Proposed legislation seeks to integrate Bay Area transit into one 'seamless' system

A new proposed state legislation seeks to integrate the more than two dozen separate and independent Bay Area transit agencies into one "seamless" system.

Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, is behind Assembly Bill 2057, which aims to eliminate factors that are considered barriers to public transit ridership. They include differences in fare structures between systems, uncoordinated schedules that can make transferring from one system to another difficult, and differing transit maps that don't allow passengers to easily plan their trips when using multiple systems.

Chiu held a press conference with local elected leaders and transit officials on Tuesday at the Salesforce Transit Center in San Francisco, where he said the current system is often confusing and chaotic for transit users.

"This is about a future vision for the Bay Area," Chiu said. "AB 2057 will take the first major steps to create a seamless transit system."

Currently, 27 different transit agencies run buses, trains and ferries in the nine-county region and each has their own fares, schedules, smartphone apps, discounts and planning processes.

This has led to a situation where, despite the region's horrendous traffic congestion and abysmal commute times, transit ridership actually dropped by 5.2 percent between 2016 and 2018, according to Chiu's office.

Initially, AB 2057 would establish a universal bus fare, establish uniform transfer and discount policies for all bus systems, create a single Bay Area transit map, standardize apps and develop real-time transit information delivery to passengers.

It would also seek to create a taskforce charged with integrating fares and schedules across all systems as well as coordinating spending and project development.

BART Board Director Rebecca Saltzman, who represents parts of the East Bay, said her agency and the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit bus system have been working to coordinate schedules and fares, and work in partnership in other areas, but such integration needs a more comprehensive approach.

"We need regional leadership and regional funding because one or two transit agencies can't do this alone," Saltzman said. She noted that the housing crisis has resulted in people moving farther from their jobs in the Bay Area's urban employment centers in order to find affordable homes, longer commutes have created a regional traffic nightmare and more cars on the freeways means more severe climate impacts. "This is the time for public transit to shine," Saltzman said.

The bill could get a hearing in the Assembly Transportation Committee this spring.

Bay City News contributed to this report.