Renewing the Push for Transit Integration

Ian Griffiths  and Adina Levin of Seamless Bay Area at an event to learn about and gather support for Senate Bill 917. Photos: Streetsblog/Rudick
Ian Griffiths and Adina Levin of Seamless Bay Area at an event to learn about and gather support for Senate Bill 917. Photos: Streetsblog/Rudick

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Uncoordinated schedules, irrational fares, no free transfers between transit agencies–it’s the bane of transit riders throughout the Bay Area. It’s also the bane of drivers who might prefer to use transit, if not for the byzantine system of nearly 30 different operators, each with its own prices and timetables.

“We should have a world-class transit system. We have the bones of it,” said State Senator Josh Becker, whose district spans parts of San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, at an event near the Hillsdale Caltrain station on Saturday. “If we just do fare and schedule integration, that would make a tremendous difference.”

Image: Seamless Bay Area
A map of the Bay Area’s transit operators. Image: Seamless Bay Area

That’s why Becker authored S.B. 917, the Seamless Transit Transformation Act. From the bill announcement:

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.

More from the transit advocates at Seamless Bay Area, which is sponsoring the legislation:

The integrated fare structure mandated by the bill — to be developed by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) in consultation with Bay Area transit agencies — will make the price that transit riders pay for transit fairer, simpler, and more equitable, while supporting increased transit ridership in the region. Importantly, the structure must incorporate the following fare policies recommended by transit agency leaders as part of the recently completed regional Fare Integration Business Case:

  • ‘Free transfers,’ or eliminating the financial penalty that riders currently pay when traveling between agencies.
  • A common fare structure for regional (long-distance) services, including BART, Caltrain, express buses, and ferries.
  • A multi-agency transit pass that provides access to all transit services in the region for one set price.
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A button at the event

The bill will “set deadlines for wayfinding and a service plan,” explained Ian Griffiths, a founder of Seamless, at Saturday’s event.

The event, attended by some 40 people, was a chance for many advocates to meet in person for the first time in years.

Becker addressing the crowd. Photo: Ian Griffiths
Becker addressing the crowd. Advocates from Oakland to San Jose met to support transit integration for the Bay Area. Photo: Ian Griffiths

Streetsblog readers will recognize this bill as a continuation of the effort behind David Chiu’s A.B. 2057, pulled at the height of the COVID 19 pandemic, when the legislature was slammed and unable to handle all but a few new bills. With Chiu’s departure from the Assembly, Senator Becker has taken point on the push to rationalize and better manage the Bay Area’s transit systems.

“We must act quickly to entice riders back to public transit—and put the rider experience front and center,” said Becker in his prepared statement. “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.

The event was co-sponsored by Seamless Bay Area, Peninsula for Everyone, Streets for People, and South Bay YIMBY. S.B. 917 is expected to be heard in the Senate Transportation Committee in the spring.

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