Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) announced Wednesday his introduction of a bill intended to streamline the Bay Area's transit systems and simplify the rider experience.
Assembly Bill 629 would direct the Bay Area's transit agencies to create a pilot program for one overarching fare system, allowing riders to travel across multiple agencies on a fixed fare using a special pass.
The bill would also direct the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to identify and prioritize local transit corridors across the region that need immediate fixes or repairs. Eventually, according to Chiu's office, these corridors could support a regional rapid bus transit system.
"Navigating our disjointed transit system can be an intimidating and frustrating experience for riders, which leads to less transit ridership overall," Chiu said.
More than two dozen individual transit agencies operate in the Bay Area's nine counties, with varying fare structures, payment methods, trip planning tools and scheduling.
Chiu also pointed to the region's falling transit utilization prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Transit ridership fell 5.2% between 2016 and 2018, according to Chiu's office. In addition, bus speeds across the region fell 9% between 2001 and 2016, while commute times increased by 11% during that time.
Chiu and some Bay Area transit advocates argue the region should take action now as increased vaccine access and falling case rates point toward an eventual end to the pandemic.
"As Bay Area residents get ready to get back out, our roads are already nearly as crowded as they were pre-pandemic, while transit ridership is still down," BART Board Director Rebecca Saltzman said. "We're in a climate crisis, and California won't meet our climate goals without reducing driving."
The Assembly's Transportation Committee is expected to discuss the bill in the coming weeks.
"As we navigate our way out of the pandemic and look to increase ridership, we must put the rider experience first and create a more seamless, reliable transportation system," Chiu said.