New state bill aims to integrate Bay Area transit into one 'seamless' system | News | Palo Alto Online |

News

New state bill aims to integrate Bay Area transit into one 'seamless' system

Assemblyman David Chiu proposes unified fares, transfers and maps for Bay Area's tangle of mass transit systems

A newly introduced piece of state legislation seeks to integrate the more than two dozen separate and independent Bay Area transit agencies into one "seamless" system.

Assembly Bill 2057 by Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, seeks to eliminate the barriers to ridership created by things like the differences in fare structures between systems, the uncoordinated schedules that can make transferring from one system to another an unreliable exercise in frustration, and the confusing muddle of transit maps that don't allow passengers to easily plan their trips when using multiple systems.

"This is about a future vision for the Bay Area," Chiu said at a Feb. 4 news conference at San Francisco's Salesforce Transit Center.

Currently, 27 different transit agencies run buses, trains and ferries in the nine-county region and each has its own fares, schedules, smartphone apps, discounts and planning processes.

This has led to a situation where, despite the region's horrendous traffic congestion and abysmal commute times, transit ridership actually dropped by 5.2 percent between 2016 and 2018, according to information from Chiu's office.

Initially, Chiu's bill would establish a universal bus fare, establish uniform transfer and discount policies for all bus systems, create a single Bay Area transit map, standardize apps and develop real-time transit information delivery to passengers.

It would also seek to create a taskforce charged with integrating fares and schedules across all systems as well as coordinating spending and project development.

BART Board Director Rebecca Saltzman, who represents parts of the East Bay, said her agency and the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit bus system have been working to coordinate schedules and fares, among other things, but such integration needs a more comprehensive approach.

"We need regional leadership and regional funding because one or two transit agencies can't do this alone," Saltzman said.

She noted that the housing crisis has resulted in people moving farther from their jobs in the Bay Area's urban employment centers in order to find affordable homes, longer commutes have created a regional traffic nightmare and more cars on the freeways means more severe climate impacts.

"This is the time for public transit to shine," Saltzman said.

The bill could get a hearing in the Assembly Transportation Committee this spring.

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Comments

18 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2020 at 9:34 pm

About time.

I have been advocating this for a very long time.


32 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2020 at 10:12 pm

>> BART Board Director Rebecca Saltzman, who represents parts of the East Bay, said her agency and the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit bus system have been working to coordinate schedules and fares, among other things, but such integration needs a more comprehensive approach.

LOL. Reminds me of arriving on Caltrain to transfer to BART to get to SFO. The arrival of Caltrain appeared to be the signal for BART to take off, ensuring maximum wait time until the next BART train. So, I have to agree-- it was coordinated. Anti-optimally. BART is the biggest existing impediment to decent regional transportation. BART is extremely self-serving, and, expensive.


23 people like this
Posted by Juanita
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2020 at 11:52 pm

Expecting the state to provide efficient transportation is child-like magical thinking. If you want to get around the bay area efficiently, get a car and plan your own schedules and routes.


26 people like this
Posted by Tried of taxation
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 5, 2020 at 7:00 am


Say NO to any taxes to do this “seamless” transit. All these transit agencies have lots of taxpayer monies already and there should be no need for any more taxes to provide funding to consolidate And provide uniformity.

Say NO to any more sales tax for transportation. MTC, Samtran, VTA, MUNI all needs to find the monies within what it already collects. Cuts in salaries starting at the top would be the first step.


18 people like this
Posted by Anneke
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 5, 2020 at 7:14 am

This is a must and should be "a can do!"

We need to achieve the goal that daily commuters feel that taking public transportation is more advantageous than using a car.

A comprehensive, efficient, effective and comfortable regional transportation system cannot only ease the local housing problem, it can ease house pricing, noise and pollution amongst many other considerations.

We have the technology!


25 people like this
Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 5, 2020 at 7:38 am

If this means that more tax dollars will by siphoned off to BART then I'm against it. If this means that unaccountable mafia-like "BART Police" will be coming to Palo Alto then I'm strongly against it.

Overall Caltrain is well-run. It doesn't need to be dragged into the mud with BART.


19 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 5, 2020 at 8:55 am

From the article:
"Assembly Bill 2057 by Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, seeks to eliminate the barriers to ridership created by things like the differences in fare structures between systems, the uncoordinated schedules that can make transferring from one system to another an unreliable exercise in frustration, and the confusing muddle of transit maps that don't allow passengers to easily plan their trips when using multiple systems."

I think that the biggest barrier to ridership is COST. It simply isn't economically feasible in many instances to be a viable option (compared with the price of gas for your own vehicle). Despite having the most expensive gasoline in the nation (aside from Hawaii), the cost of gasoline to San Francisco is cheaper than the price of a Caltrain ticket.

