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.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021 in The Mercury News

Large blank mall building with only two cars in large parking lot.

Pennsylvania Mall Conversion Bill Passes House

If passed, the bill would promote the adaptive reuse of defunct commercial buildings.

April 18, 2024 - Central Penn Business Journal

Street scene in Greenwich Village, New York City with people walking through busy intersection and new WTC tower in background.

Planning for Accessibility: Proximity is More Important than Mobility

Accessibility-based planning minimizes the distance that people must travel to reach desired services and activities. Measured this way, increased density can provide more total benefits than increased speeds.

April 14, 2024 - Todd Litman

Wood-frame two-story rowhouses under construction.

Fair Housing Cannot Take a Back Seat to ‘Build, Baby, Build’

If we overlook fair housing principles in the plan to build US housing back better, we risk ending up right back where we started.

April 11, 2024 - James Jennings

"No 710" lawn sign on green lawn.

LA Metro Board Approves New 710 Freeway Plan

The newest plan for the 710 corridor claims it will not displace any residents.

April 22 - Streetsblog LA

Close-up of row of electric cars plugged into chargers at outdoor station.

Austin’s Proposed EV Charging Rules Regulate Station Locations, Size

City planners say the new rules would ensure an efficient distribution of charging infrastructure across the city and prevent an overconcentration in residential areas.

April 22 - Austin Monitor

Green hills with orange California poppies in bloom in foreground in Chino Hills State Park, California.

Making California State Parks More Climate-Resilient

A recently released report offers recommendations for keeping state parks healthy and robust, including acquiring additional land for conservation and recreation.

April 22 - Spectrum News 1

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.