Regional Summit Aims to Improve Transit Access to Health and Social Services in the S.F. Bay Area
OAKLAND, Calif., Sept. 16 /PRNewswire/ — The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) yesterday convened a regional summit of government leaders and other policymakers to discuss strategies for ensuring that newly developed health and social services facilities are located in areas that will provide sufficient transit access for customers and staff.
Some 70 people attended “Better Access, Better Service,” this first-ever summit of its kind in the Bay Area. They represent health care, cities and counties, social service agencies, real estate firms and public transit agencies. The forum culminated a year-long study effort spearheaded by MTC and funded in part with a $175,000 grant from Caltrans.
MTC Chair and Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty opened the session. “We have a responsibility to ensure that good transit access is an absolute requirement for new health care and social service facilities,” Haggerty said. “When it isn’t, special shuttle services may be required – these are expensive and inconvenient.”
MTC unveiled a series of working papers at the event, and solicited feedback on a series of recommendations, including:
- boost collaboration among transit operators, health and social services agencies, public health officials, and local review and policy boards;
- enact policies that make transit accessibility a key factor in the local review process;
- establish more neighborhood-serving clinics and centers;
- continue to cluster services and co-locate facilities in transit-accessible areas;
- pursue infill and re-use development of facilities in transit-rich neighborhoods;
- establish mitigation fees for large facilities to be built outside transit-rich districts; and
- take advantage of existing incentive programs that encourage customers and staff to use transit and/or subsidize the cost of transit service for customers in greatest need.
Transit access is often an afterthought rather than a key element in facility planning, according to MTC Planner Therese Trivedi, who is overseeing the MTC study. “Administrators often contact the local transit agency close to the day when they are opening their doors, requesting bus service. Unfortunately, transit operators do not have the flexibility to reroute their system on the fly.” Funding to reroute or add service is also scarce in today’s tight economy.
This pattern creates a problem for transit-dependent clients – particularly disabled, low-income and elderly people – wanting to access these services, as well as for the transit operator which then has to scramble and figure out how to serve the new location.
“This project tried to get at how decisions are made about facility location, how we can influence those decisions and how we can elevate transit in the process,” Trivedi said.
The study focused on transit accessibility in urban and suburban sections of Alameda and Contra Costa counties, but the findings are expected to apply to many communities throughout the nine-county Bay Area.
The keynote address was delivered by Dr. Wendell Brunner, Director of Public Health for Contra Costa Health Services. Case studies examined best practices at the Contra Costa County Employment and Human Services Department in Pleasant Hill; La Clinica locations in Oakland and Concord; the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley (which is bringing together several nonprofits serving the disability community at a facility located at the Ashby BART station); and the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Leandro.
While locating close to a BART station or other transit hubs might be more expensive on the surface, in the end it pays off in clientele and staff benefits that can be difficult to quantify. “The incremental … costs [of transit proximity] while seeming substantial, are generally not significant when measured against the total cost of operating the agency,” one of the study papers noted. Study materials can be viewed at http://www.mtc.ca.gov/planning/smart_growth/services/. MTC is the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area’s transportation planning, coordinating and financing agency.
SOURCE Metropolitan Transportation Commission