Yes, there are certain circumstances in which Caltrain is a cheaper alternative. Things like parking costs (in certain areas), commute time and usage/wear-and-tear on your vehicle also add to the price of driving. However, most people own a car anyway -- so usage costs (e.g., insurance, tires, inspection, registration, etc.) wear and tear costs will still be paid anyway. Many Bay Area businesses offer free or inexpensive parking. And, of course, the commute time often doesn't make that much of a difference.

The selling points for potential users of Caltrain are similar. You don't have to worry about traffic. You can multitask -- using your time on Caltrain to do other things (e.g., work on your laptop, read, sleep, etc.). You don't have to worry about "finding a parking spot" or paying for it (although you will likely have to walk a bit further to your destination -- which isn't ideal on certain weather days).

I would argue that Caltrain has become a viable means of transportation for a certain class of people. Its prices eliminate it as a daily option for many others. Even in Palo Alto, there are people who are "house poor." When every dollar counts, the price of a daily commuter ticket on Caltrain is just out of reach.

As such, I would do my very best to lower the price of each ticket on Caltrain. I would conduct studies to find the optimal price to change its organizational culture from a bureaucracy to an inexpensive commuter service. How could Caltrain cut costs or raise funding in other ways (e.g., allow vendors at local stations)? At what point on the Supply & Demand curve would the lines cross and lead to the optimal ridership that is still profitable?

If a daily Caltrain ticket was $5 (instead of $16.50), more people would use the service. Many residents would rethink the need for using gas-powered vehicles on a daily basis. At some point, more daily commuters will offset the loss from per-ticket price decreases.

Of course, it is expensive to run Caltrain. I don't know what the lowest-possible cost might be that would still allow it to be profitable apart from a major overhaul of how the "business" operates. Perhaps it can be done after electrification.

As for BART and MUNI...

The new Muni app is nice; but, the real-time information on the app is unreliable. Some stations/lines close without any indication on the app. Thus, you can't simply plot out your commuting options. Moreover, I've never seen anyone verify that people have paid fares on Muni.

It doesn't help that Muni and Bart don't always feel safe or clean. I've seen some things on Muni -- some very disgusting -- that would send shivers down your spine. Let's just say that you should check your seat before you sit down.


13 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 5, 2020 at 9:31 am

Integrate transit schedules? May as well legislate that all dental appointments proceed on schedule.


11 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2020 at 9:42 am

Google, Facebook, Apple and of course Stanford, all run their own bus services and they work. Stanford Marguerite is available to all.

VTA, Mountain View Shittles, Palo Alto Shuttles, do not serve us well. Caltrain serves many people well. However, there is nothing that will take people from satellite parking lots near highway ramps to business areas and there is nothing that will take people from places like Pacifica, Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz or across the Bay in as efficient manners as those high tech shuttle buses.

If this is done well it could completely alter the transportation model of the Bay Area. No more duplication or competition. One administration with different departments looking after ferries, buses, BART, light rail, Caltrain and all the other agencies. A streamlined administration offering a more comprehensive, interactive service, is a good way of getting people from outlying areas to their jobs in Silicon Valley.4f8k


11 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2020 at 10:10 am

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde

>> Integrate transit schedules? May as well legislate that all dental appointments proceed on schedule.

I'm trying to think of a witty comparison of BART and dentists. There is some kind of analogy between paying for painful tryst with a dentist and paying billions for BART "service", but, my mind doesn't naturally run in that direction.


6 people like this
Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 5, 2020 at 1:38 pm

I’ve been advocating this, like, forever. One commenter says that Caltrain is well managed. We know better. Being a bleeding heart Democrat liberal, progressive, socialist, pinko, I believe in urban public mass transit as an obligatory utility, like public education.

Currently, some of our transit components are run somewhat better than others. Putting them all under one administrative roof is necessary but only the first step. As a government bureaucracy, it should have continuous oversight, accountability, frequent audits and required transparency. Public funding should be administered rationally and sensibly among the various transit modalities. There should be an R&D unit that constantly seeks to upgrade and improve service.

Funding from Sacramento should be based on ridership, increasing as demand increases. Both capital and operating costs should be borne by all us taxpayers, like public education, but with low-cost fares, affordable by those with less income who will depend on it the most.

The system should be regional, not merely within the greater San Francisco and surrounding Counties.

What are the chances of getting all this? I'm not optimistic.


8 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 5, 2020 at 1:57 pm

BART is a costly, slow, limited system that doesn’t serve busy Santa Clara County - with special sized tracks (gauge), as I understand from past discussions over decades. Terrible system.

I oppose any new regional tax or “tax” in another form for BART.
My worry is this is another excuse to transfer ever more money to BART and Oakland and S.F.

