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Pushing the Swiss Model Directly to Bay Area Transit Managers

Chocolate, watches, and transit --- three things you can't go wrong with in Switzerland. Advocates want general managers at Bay Area transit agencies to start using Swiss models for customer service, wayfinding, fares, and operations

A fantasy map of what Bay Area transit maps might look like if the Swiss were running the show. Image: Seamless/SPUR

A delegation of advocates and transit staff went to Switzerland last June on a detailed transit study tour. They reported on what they learned and what can be imported to the Bay Area. On Monday, transit staff will be presenting those findings and recommendations to the recently established Regional Network Management Council. That's a Metropolitan Transportation Commission board chaired by Robert Powers, general manager of BART, vice chaired by SamTrans GM April Chan. Also on the board are Michelle Bouchard of Caltrain, Seamus Murphy of WETA, and Jeffrey Tumlin of SFMTA, among others.

The idea is to get these GMs to integrate wayfinding, branding, etc. towards creating a more seamless network based on successful Swiss models. From a Seamless Bay Area release on the upcoming meeting:

The Council will receive a report and presentation on the findings of the recent study delegation to Switzerland that Seamless Bay Area participated in alongside representatives from the Bay Area’s major agencies. Seamless Bay Area collaborated on the report with transit agency staff - download the full report here. It documents key Swiss practices of integrated timetables, service-based planning, infrastructure planning, and fare integration that are key to the country’s success, and offers lessons learned for applying those practices to the Bay Area.

A look at proposed branding that will be presented to the GMs on Monday.

Transit accounts for roughly half of all trips in Switzerland, while in San Francisco that figure is 11 percent. Clearly, the Swiss are doing something right. And while money to build better connections and more lines is important, there are inexpensive changes that can help make transit more user-friendly across operators in the near term.

One of the simplest Swiss aspects to emulate is to use universal icons, colors, and signage across BART, Muni, ferries, AC Transit, VTA, etc. That's already underway and Seamless hopes to get prototype signs refined and ready to go by the end of the year.

From the report that will be presented to the GMs on Monday.

This is a small step towards the larger effort to establish free transfers, rational fares, and coordinated schedules. But that's happening too, through, for example, the BayPass program -- a universal fare card that works on all transit agencies and is currently being used by over 50,000 students, university employees, and residents of affordable housing.

Meanwhile, the folks at Seamless and SPUR are asking advocates to tell MTC Commissioners during public comment that you support universal transit wayfinding signage (and adopting other best-practices from Switzerland). That's Monday at 11:30 a.m., at the Regional Network Management Council meeting. Download the agenda with details about how to call in or attend in person. Or just click on the Zoom link on Monday.

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