Reopening California: Here’s how commuting will change for drivers, public transportation when we go back to work

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — Commuting as we know it in the Bay Are will never be the same as before. As restrictions for the Bay Area’s shelter-in-place begin to lift, transit agencies are looking ahead to the future of commuting.

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Planned changes come as an eye-opening study from Vanderbilt is released, showing if three out of four workers chooses to take a car versus public transportation, drive times increase a whopping 42 minutes.

It’s one of the issues discussed during Thursday’s Bay Area Council webinar with heads of various transportation agencies.

One change already implemented March 20th: The Bay Area Toll Authority decision to switch to all electric tolls on area bridges. That could continue.

“It seems to be working relatively smoothly… We’ll work with the commission on how we’re going to work toward to an all-electric toy future… Stay tuned for that,” says Therese McMillan, Executive Director for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

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The most sweeping changes will be for public transit. SFTMA already has eliminated 3-fourths of their 70+ bus routes. As they begin to look ahead to opening more routes, they’re are working with, and learning from Asian countries that have successfully flattened the curve.

“One thing Taipei learned is that social distancing is’t working on public transportation… what tolerance is there for enforcement of face covering rules. We don’t like rules in the United States and it’s going to be necessary if we’re going to open the economy and not have thousands of people die,” says Jeff Tumlin, Director of Transportation for the SFMTA.

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On BART 95-percent of riders already wear masks. The agency is studying European cities and is doubling down, wanting to make mask-wearing as common as remembering your phone or wallet. Sanitation is also a priority.

“We want to get to the point where we can fog every train every night… expect those differences in the next 12 months or so.” says Robert Powers, General Manager of BART.
One positive, agreed on by several agencies – That in their highly-regulated industry the pandemic has hastened the speed of getting things done.

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“A number of changes in a mater or days…and my staff is getting used to that kind of pace,” says Rick Ramacier, General Manager of County Connection.

A sentiment echoed by Tumlin.

“We can get about five years of work done in two months.” He went on to say, “When we are forced to come together to solve problems we can get a tremendous amount of work done for the public with limited resources.”

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There are also questions about the future of Casual Carpool in the Bay Area, as there are more than 20 pickup locations. Our request for comment was not received prior to deadline.

Also being discussed the impact of more workers staying at home even after the shelter in place rules are lifted completely.

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