I NEVER ride BART. How about stopping the high volume of fare evaders on BART first? Run the system better.
How about not paying train operators when operators aren’t needed.

The need for decent regional transit is certainly the case in the larger metro region.
If an entirely new, seamless, uniform, sleek rail system could be built ringing the bay, run in the middle of 280, to outlying areas like Stockton, and across the bay on bridges, connect to fast busses, small ferries in more areas, and park and ride lots, that’d be very useful. I’m not holding my breath.


7 people like this
Posted by TorreyaMan
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 5, 2020 at 2:02 pm

Much overdue!


4 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2020 at 3:46 pm

Posted by Martin Engel, a resident of Menlo Park

>> I’ve been advocating this, like, forever. One commenter says that Caltrain is well managed.

Compared to -- ?

By "access" measures, the Bay Area is fairly well served compared to most of the US, with the exception of NYC, which is well above any other city.

Web Link

Web Link

However, cost-wise, the Bay Area doesn't do so well. Web Link
BART is one problem area-- not only are the marginal operating costs higher per passenger mile than some other systems (e.g. Caltrain): Web Link. But, the capital costs for some projects have been truly astronomical. This isn't an exclusively BART problem, although BART's unique track/cars do contribute. But, BART's new projects are all subject to this problem: Web Link

Anyway, which Bay Area transit is better managed than Caltrain?


18 people like this
Posted by Rich
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 5, 2020 at 5:56 pm

Hmm, I suspect that by eliminating the numerous leadership positions in 27 local agencies, their entourage, hangers-on and their pay, ought to save the region something upwards of $100M. That, if it's not squandered by BART, should facilitate the creation of a real regional transit agency. The local transit feifdoms are no longer cost effective, have poor leadership, and limited direction moving forward. VTA, our exceptionally poorly run transit micro-kindom, should have been dissolved long ago.


8 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 5, 2020 at 6:55 pm

@Anon, Chicago has outstanding public transit. Cheap, too. I’ve felt safe 99.99% of the time.


9 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2020 at 10:11 am

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis

>> @Anon, Chicago has outstanding public transit. Cheap, too. I’ve felt safe 99.99% of the time.

I'll try to research/compare. It doesn't get as much press as some others.


Posted by Rich, a resident of Downtown North

>> I suspect that by eliminating the numerous leadership positions in 27 local agencies, their entourage, hangers-on and their pay, ought to save the region something upwards of $100M. That, if it's not squandered by BART,

There's the rub. Unless BART is explicitly de-clawed, it will destroy the whole thing. BART is the monster that has been eating everyone's lunch. So, please vote NO unless BART is specifically, make that de-fanged and de-clawed.


5 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2020 at 4:44 pm

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis

>> @Anon, Chicago has outstanding public transit. Cheap, too. I’ve felt safe 99.99% of the time.

Following up the earlier post, the following article lists some reasons why Chicago's buses are faster/better/cheaper:

Web Link

Apparently, they are, and there are good reasons! Worth reading.



7 people like this
Posted by Ho
a resident of another community
on Feb 6, 2020 at 9:19 pm

When we’re all dead, this happens.

Like really, this probably won’t happen in 10-20 years. It’s called Bay Area planning. Ah..,


9 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2020 at 3:52 pm

Posted by Ho, a resident of another community

>> When we’re all dead, this happens.
>> Like really, this probably won’t happen in 10-20 years. It’s called Bay Area planning. Ah..,

I don't think this proposal came from nowhere. BART has a large continuous funding source but is always hungry for more. Its capital spending costs are very high, and its per-boarding and per-passenger-mile costs are high, as documented in previous posts. I strongly suspect that this proposal is yet another power play by BART. I would like to see a new transit agency created with a regional scope that will phase out BART's one-off outdated custom technology and replace it with standard state-of-the-art commuter-rail technology, and, make that commuter-rail more hub-to-hub. BART thinks that the only hub is Market Street in San Francisco, where all roads lead.


11 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 11, 2020 at 9:17 pm

"there is nothing that will take people from satellite parking lots near highway ramps to business areas"

A big reason is that such lots do not exist, mainly because there is no open ground near highway ramps to put them on.

But to the general notion of transit district coordination--it is bureaucratic treason. No seasoned bureaucrat will cede control of any part of their empire to another bureaucracy for whatever reason, certainly not to better serve the general public


3 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 12, 2020 at 8:41 am

Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North

>> But to the general notion of transit district coordination--it is bureaucratic treason. No seasoned bureaucrat will cede control of any part of their empire to another bureaucracy for whatever reason,

I disagree. I'm a conspiracy theorist now. Please prove to me that BART isn't lurking behind this... I have too many other things to worry about.

>> certainly not to better serve the general public

Well, of course, they all feel like they are serving the general public. ;-)


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