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    September Is Bay Area Public Transit Month

    By Assemblymember Phil Ting–

    Last month we celebrated the 150th anniversary of San Francisco’s beloved cable cars, an iconic and vital part of the Bay Area’s transportation infrastructure. Indeed, many residents rely on cable cars, buses, trains, or ferries to get to school, medical appointments, work, fun activities, and more. For the month of September, we recognize the vital role all modes of public transportation have in our lives and our economy for Bay Area Transit Month.

    This year’s commemorations are worth noting because the state Legislature stepped up to save the Bay Area’s transit agencies, as they faced a “fiscal cliff”—a situation in which declining fare revenue and the end of pandemic funding from the federal government could have resulted in significant operational cuts as early as this summer. Measures to stay afloat could have meant reducing hours and/or cutting back frequency of service, largely impacting commuters and lower income Californians who don’t own a car.

    But all that was avoided for now because we allocated $5.1 billion in state funding to cover the transit systems over four years. The money is flexible, allowing them to use it for capital or operations. As Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, I support helping out MUNI, BART, and others, but I also didn’t want to just hand over a blank check without some accountability.

    Transit’s biggest problem lately has been the lack of ridership, which has been slowly increasing, but nowhere near pre-pandemic levels. Customers have said they’re reluctant to come back because of safety, cleanliness, and reliability. I want to be assured those issues are addressed. We can’t hand over money just to maintain the status quo. Transit agencies must improve and bring riders back.

    To address my concerns, I’m happy to report the $5.1 billion funding does come with conditions:

    • transit operators must submit a short-term financial plan and data;
    • there will be no additional funding after four years, unless the Transportation Agency approves a long-term financial plan;
    • and a Transit Transformation Task Force shall develop policy recommendations by the end of 2025 on ways to grow ridership and improve the customer experience, including seamless transfers between the Bay Area’s 27 transit agencies.

    Transit agencies foresaw this funding gap coming and sought our help. Twenty-six years ago, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission received authorization from the state Legislature to ask voters to approve a regional gas tax to help fund public transportation. They have yet to pursue it. Our agencies need to get that Bay Area-wide measure on the ballot, if they want to stay in business.

    In the meantime, our short-term efforts buy us time, and transit services are running. We can enjoy the many events scheduled to celebrate Bay Area Transit Month, including rides, hikes, and daytrips organized by San Francisco Transit Riders. Their website ( lists where and when you can join the fun.

    Safe, reliable, and clean public transportation must continue to be part of our lives, especially since it keeps our economy strong and helps us meet our climate goals by providing car-free options to travel.

    Phil Ting represents the 19th Assembly District, which includes the west side of San Francisco along with the communities of Broadmoor, Colma, and Daly City, as well as part of South San Francisco and San Bruno.

    Assemblymember Phil Ting
    Published on September 7, 2023