Golden Gate Bridge, Highway & Transportation District: Rich in Transportation History & Innovation

The Golden Gate Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District [GGBHTD] was born in 1969 with Assembly Bill 584 authorization and the Golden Gate Ferry service between San Francisco and Sausalito launched in August, 1070. This was followed by the Golden Gate Transit bus service which began operations in 1972.

The GGBHTD has an impressive history of innovation and effective leadership. Under Bridge Board direction, the District is currently managed by Denis Mulligan. Mr. Mulligan was the District’s Chief Engineer from 2001 to 2010 and since 2010 has been its General Manager. Among the District’s many noteworthy accomplishments are the following:

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Quote of the Month

At the May 5/6 National Shared Mobility Summit, SFMTA Transportation Director Jeff Tumlin was quoted as saying: “This (sic…meaning the pandemic) is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to question all of the historic, political decisions that created the transit system, in the form that it was when we inherited it.”

Could he actually have said that? Could he have failed to learn how and under what circumstances transit evolved? Or how and why its decline began after WWII. Or why it continues to have appeal for urbanites and environmentalists? Has he never seen or read about the great systems of many European and Japanese cities?

Mr. Tumlin should forget trying to psychoanalyze the politicians and instead focus on making his system work better.

Resuscitating the Transbay Bus Service

According to the San Francisco Examiner, a bus-only lane on the Bay Bridge would save bus users up to 6 minutes a ride. As transit advocates, BATWG would certainly support efforts to convert a peak-direction traffic lane in each direction to a bus-only lane. But anticipating objections to such a change, some uninformed officials are promoting off-peak contra-flow bus lanes on the Bridge. Under this arrangement buses would travel westbound on the eastbound lower level during morning peak hours and eastbound on the westbound upper level during afternoon peak hours.

The proposal is frankly hokey, and here are three reasons why:

First, since the hours of peak traffic tend to vary there are certain to be times when contra-flow lanes would further compound already bad traffic backups.

Second, adding and subtracting contra-flow bus lanes two or more times a day would be a source of confusion to all concerned, which could easily lead to safety problems.

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Two Small but Highly Productive Agencies

When a large public agency is confronted with a new problem or added responsibility the tendency is to hire new people to handle the new work. There are several problems with this approach. First it is often difficult for a public agency to identify prospective employees with the needed experience and qualifications. Delays in deploying competent people in a timely manner often lead to very bad outcomes. It should also be noted that whenever someone is hired by a large agency the tendency is for that individual to remain on the payroll long after the need for his or her services has passed. It is partly because of this reaction to new problems and responsibilities that large agencies tend to continue to grow in size.

Bureaucracy vs Efficiency

But there is another model of how things can work that seldom gets the attention it deserves. Below are two examples of Bay Area agencies that have achieved astonishingly high levels of achievement with very small staffs.

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