The pace of planning, designing and building new public transit projects has slowed down to a creep. Most of the wasted time occurs before construction ever starts. Once in construction things tend to pick up because, while having zero inclination to police themselves, the agencies often hold suppliers and construction contractors to high standards of quality and schedule adherence.
A case in Point: Waiting for MTC to eventually come up with an all encompassing plan for solving the Region’s connectivity ills is an exercise in futility. Most of what needs to be done could be accomplished better and certainly faster through cooperation and coordination between and among the affected transit agencies, with support from the impacted cities and counties. It bears repeating that riders don’t care a whit about the color of their bus or train, they just want to get there.
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The transit agencies need to sit down and look for opportunities to improve the connectivity of their respective operations. The SFMTA and Golden Gate Transportation District have made progress in this. Less so when it comes to the VTA, SamTrans and AC Transit. More work needed.
Intra-Agency: It goes without saying that each transit agency should do everything possible to render its service as useful to as many riders and would-be riders as possible.
Inter-Agency: The interfaces between counties are not nearly as daunting as it might appear. Here’s the breakdown:
Interface between Marin and SF Counties: A couple of ferry boat lines, a six lane peak direction bridge and some bus lines. The affected agencies and jurisdictions should put more effort into optimizing the intercounty usefulness of their combined services. *
Interface between San Mateo and SF Counties: A few SamTrans bus lines, Muni lines, a rail line and way too many highway and arterial lanes. The need is to significantly increase transit travel and then take whatever additional steps are necessary to reduce the number of cars traveling north and south in San Mateo and San Francisco counties.*
Interface between Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, Alameda and Santa Clara Counties, Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, Marin and Sonoma Counties, Marin and Napa Counties, Napa and Solono Counties, and Solono and Contra Costa Counties: The interfaces are similar. Same recommendation.*
*No need to wait for MTC.
However this does not mean that MTC doesn’t continue to have a major role to play. For one thing it should encourage and support local agency initiatives to speed up the action. Second, it will continue be charged with ensuring a regionally-coordinated effort, satisfactory to State and federal funding sources. Third, there are a relatively small handful of major gaps in regional service in need of strong regional attention and involvement. The Diridon Station is one, although it appears to already have substantial political and financial heft behind it.
Another is the long needed rail-to-rail connection between the West Oakland BART Station and a Capital Corridor station. This is not an insurmountable problem but it needs far more attention than it’s gotten so far. Another is the Downtown Extension of Caltrain, destined to efficiently connect 13 rail lines and over 40 bus lines. Another is AC’s lightly used transbay bus service and unnecessarily low East Bay ridership. Another is the critically important but sadly neglected ACE system running from northern San Joaquin County through the Tri-Valley to the South Bay and Silicon Valley. And finally, there’s the infamous one-half mile uphill walkathon from the Larkspur Ferry terminal to the SMART train station. Such gaps discourage would-be transit users everywhere. MTC has plenty of important work to do, without entangling itself in every routine problem around the region.