Bay Area Traffic Relief Plan
Increases tolls on the Bay Area’s seven state-owned bridges, excluding the Golden Gate Bridge, by $1 in 2019, $1 in 2022 and $1 in 2025 to fund regional transportation capital investments.
What the Measure Would Do
Regional Measure 3 (RM3) proposes a bridge toll increase to generate $4.45 billion for transportation capital investments over a 25-year period and $60 million annually to support transit operations. Tolls would increase by a total of $3 by 2025 on the seven state-owned toll bridges in the Bay Area (the Golden Gate Bridge is excluded), with an option to allow inflation indexing thereafter. As with other bridge tolls, funds would be collected and administered through the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) acting as the Bay Area Toll Authority.
Notable projects that would receive significant funding under RM3 include: $500 million to expand BART’s fleet; $375 million to expand BART to Silicon Valley; $325 million to bring high-speed rail to the Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco; $300 million to expand ferry service; and $50 million to implement a new Clipper-based fare system. In addition, the expenditure plan would set aside up to $60 million annually to support transit operations, including $35 million for ferry service, $20 million for regional express bus service and $5 million for Transbay Transit Center operations.
RM3 would also introduce new accountability measures, including an RM3 independent oversight committee, transit performance measures and an inspector general for BART.
RM3 would allow for discounts for some toll-payers. People crossing two state-owned toll bridges during commute hours and using FasTrak would receive a 50 percent discount on their tolls. Similar to today, carpools would also receive a 50 percent discount.
Finally, RM3 would allow MTC to index bridge tolls to inflation. This would enable MTC to increase bridge tolls in the future to fund capital projects without having to seek approval from the voters.
RM3 was authorized by the California State Legislature in 2017 through the adoption of Senate Bill 595 (Beall), which also established an expenditure plan to accompany any new revenues generated. The expenditure plan was developed primarily by the Bay Area delegation of the state legislature, with input from MTC and transportation, environmental, business and other interests. Although some compromises were necessary in finalizing the expenditure plan, the projects it would fund represent the major transportation capital priorities of each of the nine Bay Area counties.
As is common in revenue and expenditure measures of this magnitude, the state’s authorizing legislation also included the establishment of an independent oversight committee to monitor RM3-funded expenditures for consistency with the expenditure plan. In addition, the legislation required that MTC establish performance measures for RM3-funded bus and ferry service. The authorizing legislation also introduced an independent office of the BART inspector general, adding a new layer of oversight to BART that covers both RM3-funded and non-RM3-funded projects and activities.
RM3 is the successor to Regional Measures 1 and 2, passed in 1988 and 2004, respectively. Regional Measure 1 was dedicated to capital improvements only, while Regional Measure 2 allocated about 60 percent of its funding to capital and 40 percent to operating support.
RM3 was placed on the ballot by MTC acting as the Bay Area Toll Authority. Because RM3 is a fee and not a tax, it requires a simple majority (50 percent plus one vote) in the nine Bay Area counties to pass. It does not require a majority in each county.
Regional Measure 3 Projects
- The vast majority of projects that would be funded by RM3 have been identified as priorities in the region’s long-range transportation plan and are awaiting funding to move forward. If RM3 passes, it would successfully execute one of the plan’s stated funding strategies.
- The expenditure plan would invest in many transportation projects that are critical for sustainable regional mobility, notably expanding BART’s fleet and connecting Caltrain and high-speed rail to the Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco.
- RM3 would fund important local transportation needs, such as replacing and expanding Muni’s fleet and facilities, without which Muni cannot keep pace with demand.
- The expenditure plan would allocate the majority of funding to sustainable modes of travel (75 percent of funding would go to transit, bicycle and pedestrian projects) while reserving a sizeable portion of road funding for express-lane expansion, which would enable counties to reward carpooling and appropriately price solo driving.
- Transit fares and bridge tolls have not increased in parallel in recent years; currently, it costs more to use transit to cross a bridge than it does to drive across a bridge. By indexing bridge tolls to inflation, RM3 would start to correct the imbalance and would keep toll rates at appropriate levels in future years.
- RM3 would provide an important regional revenue source for local projects as federal funding for transportation projects continues to decline.
- The measure would offer a discount for people crossing more than one bridge. Although as a whole bridge toll-payers are disproportionately higher-income, it’s important that RM3 would provide pricing relief for those who have been pushed to the edge of the region because of the Bay Area’s affordability crisis and who are thus forced to drive. The measure would also offer a discount for carpools — an important component to encourage people to make sustainable transportation choices.
- Plan Bay Area 2040, the region’s transportation and land use plan, identifies a funding gap of $198 billion, but RM3 would only generate $4.45 billion.
While RM3 wouldn’t generate enough money to solve our transportation problems once and for all, it is a necessary measure to help us meet increasing demands on our transportation system. The measure would pay for important transportation projects that would have real impact for many system users. It would also provide a long-term fix in that bridge tolls in the future could be indexed to inflation, allowing the region to better keep pace with its growing transportation system needs.