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  • Writer's pictureStuart Cohen

TransForm at 25 - 5 Huge Wins that Impacted Our Region and State

Updated: Nov 29, 2022

It is the 1990s in the Bay Area. Public transportation is withering while highways grow ever wider. Bulldozers carve up open spaces and farms. The dangers of walking, biking, or moving in a wheelchair are ignored, and solutions are underfunded. The time has come to turn the tide on sprawl, and to reshape transportation.

In 1997, seeing that the region was at a critical point, a coalition of Bay Area environmental and social justice groups came together to found TransForm. They understood that it was time to change our region—to change the way we use space to enable accessible, healthy, just, and sustainable communities.

In the quarter century since TransForm’s founding, we have helped usher in new ways of planning and investing, and have shifted the way that policymakers, partners, and the public think about our region’s housing, transit systems, and streets. Our accomplishments over 25 years, ranging from local pilot projects to big state policy wins, are too numerous to mention here, but to celebrate our anniversary, here are five highlights of TransForm’s impact over the past 25 years.

1. Won more than $22 billion for connected, affordable communities.

Shifting the tide from sprawl-inducing highway widening, TransForm campaigned and won tens of billions of dollars to support public transportation, affordable housing, and bicycle/pedestrian safety. With our partners, we:

Co-led the campaign to initiate the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program, thereby ensuring that California’s greenhouse gas cap-and-trade funds would go toward affordable, sustainable housing and transit

2. Built diverse coalitions to combat sprawl.

TransForm has built coalitions, from the local to the state level, to build fewer sprawling subdivisions, and more walkable, transit-oriented communities with more affordable housing.

  • Harnessed anti-sprawl sentiment into a powerful coalition that led to the first-ever Regional Transportation Plan based on smart growth and equity objectives

  • Followed that with a successful first-in-the-country effort to condition funding for transit investments on planning for housing near the stations, with a powerful update that was just adopted by MTC in October 2022

  • Engaged over 25 communities in planning for more homes and anti-displacement policies as co-founders of the Great Communities Collaborative

  • Co-founded ClimatePlan to advocate for walkable, affordable, transit-friendly communities at the state level, and to build power in key regions across the state

3. Amplified the importance of centering equity in statewide and regional conversations.

From its early years, TransForm has centered equity in every campaign, pioneering a focus on equity that is now broadly expected for projects and programs. These efforts include:

  • Initiated mobility programs, such as Bike Share for All and Mobility 4 All, to serve transportation-insecure residents

  • Created equity frameworks for road pricing and new mobility that are used by agencies across the country

  • Partnered with priority communities to call attention to displacement and other issues, including when building megaprojects like a second transbay tube

  • Brought transportation equity to California’s state-level policy conversation, through five statewide equity summits followed by legislative lobby days

4. Pioneered innovative engagement that centers priority communities in planning

Top-down transportation planning hasn’t worked, especially for our most vulnerable communities. TransForm is one of the groups charting a new way.

5. Piloted groundbreaking programs and policies to find what works

Shifting policy and investment is the core of the work, but what do you do when there aren’t good models, and agencies are fearful of being the first? Create innovative programs that demonstrate it, then replicate it through advocacy at the regional and state level.

  • TransForm’s Housing Shortage, Parking Surplus report showed how requiring two parking spaces for each housing unit (even for affordable senior housing near transit) drives up housing costs and generates car traffic

  • Launched GreenTRIP certification, encouraging developers to create housing with zero or few parking spaces, and instead providing free transit passes, car- and bike-share services, and more. We’ve certified over 60 projects across the region since 2008

  • Created GreenTRIP Connect, a free online tool that calculates the environmental and economic benefits of smarter parking and transportation strategies, allowing advocates and planners to push for more affordable, sustainable housing development

  • Data from this work supported passage of several laws, including AB 2097, which eliminates parking requirements within ½ mile of frequent transit

  • Built on the success of Safe Routes to Schools in Marin by growing the Alameda County program from two Oakland schools to 180 countywide - one of the largest in the country - and became a national model for serving priority and disadvantaged communities

TransForm’s history is rich with victories, and in many ways the Bay Area and other parts of California are now moving in the right direction—with a shift toward denser development and more walking, biking, and transit riding than 25 years ago. But as we know, the problems we face are still historic: home prices and rents continue to rise, accelerating displacement and homelessness; transit agencies struggle to recover from the pandemic.

In short, we still have work to do.

With wonderful new leadership and a passionate, hardworking team, TransForm is poised to build on what we’ve accomplished over the past 25 years and help tackle these urgent challenges. We’ll need your help to keep moving in the right direction, so, make sure that you’re subscribed to our email updates. With your support we can build a more affordable, equitable, and climate-friendly region and state.


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