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About the Metropolitan Transportation Commission



Created by the state Legislature in 1970 (California Government Code § 66500 et seq.), the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) is the transportation planning, coordinating and financing agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area. Over the years, the agency's scope has grown, and it is now three agencies in one, functioning as MTC as well as the Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA) and the Service Authority for Freeways and Expressways (SAFE).

The Commission’s work is guided by a policy board whose membership has risen from 19 to 21 as a result of state legislation passed in 2012 (taking effect in January 2013), with 18 of the commissioners designated as voting members. Sixteen of the voting commissioners are appointed by local elected officials in each county. The two most populous counties, Alameda and Santa Clara, each have three representatives on the Commission: the county board of supervisors selects one member; the mayors of the cities within the county collectively appoint another; and the mayors of the biggest cities in these two counties — Oakland in Alameda County and San Jose in Santa Clara County — each appoint a representative.

The City and County of San Francisco is represented by two members, one appointed by the board of supervisors and the other by the mayor. In addition, two voting members represent regional agencies — the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC). The new legislation specifies that the BCDC representative must be a resident of San Francisco, effectively giving San Francisco a third voice on the Commission. San Mateo County and Contra Costa County each have two representatives on the Commission, with the county's board of supervisors selecting one representative, and the mayors of the cities within that county appointing another. The four less populous northern counties of Marin, Napa, Solano and Sonoma each appoint one commissioner to represent both their board of supervisors and cities within their respective counties.

Finally, three nonvoting members represent federal and state transportation agencies and the federal housing department. Commissioners generally serve concurrent four-year terms, with a new chair elected every two years. The current term expires in February 2015.

Carrying out the Commission’s directives is a staff of some 200 persons headquartered at the Joseph P. Bort MetroCenter in Oakland, Calif. (located at the Lake Merritt BART Station). Plans are in the works for MTC to move into a new Regional Agency Headquarters facility in San Francisco that will foster collaboration among MTC and partner regional agencies, including ABAG and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

Planning for the Next Generation

MTC functions as both the regional transportation planning agency — a state designation — and, for federal purposes, as the region’s metropolitan planning organization (MPO). As such, it is responsible for regularly updating the Regional Transportation Plan, a comprehensive blueprint for the development of mass transit, highway, freight, bicycle and pedestrian facilities. The Commission also screens requests from local agencies for state and federal grants for transportation projects to determine their compatibility with the plan, the most recent version of which — known as Plan Bay Area — was jointly adopted in July 2013 by MTC and ABAG.

Plan Bay Area is an integrated transportation and land-use strategy through 2040 that marks the nine-county region’s first long-range plan to meet the requirements of landmark 2008 California legislation (Senate Bill 375), which calls on California’s 18 metropolitan areas to develop a Sustainable Communities Strategy to accommodate future population growth and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks. Working in collaboration with cities and counties, the plan advances initiatives to expand housing and transportation choices, create healthier communities and build a stronger regional economy. Plan Bay Area includes funding from a pioneering One Bay Area Grant Program, an incentives-based program designed to stimulate the production of housing in areas well-served by transportation, particularly public transit.

MTC also has played a major role in building regional consensus on where and when to expand the Bay Area transit network. A historic agreement forged by MTC with local officials as well as state and federal legislators in the late 1980s set forth a $4.1 billion program to extend a total of six rail lines in the Bay Area, adding 40 miles to the region's rail transit network and linking BART to San Francisco International Airport. In 2001, MTC laid out the next phase of major regional public transit investments in Resolution 3434. This agreement, which was reaffirmed and refined in 2006, features additional rail investments as well as a significant expansion of bus rapid transit and ferry service. Most recently, MTC in the spring of 2012 engineered a multi-agency agreement for upgrading rail service between San Francisco and San Jose as part of a package to bring high-speed rail to the Bay Area.

Financing and Monitoring Roles Expand

MTC advocates in both Sacramento and Washington, D.C., to ensure an adequate flow of funding for the maintenance and expansion of the Bay Area’s transportation network, and over the years, state and federal laws have given MTC an increasingly important role in financing Bay Area transportation improvements. At the federal level, the 1991 Intermodal  Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) and its successor, the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), empowered MPOs like MTC to determine the mix of transportation projects best suited to meet their region's needs. MPOs’ role in transportation financing was reaffirmed by Congress in 2005 with the passage of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act (SAFETEA). An update known as MAP 21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century) was enacted in 2012.

Using these federal dollars, MTC has established several innovative grant programs that are changing the Bay Area landscape. Most recently, an ambitious Innovative Climate Grants Program is funding 13 creative projects totaling $33 million to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including several fleet-oriented electric vehicle programs and a bike-sharing program across a number of cities.

