Behind the push for a more regional, seamless integrated transit network.
It happens two to three times a week, Alex Rivkin says.
His Muni train runs a few minutes late, pulling up to the 4th and King Street station in San Francisco just in time for Rivkin to run frantically toward his departing Caltrain, only to see it pull away before he gets there.
Or vice versa: He’s standing on a Muni platform and, along with two dozen other people, pounding on a Muni train stopped at a red light that won’t open its doors to the travelers who just sprinted from the Caltrain station.
“It’s sadistic and cold-blooded,” said the frustrated San Francisco resident, who uses the two services, along with a city-provided shuttle in Mountain View, to get to his job at a South Bay pharmaceutical company and back home. “There is a lack of accountability for customer service, and it feels like these agencies just don’t care.”
He added, “I wish they would just talk to each other.”
Rivkin is not the only one who wants to see more cooperation and coordination among train, bus and ferry operators. At a time when regional leaders are considering asking taxpayers to back a proposed “mega-measure,” a $100 billion or more regional transportation sales tax, transit advocates say it’s more imperative than ever for the Bay Area’s more than two dozen transit agencies to work together and put customers first.
I love train travel. I’m no expert on the viability of SMART, but I can tell you I won’t soon forget that ride. After passing Rohnert Park, we looked out on a thin ribbon of clouds just below the thickets of oak that crown the eastern mountains. Between Petaluma and Novato, we passed among wetlands where birds great and small hovered and glided over and dipped into shallow green waters. Along the route we saw vineyards and ranchettes, farms and grazing lands — most of them unseen from the freeway to our west, and all of them beheld from a fresh vista.
Call me crazy, but for the past year I’d wanted to take the SMART train and Golden Gate ferry to San Francisco.
Readers may remember that last year I wrote about traveling there with my wife, Carol, cruising by motor scooter along the back roads of Sonoma and Marin counties and across the Golden Gate Bridge. We had loved that adventure, and we were ready to try yet another way to get to “Baghdad-by-the-Bay”, as famed newspaper columnist Herb Caen used to call his town.
The wildfires that struck Oct. 9 didn’t change our plans, especially when our home remained safe and the threats of evacuation had passed. If anything, by the third weekend of October I was all the more ready for a break after two weeks of breathing smoke and covering stories in the ashes of Santa Rosa’s Coffey Park neighborhood.
For anyone contemplating a “weekender” jaunt away from Sonoma County — for a Giants game, a concert, a bright-lights-big-city event — what we found venturing forth suggests both potential and some limitations of today’s North Bay public transit system.
We set out on a Friday morning for my maiden passage on SMART. The first challenge we faced was getting to the station. For that, I pulled out my smart phone and opened the Lyft ridesharing app. I’m not tech savvy, but I easily managed to request a ride. Within seven minutes we were seated in the back of a Kia sedan and on our way to the downtown Santa Rosa station. Cost: $11.96.
After stopping for a tasty hot chocolate at nearby Aroma Roasters, we walked past the historic stone train depot and climbed the platform. There we discovered that SMART was offering free rides that day due to the fires (normally the cost is $9.50 to San Rafael using a Clipper Card, which is accepted by all forms of public transportation in this story). A few minutes later the 8:31 a.m. train rolled up, and a highlight of our journey began.
Read more at: Ferries, trains and automobiles: a somewhat SMART way for Sonoma County to do a weekend in San Francisco
There is much to relish about the Bay Area, from the intoxicating landscape to the blissful lack of humidity.
One thing is not perfect, though: the daunting nature of the region’s public transportation system, a patchwork of more than 20 operators spread across nine counties and 101 municipalities that have yet to spawn a cohesive map.
As housing costs here continue to escalate, with growing numbers of people moving farther afield in search of affordability, the disjointed nature of the region’s transportation fiefs, each with its own fare structures and nomenclature, has become the topic of increasingly intense debate among transportation policy experts. A study released this year by SPUR, a Bay Area urban planning and policy think tank, encapsulated much of the public frustration on the subject and has been widely discussed on blogs and in public forums, including one at the venerable Commonwealth Club of California.
“Ninety percent of the people in the Bay Area are essentially tourists when it comes to transit,” said Ratna Amin, SPUR’s transportation policy director. “They don’t use it.”
The study recommends a variety of changes, from better trip-planning tools to smoother transfers. But there are roughly two dozen transit agencies in the region, and each operates and plans its system independently, with its own funding sources, which makes any uniform change difficult.
Read more at: Bay Area’s Disjointed Public Transit Network Inspires a Call for Harmony – The New York Times