Bay Area Council Blog

weta ferry


Bay Area Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman today (Aug. 31) was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to the Board of Directors of the Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA), which operates the Bay Area’s waterborne commute service that also functions as one of the region’s key transportation lifelines in times of natural disaster and other major emergencies.

“It’s time to push the throttle forward on a robust regional ferry system that can change the game in battling Bay Area congestion,” Wunderman said. “The Bay Area Council has long envisioned a muscular ferry system on par with other great systems around the world, like those in Washington, New York, Europe and Asia. I’m extremely excited to work with WETA Chair Jody Breckenridge and the rest of the Board in realizing the awesome power of our bay to move people and keep our economy moving in good times and in times of disaster.”

Under the leadership of former CEO Sunne Wright McPeak and Chair Ron Cowan, the Bay Area Council was instrumental in creating the Water Transit Authority (WTA), WETA’s predecessor, and then recasting the WTA into today’s SF Bay Ferry. The Council in recent months has been working closely with WETA and other business and transportation groups on ways to accelerate the expansion of ferry service, including between the East Bay and San Francisco and new routes linking the booming Silicon Valley with the rest of the region.

A growing population, a sizzling economy and no money or space for new highways and bridges have produced a perfect storm of congestion on the region’s bridges, roads and highways, Wunderman said. Even vaunted land-based mass transit systems like BART and Caltrain are overwhelmed and struggling to keep up with even basic maintenance.

The 10-year anniversary last week of Hurricane Katrina also served as a sobering reminder of the need for strong, well-integrated and regular emergency ferry service. A recent report by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute highlighted the Bay Area’s vulnerability in this time of climate change and sea-level rise to extreme storms, and found that an overdue mega storm could cripple large swaths of the region’s transportation system. A separate Economic Institute study found similar vulnerabilities from an earthquake.

The Bay Area was once heavily reliant on ferry service. Wunderman noted that at their peak service in the mid-1930s, a fleet of 50 ferries shuttled an estimated 50-60 million passengers across the bay each year. Restoring a greater portion of that service would be a game changer in battling Bay Area congestion, he said.

“The time is now,” Wunderman said. “Demand for ferries is enjoying steady growth. Ridership on WETA ferries rose from 1.4 million in 2012 to more than 2.14 million in the past fiscal year, an almost 53 percent increase. WETA is to be commended for its recent move to increase service in response to rising demand. More must be done and more can be done.”

Key Milestones in the Bay Area Council’s History with Regional Ferry Service

  • In 1997, the California State Senate approved Senate Resolution 19 (Barbara Lee), calling on the Bay Area Council and the Bay Area Economic Forum to convene a Blue Ribbon Task Force to study the feasibility of expanding water transit in the Bay Area.
  • In 1999, the Blue Ribbon Task Force released its report, recommending the creation of a regional agency with a mandate to create a regional ferry system with 28 terminals, 20 routes, 75 vessels, carrying 15 to 20 million passengers per year. At the time, the Bay Area had six ferry routes with 3.5 million annual riders.
  • In 1999, the California Legislature enacted SB428 (Don Perata) creating the Water Transit Authority, based on the model proposed by the Bay Area Council.
  • In 2006, on the heels of Hurricane Katrina, the Council recognized the need for a higher priority attention on water transit emergency response, and convened a new Blue Ribbon Task Force which recommended that WTA be transformed into WETA, with a dual mandate: transportation and emergency response.
  • In response, the Legislature enacted SB976 (Tom Torlakson) that recast the WTA into WETA, following the model proposed by the Bay Area Council.
  • At the Council’s urging, then-Senator Perata included $250 million in Proposition 1B in 2006 for emergency response capital funding.
  • In 2014, with commute challenges rising to the level of a competitive issue for the Bay Area, the Council reactivated its Water Transit Committee in order to organize and engage employers, land developers, investors, and other private companies for a collaborative effort with WETA to expand ferry operations.


