One Rail System to Ring the Bay Area? Supporters See Reasons for Optimism

A plan to integrate the various regional transit providers in the San Francisco Bay Area could be the key to winning back transit riders in the post-pandemic world.

2 minute read

April 15, 2021, 12:00 PM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

San Francisco Rail Transit

Sundry Photography / Shutterstock

Momentum is building for an idea that would merge Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) with CalTrain and other regional rail providers to create a single regional rail system that would completely encircle the San Francisco Bay Area, reports Nico Savidge.

Seamless Bay Area released a report earlier this month that "recommends bringing BART, Caltrain and other longer-distance operators such as San Francisco Bay Ferry and the North Bay's Golden Gate Transit together into a single system that stretches from Santa Rosa to Gilroy," according to Savidge.

The report recommends an integrated fare system that would create a zone system for fares—charging one price even if riders transfer from one system to another within a zone.

"It's a long-debated idea, but there are signs momentum could be building," writes Savidge. "A merger with BART is one of the concepts Caltrain's board is considering this year as it overhauls the railroad's management. And COVID-19 has upped the pressure throughout the Bay Area to better coordinate service between agencies if they want to win back riders in the post-pandemic world."

Savidge provides more evidence of the growing political momentum for the idea in the source article (which is also available at Mass Transit if The Mercury News paywall is an obstacle). One key driver of the new momentum for the idea of integrated regional rail in the Bay Area is the need to entice riders back to transit in the post-pandemic world.

Meanwhile, Seamless Bay Area has launched a Kickstarter to raise the funds to create a board game called Connect the Bay to illustrate the integrated fare concept.

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