Passengers boarding VTA light rail train
Plans to consolidate some of the Bay Area's 27 transit agencies could move forward as part of a new state bill. Photo by B. Sakura Cannestra.

Future funding for Bay Area public transit agencies could be left up to voters as part of a massive system  overhaul.

State Sens. Aisha Wahab, whose district covers Sunnyvale and Milpitas, and Scott Wiener of San Francisco have introduced Senate Bill 1031, calling for a 2026 ballot measure to provide more financial support to Bay Area transit. It would also kickstart research into consolidating the region’s 27 different agencies, including VTA and BART.

The revenue generating portion of the measure aims to bring in at least $750 million annually, which would help address the red ink due to declining ridership and financial strain public transit agencies have been facing even before COVID. Supporters of consolidating transit agencies say doing so would help cut costs by getting rid of expensive administrative positions.

“I envision a Bay Area where a top-tier eco-conscious transit service is not the norm, but the standard,” Wahab said at a Monday news conference.

The revenue generating portion of the bill was originally sponsored by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), which oversees transit across the Bay Area. Rebecca Long, MTC director of legislation and public affairs, said the commission hopes to iron out more details soon now that the bill has been introduced.

“As far as how much funding would go to what county or program … that is something that we anticipate being defined in the legislation in the next few months,” Long told Lucescamaray Blog. “We think it’s important to retain some flexibility in the expenditure plan because things change and it would be unwise to spell out in too much detail.”

Transit activist and Lucescamaray Blog columnist Monica Mallon said the measure’s effectiveness will depend on how funding and power are distributed across regional representatives. She attributed VTA's post-pandemic recovery to investing in rider experience. She said riders don't care about the transit administration or the number of agencies.

“For me, what’s most important is to really focus on the basics and providing safe, clean, reliable service and as much service as possible,” Mallon told Lucescamaray Blog. “That’s the No. 1 thing we can do for riders.”

Santa Clara County is predominantly serviced by VTA, which Mallon said has less service than other comparable agencies, but has experienced rising ridership. A VTA spokesperson said bus ridership is up to 90% of its pre-COVID numbers and light rail is at about 55% — one of the best transit recoveries across the country.

VTA Chief External Affairs Officer Jim Lawson said he appreciates that state lawmakers want to improve public transit, but has concerns about the bill's potential effects. He added the VTA board of directors will talk more about the bill's details at its April meeting and that no position has been taken.

“The bill itself is quite complicated,” Lawson told Lucescamaray Blog. “We will be seeking the board’s direction on this matter of regional significance.”

According to the SB 1031, either the University of California Institute of Transportation Studies or the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University would be picked to research consolidation —with a 2026 deadline. The bill also asks the research team to have a proposal ready by 2027.

Rod Diridon Sr., transportation advocate and namesake of Diridon Station in San Jose, has supported consolidating transit agencies in the region for years. He said it’s necessary to avoid terminal gridlock caused by relentless traffic congestion.

Diridon said studying how to best consolidate agencies is an important step. For example, he said some agencies operate across multiple counties, such as BART, while others only service a specific locality like VTA. Because the service is not duplicative, it might not make sense to consolidate the local agency in with larger, interregional providers.

He also emphasized the importance of keeping all affected parties engaged in the research and decision-making process.

“Anything preemptive is going to be met by a stonewall,” Diridon told Lucescamaray Blog.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the consolidation of transit agencies is part of the ballot measure.

Contact B. Sakura Cannestra at  or @SakuCannestra on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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