Bay Area Council CEO Jim Wunderman (who asked that we not run this story – sorry Jim!) on Tuesday (Aug. 25) was named to what has become THE List in Sacramento power, the Capitol Weekly’s Top 100, of “the most powerful movers and shakers in California politics and public policy.” Capitol Weekly is one of California’s most respected sources for political and government news and views. First Lady Anne Gust Brown topped the CW list, which included seven women in the top 10. His ranking at #51 (look out Anne Gust!) is a credit to his hard work building relationships, and not being afraid to have a strong opinion on behalf of our members. Two years ago the Bay Area Council opened an office in Sacramento, hired some top notch staff there, reinvigorated the Bay Area Caucus, and has routinely shuttled our Bay Area-based staff up as well to ensure our presence and engagement was felt in the State Capitol. With Washington, D.C. routinely gridlocked, much of the action for our region and our members is happening in Sacramento.
It’s not just about the staff. The Council’s easy-on-the-eyes Sacramento office provides our member companies a strong platform from which to work directly with Gov. Brown and his administration, legislators and top agency leaders on a wide range of policy and legislative issues. The Bay Area Council’s annual Sacramento Day, when we bring a delegation of business leaders to the capitol, is widely praised for the high-level meetings we secure with legislative leaders and high-level administration officials. If your company is not involved, we think you should be! Our thanks to Capitol Weekly for its work in assembling the Top 100 list and for ongoing journalistic work to enlighten and educate Californians about public policy and state governance. To engage in our Sacramento government relations work, contact Policy Manager Cornelious Burke.

See the Capitol Weekly Top 100>>



This week (Aug. 28), both the Senate and the Assembly overwhelmingly passed AB 57 authored by Assemblymember Bill Quirk. This bill provides that a collocation or siting application for a wireless telecommunications facility is deemed approved if a city or county fails to approve or disapprove the application within the timeframe established by the Federal Communications Commission. This past April, the Bay Area Council Economic Institute completed the study — 21st Century Infrastructure: Keeping California Connected, Powered and Competitive – which outlined the vital role advanced energy and communications infrastructure will play in California’s future economy.

The study found that increasing reliance on advanced wireless services is creating a “data-tsunami” for which California’s existing communications infrastructure is ill prepared. To accommodate this soaring demand for wireless coverage, capacity and bandwidth, new and upgraded wireless infrastructure is desperately needed. By enforcing the FCC timeline requirements for wireless infrastructure, AB 57 encourages the deployment of advanced telecommunications infrastructure that will spur California’s economic development and bolster public safety.

Read Bay Area Council CEO Jim Wunderman’s op-ed urging legislators to vote for AB 57 and the Governor to approve this measure>>

Read a Letter to the Editor in the San Francisco Chronicle by Policy Director Adrian Covert >>





With 112 campuses, 2.1 million students, and a budget of $7.3 billion, the California Community College System is the largest provider of workforce training in the state and nation. Chancellor Brice Harris and Vice Chancellor Van Ton-Quinlivan were among the community college sector leaders Bay Area Council members engaged at a Strong Workforce Town Hall event held at the Council on Thursday (Aug. 27). The conversation was centered around 25 recommendations contained in a just-released report produced by the California Community Colleges Task Force on Workforce, Job Creation and a Strong Economy that is focused on closing the “skills gap” that is plaguing the California economy and is expected to only get worse.

According to the report, “By 2025, 30 percent of all job openings in California—or a total of 1.9 million jobs—will require some form of postsecondary education short of a four-year degree.” Laura Butler, Vice President, Talent Management and Chief Diversity Officer for Bay Area Council member Pacific Gas and Electric Company, gave remarks on “The Value of a Strong Workforce” as part of the event, which was the final in a series of related town halls held throughout the state and sponsored by Bay Area Council member JP Morgan Chase & Co. View recommendations from the California Community Colleges’ Task Force on Workforce, Job Creation and a Strong Economy>>

Led by Co-Chairs Teresa Briggs of Deloitte and Glenn Shannon of Shorenstein Properties, the Council’s Workforce Development Committee has served as a key partner to the Task Force since its early planning stages and has been a participant in previous town hall events that educated the recommendations and report. To engage in the Council’s Workforce Development policy work, please contact Vice President of Policy Linda Galliher.

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 3.46.05 PM

Preparing the Bay Area FOR a COMING MEGA-STORM

(Bay Area Council Policy Director Adrian Covert wrote the following piece for the San Francisco Chronicle)

California is today learning a hard lesson about inadequate drought preparation. But if California’s hydrological record teaches us anything, it’s that extreme droughts tend to be followed by extreme floods—the flip sides of our meteorological coin.

Whether or not the strengthening El Nino delivers a drenching blow, experts are clear that we are long overdue for an extreme storm, a West Coast version of Superstorm Sandy or Hurricane Katrina. The Texas example is particularly worrisome, as that state’s four-year drought was abruptly ended last winter by disastrous flooding that left dozens dead. And yet, we in the Bay Area have done little to invest in the infrastructure necessary to blunt the catastrophic impacts of such an event.

