Senators Wiener & Wahab Launch The Connect Bay Area Act: Authorizing Transit Funding on the 2026 Ballot, Studying Consolidation, and Improving Regional Integration

March 18, 2024

SACRAMENTO – Today, Senators Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Aisha Wahab (D-Silicon Valley) announced Senate Bill 1031, The Connect Bay Area Act. SB 1031 authorizes a Bay Area ballot measure to provide transportation funding on the 2026 ballot or later, and require operational reforms and a consolidation assessment beginning next year. The bill authorizes the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the regional transportation authority, to propose a measure generating a minimum of $750 million per year in revenue to stabilize transit systems’ operations, avoid service cuts, and make service better, plus additional funds to improve roadways and other physical transportation projects. It also advances a series of reforms, to begin in 2025, to provide a more seamlessly integrated experience for public transportation riders, including by integrating schedules, fares, and maps among systems and requiring the 27 transit operators to be assessed for consolidation.

Since the pandemic, public transportation ridership levels across the U.S. have grown steadily but failed to reach pre-pandemic levels. The result is that across the Bay Area region, public transportation operators are expected to experience budget shortfalls totaling at least $600 million each year, enough to trigger massive service cuts that would seriously disrupt the region’s economy, convenience, and climate goals. Federal and state aid, including $1.1 billion from last year’s state budget ($400 million of which went to the Bay Area) — which was secured in a campaign led by Senator Wiener and supported by Senator Wahab — delayed these service cuts by over a year and a half, and they are now expected to begin in mid 2026. SB 1031 will allow the Bay Area to prevent these service cuts while funding a range of improvements for all forms of transportation.

SB 1031 does not specify the source of the revenue, but empowers MTC to choose among a sales tax, regional payroll tax, square footage-based parcel tax, and regional vehicle registration charge, or a combination thereof. As of October 2023, almost two-thirds of Bay Area voters agree that there is a need for more funding to address transportation in the Bay Area and 78% believe that public transit is very important for the Bay Area.

“Sustainable, safe, integrated, and reliable public transportation isn’t optional for the Bay Area’s future — rather it’s absolutely essential,” said Senator Wiener. “Our public transportation systems were experiencing challenges before the pandemic, and the pandemic made those challenges more extreme. The world is different post-pandemic, and we need to reimagine our public transportation network, ensure these systems have stable funding, and modernize them via better integration to ensure they’re meeting the current and future needs of Bay Area residents. This bill represents the start of what’s sure to be a long journey, and I’m excited to partner with Senator Wahab, our entire Bay Area delegation, and regional stakeholders to perfect and advance this transformational measure.”

"The Bay Area is ripe for a transit revolution—safer, smarter, and more sustainable,” said Senator Wahab. “The Bay Area deserves better and this is our chance to leap into the future, cutting emissions and vehicle miles traveled by embracing a tech-driven, world-class public system. Senator Wiener and I have partnered to transform transit for every rider, heralding a new era of connectivity for the Bay Area."

Public Transit is Recovering Slowly

While public transit ridership overall remains below pre pandemic levels, the systems are still used for millions of trips each day throughout the region:

  • MUNI’s ridership increased 25% in 2023, to an average of 433,000 weekday riders. 
  • BART’s ridership increased 16% in 2023, to an average of 158,000 weekday riders.

Many lines are even experiencing greater ridership, such as MUNI’s 22 bus line, which is 138% over weekend pre-pandemic ridership. 

Improving & Maintaining All Kinds of Transportation

SB 1031 provides vital funds—a minimum of $750 million per year—to pay for public transportation operations to maintain and improve service levels across the nine Bay Area counties. The bill also authorizes additional expenditures from a ballot measure to be used to fund:

  • Zero emission transit vehicles and related infrastructure.
  • Safe streets, including pothole repairs, bicycle and pedestrian access improvements, and safe routes to transit.
  • Capital improvements to support connectivity, including roadway and transit capital improvement projects that support connectivity and mobility in a climate neutral manner.
  • Climate resiliency projects to protect transportation infrastructure.

Improving Integration Across The Region: Network Management

Also beginning in 2025, SB 1031 designates MTC with the responsibility to adopt network management policies that result in the implementation of a seamless transit rider experience across the nine-county Bay Area region with the goal of increasing transit ridership. This includes the following areas:

  • Fares – fare payment and integration
  • Schedules
  • Mapping and wayfinding
  • Real-time transit information
  • Other customer-facing policies

SB 1031 expands on current law’s statutory precedent which allows MTC to condition the receipt of State Transit Assistance Funds (STA) on transit agencies’ compliance with regional transit coordination policies, expands its authority to condition Local Transportation Funds (LTF), and directs the conditioning of future regional transportation revenue measure funds.

Assessing Further Consolidation

In 2025, before the funding measure goes to the ballot, SB 1031 requires CalSTA to select a transportation institute to assess the twenty-seven agencies across the nine Bay Area counties for consolidation, and center the needs of riders that prioritizes:

  • Service to Customers (equitable service to vulnerable populations)
  • Reduced Costs (to riders and operating costs and reducing liability)
  • Increased Speed (must be faster than utilizing a car)
  • Improved Technology (21st Century technology for riders)
  • Support for California’s climate goals
  • Integration Across the Bay
  • Transparency and accountability of decisions & finances

SB 1031 establishes the Bay Area Transit Technical Assistance Fund and permits revenues generated from a regional transportation revenue measure to be deposited into the fund for purposes of paying for the consolidation assessment required by SB 1031 and future consolidation implementation activities that may occur but are not required by SB 1031. 

Encouraging Mode Shift To Public Transportation

Subject to voter approval, SB 1031 would expand transportation benefits for Bay Area employees by authorizing MTC and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) to require employers with 50 or more employees to provide a subsidy to incentivize non-solo driving. For employers that are located in proximity to transit, the employer would be required to purchase a universal, unlimited transit pass for each of their employees.