The Dream of Seamless Transit: AB 629

There is a new paper out on “Seamless Transit” (previously called Integrated Transit).

Replete with attractive professional graphics, the paper outlines in glowing terms all the things that are generally regarded as necessary to get lots more people to ride trains and buses. Click here to read the paper.

Continue reading here:

The ultimate impact of the principles set forth in the paper will depend upon a large number of as yet unanswered questions: Is there data showing that better connections would dramatically increase ridership? Are some types of connections better than others? Should there be a hierarchy regarding which and what type of gaps should be closed first? What makes the most sense from a cost effectiveness standpoint? And, most importantly, how and on what time table would these momentous changes be implemented?

It appears that MTC’s recently formed “Blue Ribbon Task Force” is including ways to facilitate seamless transit improvements in its deliberations.

Here are some of the knotty problems that the Task Force needs to address:

  1. In transit circles there is often heavy emphasis placed on serving the transit dependent, which is indeed an important need. However, whether we like it or not, there are way too many transit-independent drivers in the Bay Area to ignore. To achieve the desired 10% to 20% shift from solo driving to transit travel, it is essential that improvements be geared to the needs of transit-independent as well as transit-dependent travelers, and to the needs of non-commuters as well as commuters.
  2. Seamless transit sounds like a win-win. But how sure are we of the results? What does it take to create a truly effective network of trains and buses? How have Seamless Transit programs worked elsewhere? What else might be done in concert to ensure success?
  3. The program should be broken into phases. Not everything can be done all at once. There should be at least short-term, mid-term and long-term phases, each assigned a realistic and clearly-defined completion date. There is talk of “pilot projects”, implemented in one locale and then expanded to serve the entire region. There should be also be “test projects”, projects implemented for 3 to 6 months on a trial basis, and then retained, modified or ended as appropriate.
  4. How the program is to be managed is undoubtedly the single most important and at the same time most difficult challenge ahead. If it’s to remain a MTC responsibility, then MTC’s top-level, policy-making apparatus would need to become legitimately regional in its orientation and less prone to distributing funds to pet local projects and in brokering deals among parochial interests and single issue pressure groups.
  5. When setting up policy-making Boards and Commissions it is essential that policy-makers and top level staff be experienced, qualified and committed.

    Switzerland’s remarkably well-integrated Rail System
  6. Obtaining federal and State funding is important. As is making optimal use of the funding that does come this way.

Which brings us to AB629, authored by Assembly Members David Chiu, Mark Berman and Bill Quirk. AB629 is intended to set up the legal framework under which the needed seamless transit improvements would be implemented. We have just learned that the Assembly Appropriations Committee has made AB629 a “two-year bill” and that the current text will reside in Appropriations without action for several more months, likely “until MTC’s Blue Ribbon Task Force releases its Action Plan”. It is anticipated that the Assembly will revisit the content of the bill this Fall at the earliest.

It is hoped that AB629’s authors will make certain that throughout the development of the final language there are opportunities to monitor progress and contribute ideas.

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