New CA Senate Select Committee Formed to Study Bay Area Transit Issues

The stated purpose is to "address the unique challenges and opportunities facing public transportation in the Bay Area as the region emerges from the pandemic."

Image: Bay Area Rapid Transit
Image: Bay Area Rapid Transit
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California Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) has formed a new Senate Select Committee to study Bay Area public transportation issues. The committee will be chaired by Senator Wiener, and membership will include Senators Bill Dodd (D-Napa), Steven Glazer (D-Antioch), Mike McGuire (D-Santa Rosa), Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), and Aisha Wahab (D-Fremont).

The stated purpose of the committee is to “address the unique challenges and opportunities facing public transportation in the Bay Area as the region emerges from the pandemic.”

Presumably those include challenges funding, as transit agencies are running out of money for operations and facing serious existential questions about what to cut.

That problem is not limited to Bay Area transit agencies, but the nine-county Bay Area faces some unique issues. Among those is the need to coordinate among 27 distinct agencies with overlapping service areas as well as several governing entities.

Ian Griffiths of Seamless Bay Area, an organization advocating for better coordinated transit service and fares – and just better transit service – says they had no direct role in the idea of creating a Select Committee, but are looking forward to working with it.

While creating a new regional source of funding will no doubt be one of the committee’s primary goals, “I hope it will also help build support for some of the policy and governance changes that are needed to transform Bay Area transit into a more effective system that should be associated with new funding,” Griffiths told Streetsblog.

Ongoing efforts to improve Bay Area transit include the work of Seamless Bay Area, as well as state-led coordinating discussions through Cal-ITP (CA Integrated Travel Project), all of which is starting to show some small results. Local legislators have tried to pass bills on Bay Area transit topics in the past few years, including S.B. 917 and A.B. 629, which would have created deadlines for coordinating fares, wayfinding, and services among transit agencies, A.B 2057 which would have created a Blue Ribbon Task Force to develop a coordination plan, and A.B. 455 to speed up transit service across the Oakland Bay Bridge.

A Senate Select Committee would allow lawmakers to host a forum for discussions on these issues, at the very least, and give them an avenue for legislative oversight. There’s no official word yet on what exactly the committee’s agenda is, and they won’t be able to hold any hearings until April at the earliest.