Public meetings on the draft Plan Bay Area are well underway, and the consensus among speakers has been clear: we need greater investments in public transportation and policies to keep Bay Area residents from being priced out of our region.
At last Thursday’s meeting in San Francisco, TransForm Community Planner Joël Ramos witnessed a “super majority” of speakers expressing concerns about the anticipated displacement of low-income people due to a dramatic increase in the cost of living in the coming decades. Nearly every speaker also voiced opposition to expanding freeways without more funding for non-driving transportation choices: public transit, walking, and biking.
With the biggest counties yet to come, it’s critical that we continue to tell our regional agencies that public transportation and affordability should be top priority for the region’s future. What does that look like? Here’s what Bay Area native (and new TransForm staffer) Clarrissa Cabansagan has to say:
Growing up in the Excelsior district of San Francisco, my family relied on our car to get around. But that changed for me when, as a student at U.C. Berkeley, I had a free student transit pass that made it easy and affordable for me to get to school on public transportation.
On a student’s budget, traveling frequently from western San Francisco to downtown Berkeley is no small expense – in either time or money. That free transit pass showed me that it was possible to get where I needed to go with public transportation. Living with my family near Balboa and Daly City BART made all the difference.
Since then, I’ve made every effort to live near public transportation, so I can save money and get where I need to go. But neighborhoods with great public transit access are becoming harder and harder to afford. Now I live in Emeryville, and although I’m not as close to BART as I would like, I still have pretty good bus access. And I’m not sure I could afford to live near BART the way housing costs are these days.
We’ve already got a long way to go before everyone in the Bay Area has access to a reliable transit route, and we need to continue improving our regional public transportation network. But we also need to create policies to ensure that our communities remain affordable as the region grows.
That’s why TransForm is urging MTC and other regional agencies to make sure new programs like the Express Lane Network prioritize equity, choice, and innovation to meet the needs of all Bay Area residents. We’re also working with our allies to win policies to combat displacement so that working families can afford to stay in our region in the years to come.
Regional agencies are accepting public input on the draft Plan Bay Area alternatives until May 16. Compared to all the other alternatives, the Equity, Environment, and Jobs Alternative would bring us less traffic, healthier residents, fewer traffic deaths, more affordable neighborhoods, and it would do a better job of allowing our most vulnerable neighbors to stay in their homes.
You can add your voice at one of the upcoming draft Plan Bay Area public meetings – there are six more, including our largest counties of Alameda and Santa Clara. Click here to learn more about the Plan Bay Area process and how you can get involved.