The good news is that a big part of what’s needed to defend the region against Bay flooding—healthy wetlands—will also improve the Bay ecosystem. That’s why the Bay Area Council is partnering with a number of environmental, government and business organizations on a regional initiative to prepare the Bay Area for the coming storm, and improve the environment while we’re at it.

Today, over 30,000 acres of salt ponds and diked shoreline from Sonoma to Santa Clara are already owned by public agencies and ready to be restored into wetlands. Healthy wetland habitat has been shown to absorb tidal energy and reduce flood risk.

To that end, the Bay Area Council and our partners are readying a 2016 region-wide ballot measure that will ask voters to approve a modest, $12 parcel tax to bolster our waterfront defenses. These funds could provide huge benefits to the Bay ecosystem while improving public access and protecting our homes, businesses and critical infrastructure. A poll conducted this past spring by Fairbank, Maslin Maullin, Metz & Assoc. found 70 percent of Bay Area voters supported such a measure.

Let’s be clear: cost of inaction is extremely high. California is vulnerable to prolonged periods of heavy rainfall, elevated tides and gale force winds known as “atmospheric rivers.” These storms can bring flooding on a biblical scale. The great flood of 1862 brought rain to Northern California for 43 days straight, transforming the central valley into an inland sea, destroying Sacramento and bankrupting the state.

What would happen in the Bay Area today? A March 2015 study by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute – Surviving the Storm – estimates that a mega-storm would conservatively wreak $10.4 billion in damages on the Bay Area. That’s about the same as the Loma Prieta earthquake.

Surviving the Storm models a significantly smaller storm than 1862, but larger than anything seen since. Ten days of torrential rain would grind daily life to a halt. Local rivers and creeks would swell beyond anything seen since the Gold Rush. Air travel would stop and major roadways would be blocked. The San Francisco Bay, elevated by low barometric pressure, storm surge, and a king tide, would overtop local levees like a clogged sink, resulting in widespread flooding. Add sea level rise, and this existing problem is going to get much worse.
While virtually every coastal city on earth is grappling with the impact of sea level rise and climate change, the Bay Area has both the natural and human assets to lead the response. Our overall hilly landscape and the Golden Gate help limit the region’s overall vulnerability, while our intellectual, financial and political resources are unrivaled. With a little investment and preparation, we can step back from the brink.

Visit to learn about the risks facing the bay, and access shareable resources to help spread the word.

Bay Healthy Logo


Top business and industry leaders continue to join the unprecedented regional health and wellness initiative Bay Healthy. Among the most recent is Hill Physicians Medical Group CEO David Joyner.

“I will exercise at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week,” Joyner pledges. “I will schedule exercise breaks and not let other matters to get in the way. My health will be a priority because it enables me to take care of my family and employees.”

The Bay Healthy online platform enables individuals and employers to pledge One Thing—any small action or behavior related to nutrition, fitness, sleep, gratitude or volunteerism—toward improving their health. It equips employers with the tools to challenge and motivate their employees to do the same. The online platform also enables businesses to promote and reinforce workplace wellness programs already in place through its promotional story-sharing feature.

Healthy employees are more productive, more creative and less likely to experience health problems that drive up health costs for everyone. In that spirit, the region’s leading industry leaders are committing to get their companies Bay Healthy. Promoting health makes very good business sense. Other major payoffs for wellness programs include improved presenteeism and engagement with the company and its business or mission. Read the op-ed on Bay Healthy published in the Business Times>>

Presented by Sutter Health and developed in partnership by the Bay Area Council and San Francisco Business Times, Bay Healthy is leveraging the strength of the region’s employer community to make a meaningful impact on the health of the Bay Area. Special thanks to Bay Healthy sponsors Benz Communications, Dignity Health and PwC.

Click here to pledge your One Thing and learn more about Bay Healthy!



The Bay Area Council’s initiative to improve Bay Area commutes got an endorsement—in a manner of speaking—from Wednesday’s (Aug. 26) release of new data showing that the Bay Area has the second worst commutes in the United States. According to the report from the Texas Transportation Institute and the transportation data company INRIX, in 2014 the average Bay Area highway commute in the peak direction took 57 percent longer than it would without congestion, with congestion costing Bay Area residents $5.5 billion in wasted time and fuel. Highway 101 is the heart of the commute beast, so the Council, guided by an employer task force, is driving a three-part multi-modal solution: create a high-occupancy lane on 101 in San Mateo County that provides congestion free travel for carpoolers and buses; electrify Caltrain for higher speeds, frequency, and capacity; and add new ferry service in the mid-Peninsula area. Our aim is a commute corridor that works as well, and that is as innovative and customer-responsive, as the companies along Highway 101. To participate in the Bay Area Council’s transportation advocacy, contact Senior Vice President Michael Cunningham.



