Senator Josh Becker Introduces Bill to Transform Transit in the Bay Area
Legislation would require greater transit agency coordination leading to
a more reliable, appealing experience for riders
SACRAMENTO—Senator Josh Becker today introduced a bill to create a more seamless integrated Bay Area transit system that works better for riders and ultimately draws more members of the public back onto transit.
Senate Bill 917 would require transit agencies in the region to work together to develop an integrated transit fare structure, create a Connected Network Plan to support schedule coordination and service standards, and develop a single regional transit map and standardized wayfinding system.
“We must act quickly to entice riders back to public transit—and put the rider experience front and center,” said Senator Becker, D-Peninsula. “While our transit agencies have made great strides in the past few years with their renewed commitment to integration, there is much more work to be done.
“Right now, riding transit in our region can be a disjointed and unreliable experience. This legislation will help transform our system into a world-class, seamless experience for the public, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving access to jobs and housing for residents.”
Currently, there are 27 independent transit agencies operating in the nine-county Bay Area. Transit agencies use different fare structures, discounts, loyalty programs, wayfinding apps, mapping, and branding systems. A lack of schedule coordination and real-time transit data across agencies can make transferring unreliable and can leave riders stranded. The fragmented nature of service leads to a confusing, intimidating, and often chaotic experience for Bay Area riders.
Despite substantial investment in transportation infrastructure over several decades, Bay Area transit commutes have not improved and ridership has not increased. Between 2001 and 2016, Bay Area bus speeds decreased by 9% while commute times increased by 11%. Only 12% of the population have used transit to commute since 1970. Between 2016 and 2018, ridership across Bay Area public transit systems fell by 5.2%. In comparison, regions with highly integrated networks of local and regional transit services, like Seattle or London, have consistently high levels of transit ridership.
SB 917 will instruct the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and transit agencies to work together to create an integrated fare structure that would become effective July 1, 2024, and adjusted annually thereafter. The integrated fare structure must include no-cost local-local and local-regional transfers across the same and multiple transit agencies – ending the current “transfer penalty” that results when people end up paying for double or triple fares no matter the length of their respective trip segments. This policy builds on the important work of the MTC Fare Integration Task Force, which recommended this change along with other improvements to fare policy included in the bill.
SB 917 would further require the design of a single regional transit map, standardized wayfinding mechanisms, and reporting of real-time transit data across the region. The bill would also direct MTC and transit agencies to create a Connected Network Plan to identify a network of regional and local corridors that need service-level standards and improvements. This Connected Network Plan would eventually support creation of a regional bus rapid transit system.
The Bay Area has already seen the tangible benefits of initial agency coordination over the past year, as Caltrain has aligned schedules with BART at Millbrae station, and Golden Gate Transit has provided local service within San Francisco for the first time. SB 917 builds on that important work, and the work of the MTC Blue Ribbon Transit Recovery Task Force and Fare Integration Task Force, to address longstanding challenges and poor coordination among the region’s transit systems.
SB 917 is sponsored by Seamless Bay Area, the Bay Area Council, and TransForm. It is also supported by a broad coalition of Bay Area transit advocates. Assemblymember Bill Quirk, D-Hayward, is a principal coauthor of SB 917. Other coauthors include Senator Bill Dodd, D-Napa, Senator Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, Assemblymember Alex Lee, D-San Jose, and Assemblymember Marc Levine, D-Marin County, and Assemblymember Phil Ting, D-San Francisco.
“The Seamless Transit Transformation Act provides clear deadlines for common-sense policies like integrating transit fares and signage that will make our transit system easier to use, more equitable, and more accessible, and which have already been unanimously approved by the region’s Blue Ribbon Transit Recovery Task Force,” said Ian Griffiths, policy director of Seamless Bay Area. “This bill provides a clear timeline for action to help re-attract riders to transit as we recover from the pandemic.”
“As we move past COVID, it’s critical we get commuters back on public transit. Making transit as easy, affordable and convenient for everyone to use is paramount in that effort and better integrating fares is one of the most cost-effective, common-sense tools for making that happen,” said Bay Area Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman. “Fare integration is long overdue in the Bay Area and the Bay Area Council is proud to serve as a sponsor of the Seamless Transit Transformation Act, SB 917.”
"As the Bay Area's affordability crisis pushes more folks out of urban centers, the people paying the most for transportation are the least able to pay,” said Hayley Currier, policy advocacy manager with TransForm. “This bill makes fares fair and ensures transit is more accessible and easier to use. The Seamless Transit Transformation Act is helping to build a system that is more reliable and more equitable."
“SPUR strongly supports efforts to implement the Bay Area Transit Transformation Action Plan, which will improve transit for all who call the Bay Area home,” said Jonathon Kass, SPUR's transportation policy manager. “The past two years have shown what we achieve when we work together, and we are grateful for the senator's leadership and interest in continuing that collaboration.”
SB 917 is expected to be heard in the Senate Transportation Committee in the spring.
The text of SB 917 will be available at: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/
Media Contact: Leslie Guevarra, firstname.lastname@example.org, 415-298-3404