Sept 22, 2022 - One year after Bay Area leaders committed to transform transit, report card shows progress is mixed
Today, Bay Area civic groups jointly released a Transit Transformation 1-Year Report Card tracking the region’s progress toward integrating the region’s 27 transit systems. The report card is being released on the one-year anniversary of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s adoption of the ambitious Transformation Action Plan aimed at growing transit ridership.
The report card shows a mixed record of progress toward transforming Bay Area transit. While some initiatives are moving forward successfully, others are at risk of serious delays, or of being significantly scaled back in ambition.
“We need comprehensive regional coordination to make our transit system more comfortable, convenient, and reliable for Bay Area residents. This report card shows we are getting A’s in some areas and C’s in others,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “We still have work to do to draw riders back to these systems, and we must remain committed to the aspirational goals that were laid out in the Transformation Action Plan.”
Fares and Payment
Mapping & Wayfinding
Bus/Rail Network Management
Connected Network Planning
Data Collection & Coordination
On Track, Evolving
When it was adopted last year, the landmark Transformation Action Plan (TAP) was celebrated by elected leaders, transit agencies and advocates as essential for transit to recover from the pandemic and thrive in the Bay Area -- and as a key strategy to combat climate change and eroding housing affordability in the region. The plan set targets for making transit easier to use, including integrating fares, wayfinding, and service; it also kicked off initiatives to address long term governance and funding issues that have held the region’s transit system back for decades.
“Driving greater integration across and among our region’s myriad transit agencies is critical to the competitiveness of the Innovation Economy and the quality of life of our communities. It’s encouraging to see the measurable progress achieved by MTC and transit agencies over the past year on priorities such as integrated fares, with the region’s first ever all-agency transit pass, the BayPass, launching last month,” said Ahmad Thomas, CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. “Yet it’s imperative that this focus on integration be sustained, as some of the more difficult initiatives - like ensuring transit doesn’t get stuck in traffic and identifying what agency is responsible for transit network planning and management in our region - are at risk.”
The report card’s authors include Seamless Bay Area, SPUR, Bay Area Council, TransForm, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, and Joint Venture Silicon Valley. These six groups also co-sponsored SB 917, a bill introduced by State Senator Josh Becker earlier this year that would have required transit agencies meet key deadlines for transit integration, but which was held up by the Assembly Appropriations Committee. The report card is also supported by senior and disability groups Choice in Aging and Silicon Valley Independent Living Center. These groups hope that the report card can be used to help recommit public leaders to the objectives of the Transformation Action Plan, and encourage policymakers develop solutions for those initiatives that are most at risk of going off track.
“The Transformation Action Plan is a visionary blueprint to transform transit so that it works better for all people in all parts of the Bay Area. Making transit successful is essential for our climate and equity goals. The challenge is that complex organizational change takes time, and yet time is not on our side,” said Laura Tolkoff from SPUR.
“A more accessible and affordable system especially helps people who are low-income, people of color, people with disabilities, youth and seniors; we need to make progress for an equitable region”, said Debbie Toth, CEO of Choice in Aging.
The Plan’s 27 Actions were developed in 2021 by the 32-member Blue Ribbon Transit Recovery Task Force representing transit agency leaders, elected officials, and advocates. It provided a long overdue reset of priorities for reforming the Bay Area’s fragmented transit — made more urgent than ever due to COVID-19’s devastating impact on ridership and revenue.
Report Card Assessments
The report card gives high marks to initiatives involving Fares and Payment, Wayfinding and Mapping, Data Collection and Coordination, and Funding, rating them as “On Track.” It gives Accessibility and Connected Network Planning actions a “Lagging” mark— behind schedule when compared to the targets in the Transformation Action Plan, but otherwise proceeding smoothly.
The report card raises particular caution about the region’s progress in advancing actions that deal with the more challenging topics of governance, equity, and service connectivity. Bus/Rail Network Management and Transit Priority actions are given the overall grade of “At Risk”, due to concerns that the projects are vulnerable to significant delays, or scaling back.
