The San Francisco Bay Area is one of the nation’s densest and most heavily populated metropolitan areas. Home to 101 municipalities, the Bay Area has a land mass of 7,179 square miles (bigger than several states) and is home to over 7 million people, making it the fifth most-populous metropolitan area in the country. It has a very extensive transportation network, including every mode of travel from 1,400 miles of highways, 9,000 miles of bus routes, rail, trolleys, ferries and bicycle, pedestrian paths, six public ports, and five commercial airports. By 2030 the region is estimated to have 8.7 million people. Whether it’s walking, bicycling, driving or riding public transit, the region’s transportation network is key to getting the growing population around the Bay Area.
To provide comprehensive planning, coordination and financing across this disparate group of transportation options throughout the nine Bay Area counties (the City and County of San Francisco and the Counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma) the state Legislature, in 1970, created the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). (See California Government Code, §66500 et seq.).
The Commission’s work is guided by a 19-member policy board: 14 members are appointed directly by locally elected officials representing the nine Bay Area counties and cities (two each from Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties; one each from Marin, Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties). Two members represent regional agencies: The Association of Bay Area Governments and the Bay Conservation and Development Commission. Three non-voting members represent the Sate Secretary for Business, Transportation and Housing; the U. S. Department of Transportation; and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Representing Contra Costa County are Federal Glover from the Board of Supervisors and Amy Worth a Councilmember from Orinda. Carrying out the Commission’s directives is a staff of some 130 persons headquartered at the Joseph P. Bort MetroCenter in Oakland.
MTC functions as both the regional transportation planning agency — a state designation — and for federal purposes, as the region’s metropolitan planning organization. MTC is responsible for development of the region’s long-range Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). This is a comprehensive blueprint for the development of mass transit, highway, airport, seaport, railroad, bicycle and pedestrian facilities. The Commission also screens requests from local agencies for state and federal grants for transportation projects to determine their compatibility with the plan. MTC plays a major role in the selection of projects to be funded by Federal Transit Administration and the Federal Highway Administration and projects to be funded by State Transportation Development Act and Bay Area toll funds.
In addition to its original charge to plan, finance and coordinate Bay Area transportation MTC has morphed into a three headed giant, it now controls the Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA) and the Service Authority for Freeways and Expressways (SAFE).
BATA was created by the California Legislature to administer the base $1 auto toll on the San Francisco Bay Area’s seven state-owned toll bridges (the Antioch, Benicia-Martinez, Carquinez, Dumbarton, Richmond-San Rafael, San Francisco-Oakland Bay and San Mateo-Hayward bridges). In 2005, the Legislature expanded BATA’s responsibilities to include administration of all toll revenue on these bridges, as well as management of the program to seismically retrofit the bridges, in conjunction with Caltrans and the California Transportation Commission.
The SAFE program uses a $1 per year fee on motor vehicle registrations in the participating nine counties of the Bay Area to provide approximately 2,200 yellow roadside call boxes located on over 1,100 miles of urban, suburban and rural freeways in the Bay Area. The program also provides a fleet of roving tow trucks deployed during peak travel times to clear accidents assist motorists and remove dangerous debris from freeways. 85 tow and service trucks patrol 540 miles of Bay Area freeways and highways, looking for incidents in the roadway, or responding to computer and radio-dispatched requests for assistance from the CHP. In 2009, the Bay Area Freeway Service Patrol logged over 125,000 highway assists.