Our Approach

At TransForm, we believe that all Californians should be able to live in wonderful places with safe, abundant options to get where they need to go.

That’s why we are building a movement to transform our communities and transportation. With new solutions, smarter investments, and better planning, we can together transform our future into one defined by access, health, justice, and sustainability. Get involved!

Continue on this page to learn about:

TransForm is California’s leading transportation advocate and an award-winning nonprofit organization working in the San Francisco Bay Area and California. 

Our Mission

People at outdoor cafeTransForm promotes walkable communities with excellent transportation choices to connect people of all incomes to opportunity, keep California affordable and help solve our climate crisis. 

With diverse partners we engage communities in planning, run innovative programs and win policy change at the local, regional and state levels.

How We Work

Engaging Communities in Planning: We believe people should play a central role in shaping the future of their communities, especially disadvantaged communities who are most impacted by changes. 

Whether we are directly organizing at the grassroots or working with partners at the regional level, we make sure that planning genuinely and deeply involves residents.

Bringing Innovative Programs to Life: We’re developing – and spreading – new solutions to some of the most challenging barriers to creating more affordable places with abundant transportation choices.

Some highlights are GreenTRIP's innovative approach to getting new developments to reduce traffic, plus our model urban-focused program that's getting thousands of kids walking and biking to school.

Winning Policy Change: There are hundreds of decisions that together determine our transportation choices and what our communities are like. 

That’s why TransForm works in the Bay Area and at the state level to transform laws, funding decisions, and planning processes. Check out some of the reports that have shaped our approach.


Our History

TransForm was founded in 1997 by Bay Area environmental and social justice groups that recognized the region was at a critical point in time.  Public transportation was being bled dry while more highway projects got the green light.  Bulldozers were carving up remaining open spaces and farms.  Huge numbers of people – especially low-income families – were moving in pursuit of affordable places to live only to have grueling, costly commutes.  For those on foot, bicycle, or using a wheelchair, it was getting far too dangerous.

The time had come to turn the tide on sprawl, and redefine transportation in terms of access, health, justice, and sustainability.  In the years since TransForm’s founding and often working closely with the founding groups, TransForm has won literally billions of dollars and groundbreaking policies in support of public transportation, smart growth, affordable housing, and bicycle/pedestrian safety. 

TransForm seeks to make the Bay Area a model region, but also works across California to spread solutions plus win big changes in state funding and policy.  TransForm opened an office in Sacramento in 2009.

You can read more in Our Impact.

Our Theory of Change

TransForm’s theory of change is grounded in the connections between our work at the local, regional, and state levels.

Theory of ChangeThe local level is where we can test out innovation solutions to overcome some of the most challenging barriers to creating more affordable places with abundant transportation choices.  The local level is also the best entry point for people to engage in transportation issues and community planning.

This feeds into the regional level, where we can link transit, housing, and jobs in a systemic way – and win policies and funding to bring successful innovations to scale.  

At the state level, we can spread proven solutions, plus the supportive policies and sufficient funding needed for all regions to actually be able to make change. 

Between all levels and often through diverse coalitions, we connect local advocates and regional leaders to work together to win!

Measuring Our Impact

TransForm’s work is focused on four key impact areas:

  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions

  • Reducing the combined cost of housing and transportation

  • Increasing the rates and safety of walking and bicycling

  • Increasing access to jobs via public transportation

For each measure, TransForm focuses on reducing inequalities.  For example, we want to see bicycle and pedestrian safety improved in all communities.  But as importantly, we want to eliminate the large disparities that currently exist since people of color, youth, and senior suffer disproportionately from higher rates of injuries and fatalities.

TransForm’s impact measures help us evaluate what’s working and what’s not, and determine when and how to shift our approach and resources to have the greatest impact.  While measuring impact is difficult, this effort is central to our success.

Our Awards

TransForm's work is widely recognized and includes awards from Senator Barbara Boxer, the American Lung Association, the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the California Association of Nonprofits, Public Advocates as a "Voice of Conscience", the American Planning Association of California, Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, Breathe California, and others.

In 2013, TransForm's Executive Director Stuart Cohen received the prestigious James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award for championing innovative regional planning. 

TransForm was also honored by the U.S. Green Building Council - Northern California Chapter as a 2013 Green Building Super Hero for our work to advance sustainability through transportation and community planning.

TransForm is ranked one of the top ten climate change-related nonprofits in the Bay Area by Philanthropedia's experts. 

TransForm® is a registered trademark of TransFormCA, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.