in a matter of months, San Francisco officials are seeking final approvals for a tolling and transit plan for Treasure Island.

The proposal includes a $2.50-$5 one-way toll for private cars (with deep income-based discounts), a brand new ferry service to downtown and enhanced bus service to San Francisco and the East Bay.

“It is a multimodal, comprehensive new transportation system to support a growing neighborhood,” said Rachel Hiatt, acting deputy director for planning at the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA). The plan’s three goals are to encourage the use of transit to and from the island, provide a sustainable source of transit funding and ensure that the tolls are affordable, Hiatt said.

Starting in mid-2024, drivers would pay $5 to enter or leave the islandduring peak commute hours. About 1,800 residents living on Treasure Island as of late 2019 would be exempt from the tolls, as would all households earning less than 55% of the Bay Area median income. Moderate-income people would pay half-price tolls.

Tolls would drop to $2.50 in the middle of the weekday and on weekends, or $1.25 for those eligible for discounts. Unlike on the region’s bridges, there would be no toll during the night when transit service is less reliable. All tolls will be collected electronically using license-plate reading cameras on the reconstructed on- and off-ramps to the Bay Bridge.

Tolls for accessing Treasure Island would vary for weekdays and weekends, with increases during peak hours. People residing on the island as of 2019 will be exempt from the tolls, as would households earning less than 55% of the Bay Area median income. (Treasure Island Mobility Management Agency)

Tolls for accessing Treasure Island would vary for weekdays and weekends, with increases during peak hours. People residing on the island as of 2019 will be exempt from the tolls, as would households earning less than 55% of the Bay Area median income. (Treasure Island Mobility Management Agency)

The toll is expected to generate $33 million in its first five years of implementation, with revenues increasing as Treasure Island’s population grows. Toll revenues would flow directly into improved public transit on the island, creating new service without dipping into The City’s general fund. Eight thousand new homes are slated to be built on the island by the late 2030s, housing around 20,000 people.

Muni’s 25 bus would increase its frequency on its route between Treasure Island and the Salesforce Transit Center. A new Muni line would link the island to the Civic Center neighborhood, and a new AC Transit line would travel the other direction to the East Bay. The plan also calls for bike share, car share and an on-island shuttle.

The centerpiece of the Treasure Island transit plan would be a ferry offering 15-minute rides to the Ferry Building downtown. Eventually, two zero-emissions electric vessels could ply the route, offering departures every quarter hour. The fully fledged service, operated by WETA, the same agency that runs most of the ferries in the Bay, would begin in 2024. However, a smaller ferry service provided by Treasure Island Community Development is expected to begin operation as early as this month, or whenever it gains final state approval.

Treasure Island transit improvements include a new on-island shuttle, increased frequencies of Muni’s 25 bus as well as a new Muni line to Civic Center, and a new AC Transit line heading to the East Bay. (Treasure Island Mobility Management Agency)

Treasure Island transit improvements include a new on-island shuttle, increased frequencies of Muni’s 25 bus as well as a new Muni line to Civic Center, and a new AC Transit line heading to the East Bay. (Treasure Island Mobility Management Agency)

County transportation authority planners expect to present the plan to a committee of the Treasure Island Mobility Management Agency (TIMMA) board in a public meeting on January 25. If the plan moves out of committee, the full board, comprising the 11 members of the Board of Supervisors, would then vote to authorize the plan.

This milestone would follow years of back and forth with the Treasure Island community. A vote to authorize the tolling plan was delayed in 2018, after residents criticized the outreach process, as well as the toll’s burden on the island’s low-income, public housing residents. As a result, TIMMA developed a tolling exemption for existing Treasure Island residents the following year. The current plan was developed in partnership with Treasure Island community groups, Hiatt said.

The latest plan includes higher tolls than the $3.50 fee proposed in 2019. However, it also includes broader subsidies. Only the top two income quintiles would pay the full toll, with 60% of the Bay Area population eligible for discounts. “Everyone eligible for below market rate housing will have a discount and very low income folks will be exempt,” Hiatt said.

If successful, the Treasure Island tolling program could provide a model for congestion pricing in downtown San Francisco, a policy The City has mulled for years. “We’ve learned a lot about the program structure: the toll and discount policy, the affordability structure, the fee levels, and also the use of funds,” said Tilly Chang, executive director of SFCTA. “The ability to reinvest all of the funds into transit and affordability, those are the priorities for reinvesting the revenues.”

bschneider@sfexaminer.com

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