Bay Area Council Blog: Transportation Archive

San Francisco Shuttle Bus Poll

SHUTTLE PILOT PROGRAM LAUNCHES IN SAN FRANCISCO

The Bay Area Council today (Aug. 1) hailed the launch of the 18-month Commuter Shuttles Pilot Program that will keep thousands of cars off already congested roads and contribute to continued economic growth across the region. For more than a year now, the Bay Area Council has convened shuttle operators in meetings with city transportation officials to develop this innovative transportation solution.  With more than 17,000 riders daily, the shuttles drastically reduce traffic and air pollution by removing an estimated 327,000 single passenger car trips and 9,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year.  The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) approved the pilot program in January.

“Today, we embark on an historic test that we believe will prove just how important commuter shuttles can be in bolstering our transportation system,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council.  “Commuter shuttles provide an important transportation option for thousands of San Francisco workers, students and others across a range of industries, easing traffic and reducing pollution across the region.  We applaud the SFMTA and Mayor Ed Lee for their leadership on this issue, and we look forward to continuing to work together as we move forward.”

Support for the program is overwhelming.  A recent poll of 500 likely San Francisco voters by EMC Research found that 70 percent support doing the pilot program.  Voters also support common sense regulation that does not hinder shuttle bus operations or expansion.  The pilot program will provide valuable data that will ensure shuttles operate in close coordination with public transit and minimize impacts on neighborhoods. To engage in the Council’s commuter shuttle policy work, contact Policy Manager Adrian Covert.

Jed

Executive Committee, Board Focus on Policy Priorities at July Meeting

The Bay Area Council’s lead policy priorities took center stage at the July 25 meeting of the Executive Committee and Board of Directors, chaired by Virgin America CEO David Cush and hosted by the San Francisco 49ers at their stunning new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. In addition to updates on the Council’s policy priorities, there was action on several key ballot initiatives, discussion on ways to improve California’s business climate through regulatory reform and presentations by Super Bowl 50 Host Committee CEO Keith Bruce, SF 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke and David Welch, whose education reform efforts produced landmark rulings to end teacher tenure.

The Executive Committee heard from AT&T California President Ken McNeely on the work of the 21st Century Infrastructure Committee, which he co-chairs with PG&E CEO Tony Earley. McNeely reported good progress on a study by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute that will serve as the centerpiece of a future advocacy effort. Arup Principal Transportation Committee Chair John Eddy outlined several initiatives that seek to leverage technology to improve traffic flows on congested Bay Area freeways, particularly along Highway 101 connecting San Francisco to Silicon Valley and San Jose. PwC Market Managing Partner Jim Henry, Chair of the Healthcare Committee, reported on exciting work to slow the growth of costs through greater transparency of healthcare information. TMG Partners CEO Michael Covarrubias and Chair of the Housing and Sustainable Development Committee described an initiative to speed development within targeted areas that Bay Area cities have identified for new housing. And Ken Petrilla, Head of Wells Fargo Bank’s China Desk, briefed members on the work of the California-China Office of Trade and Investment.

With the November election fast approaching, the Executive Committee took positions on three measures, giving its endorsement to statewide Proposition 44 to create a “rainy day” budget fund, an Alameda County transportation sales tax that will invest heavily in expanding BART and a San Francisco transportation bond measure. The endorsement of the SF measure came with some reservations over a lack of significant funding for regional transportation services on which the city relies.

Board members engaged in a discussion on California’s business climate, which regularly resides near the bottom of national rankings. Members gave vivid and painful examples of how various regulations and rules, from environmental to workplace, have slowed or halted the ability of their companies to maximize growth opportunities. The Council is exploring whether and where it might focus resources to address some of the most egregious obstacles to making California a friendlier place to do business. Stay tuned for more information on this effort.

The Board heard an update from Super Bowl 50 Host Committee CEO Keith Bruce on exciting progress in planning for the big game in February 2016. Following a landmark court ruling in June striking down teacher tenure and other teacher workplace rules, the Council was pleased to welcome speaker David Welch, whose group Student Matters spearheaded the lawsuit. Welch talked about the importance of the ruling and his expectation that it will spawn similar challenges across the country. The Board was also treated to remarks from 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke, who said the team’s roster is the most talented it’s been in recent years. He fielded questions about the Niner’s defensive backfield and expectations for QB Colin Kaepernick.

Board members also enjoyed an escorted tour of the new stadium, including the many unique and luxurious event and meeting spaces available for rent. Learn more about meeting spaces at Levi’s Stadium.

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Bay Area Council Poll: Housing, Traffic Reach Crisis Stage

As home prices in the Bay Area soar to heights not seen since before the Great Recession, 79 percent of residents in the 2014 Bay Area Council Poll say the region is in the grip of a housing cost crisis. And 71 percent say the region’s traffic congestion has reached crisis stage.

For complete results, visit 2014 Bay Area Council Poll.

Concerns about the region’s snarled traffic, which regularly places high on national congestion rankings, could get even worse as partisan squabbling threatens to derail an agreement this year on whether and how to salvage the near-bankrupt federal Highway Trust Fund. The Bay Area receives about $900 million annually in federal transportation funding that could be in peril.

“Costly and time-consuming regulation is one of the biggest culprits in artificially stunting the region’s housing production,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “We’re considering asking Governor Brown on an emergency basis to look at streamlining or eliminating certain California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) rules that discourage infill and other urban housing solutions that can help alleviate this crisis. Unless we can make measurable progress in building more housing, we will continue to see residents priced out and forced out of this region, and we will quickly see our economic growth come to a grinding halt.”

