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New thrust for regional transportation solutions

Uploaded: Jul 25, 2019

For decades, public transportation systems in the Bay Area have been balkanized with little thought given to connectivity for riders.

Cities, for instance in the Livermore Valley, set up their own systems (Wheels) because getting the attention of AC Transit was nearly impossible. Can you imagine the giant system working with Pleasanton school district officials to add service to Amador Valley High this summer and fall while its main parking lot is under construction with solar panels? The nimble local system met the short-term need.

So, after smaller systems proliferated, there's been an increased focus on connecting the various systems. BART extensions to Dublin-Pleasanton, the San Francisco Airport and now toward San Jose are part of that overall plan.

In addition, the nimble Livermore Amador Valley Transit Authority now is spearheading the Valley Link connection between San Joaquin County and the Dublin-Pleasanton terminal BART station after BART's board reneged on its decades-long commitment to bring the system to Livermore.

Fortunately, Valley Link may be the better alternative and far cheaper. It delivered the feasibility plan and preliminary financing plan in mid-June, well before the July 1 deadline.

Now we find out that three influential Bay Area nonprofits have been working together for more than two years to craft an updated version of the regional transportation system. The Mercury News reported that the Bay Area Council, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and SPUR, the regional planning think-tank, are putting together a $100 billion plan.

The consortium has not released details, but it's likely to include a second Transbay Tube for BART, extending Caltrain into the Salesforce transit center in downtown San Francisco, high-occupancy vehicle toll lanes on most if not all Bay Area freeways and expanding ferry service.

There's also no details on how the $100 billion would be raised over several decades. A favorite tactic has been raising the sales tax or increasing bridge fares to pay for improvements. Voters in most Bay Area counties have raised sales taxes (it's an additional 1 cent in Alameda County), but that money is spoken for and the plan needs new additional money. It could also be higher property or business taxes through the nine counties.

Voters in both Los Angeles and Seattle, areas that face terrible congestion just like the Bay Area, approved major funding packages in 2016 to start addressing the problem. Congestion in the Bay Area, coming out of the recession, grew 80% between 2010-16. Transportation issues go hand-in-hand with strong, full-employment economies and chronic housing shortages.

Stay tuned.