The Bay Area Council this week (Aug. 19) weighed in on the Legislature’s Special Session to address California’s massive road repair problem. It is estimated that state-run roads, bridges and highways face a backlog of almost $60 billion in repairs. Gov. Jerry Brown called the Special Session to identify $6 billion in funding annually over the next 10 years to meet the need. On Wednesday (Aug. 19), Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman joined Gov. Brown, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and a cadre of business, transportation and labor leaders at the Port of Oakland for a press conference to highlight the importance of reaching an agreement to invest in the state’s critical transportation and goods movement system.

The Council’s Executive Committee recently approved supporting a combination of revenue methods that the Legislature is considering for meeting the Governor’s $6 billion annual goal and bringing California’s roads back into a state of good repair. Among those methods was a new idea to reauthorize the sales tax portion of Proposition 30, which voters approved in 2012 and is due to expire next year. Extending the sales tax would generate $1.5 billion annually.

In remarks later Wednesday during a roundtable forum convened as part of the Legislature’s Special Session on Transportation and Infrastructure Development, Wunderman emphasized that the Council would support reauthorizing the Prop. 30 sales tax only if there is iron-clad assurance that the money would be used exclusively for transportation. He also outlined a series of other recommendations for injecting more efficiency into how California undertakes transportation projects. Wunderman emphasized that California’s deteriorating transportation system has become a strategic business issue and a threat to the state economic competitiveness.

Read Jim Wunderman’s full testimony on transportation funding>>



San Jose’s economy has quietly had a great year and is poised for even more growth. That was the message from Mayor Sam Liccardo as he met with the Bay Area Council Economic Institute’s Board of Trustees at San Jose City Hall on Wednesday (Aug. 19). Liccardo touted his city’s position as the manufacturing hub of Silicon Valley, with the city recently announcing numerous business expansions in high-tech manufacturing. In addition to industrial jobs, the mayor hopes the ongoing revitalization of the downtown core with new, high-density housing will bring more retail and commercial jobs to the area.

Mayor Liccardo also commented on the planned expansion of BART to downtown San Jose and the economic benefits it will bring, though he cautioned that a $2 billion funding gap will require the city and Santa Clara County to explore all financing options. Nanci Klein and Kim Walesh from the city’s Office of Economic Development followed the mayor with an enlightening presentation on the history of land use in San Jose and how the state’s tax system puts a financial burden on cities for creating housing.

The Board of Trustees meeting continued with discussions on the region’s housing crisis and congested transportation systems. The Board posed solutions ranging from governance reform to new financing mechanisms that could help spur investment. Strategies like these will be the focus of the Economic Institute’s forthcoming Regional Economic Strategy Roadmap, which captures policy recommendations from the business community, to be released in November. To learn about the Economic Institute’s research capabilities, contact Economic Institute President Micah Weinberg.



The Bay Area Council on Tuesday (Aug. 18) applauded San Rafael Assemblymember Marc Levine for introducing new legislation (AB 9-1X) that would help unsnarl growing North Bay traffic by speeding the reopening of an existing third lane on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge connecting Marin and Contra Costa counties. The Council has worked closely with Levine and regional and North Bay transportation leaders for months to craft a solution for overcoming a variety of obstacles to reopening the eastbound lane, which has sat unused for years.

“What better, faster way to beautify the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge than to get rid of ugly traffic,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “We applaud Assemblymember Marc Levine for his dogged effort to speed the reopening of the span’s existing, unused third lane. Traffic on this critical east-west commuter link is causing horrendous backups on the bridge, local streets and nearby Highway 101, not to mention the increased carbon pollution from idling cars. Levine’s sensible legislation will move this project forward quickly and provide badly needed traffic relief for the North Bay and thousands of commuters.”

State and regional transportation authorities have said the lane would be reopened in 2018 as part of a larger project. Levine’s legislation would open the lane on September 30, 2015 on a temporary basis while planning on the larger project progresses. The bridge has become a choke point as evening eastbound traffic snakes for miles on local roads and causes huge back-ups on Highway 101, Marin County’s major commute corridor. To engage in the Council’s transportation policy work, contact Senior Vice President Michael Cunningham.