Change for the Sake of Change?

There’s been much recent talk of BART taking over Caltrain.

But what do transit riders and would-be riders think? What do they want? One can be pretty certain that their first choice would be for an efficient, well-integrated network of trains and buses that gets them where they want to go safely, quickly and reliably, regardless of whose logo appears on the sides of the trains and buses.

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Eliminating the Dumbarton Transit Gap

Background:

talkPeople say that the number one reason they don’t use public transit is because “it doesn’t get me where I want to go”. Opportunities to improve the currently disjointed and gap-filled Bay Area network of trains and buses abound. “Seamless Transit”, intended to address this problem, so far hasn’t proceeded beyond the talking stage. Here are some examples of what’s gone wrong and what could go right:

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Public Agencies, Like Private Companies, Sometimes Need Outside Evaluation

audit

Private companies and large public agencies across the United States and throughout the world are routinely subjected to independent outside management audits.

However in the Bay Area such operational and managements analyses are rare……independent analyses even more so. Here’s what an independent management audit can do for a struggling public agency.

Organizational Policy-making, Management and Operations:

– Evaluate the experience and qualifications of those who sit on boards and commissions. Recommend ways of improving their effectiveness.

– Identify and clearly describe instances where aggressive real estate developers and other narrowly-focused outside parties are unduly influencing public policy decisions.

– Set up a process for ensuring that part time policy makers have access to the information they need to make wise decisions and otherwise do their jobs effectively…without overwhelming with irrelevant detail.

– Examine the management structure of the organization from top to bottom. Carefully review all organization charts, budgets, policy directives, accountability procedures, work rules, coordination protocols, etc. Recommend specific ways of improving efficiency, productivity, internal communication and general effectiveness. Cite specific instances of where changes in supervision or management are warranted.

Capital Improvement:

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SMART Starts Looking at Performance Measures

In April the Sonoma Marin Area Rail District Board (SMART) considered performance measures for its commuter rail operations. introduced by SMART’s recently hired CFO, Heather McKillop; it was the first time the SMART Board has focused on measuring its performance since the startup of rail service in August of 2017.

Staff recommended the Board adopt seven measures:

  1. Operating Expense per Vehicle Revenue Mile
  2. Operating Expense per Passenger Mile
  3. Passenger Trips per Vehicle Revenue Mile
  4. Average Fare per Passenger
  5. Bike/Ped Pathway Usage
  6. On-Time Performance
  7. Customer Satisfaction

The first four performance measures are readily available from the annual National Transit Database, (FY19/20 NTD statistics are shown in graphic form below). Measures five through 7 are not currently produced or available and will require additional data collection and presentation effort.

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James R. Mills

From 1960 to 1982, James R. Mills was a highly productive member of the State Legislature during which he served with distinction as the State Senate’s pro-transit Transportation Committee Chair and later as its President pro tem. During his time in the Legislature he was a consistent champion of improving passenger rail and other forms of public transit. He was justly proud of his legislative accomplishments which helped create the extensive and highly successful San Diego Trolley system and brought significant public transit improvements to many other parts of California. Mills died on March 27, 2021 at age 93.