Making “Seamless Transit” Real

The subject, previously dubbed “integrated transit systems”, (now shortened to “seamless transit”), has been discussed for decades.

Yet, even though Seamless Transit is supported in principle by almost everyone, not much has changed. (The Salesforce Transit Center is an exception, but even there the trains are still missing). The region’s assorted transit systems are mostly just as chopped up and disconnected as ever. Various reasons are advanced for this.

One often-heard theory is that the Bay Area’s 27 existing transit operators and their unions are inherently “unmanageable” and therefore must be brought under the control of a powerful new regional agency. Piling still another regional oversight agency on top of the rest might make sense, but only if its creation were accompanied by a concomitant reduction in MTC’s scope and operating budget.

However there’s another way of looking at the problem. The intransigence of transit agencies and single-issue fears of unions are often mentioned.  But are the agencies and their unions really the problem?

As indicated in a survey of would-be transit users published in the BANG newsletters on February 9, 2018,  the major deterrent to using transit is that: “it doesn’t get me where I want to go“.  Addressing this problem directly could conceivably be a “win-win”. In other words, making transit more useful to more riders and would-be riders could create new travel opportunities, perhaps ease highway congestion, increase transit revenues and add transit jobs. It is unlikely that a regional transportation Czar, however “powerful” could get this done. But with persistence and patience it is likely that the advantages of better integrated transit systems could be demonstrated and the fears of transit agencies and unions addressed in a reasonable manner.

With a few notable exceptions, such as the Salesforce Transit Center depicted above, this approach hasn’t been tried in this region since the mid-1970’s….so no one knows for sure.

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