But while residents agree something needs to be done about the cost of housing, support softens for the one thing that can help bring down costs: Building more housing. The poll does find that a small majority of 52 percent of residents believe the region has failed to build sufficient housing to support healthy economic growth, but among a long list of issues that residents feel government leaders should be focused on, building more housing comes in dead last.

Residents do seem to appreciate – at least theoretically — the importance of infill housing, with 64 percent saying new housing should be built in existing cities and not farmland and open space. But residents aren’t as sure that new housing should be built near them, with 55 percent supporting new housing in their neighborhood and a smaller 47 percent supporting new housing development when they know it will increase population density in their city.

“When it comes to finding solutions to our housing problem, it’s hard to tell whether we need a home builder, a psychologist or a magic wand,” Wunderman said. “There is a fundamental disconnect among the region’s highly educated residents about the relationship between supply, demand and price. The Bay Area is the fastest growing region in the state and unless we come to terms with that and the need for more housing, we are going to pull the rug out from under our economy.”

Residents do prioritize approaches that would make housing more affordable, with 61 percent supporting reducing fees and regulations on new housing if it results in housing the lower and middle income residents can afford.

Views about the region’s traffic problems are similarly challenging to reconcile. In addition to the 71 percent that say the region is experiencing a traffic crisis and the almost 81 percent that say traffic is the same or worse as a year ago, 68 percent said they drive alone to work and never use transit. Meanwhile, 61 percent of residents want to improve public transportation.

The results also provide fascinating insights into these issues based on where residents live, their age and income.

Housing and transportation were among a number of key issues on which residents were surveyed in the Bay Area Council Poll, which was conducted by Oakland-based public opinion research firm EMC Research. More than 1,000 residents were surveyed in an online poll on issues related to economic growth, housing and transportation, early childhood education, energy and communications, and healthcare. The results are being released over several days beginning May 27.

San Francisco Shuttle Bus Poll

CEQA LAWSUIT SEEKS TO BLOCK EMPLOYEE SHUTTLE PROGRAM

The Bay Area Council called “misguided and misdirected” a lawsuit filed May 1 seeking to block an employee shuttle pilot program that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved by an overwhelming 8-2 margin, that eliminates up to 327,000 single-passenger car trips annually, that avoids 8,600 metric tons of carbon emissions annually and that helps thousands of workers from a wide range of industries get to and from their jobs.

Over the past almost two years, the Council has convened companies that use shuttles to meet with city transportation leaders to craft the pilot program, which is due to launch this summer and run for 18 months. It’s not clear what the lawsuit means for the start of the pilot program or the continuing operation of the shuttles. Opponents have sought to blame the shuttles and vilify tech workers for the rising cost of housing in San Francisco. In response, the Council released this statement:

“This lawsuit continues a misguided and misdirected campaign to blame employee shuttles and the tech industry for the serious housing crisis that is afflicting San Francisco and other parts of the region,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Rather than trying to halt a transportation program with huge environmental benefits that successfully gets cars off the road, the groups behind this lawsuit would be better served focusing on the real problem of how we create more housing and develop sufficient transportation alternatives to serve everyone. We have failed as a region over the past 30 years to build sufficient housing and make sufficient investments in our transportation system, and we’re feeling the effects of that as the economy goes through a rapid growth spurt. Attacking employee shuttles misses the target completely.”

Ironically, opponents used the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to challenge the pilot program. The Council has advocated for changes to CEQA to avoid abuses of the law for purposes not related to environmental protection. To engage in the Council’s employee shuttles work, contact Policy Manager Adrian Covert.

bartcar

BART BUILDING BRIDGES TO BUSINESS COMMUNITY

Taking the initiative to forge a stronger partnership with business leaders, BART General Manager Grace Crunican and Board members Tom Radulovich and Zachary Mallett this week met with a sold-out crowd at the Bay Area Council to discuss the future of BART and what it means for business stakeholders.

Record ridership combined with aged equipment is creating serious challenges for BART, its riders, and the businesses who rely upon its service.  Three major systemwide projects are critical to sustaining and improving BART’s reliability while also expanding capacity: new train cars, a new train control system, and a new maintenance facility.  Director Radulovich also described several improvements that are targeted to address challenges that are particular to downtown San Francisco stations, including updating escalators and excavating and constructing new side-platforms to expand capacity at Embarcadero and Montgomery stations.

While major projects such as these take years to fund and deliver, BART is also taking immediate steps to improve station cleanliness and security.  For a glimpse of the new rail cars that will begin to arrive in 2017, a full-size mockup will be on display at various locations in the Bay Area during April.

caltrain

CRITICAL CALTRAIN UPGRADE PROJECT APPEARS ON TRACK

With soaring mass transit ridership and growing traffic along the San Francisco-Silicon Valley corridor, the project to electrify and modernize the Caltrain commuter rail system cannot come soon enough. So, it was welcome news that the San Mateo County Transit District (SAMTRANS) recently released the draft environmental impact report for the project. Electrifying and modernizing Caltrain was among the Bay Area Council’s top policy priorities in 2012 and we were instrumental in convening key local and regional transportation leaders to secure the $1.5 billion in funding for the project.

Electrifying and modernizing Caltrain will allow it to run more trains, helping it keep pace with ridership that is expected to climb from the current 55,000 riders a day to 69,000 in 2019 when the project is scheduled to be completed. In addition to the transportation benefits, including providing cleaner, quieter trains, the Bay Area Council Economic Institute estimated in a 2012 study that the project would generate economic benefits of $2.5 billion and create the equivalent of almost 9,600 jobs. (Read the full report here.) In the meantime, the Council is reviewing the environmental report and expects to weigh in during public review and comment period which is scheduled to close April 29. To engage in the Council’s transportation policy work, please contact Vice President Michael Cunningham.