The MTC Blue Ribbon Commission is narrowing priorities for its future network management system recommendations to improve Bay Area transit, with fare policy, bus transit priority and improved mapping identified as important reform topics.

Steve Kinsey, a facilitator of the April 26 Metropolitan Transportation Commission Blue Ribbon Task Force meeting and a former Marin County supervisor, said the process is important to help the 27 Bay Area regional transit agencies identify priorities critical for the new regional transit management system and ways to improve transit.

“This network management idea is, can we look at reforms to the way that the operations of these numerous agencies occur to create a more centralized decision-making process that can expedite activities,” Kinsey said.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission, or MTC, is the regional agency responsible for Bay Area transit oversight. The Blue Ribbon Task Force Commission is comprised of representatives of MTC and transit agencies working toward a better regional transit system. The task force will submit its action plans to improve transit and cooperation among local transit agencies to the MTC board by the end of July.

The meeting focused on discussions with transit agency leaders on priorities addressed in a new management system. Topics identified as high-priority initiatives in a new transit management system are fare policy, bus transit priority, branding, mapping, wayfinding and improved technology standards. Other focus areas include accessible services, bus and rail network management reform, data collection, network planning and station hub design review. Kinsey said there were suggestions at the April 26 meeting for language changes of priorities, with requests for fare policy not to be looked at by the consultant, but nothing changed in the end.

A consultant in May will review if the priorities improve the transit system. VIA Architecture, Inc. is expected to be the consultant and will have an opportunity to review and provide additional policy insight. It will enter into a $200,000 contract with MTC through August if approved at the April MTC meeting.

Kinsey said the critical elements of managing the new network revolve around which priorities require a centralized decision-making process and arbiter if things get stuck and which can be handled by transit agencies. The task force uses the term network management to acknowledge some transit roles and functions can be done by the existing agencies through better coordination, but some may require a more centralized decision-maker, such as a regional network manager discussed that would have authority over some coordination among agencies.

“The network management is a very broad characterization of what needs to happen. Whereas people were getting hung up on the idea of a network manager personifying it as an individual,” Kinsey said.

Twenty-seven regional agencies provide local transit service, but Kinsey said cross-jurisdictional trips are complicated, costly and difficult to understand for riders. Shifting the priorities and responsibilities in a new management system could benefit riders. He believes the key question is if individual transit agencies can cede any authority to some other entity.

“There needs to be some entity or authority to say, no, for the benefit of the whole, you need to figure out how to do it,” he said.

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