New bill to integrate Bay Area public transportation, hopes to increase ridership

ByAnser Hassan KGO logo
Wednesday, February 5, 2020
New bill to integrate Bay Area public transportation
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The empty buses leaving the new Salesforce Transit Center in San Francisco suggest that the Bay Area public transportation system isn't working.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The empty buses leaving the new Salesforce Transit Center in San Francisco suggest that the Bay Area public transportation system isn't working.

"This is supposed to be San Francisco's Grand Central Station, it's not. There is no one here," says San Francisco resident Seth Andrews, as he points around to the empty station.

Andrews uses Bart and Muni every day. He says he is frustrated with the daily delays. "The schedules, I don't trust that at all," complains Andrews about Muni trains.

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State Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) calls Bay Area public transportation "inefficient" and "unreliable."

"After investing billions of dollars in transportation in recent decades, only three percent of all Bay Area trips are made with public transit," says Assemblyman Chiu. But he thinks better integration could fix the problem.

He says one of the issues centers around the different prices and schedules on the different systems, which makes using public transportation difficult. For example, a single adult fares for Marin Transit is $2.00, $2.25 on SamTrans, while SFMTA, VTA and AC Transit all charge $2.50.

Assemblyman Chiu's solution is Assembly Bill 2057, which he introduced on Tuesday.

Some of the legislation's immediate objectives are setting up a universal bus fare, same discount fares for bus riders and real-time transit data. Longer-term, it includes setting up a task force to draw up the new policies around regional ticket prices and coordinating schedules.

"We believe it's time for state legislation to move this conversation forward, whose time is overdue," says Chiu.

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Another issue is coordinating with the 27 transit agencies operating in the nine Bay Area counties - each with different demographics and commuter needs.

Jake Mackenzie, with the MTC, points to the success of the Clipper Card, which can now be used on different transit systems, as an outcome of regional cooperation. But he adds that that was hard work. He hopes a state mandate forces better cooperation.

"I think the legislation and the language in the legislation will speak to that. That is what I hope," says Mackenzie.

Several transportation agencies tell ABC7 News that they are open to streamlining the process, but will need to see specific proposals before commenting.

In an email to ABC7 News, VTA did respond, however, by saying that it looks forward to working with elected representatives and other transit agencies, "to improve the rider experience." The email goes to say:

"As a public transit provider, VTA thanks Assemblymember Chiu for beginning a dialogue with operators and the public on ways to make transit a more attractive and convenient alternative to solo-driving, and to provide seamless transit connections throughout the Bay Area. By focusing on improving the customer experience as transit riders navigate the differences between bus, rail and ferry systems across nine Bay Area counties, we can create a more reliable network and greener commute options for our region."

See more stories and videos about Building a Better Bay Area here.