Chiu legislation aims to create an integrated Bay Area transit system

The Bay Area Seamless Transit Act would require transportation agencies to coordinate service

A new bill would give regional leadership the power to require the 27 transit agencies serving the nine Bay Area counties to cooperate and coordinate with each other.

Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, on Tuesday announced the Bay Area Seamless Transit Act, Assembly Bill 2057, in a news conference at the Salesforce Transit Center’s Grand Hall surrounded by transit officials and Bay Area residents.

The Bay Area has the second worst regional congestion in the country, with only Los Angeles facing worse gridlock, Chiu said. Only 3 percent of trips made in the Bay Area are on public transportation, and ridership has fallen 5 percent between 2016 and 2018, he added.

The congestion reduces the quality of life for residents faced with untenable commutes, harms the environment as riders elect to drive personal vehicles, and amplifies inequity, officials said. Poorer residents are pushed to the fringes of the Bay Area where they must choose between long, expensive trips across multiple agencies whose schedules aren’t aligned, or hours spent idling in rush hour traffic.

Other metropolitan areas including Seattle, London, and parts of Germany have been successful in integrating fragmented transit systems and improving traffic congestion, Chiu said.

“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel,” Chui said. “Solutions already exist.”

The legislation will set deadlines for agencies to achieve integration of fare and payment systems, and establish a task force to work on systemic reforms and innovations.

A key goal of the proposed bill is to reduce fares for people who transfer across multiple agencies en route to their destinations.

“For a rider who is coming from the East Bay, and has to take AC Transit, and then BART and Muni, it can get quite expensive,” said BART Board member Rebecca Saltzman.

Saltzman said that a previous intiative to reduce fare for riders transferring from BART to AC Transit failed to get necessary funding.

“It has to be backed up regionally. There’s no way one or two agencies could take this on on their own,” she added.

(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

The bill will not necessarily create a new regional governing body, but could give an already existing agency like the Metropolitan Transportation Commission the teeth it needs to implement changes and demand compliance across agencies.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin said San Francisco has benefited from coordinating signage and design across different city departments and agencies, and he would like to see Bay Area transportation do the same.

“It’s not something that agencies have resisted,” Peskin said. “But they’re all busy working on their own systems.”

At least one transit agency appeared open to Chiu’s proposal.

“In conversations with [Assemblyman] Chiu, he has informed transit operators that his primary goal is to create a venue for dialogue, so that the best solutions can be identified and evaluated, tradeoffs can be assessed, and strategies can be prioritized,” said Dan Lieberman, a spokesman for Caltrain and SamTrans. “We share that goal wholeheartedly.”

“We also appreciate the understanding that legislation should not predetermine what the best solutions are, and should not result in an unfunded mandate that forces agencies and communities to pick winners and losers from our diverse customer base. It’s important that the discussion include a conversation about what funding is available, or will become available, to support the ideas that emerge,” Lieberman said.

“Our bill will require transit agencies to take immediate steps on basic figures that we all agree should happen relatively easily,” Chiu said.

The bill will run parallel to Faster Bay Area, a proposed tax for the November 2020 ballot that will try to raise up to $100 billion in funding for Bay Area public transportation over the next 40 years.Bay Area Newsedition-monsan francisco newsTransit

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Assemblymember David Chiu on Tuesday announced a bill intended to create a “seamless” Bay Area transit system. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

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