MTC reviews 2023 and its work to move the Bay Area forward

Noah Berger

The year 2023 saw positive movement as the Bay Area recovers from the pandemic that changed the way the region works, lives and travels. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission and its partner agencies continued their work to help make the Bay Area more affordable, better connected, healthier and more economically vibrant. Among MTC’s achievements over the past year:

New Report Draws Roadmap for Bay Area Transit to Survive and Thrive

In May, MTC, in partnership with Bay Area transit agencies, business groups and transportation advocacy organizations, released a new report outlining steps that need to be taken over the next decade by MTC, transit agencies and the state government to help the region’s transit network avert a near-term fiscal collapse and adapt to post-pandemic travel patterns; transition to a new business model by the latter half of the 2020s; and then expand its reach and capacity in the 2030s. Entitled "Survive & Thrive: Roadmap to a Sustainable Business Model for Bay Area Public Transit," the new report builds on the Transit Transformation Action Plan released in 2021 and spotlights a successful shift to this self-sustaining business model as the central goal of the transit transformation process.

Committee OKs Eight Projects for $379 million in RM 3 Cash

MTC in July approved an allocation of $379 million in Regional Measure 3 toll dollars to fund eight transportation projects across the Bay Area. Among the allocations recommended is $130 million for construction of the VTA Eastridge to BART Regional Connector. Bay Area voters approved RM 3 in June 2018 to help solve the Bay Area's growing congestion problems. RM 3 raised tolls on the region's state-owned toll bridges by $1 beginning Jan. 1, 2019. Tolls were increased by another $1 in January 2022, with another $1 increase set for January 2025.

I-880 Express Lanes Now More Affordable for Low-Income Travelers

MTC’s Bay Area Infrastructure Financing Authority (BAIFA) affiliate inaugurated a new pilot program in April intended to help more travelers from lower-income households to take advantage of the Express Lanes along the Interstate 880 corridor in Alameda County. BAIFA began accepting applications from residents throughout the Bay Area whose household income is no more than 200 percent of the federal poverty level (about $60,000 for a family of four) to participate in the Express Lanes START program and qualify for reduced toll charges in the I-880 Express Lanes.

MTC, ABAG Start Building Plan Bay Area 2050+

MTC and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) in July officially kicked off a two-and-a-half-year effort to develop Plan Bay Area 2050+, a limited and focused update to Plan Bay Area 2050, the visionary long-range regional plan adopted by the agencies in 2021. A parallel planning process, known as Transit 2050+, is also underway to overhaul six transit-related strategies identified in Plan Bay Area 2050 and to help inform the development of the Plan Bay Area 2050+ Final Blueprint scheduled for completion in 2024.

Clipper® BayPass Makes Case for Fare Coordination

As MTC’s pioneering Clipper® BayPass pilot program neared its first anniversary in July, usage data indicated program participants take some 35% more transit trips than their nonparticipating peers, with the 30,000-plus enrollees having used their unlimited travel passes for more than a combined 2 million transit trips through June 30. The Commission teamed with Bay Area transit agencies to launch the two-year pilot last summer to study the impact of a single pass that can be used for unlimited access to all Bay Area bus, rail and ferry services, with the exception of special event services to or from Oracle Park in San Francisco operated by San Francisco Bay Ferry or Golden Gate Ferry. “One of the big takeaways from the Blue Ribbon Transit Recovery Task Force convened early in the COVID-19 pandemic is the urgency of making Bay Area transit simpler and more seamless,” said MTC Chair and Napa County Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza. “Clipper BayPass is a great way to get real-world data on the role fare coordination can play in meeting those goals.”

Clipper BayPass Pilot Expands to Phase 2, Adding Bay Area Employers to Program

MTC and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) in December finalized a partnership agreement through which UCSF will provide up to 6,000 of its employees with passes for unlimited free travel for one year on any of 24 Bay Area transit agencies beginning Jan. 1, 2024. The agreement, approved at the December meeting of MTC's Regional Network Management Committee, makes UCSF the first Bay Area employer to join Phase 2 of the Clipper® BayPass program, which is jointly managed by MTC and BART. MTC and BART expect to complete similar agreements with other employers in the months ahead. The Clipper BayPass will be made available to as many as 20,000 individuals at up to 10 different companies, institutions or public agencies during the pilot program’s second phase. 

Clipper® START Pilot Extended Through June 30, 2025

In June, MTC approved an extension of the Clipper® START pilot program through June 30, 2025. Clipper START offers discounts on public transit to qualifying Bay Area adults with low incomes. Twenty-one Bay Area transit agencies are participating in the pilot program: Seven agencies offer a 50% discount, while 14 additional agencies offer a 20% discount. Clipper START launched in July 2020 as a 36-month pilot program. 

MTC, Lyft Announce Plans to Grow and Improve Bay Wheels Regional Bikeshare System

MTC and Lyft in November announced a drop in both annual membership prices for the Bay Area’s Bay Wheels regional bikeshare program and members’ e-bike usage fees, as well as the addition of more than 2,000 next generation e-bikes to the Bay Wheels fleet and the rollout of 55 additional docking stations in San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville. These measures are aimed at improving Bay Wheels’ long-term sustainability by growing ridership and reducing operational costs. 

Regional Mapping & Wayfinding Initiative Launches Web Portal, Emphasis on Accessibility and Equity

The Regional Mapping and Wayfinding project is underway to make transit journeys easier to understand now hasnew web portal on the MTC website. “Wayfinding” describes the ways people orient themselves in physical locations and navigate from place to place.  MTC has been working in partnership with riders and all 27 transit agencies to design and deploy a fully harmonized suite of maps, signs and information in all Bay Area transit locations to make buses, trains and ferries easier to use. Accessibility and equity are important aims of MTC’s mapping and wayfinding work. Key to the process is getting input from people with disabilities, who rely heavily on public transit to get around the Bay Area. 

MTC Approves Emergency Transit Operations Funding Plan from Senate Bill 125

In November, MTC approved an emergency transit operations funding plan that will use state and regional funds for transit operations to address Bay Area transit agencies’ most dire funding shortfalls and help them avoid service cuts. The action by the Commission approves the principles informing the funding distribution, the funding distribution framework, and regional accountability measures for funding from the Transit and Intercity Rail Program (TIRCP), Zero-Emission Transit Capital Program (ZETCP), and various regional funding sources according to the guidelines described in Senate Bill (SB) 125. The resolution also makes the transit agency boards’ acceptance of the accountability guidelines a requirement for receiving the funds. The actual distribution of the funds is subject to the submittal of these documents to the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) and CalSTA’s approval of the documents.

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