Reforming Regional Government

Adjusting county and city representation at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission

SPUR Report February 28, 2012

Ever since regional government was first proposed for the Bay Area after World War II, leaders have debated the best governance model for managing a growing region. Today, the basic governance structure in place for regional transportation planning and funding has not changed since the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) was formed in 1970. Currently, all counties in the Bay Area have at least one seat on the MTC and larger counties have two. But the existing seats are not evenly distributed according to county size.

SPUR believes that reforming MTC governance is appropriate and that larger counties are justified in feeling under-represented. We endorse a legislative proposal that would give additional seats on MTC to San Jose and Oakland — but this is far from a complete solution. We think a more equitable reform would be to shift the way votes are taken within MTC, and we call for the commission to implement weighted voting. We think weighted votes should incorporate both the population and employment of each county and potentially include trip ends or other metrics of travel in the region. Weighted voting would make voting on MTC more objectively representative and also make MTC governance consistent with other regions throughout California.

About the Authors: 

This discussion paper was reviewed, debated and adopted by the SPUR Board of Directors on January 18, 2012.

The primary authors of this report are Egon Terplan and Deric Licko with assistance from SPUR’s Regional Policy Board.

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