Crossing Together — Equity considerations for a second transbay crossing

Author: 

Joel Ramos and Clarrissa Cabansagan

Year Published: 

2017

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Executive Summary

Key transportation stakeholders in the San Francisco Bay Area are starting to plan seriously for a second rail crossing between San Francisco and Oakland. There are many compelling reasons to consider a second crossing. Increasing rail capacity across the Bay could create significant positive returns for the region, improving mobility for hundreds of thousands of Bay Area residents, reducing future greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, and offering low-income communities more reliable and frequent connections to opportunity. But these potential benefits are by no means guaranteed.

One thing is for certain: if a “second crossing” project goes forward, it will be a big deal. The project is likely to cost well over ten billion dollars and take decades to plan, fund, and deliver. The history of mega-projects is littered with dramatic mistakes — huge cost overruns, major performance failures, and devastating impacts on vulnerable communities. Yet big projects can also transform people’s lives and the region for the better. We need to start thinking NOW about the social equity implications to make sure that if the project goes forward, it benefits low-income and people-of-color communities in the Bay Area.

We may need a second transbay rail crossing.  If we do, we should do it right.

This paper highlights the major social equity considerations of a second crossing: who benefits, who is impacted, who pays, who decides? This paper does not take a position on whether or not a second rail crossing is a good idea; rather, we seek to initiate dialogue on how to ensure fairness in planning, designing, funding, and building a second crossing, once it is determined that a second crossing should be built.

At these earliest stages of planning, and as the process unfolds, TransForm strongly recommends seven considerations that Bay Area decisionmakers should address to ensure any effort to plan, fund, build, and operate a second transbay crossing promotes a more equitable Bay Area.

  1. Invest in existing transit infrastructure first.
  2. Implement local policies to stabilize communities affected by the project and combat displacement.
  3. Create local resident-led governance structures in impacted communities.
  4. Understand mega-project risks and implement best practices to contain them.
  5. Use equitable funding sources.
  6. Contain the project’s impact on transit fares.
  7. Ensure project-related economic development benefits local residents and workers.

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There are many compelling reasons to consider building a second transbay rail crossing: more frequent and reliable transit service across the bay would improve mobility for hundreds of thousands of Bay Area residents, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and offer low-income and transit-reliant people more connections to opportunity. But the benefits of a second transbay crossing are not guaranteed for everyone. Regional leaders and transit agencies need to start thinking now about the social equity implications of this mega-project on low-income and communities of color, so as not to repeat the mistakes of the past.