Ten Steps to a More Balanced Bay Area Transportation System

10StepsImage1.) The upgrading and extension of Caltrain into downtown San Francisco should be the Bay Region’s No. 1 Priority project. San Francisco’s new Transbay Transit Terminal (TTC) will be located in the heart of San Francisco’s Financial District near over 10,000 new transit-oriented housing units. It will directly serve the BART and Muni Metro subways, Caltrain, over 40 bus lines and eventually, the California high-speed rail system. This will open up tens of thousands of new transit trip opportunities for Bay Area travelers. With the Caltrain and HSR extended into its lower level, the TTC will quickly become the most important nexus of public transit systems in western North America.

2.) To connect parts of the Region not well served by BART, there should be a Regional Bus System.

3.) To ease pressures on I-580, I-680, I-238, I-880 and Highways 84 and 92, the Altamont Commuter Rail Service (ACE) to San Jose should be significantly speeded up and otherwise upgraded. To improve access into San Francisco, a branch of the ACE system should extend across a rebuilt Dumbarton Bridge and via the Caltrain tracks to the current Fourth and King Caltrain terminal.

4.) To ease pressures on I-80 a transfer station between the Amtrak main line and BART should be constructed in West Oakland.

5.) AC Transit’s current anemic ridership should least double. This can be accomplished by improved routing, better signing, better maps, a more user-friendly fare structure and, once the improvements are underway, an effective marketing program.

6.) Today’s Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s light rail system is widely regarded as the worst in the United States. As a result it is currently carrying about 25% of the ridership it should be serving. Instead of extending a system with a rotten core, the first step should be to fix the core. Steps should be taken to speed up and straighten out the grotesquely distorted routing along the Guadalupe and Vasona Lines.

7.) Today’s Bay Area transit vehicles loaded with passengers are often bogged down in traffic congestion. In response to this obvious problem of long standing, successive generations of elected politicians have talked the talk but failed to walk the walk. As a result, thousands of harried transit riders continue to endure the pains of gridlock. During at least the peak commute hours, trains and buses should operate in transit-only lanes. A concerted effort should be made to make certain that the obstacles to consistently reliable and expeditious train and bus service are removed. Where and when necessary, congestion pricing should be imposed to discourage excessive automobile use in highly congested areas. Good transit service is an essential element of travel mobility. Busloads and trainloads of travelers who’ve left their cars at home deserve priority on city streets.

8.) Public projects are no longer subjected to rigorous cost-effectiveness scrutiny. Nor is financial feasibility any longer given the priority it deserves. This slipshod practice has resulted in many ill-conceived projects and the waste of tens of billions of scarce transportation dollars. Before advancing a capital improvement proposal, its cost-effectiveness, financial feasibility and future operating effect should be determined. The results of these analyses should be published. Before advancing a capital improvement proposal, an Alternative Analysis inclusive of all potentially viable alternatives should be conducted. The result of this analysis should also be published.

9.) All land use and highway plans, programs and projects that encourage more automobile use in the Bay Area should end immediately. Automobile travel is and will remain an important element of Bay Area travel. However things have gotten out of hand. No one benefits from gridlock.

10.) BART is the Bay Area’s transportation work horse. Its existing system has long needed major improvements, including better vehicle and rail maintenance, a larger commitment to replacing aging vehicles, sound walls at noisy stations, central control and rail signaling improvements and, last but not least, a solution to the looming trans-bay capacity problem. These well-known problems have long been neglected. Apparently it’s more politically-rewarding to focus on glitzy extensions of marginal usefulness that in minding the store.