A Muni Metro driver may soon be able to enter a station, refer to a centralized map of regional transit connections, and pay a single fixed tariff for travel between providers and counties.
Congregation member David Chiu enacted the Seamless and Resilient Transit Act in the Bay Area on Wednesday. This is the final step in decades of efforts to create a more integrated transport network for the area and encourage residents to get out of their cars.
“Every day, hundreds of thousands of Bay Area residents have experienced a system that is fragmented, unreliable, difficult to use and inefficient,” Chiu said. “That’s the big picture.”
Despite its well-known reputation as a hub of innovation, the Bay Area has historically been home to one of the most inefficient, underutilized and costly transportation networks in the country.
As of 2017, only 5 percent of journeys in the Bay Area were in transit, and the number of per capita transit drivers decreased by 12 percent between 1991 and 2016, according to legislation.
While 31 percent of regional ground workers rely on public transportation, they are often faced with unreliable and misaligned connections between transit providers, high tariffs, long commutes, and in general a system so confusing that the idea of navigating it is daunting enough can instead push someone into a personal vehicle.
The same communities are most likely to bear the brunt of the environmental and health impacts caused by congestion and greenhouse gas emissions.
“We need to rebuild a transit system that works for everyone, especially our low-income residents and our residents of color communities around the bay,” said Chiu. “We need to do this in a way that is efficient, reliable, and has real access so that all of our families and workers can get to their jobs, schools and critical destinations quickly and efficiently.”
Gathering Bill 629 aims to simplify the landscape by focusing on four main areas for improvement: regional mapping and pathfinding; a pilot program for tariff integration; the creation of a network of priority transit routes to identify which corridors need to be addressed most urgently; and mandatory use of real-time open transit data by providers to inform travelers’ decisions.
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission would be empowered to determine how the bill’s requirements were carried out, though it would coordinate itself with the transit agencies and be given clear metrics and deadlines to ensure that the nine counties regional facility is on track stay, said Chiu.
If passed, MTC would have to create a pilot program for tariff integration by July 1, 2023 with which a single pass with a uniform tariff structure would be created for travelers in three countries.
It would also mandate the Commission to develop a standardized regional transit mapping and routing system by July 1, 2024, and a plan for its maintenance and funding until the following year.
Chiu introduced a similar bill in February 2020, just weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and turned the state’s legislative agenda on its head. The bill was pushed into the background, but a few months later the regional transit leaders formed a working group under the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to begin a dialogue on how to address the region’s lack of integration, the Blue Ribbon Task Force.
Much of this legislation is reflected in AB 629, with the exception of the previous requirement to set up a working group of transit managers for coordination work, a process already being carried out with the Blue Ribbon Task Force.
Now that the region is beginning to rise to the challenge of recreation, the goal of a seamless transit network is more important than ever.
“As we recover, we are all very concerned that our transit systems have been decimated and we need to make sure that as we rebuild and restore we are building a 21st century transit system for the ages,” Chiu said.
The call for a more integrated transportation system in the Bay Area has been around for decades, but it has erupted again and again, even as other cities like Seattle and London have managed to tackle fragmentation.
Opposition often came from transit agency officials, who said the integration of tariffs – and therefore Farebox revenue – could jeopardize their ability to provide reasonable service and maintenance, even though they are anxious to find ways to make timetables better Synchronize and improve pathfinding Keeping up-to-date or acting quickly to respond to local needs.
“We are not saying that there has to be a tariff system today and we have to find out immediately,” said Chiu. “But we say there needs to be a conversation about how people can travel through more than one transit operator while ideally paying a flat rate.”
Details would largely be worked out through the collaboration between these transit agency heads and the MTC.
“Our region cannot wait any longer,” said Chiu.
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