Foster City officials are interested in forming a new organization to help reduce traffic congestion in the city.

The City Council last week unanimously agreed to spend $73,040 to fund a feasibility study for what’s called a transportation management association. A TMA is a business member-funded nonprofit that develops, markets, manages and advocates for effective transportation programs to reduce traffic congestion, said Assistant City Manager Dante Hall.

A TMA would look for ways to incentivize employees to commute on public transportation rather than drive, possibly in the form of subsidized bus or train passes, Hall said. Or it could secure funding for new park and ride lots to make it easier for residents to commute on SamTrans’ new express bus line to San Francisco, to name a couple of potential services the nonprofit could offer, he said. 

Foster City’s biggest employers, including Visa and Gilead Sciences, operate shuttles, also known as micro transit, for its employees between the company and transit hubs. A TMA could also help the city’s mid-size and smaller businesses to access those services. 

“For Foster City, micro transit is something that’s needed. You have a lot of sophisticated or larger organizations in city that have resources to pay for chartered buses, but you also have some medium and small sized businesses not able to do that,” he said. “Through a TMA you could share the cost then it becomes something much more reached for those businesses so that would be a big win for community if there was a way to charter micro bus services whether it be from Caltrain, from BART or other major transportation areas.” 

A TMA would be comprised of representatives from the business community and the city and would be funded by dues paid by the member businesses. The city could also opt to contribute funding.

“The goal is have the TMA be self-sustaining,” Hall said.

Hall noted TMAs currently exist in Emeryville, Mountain View and Palo Alto. Of those cities, Hall said only Palo Alto contributes funding to its TMA.

Hall expects the study to be complete by June 2020, after which time the council would decide whether or not to create a TMA. The study entails outreach to local businesses, data collection on employee commute habits as well as research on potential TMA models for the council to consider. 

Mayor Sam Hindi celebrated the creation of a TMA as one of the city’s many strategies for easing traffic congestion.

“We understand that traffic congestion is one of the biggest problems we all deal with on a daily basis,” said Mayor Sam Hindi. “As we all know, the problem with traffic, congestion and mobility is mostly regional and this is our attempt to pool the resources of our large players and smaller players to have a better impact on reducing the traffic.” 

Hindi has long championed a hovercraft commuter service in the Bay Area with a hub in Foster City. If a TMA is formed, then it could facilitate public and private partnerships for such a service, he said.

TMAs are new for many cities, but were implemented in some as early as 50 years ago, Hall said. 

“I believe Foster City could benefit from a TMA, but this is why we’re doing analysis because we want to make sure we’re making the best business decision,” Hall said. “It has to be measurable, it has to make sense financially, and it’s a partnership so we have to work with businesses to figure out the demand something like this would have and their interest in being partners in city.”

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