Yes on Regional Measure 3: Transit improvements to connect the Bay Area

Joël Ramos Headshot

RM3 logoThe Bay Area’s transportation system is not living up to its potential — with public transit still too disconnected for most people to use, buses stuck in traffic, and a long backlog of bike/ped safety projects. No wonder traffic is so bad. And the Bay Area is expected to grow by another two million residents by 2040. How are we all going to be able to get where we need to go then?

On June 5, voters in the 9 county Bay Area have the chance to give transit a major boost by supporting Regional Measure 3 (RM3). RM3 makes big investments to expand the reach of transit and make it more reliable and accessible. Here is a partial list of what RM3 will do for the Bay Area:

  • Enable BART to purchase more than 300 new BART cars to run more trains more frequently, and reduce crowding.
  • Extend Caltrain to the Transbay Transit Center in downtown San Francisco.
  • Improve Amtrak Capitol Corridor service and extend Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) north to Windsor and Healdsburg.
  • Expand transbay,express bus, and Bus Rapid Transit services. This will increase service frequency along key transit corridors, and attract new riders.
  • Fund new San Francisco MUNI trains and buses to expand local service, reduce crowding, and improve reliability.
  • Complete the BART extension to San Jose, which will help form a rail link around the bay and support the phenomenal growth anticipated in their downtown.
  • Massively increase ferry service in the Bay, to support ridership that is surging.
  • Improve bicycle and pedestrian access on and around the bridges, plus replenish the program that makes it safer to pedal or walk to rail stations and ferry terminals.

You can see the rest of the list and dollar amounts here.

If RM3 passes, Bay Area bridge tolls will gradually rise, with a $1 increase in 2019, and then again in 2022 and 2025. Of course, we are concerned that this would be yet another transportation cost for low-income drivers. But according to MTC, 75% of bridge toll payers make more than $75K per year. Most of us commuters who regularly cross the Bay and make less than $75K per year take transit (51% of BART riders, 52% of Muni riders, and 83% of AC Transit riders).

All transit riders need better, faster, more frequent and reliable service, and more people will choose improved and expanded transit funded by RM3. These improvements will come from bridge tolls, mostly from higher income drivers, that better reflect the true social and environmental cost of driving. In total, 65% of the revenues paid by car drivers will go towards transit, biking and pedestrian infrastructure. And better transit with higher ridership is also our best bet for relieving traffic, which would benefit those toll-paying car drivers.

And there are two other ways RM3 can help make getting around the Bay Area more equitable. First, $50 million of RM3 funding is designated for a web-based Clipper 2.0 system that will be necessary to create a regional means-based fare. This would pave the way to allowing discounts that transfer across different transit agencies for people with lower incomes. An integrated regional means-based fare that is centrally administered by Clipper would be a game-changer for low-income transit riders. 

Second, toll payers who need to cross two bridges will get a 50% discount off the RM3 increment on the second bridge they cross (carpoolers will continue to get a full 50% discount for every toll).

Unless we plan for growth and take bold action now, traffic will bring the Bay Area to a standstill. While we are concerned about the added costs for low-income drivers, on the whole it will be a fee on relatively high-income drivers to make transit better for everyone. This is especially true for lower income commuters who depend on transit to get to work, school, health care, and beyond.

Join us and a long list of other leaders from across the Bay Area, including all the major newspapers, in voting YES on Regional Measure 3 on June 5.

For more information, see MTC’s RM3 page.

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TransForum is the blog of TransForm, California's leading transportation advocate. For more about our work, including ways you can take action and contribute, visit TransFormCA.org.