Bay Area companies and community groups push for $16B transportation investment
Bicycle at night in downtown San Jose, CA.

A group of 32 Bay Area organizations, from private tech companies to community groups, on Wednesday urged local lawmakers to take big, new strides to invest in transportation throughout the region.

In a letter, signed by Alphabet-owned Waymo, San Francisco-based ridesharing and scooter companies Lyft and Lime alongside a slew of Bay Area bicycle coalitions, asked lawmakers to prioritize $16.32 billion in transportation initiatives in the coming decades. The group also suggested area leaders consider a new region-wide transportation tax measure to get those priory improvements moving.

That ask comes amid chatter around the nine-county Bay Area about potential new funding initiatives for transportation in the coming years, said Emma Shlaes, policy director for the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition.

“We were just, in general, putting forward our thoughts for the next few decades so we don’t get left behind in the conversations that are going on at the regional level,” she said. “Sometimes the conversation is dominated by transit cars and highways.”

While the letter could be interpreted as an open call to Bay Area leaders making decisions about transit and transportation, the group also specifically sent the framework to agencies tasked with battling traffic congestion, including the VTA, and to the mayors of major cities throughout the region, Shlaes said.

Most of the investments the collective is pushing for in a framework plan released Wednesday include transit, bicycle and walking infrastructure improvements, like adding bikeways that stitch together the “last mile” between transit and homes or workplaces. The group is also pushing for $5 billion to be set aside to complete the Bay Trail and other regional separated bicycle paths.

The framework also includes support for low-income communities, means-based transit discounts and a seamless regional system for transit riders, so only one transit pass would be required to rent a bicycle, hop on a bus or transfer to a train.

It also advocates for more “Open Streets” events across the Bay Area. Those one-day events shut down certain roadways to cars for the day in order to open that space up for pedestrians and vendors, similar to San Jose’s Viva Calle events.

If implemented, the investments would help push the region toward the group’s goal that a decade from now, 20 percent of trips in the Bay Area would be made by “active modes,” like walking and bicycling, according to the letter. That would be a significant shift for Silicon Valley, where most cities boast a bicycle commuter rate at or below 2 percent.

These graphics show how people get around in cities around the country.

For the entire Bay Area, a transportation change of that magnitude would equate to around 702 billion fewer miles traveled by car, reducing CO2 emissions by more than 300 million tons, according to the letter.

“Future generations will appreciate being able to easily and safely use active modes for their trips, as well as the resulting cleaner air and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions,” the letter states. “The Bay Area will join the ranks of other world-class regions around the globe.”

Below is a list of the organizations that signed the letter Wednesday.

  • Albany Strollers & Rollers
  • Bay Area Ridge Trail Council
  • Bike Concord
  • Bike East Bay
  • Bike Fremont
  • Bike Menlo Park
  • Bike Walk Alameda
  • Bikes Make Life Better
  • California Bicycle Coalition
  • Eisen|Letunic
  • Friends of Alto Tunnel
  • Friends of SMART
  • Greenbelt Alliance
  • Lime
  • Lyft
  • Marin County Bicycle Coalition
  • Nancy Buffum Art
  • Napa County Bicycle Coalition
  • Office of Mayor Tom Butt (Richmond, CA)
  • Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
  • RideESSJ
  • Safe Routes Partnership
  • San Carlos Bikes
  • San Francisco Bicycle Coalition
  • Scoop Technologies, Inc.
  • Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition
  • Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition
  • SPUR
  • Tony, President of Almaden Cycling Touring Club
  • TRAC, Trails for Richmond Action Committee
  • Waymo
  • Winter Consulting Group

Contact Janice Bitters at janice@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @JaniceBitters on Twitter.

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