MTC also administers state moneys, including those provided by the Transportation Development Act.  Legislation passed in 1997 gives MTC and other regional transportation planning agencies increased decision-making authority over the selection of state highway projects and allocation of transit expansion funds for the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). Also in 1997, the state Legislature transferred to MTC responsibility for administering the base $1 toll from the Bay Area's seven state-owned toll bridges. A new entity, the Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA) was created for this purpose, with MTC directing its work and MTC's staff providing support (and with MTC's executive director also serving as BATA's executive director). BATA also oversees the Regional Measure 2 Traffic Relief Plan, which is funded by a voter-approved $1 toll hike that went into effect on the region’s state-owned toll bridges on July 1, 2004. With the passage of Assembly Bill 144 in 2005, BATA assumed responsibility for administering all toll revenue from the region’s state-owned toll bridges. AB 144 also established a Toll Bridge Project Oversight Committee — consisting of BATA’s executive director, the director of the state Department of Transportation and the executive director of the California Transportation Commission — to manage the state Toll Bridge Seismic Retrofit Program, which includes construction of the iconic new East Span for the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

With the authority over the Bay Area's transportation purse strings has come responsibility for overseeing the efficiency and effectiveness of the region's transportation system. MTC monitors transit operators' budgets, conducts performance audits, and ensures that the region’s numerous bus, rail and ferry systems are in synch in terms of their routes, fares, transfer policies, schedules, passenger information and facilities. In May of 2012, MTC approved recommendations from a two-year Transit Sustainability Project, including performance measures and targets for the region's public transit operators; the Transit Performance Initiative, an investment and incentive strategy to improve public transit; and additional customer-focused service improvements.

Taming Traffic and Smoothing Regional Travel

Over the years, MTC has added to its work “hands-on” projects to squeeze more efficiency out of the existing regional transportation network. MTC recently launched a Bay Area Express Lanes initiative to provide a network of efficient and reliable lanes that function as high-occupancy vehicle lanes that offer toll-free travel for carpools, vanpools, motorcycles, buses and eligible clean-air vehicles, while also accommodating solo drivers who want to pay to use the lanes to avoid congestion.

A pioneering, computer-based pavement management system (known as StreetSaver™) developed by MTC staff is helping Bay Area cities and counties better maintain their local streets and roads. As the Service Authority for Freeways and Expressways (SAFE), MTC — in partnership with the California Highway Patrol and California Department of Transportation, or Caltrans — oversees the maintenance and operation of call boxes along Bay Area freeways. MTC/SAFE also teams up with these two sister agencies to administer the Freeway Service Patrol, a free roving tow truck service designed to quickly clear incidents from the region's most congested roadways.

An innovator in new transportation technologies (referred to as intelligent transportation systems), MTC sponsors a number of high-tech programs to smooth commutes and take the kinks out of intersystem travel. The 511 Traveler Information System provides real-time traffic conditions via a free phone line and a companion website located at The system relies on an elaborate data-gathering network that MTC and Caltrans have been installing along area freeways in recent years. The 511 Traveler Information System also serves transit riders, linking callers with the phone centers at every Bay Area transit agency and offering personalized transit trip planning via the web and a smartphone app. MTC also oversees Clipper® — a universal or "all-in-one" fare card that can be used on select Bay Area transit systems (including San Francisco Muni, BART, AC Transit, Caltrain, the Dumbarton Express, Golden Gate Transit and Ferry, SamTrans, Valley Transportation Authority or VTA, and San Francisco Bay Ferry) and ultimately will be used by most of the region's roughly two dozen transit operators. Acting in its role as BATA, MTC administers all toll funds generated by the region's seven state-owned toll bridges, and oversees the FasTrak® electronic toll collection system, which speeds motorists’ passage across all eight toll bridges in the region. BATA also operates FasTrak electronic toll collection on the region's growing network of Express Lanes, which whisk drivers willing to pay a fee past traffic bottlenecks.

MTC/BATA has been experimenting with the concept of varying tolls (with tolls dropping during off-peak hours) on the Bay Bridge, the region's busiest bay crossing, as a way of managing congestion. Dynamic pricing is also being applied to the region's budding network of Express Lanes.

Serving a Diverse Region

The region MTC serves is unique in that there are eight primary public transit systems as well as numerous other local transit operators, which together carry nearly 500 million passengers per year. The region’s varied geography has given rise to a diverse range of public transit modes: antique cable cars and historic streetcars; high-speed ferries; diesel commuter rail and electric-powered rapid transit rail; diesel and natural gas buses; and electric trolley buses. The combined annual operating budget of the transit agencies is over $2 billion, placing this region among the top transit centers in the nation. In addition, there are numerous specialized services for elderly and disabled travelers (referred to as paratransit service), nearly 20,000 miles of local streets and roads, 1,400 miles of highway, five public ports and three major commercial airports. The Bay Region embraces the nine counties that touch San Francisco Bay (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma) and includes 101 municipalities. More than 7 million people reside within its 7,000 square miles.

For more information, contact the MTC Public Information Office by telephone: 510/817-5787 (TDD/TTY:  510/817-5769) or by e-mail at