The imbalance in Bay Area transportation has reached monumental proportions. Today’s over-reliance on the private automobile has slowed things down to a creep. The following 10 actions are part of what’s needed to bring regional travel back into balance:
1.) Upgrading and extending of Caltrain into San Francisco’s new Transbay Transit Center (TTC) should be the Region’s No. 1 transportation priority. The TTC is located near 300,000 plus downtown jobs and adjacent to over 20,000 new transit-oriented housing units. Using subsurface moving pedestrian ramps the extended line will connect directly to the BART and Muni Metro subways. Caltrain and in the future high-speed trains will also connect directly to over 40 bus lines, thereby creating countless new transit connections for Bay Area travelers. When DTX is completed it will give north-south West Bay travelers a high-quality non-automotive way of traveling between the South Bay and along the Peninsula into downtown San Francisco.
2.) To connect parts of the Region not well served by BART, there should be a Regional Bus System, operating on transit-only lanes wherever necessary to guarantee expeditious and reliable service, at least during peak commute hours.
3.) To ease east/west traffic across the Dumbarton highway bridge a rail shuttle system should be created between Redwood City and Union City via a rebuilt Dumbarton rail bridge. To provide a decent rail alternative to the current excessive crowding on BART and horrendous and worsening traffic backups experienced on Highways I-580, I-680, I-238, I-880, 84 and 92, the ultimate objective should be to cut the current two hour Altamont Commuter Rail Service (ACE) trip time between Stockton and San Jose in half.
4.) To ease pressures on I-80, a transfer station between the Amtrak main line and BART should be constructed in Oakland. To improve passenger rail connections between Auburn and San Jose the Capitol Corridor line should be significantly upgraded, as has been proposed by the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority and BART.
5.) AC Transit’s currently anemic ridership should at least double. This can be accomplished by better routing, transit-only lanes where and as needed, better signing, better maps, a more user-friendly fare structure and….once the needed improvements are underway….an effective marketing program.
6.) Today’s Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s light rail operation is widely regarded as the worst in the country. As a result it is currently attracting about 25% of the riders it should be carrying. Instead of adding extensions to a system with a rotten core, the focus should be on fixing the core. Steps should be taken to speed up and straighten out the grotesquely distorted routing in parts of the Guadalupe and Vasona Lines.
7.) As indicated, today’s Bay Area transit vehicles loaded with passengers are often bogged down in traffic congestion. In response to this worsening problem, successive generations of elected politicians have talked the talk but failed to walk the walk. As a result, transit riders continue to find themselves bogged down in highway backups and urban congestion. The obstacles to consistently reliable and expeditious train and bus service should be removed. Where and when necessary, congestion pricing and/or highway tolls should be imposed to discourage excessive automobile use in highly congested areas. Good transit service is an essential element of travel mobility. Travelers who’ve opted to ride collectively on trains and buses deserve priority on highways and 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 and poorly executed transportation 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 effectiveness must be independently verified. The results of this analysis, along with the results of a bonafide cost and feasibility comparison of the potentially viable alternatives, should be published.
9.) Regional land use and transportation programs and funding packages that encourage more Bay Area automobile use should be scrapped. 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 seismic upgrading, better vehicle and rail maintenance, improved security and safety in stations and on trains, replacement of aging vehicles, sound walls at noisy stations, automatic train control improvements and, last but not least, a solution to BART’s looming trans-bay capacity problem. The efficiency and effectiveness of BART’s existing system should henceforth be put ahead of politically-inspired expansion schemes.