The Bay Area Needs A Win for Housing and Transit
It’s no surprise that housing and transit remain top concerns for Bay Area residents, and a new Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) poll confirms it: 82% of respondents are concerned about the lack of affordable homes, and 74% think we need to invest in improvements to public transportation.
TransForm couldn’t agree more and we’re committed to getting the region back on track. We are co-leading Voices for Public Transportation and a proud member of the Bay Area Housing for All, two nonprofit advocacy coalitions campaigning to pass regional transportation and housing ballot measures in the coming years.
The MTC poll tells us these measures could pass, but getting to two-thirds will require advocates and elected leaders to plan thoughtfully and strategically:
Public transit is important to Bay Area residents, including 69% of non-riders surveyed. And 87% support maintaining good service for those who depend on it. A hypothetical transportation measure is polling at 63%.
Homelessness and housing affordability looms even larger for many voters. Eight-nine percent of respondents are extremely or very concerned about homelessness, and 69% think there is a need for more funding to address housing affordability. A hypothetical housing measure is polling at 65%.
Equitable and accessible public transit and affordable homes are integral to a thriving Bay Area, but there are significant risks to running both regional measures in 2024. Neither are polling above the two-thirds threshold, and they may compete with each other for support, among voters as well as funders and advocates. Each campaign will require at least $5 million to put forward a viable campaign; and two measures may mean double the opposition from anti-tax or anti-government groups.
Housing already has authority from the State to move forward, but placing a regional transportation measure on the ballot would still need state legislation. The Bay Area needs transportation and housing investments, but we can’t afford to go to the ballot and lose. In conversations with partner organizations, TransForm agrees with the direction MTC is taking: a 2024 regional housing measure and a 2026 regional transportation measure.
Benefits to a Longer Timeline for Transportation
Waiting until 2026 for a regional transportation measure has several advantages. Currently, advocates are not unified on the revenue mechanism for a transportation funding measure. MTC’s poll proposed a sales tax, which is regressive and opposed by Voices for Public Transportation.
The extra time will allow TransForm and our allies to build consensus about a progressive revenue source and expenditures, as we fight for short-term funding from the state to ensure transit’s future.
Polling results also indicate that the framing of the measure matters: significantly more people support funding transit improvements compared to simply avoiding cuts to current service.
Extra time will also show that transit agencies are starting to implement some of these improvements via MTC’s Transit Transformation Action Plan (TTAP). The TTAP, which TransForm participated in, lays out 27 different actions to rebuild ridership and reshape our transit system in the wake of the pandemic. Some of these actions, like the creation of an all-agency ‘Bay Pass’ that provides unlimited access to all bus, rail, and ferry services, have already demonstrated fantastic results: ridership has increased 35% for Bay Pass users over the first year of the pilot. But it will take time before riders throughout the Bay Area witness the benefits of these programs.
That’s why we think it’s a good idea to wait to place the regional transportation measure on the ballot: By 2026 Bay Area transit will likely have a strong track record of improvements, more riders, and a clear plan for future transit investment that supports operations and improves the experience for all riders.
We know there’s work to do. Less than 50% of respondents found Bay Area transit easy to use, reliable, affordable, convenient, fast, or safe. Only slightly more, 55%, view public transit favorably, though it’s 73% among weekly riders. This suggests that when people get on transit, they are more likely to view it positively. TransForm programs like Know How to Go are vital to not only increasing access and ridership but also for building public support for additional transit funding.
We need your help! Donate to TransForm to support our vital participation in both these efforts and join us in the campaign to pass both vital housing and transportation measures in the coming years.