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Golden Gate Bridge district plans for post-pandemic future

Golden Gate Bridge district plans for post-pandemic future

The Golden Gate Bridge district is charting a path to hit sustainability targets and contribute to regional transportation goals while adjusting operations for a post-pandemic environment.

District staff has drafted 40 initiatives in a strategic plan that will guide the agency’s activities and finances. The plan is expected to be presented to the district’s board at a public hearing on May 24.

According to the district, there are 150,000 fewer people in downtown San Francisco each weekday compared to pre-pandemic levels. Many of those who once packed offices were Marin commuters who battled traffic over the bridge or hopped on a Golden Gate bus or ferry to get to work.

Only about 70% of commuter traffic has returned to the Golden Gate Bridge, and bus and ferry ridership is still at about 50%, according to the district.

“One of the themes is that travel is different in the corridor,” said Denis Mulligan, general manager of the district. “Recreation travel is back, weekend travel is back, the commuter travel is not. Part of it is, how do we adjust to that?”

The plan focuses on four areas: customer service improvements; sustainability and climate responsibility; addressing financial shortfalls; and operational excellence.

In the customer service category, the district is looking at adjusting to post-pandemic travel patterns through matching service levels to the demand to maximize the number of passengers per trip.

The district is also examining ways to make transit easier for bicyclists through possibilities of long-term bike parking options and more storage on buses and ferries.

The plan looks at regional goals of aligning marketing strategies to attract riders, improve service between transit providers along the Highway 101 corridor and convert North Bay commuter lanes to require three occupants or more per vehicle to free up space for buses to stay on schedule.

The plan also looks at expanding bus and ferry service beyond the Highway 101 corridor.

In the sustainability and climate category, the plan looks at green transportation options for bus and ferry service and clean energy for facilities and operations. The plan also directs staff to explore opportunities to create housing on district property, among other initiatives.

To address the financial shortfall, the plan suggests eliminating toll discounts for private transportation services that shuttle passengers to the airport; increasing parking fees; and looking at ways of reducing the cost of transit service through coordinating routes with other providers.

In the operational excellence category, the plan charges the district to evaluate staffing levels and fill vacancies; audit its staff training; develop a plan to attract and retain staff; investigate paying down unfunded pension liabilities; and reevaluate employee benefits packages, among other directives.

“The expectation is we’re going to study all these things and report back to the board over the coming years,” Mulligan said.

Julia Gonzalez, spokesperson for Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit, said it applauds the bridge district for developing the plan.

“The public transit landscape has changed post-pandemic, and SMART is working with Golden Gate and other transit agencies to evaluate the future transit needs in the Highway 101 corridor,” Gonzalez said. “We look forward to continued partnership and improvement of transit services in the North Bay.”

Anne Richman, executive director of the Transportation Authority of Marin, said her staff has followed development of the plan with interest.

“TAM is pleased to see the focus on transit coordination with partners and we support the attention to transit improvements to benefit riders, the environment and the traveling public,” Richman said.

Nancy Whelan, general manager of Marin Transit, said the agency’s board is expected to authorize a letter in support of the plan when it meets next week.

“It is a good opportunity to refocus the services it offers in light of the new fiscal realities and ridership trends,” Whelan said.

She said the planning effort was the impetus for a collaboration among transit agencies in Marin and Sonoma counties to optimize transit service on the Highway 101 corridor.

“GGBHTD has been a leader in this coordinated plan and we look forward to continuing to work with the district to provide the best transit service possible to our riders,” Whelan said, referring to the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District.

More information is at goldengate.org/district-projects/draft-strategic-plan-2024/.

Passengers get off the Golden Gate Transit route 154 bus at the Golden Gate Bridge toll plaza in San Francisco on Thursday, May 2, 2024. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal)
Passengers get off the Golden Gate Transit route 154 bus at the Golden Gate Bridge toll plaza in San Francisco on Thursday, May 2, 2024. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal)
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