San Francisco—Merging two of the region’s largest commuter rail systems into a single system ringing the bay is a winning idea, according to a vast majority of respondents in the 2021 Bay Area Council Poll.
The idea of merging Caltrain and BART has been around for decades, but hasn’t gained enough traction to become anything more than an idea. That could be changing, with Caltrain exploring new governance and management models and public transit systems working to restore ridership that has plummeted during the COVID pandemic.
The Bay Area Council Poll found 83% of respondents support combining BART and Caltrain into a single integrated system. Support rises to 86% when respondents are told that a merged system “would provide for a more efficient, convenient and better service and allow continuous rail around the bay.”
“We need to look at every option for improving our public transit systems, restoring ridership and ensuring we’re making the best use of limited resources to keep our region moving,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “The Bay Area transportation system has long suffered from balkanization that has created inefficiencies and not always put riders first. Whether or not merging Caltrain and BART is ultimately the right thing to do, these results send a loud message that we need to do a much better job of connecting and coordinating our many transit systems. The pandemic has put even more urgency around that.”
Support for a Caltrain-BART merger was largely similar across counties, with the most total support coming from San Francisco voters at 86%. There was little variation across other demographic categories. The only real variation came among political affiliation, with registered Democrats supporting merger by 87% and registered Republicans by 66%, still a very high number.
About the Bay Area Council
The Bay Area Council is a business-sponsored, public-policy advocacy organization for the nine-county Bay Area. The Council proactively advocates for a strong economy, a vital business environment, and a better quality of life for everyone who lives here. Founded in 1945, the Bay Area Council is widely respected by elected officials, policymakers and other civic leaders as the voice of Bay Area business. Today, more than 300 of the largest employers in the region support the Bay Area Council and offer their CEO or top executive as a member. Our members employ more than 4.43 million workers and have revenues of $1.94 trillion, worldwide. Learn more at www.bayareacouncil.org.
This study was completed by EMC Research on behalf of the Bay Area Council among a random sample of registered voters who responded to an email or text invitation to complete the survey. Demographics including age, gender, and ethnicity are representative of registered voters in the 9-County Bay Area. The survey was conducted March 10 – 16, 2021, and had 1,000 respondents, which carries a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. Previous polls were conducted in 2014, 2015, 2016 (residents of the Bay Area), 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 (registered voters).