“A number of the initiatives in the Transformation Action Plan are at risk because of the lack of clear leadership of who is responsible for an initiative, and often an inadequate regional decision-making structure that could lead to many future delays down the road.” said Ian Griffiths, Policy Director at Seamless Bay Area. “The problems reveal the underlying governance challenges of the Bay Area Transit system, where there is no lead agency with the clear mandate to advance integration initiatives. These projects rely on consensus, which is hard to achieve with 27 different agencies. They also suffer from not adequately centering riders in decision-making.”
The Network Management Business Case, a study aimed at identifying a more effective governance structure for Bay Area transit, is one of the actions identified in the report card as “At Risk”. The study was recently rescoped to focus initially on near-term changes instead of long-term structural reforms, delaying the project by four months and raising some questions about the timeline for long-term structural reforms.
The report card offers five recommendations for MTC to get the region back on track to transformation:
- Upon completion of the Network Management Business Case, set up a unified, balanced, and transparent policy-making board for the Transformation Action Plan
- Regularize reporting of TAP Initiatives to MTC
- Prioritize funding and incentives for transit priority roadway treatments that get transit vehicles out of traffic improving transit speed and reliability
- Prioritize the Connected Network Plan
- Exercise MTC’s full capability to lead the region, including using its existing authority to keep transit agencies aligned on transit transformation.
More detailed information about the assessments and recommendations can be found in the full report card.
“BART just celebrated its 50th anniversary. I’m convinced that in order for it to not only survive, but actually thrive for another 50, it must seamlessly integrate with the rest of the Bay Area’s dozens of agencies, to create a truly rider-focused network.” said Russell Hancock, President & CEO of Joint Venture Silicon Valley. “Creating the Transformation Action Plan was the easy part. Now we actually have to do the hard work, and constantly revisit it to hold ourselves accountable.”
The report card was developed with the best and most current information available, based on a combination of public materials as well as conversations with staff at various agencies. It is not an official status report from MTC or any other public agency.
Report card links
- Full TAP 1-year anniversary report and report card
- PDF of the one-page report card only
- Seamless Bay Area blog post about the report card
About the Report Card Organizations
Seamless Bay Area’s mission is to transform the Bay Area’s fragmented public transit into a world-class, unified, equitable, and widely-used system by building a diverse movement for change and promoting policy reforms. www.seamlessbayarea.org
The Bay Area Council engages business and civic-minded leaders to solve the most pressing regional issues to ensure the Bay Area is the most innovative, sustainable, inclusive and globally competitive place in the world. www.bayareacouncil.org
TransForm promotes walkable communities with excellent transportation choices to connect people of all incomes to opportunity, make California affordable, and help solve our climate crisis. With diverse partners we engage communities in planning, run innovative programs, and win policy change at the local, regional, and state levels. www.transformca.org
The Silicon Valley Leadership Group, representing over 350 tech and innovation economy companies throughout Silicon Valley, holds an unmatched record leading and co-leading successful ballot measures to raise billions of dollars in funding for public transit throughout the Bay Area. www.svlg.org
SPUR is a member-supported, nonprofit organization promoting "good planning and good government" in the San Francisco Bay Area through research, education and advocacy. www.spur.org
Established in 1993, Joint Venture Silicon Valley provides analysis and action on issues affecting the Silicon Valley economy and quality of life. The organization brings together established and emerging leaders—from business, government, academia, labor and the broader community—to spotlight issues, launch projects and work toward innovative solutions. www.jointventure.org
Choice in Aging is non-profit organization that offers a variety of programs to help elders and people with disabilities in Contra Costa, Solano, Napa, and Sacramento counties. www.choiceinaging.org
The Silicon Valley Independent Living Center is a private, consumer-driven, nonprofit corporation that offers quality services to individuals with disabilities in Silicon Valley. www.svilc.org