By: Tanay Kothari

Studies rank Bay Area public transit in top 1.5%.Each year, the Bay Area’s
taxpayers contribute large sums of money to maintain the region’s public transportation system. For example, BART’s operating budget for the 2013 fiscal year is almost $700 million. With that much money on the line, it’s critical to ask: are the Bay Area’s taxpayers getting good value from their investment in public transit?

Studies Rank Bay Area Public Transit In Top 1.5%

For several years, researchers at the Brookings Institution have analyzed the merits of transit systems across the United States, compiling information about factors ranging from frequency of service to access to jobs. The evidence indicates that the public transit system that services the San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont area provides convenient access to neighborhoods that account for 85.4% of the region’s jobs. This puts the San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont area in the top 15% of major metropolitan areas nationwide. In fact, when accounting only for cities (including San Francisco), a staggering 96.7% of jobs are in neighborhoods served by public transit.

The evidence also suggests that the San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont area is in the top 20% of major metropolitan areas nationwide in its “labor access rate,” which measures the percentage of jobs in an area that can be reached by a commuter within 90 minutes. For most metropolitan areas, this metric seems troubling; however, San Francisco fares relatively well.

Problems Still Plague Our Transit System – How Can We Improve?

We at Reset take pride in having an exemplary transit system. Yet, it’s hard to be satisfied with these studies alone – since many San Franciscans are so personally acquainted with the staggering list of issues that keep Muni from being the best system it can be. From delays, to periodic breakdowns, crowdedness, and ongoing fee hikes, we recognize that there is much to improve when it comes to our citywide transit infrastructure.

Brookings has laid out several recommendations for public transit, stressing further investment in infrastructure, collaboration between public transit organizations, and an increased emphasis on using “smart analytics” to inform relevant public policy decisions.

The verdict? San Franciscans have much to rejoice about when examining the effectiveness of their public transit systems. However, small changes in our approach to public transit can go a long way in making it better for all of us.