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Trains, Pains and Bay Area Automobiles

bus transportation

Get around, I get around. The song’s been in my head since seeing Love and Mercy, the Brian Wilson story. I get around by train, bus, ferry, by car. Over the years my commute pattern has spanned the map. First, it was an easy walk + Emery Go Round. Then, I had another easy one: AC Transit, alternating with bike. Things got complicated when I had to cross the Bay from Oakland to Fort Mason and, then, to the Presidio. That commute was not only long, it was expensive, relative to what I earned. Now, thanks to the flexibility of my work, I have no commute. But I’m also far away from convenient public transport, the kind that doesn’t add hours to my day.

I think of how transit options have changed and for whom around the Bay Area. Lack of reliable, affordable transport keeps the income inequality gap gaping and adds to our climate woes. A few weeks ago, we posted a mega list on what to do with kids this summer, and each of those activities hinges on getting around. So fun free stuff may not really be fun, free or even feasible without transport. Who in the Bay Area is tackling this?

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission, for one. Along with other regional planning agencies, MTC makes its recommendations to Plan Bay Area 2040 (we took this up in an earlier post). They also recognize local organizations and individuals who are making transport better. Specifically addressing those most vulnerable populations, it operates a Coordinated Public Transit-Human Services Transportation Plan.  You can also locate ways to participate in planning process there. “MTC’s current PPP was adopted in February 2015. This document informs interested residents on how to engage in the range of MTC’s planning work and funding allocations, and includes a framework for public outreach and involvement for the update to Plan Bay Area — the region’s long-range transportation and land use blueprint.”

Engaging communities in planning is what TransForm does well. Its mission – “promote walkable communities with excellent transportation choices to connect people of all incomes to opportunity, keep California affordable and help solve our climate crisis.” TransForm’s goals have increased in urgency since economic pressures in the Bay Area have pushed more people further away from their jobs. In a recent tweet, they draw attention to an Atlantic article on the Next Economy’s impact on distance commuters. They take on the transportation tangle through programs and policy advocacy, and we hope to look deeper into their Playbook for fulfilling their mission.

In our conversation with Bay Localize, we also learned of other avenues to explore, including Urban Habitat. It aims to “build power in low-income communities and communities of color by combining education, advocacy, research, and coalition building to advance environmental, economic, and social justice in the Bay Area.” Through leadership development, coalition building and re-framing the debate, Urban Habitat puts those communities left out of the planning process (those often most affected by its adverse turns) at the center of decision-making. The advocacy efforts of its affiliated 6 Wins for Social Equity Network have resulted in changes to the original Plan Bay Area.

Conversations about the challenges and potential solutions to transit are frequently on deck at SPUR. We hope to post on the upcoming programming on the Future of the Bus.  (photo: Flickr, by Michael Patrick)

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