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San Francisco
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I was at the SPUR lunch forum where Ms. Amin presented her loose wish for coordination of the 20+ Bay Area transit agencies. After watching her presentation listing the problems presented by having all these un-coordinated political "fiefdoms" running autonomous agencies with little or no regard to the protocols or schedules of the next town's transit, it quickly became apparent that the Bay Area needs to have one consolidated transit agency with the power to unify routes, make payments consistent, minimize transfers, and address shifting Bay Area Job Centers. This could be an oversight agency that allowed each city to continue to operate local services, or, better and cheaper, give control over to an agency which could address gaps in transit, deduce the fastest and most efficient routes, collect appropriate payment across all modes of transit, and make sure funding is equitably distributed and produced the highest benefits for the most transit riders for the financial investment. This is not precedent-setting. Most major urban areas fall under the oversight of a single agency. The Bay Area is the exception. Ms. Amin, in the Q & A session after her presentation, promptly announced that any discussion of consolidation was "off the table." As more audience members were asking why this was to be excluded from the discussion, Ms. Amin became angry and flustered and announced that they would only be "answering audience questions and didn't want to hear any ideas." This was truly the most bizarre and unprofessional SPUR forum I have attended. Most of the audience left either angry or confused. The forum was almost Kafka-esque, and the article in SPUR's monthly publication is guilty of the same omissions. Yes, it would be nice to have more coordination, but beyond this wish, the article is worthless, or worse. The consolidation of transit has been an issue for a couple decades, and multiple studies have been conducted, mostly coming to the conclusion that agency consolidation would produce the most efficient and flexible transit system at a fraction of the cost of operating 26 autonomous agencies, each with directors, staff, rolling stock purchasing contracts, or negotiating outside contracts to operate the towns' public transit system with companies like Veolia. Each of these reports was acknowledged, even reported on, but then swept under the rug by staff at MTC. One is left to wonder who is gaining political or financial advantage by continuing to operate these redundant agencies, and how they got SPUR, who normally presents excellent research and reporting, to avoid addressing the obvious choice for efficient Bay Area transit. Just implementing a Clipper Card payment is not enough. There should be a way to get from your home in Alamo or Danville to your job in Saratoga without making multiple transfers, taking half-mile walks, paying three-to-four seperate fares, and spending 2-3 hours on transit each way. Perhaps some sort of agency coordination could improve connections, but only one overseeing agency could plan and provide direct service from where people live to where they need to go. As the population of the Bay Area increases, this agency will need the power to create express bus lanes on freeways, and insist on transit-only lanes on key bridges. We can start considering routes for "true BRT" for areas unserved by BART. If we are to get people out of their cars and make transit attractive, it must be fast, efficient, cost effective, and movement-prioritized. Clearly this can't happen with transit systems which are confined to the borders of their small, suburban fifedoms. To most transit and transportation planners, the answer is singular and obvious, but we don't know why these agencies are throwing up barricades, and why we have gotten no support from MTC, in fact, MTC and Mr. Hemminger seem to be conspirators in keeping transit agencies fractured, inefficient and costly. This is the Bay Area's most regressive transportation policy, and being surrounded by more and more progressive policies, its becoming a topic that is garnering more and more attention across the planning community, and soon will be getting the attention of the general public. Shame on MTC and SPUR for their role in bolstering a non-working system when the solution is now so obvious.
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Aug 6, 2015