Dear Assemblymember Chiu,
MV YIMBY as an organization that advocates for transit-oriented development would like to express our support for Assembly Bill 629, which implements key reforms and accountability measures to move toward an integrated, equitable, high ridership, and efficient public transit system in the Bay Area.
The challenges of navigating between 27 different transit operators in the Bay Area acts as a barrier for residents and visitors to adopt more sustainable forms of travel, and disproportionately burdens low income and vulnerable populations. The Bay Area’s current transit system has been inconvenient and costly; it requires riders to use systems operated independently with little coordination, to pay multiple separate fares, experience unpredictable transfers, and to navigate different wayfinding systems.
As a result, use of transit in the Bay Area has been declining — despite a 60% increase in spending on public transit statewide over the past decade. From 2001-2016, annual transit trips per person fell by 10% in the Bay Area, with average bus speeds declining by 9% and average commute times for transit users increasing by nearly 12%. Declining transit use is a major barrier to achieving California’s ambitious climate change targets, given that 40% of emissions in California come from transportation.
The COVID-19 crisis has exposed fault lines in new, urgent ways, as transit operators already decimated by the crisis face unique challenges in recovering from the pandemic. While the current decline in transit use has been necessitated by public health, it has devastated the system, and post-COVID recovery cannot simply replicate a system that was already struggling. The actions in this bill will promote increased ridership to help revive the system after the devastation caused by COVID-19.
In response to COVID-19, in 2020 the Metropolitan Transportation Commission convened a 32-member Blue Ribbon Transit Recovery Task Force (BRTF) composed of transit agency managers, advocates, and local lawmakers. The BRTF is working to prepare long-term recommendations for improving the network, with an eye to governance. In the meantime, other immediate steps are needed to improve the rider experience. AB 629 will establish accountability metrics and deadlines for transit agencies to create a long-overdue regional transit map and wayfinding system, establish a Transit Priority Network for future improvements, pilot a multi-agency fare pass to incentivize rather than penalize transfers, and use open data standards to provide real-time transit information to riders. These simple, commonsense improvements will bring near-term benefits to transit riders, while setting the Bay Area on the path to a seamlessly integrated, customer-focused transit system.
For these reasons, MV YIMBY supports AB 629.
Michael Abramson, on behalf of
Mountain View YIMBY