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Bay Area Partnership

The Bay Area Partnership

A Living Laboratory of Cooperation and Innovation

See Partnership Contact List

You will rarely read or hear about it in the news, and you won't find it listed in the telephone directory. But The Bay Area Partnership is working quietly and effectively behind the scenes to improve mobility, air quality and travel safety for the nearly 7 million people of the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.

Who Sits on The Bay Area Partnership?

The Bay Area Partnership Board is a confederation of the top staff of various transportation agencies in the region (MTC, public transit operators, county congestion management agencies, city and county public works departments, ports, Caltrans, U.S. Department of Transportation) as well as environmental protection agencies. The Partnership works by consensus to improve the overall efficiency and operation of the Bay Area's transportation network, including developing strategies for financing transportation improvements.

Why Was The Bay Area Partnership Formed?

The Bay Area's numerous natural barriers and rich mix of urban, suburban and rural settings and subeconomies have given birth to a multiplicity of transportation system owners, operators and regulators. This institutional framework ensures that widely varying local needs are met, but also requires that the players work with each other to coordinate services where their systems intersect or overlap. In this complex environment, integration depends on connections that are as much financial, institutional and informational as they are physical - hence the need for a strategic alliance on the scale of The Bay Area Partnership that can focus on the larger picture of how the individual components fit together.

Why Now?

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the region's transportation planning, financing and coordinating agency, has long put system integration at the top of its agenda. Such efforts were given a new impetus with the 1991 passage of a major piece of federal legislation, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, or ISTEA. As the name implies, the act calls for more emphasis on integrating travel modes, also signaling a new appreciation for measures to improve operational efficiency and increase the capacity of existing facilities. With many of the most cost-effective strategies involving multiple jurisdictions or multiple modes, partnerships are the key to realizing the intent and full potential of ISTEA. The region naturally looked to MTC for leadership in meeting these mandates, and in January of 1992, just weeks after ISTEA was signed into law, MTC convened The Bay Area Partnership.

How Does The Bay Area Partnership Work?

The Bay Area Partnership is nothing more and nothing less than a forum for communication, much of it face-to-face. The dialogue occurs at many levels: at regular meetings of the committee of the whole and a smaller steering committee; and at numerous subcommittee and task force meetings that occur in between. In keeping with the panel's egalitarian nature, the chairmanship and location of the meetings of the full board are passed from agency to agency.

Partnership Success Stories

  • Just months after The Partnership was formed, MTC (acting as the Service Authority for Freeways and Expressways, or SAFE), Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol unveiled the Freeway Service Patrol, a fleet of tow trucks that now roam some 450 miles of the Bay Area's most congested freeways, mostly during rush hours. The specially trained drivers stop an average of more than 10,000 times a month to provide a gallon of gas, change a tire, jump-start a dead battery, clear accident debris and the like – all free of charge – earning rave reviews from motorists.
  • MTC and Caltrans have lined Bay Area highways with over 3,300 solar-powered call boxes, providing some 200 stranded motorists a day with a free lifeline to emergency services dispatchers.
  • MTC joined forces with Caltrans, the California Highway Patrol and the region's public transit and paratransit operators to establish the 511 traveler information system, providing travelers with real-time data on traffic conditions; public transit routes, fares and schedules; carpooling, vanpooling and bicycling options; and airport parking availability. Travelers can access the toll-free service by phone at 511 or on the Web at
  • In 1992, a Partnership task force spent countless hours developing an equitable process for screening and ranking projects to benefit from the flexible federal funding flowing to the Bay Area from ISTEA. By the fall of 1994, MTC had used this pioneering "multimodal priority-setting process" to allocate more than a half-billion dollars in ISTEA money to some 500 projects. The trend accelerated under the successor legislation to ISTEA, known as the Transportation Efficiency Act for the 21st Century, or TEA-21 for short, which passed in 1998 and was extended by Congress in the fall of 2003. Flexible federal funding has been used to finance everything from highway projects to new bike lanes, and even a transit-station-based childcare center.
  • The Partners have come to consensus on a number of legislative principles for remedying the substantial funding shortfalls plaguing the Bay Area transportation network. The principles laid the groundwork for passage of a state bill (AB 595) that authorizes a vote by the Bay Area electorate on a regional gas tax to fund a wide range of transportation projects.

For more information, contact MTC's Public Information office:
Tel: 510.817.5787 / e-mail: