A BART train arrives at the Pleasant Hill BART station in Walnut Creek, Calif. on Monday, February 1, 2021. (Ray Saint Germain/Bay City News Foundation)

The Bay Area’s myriad transit agencies could soon utilize a single mapping system after the region’s transportation planning agency approved a contract to streamline transit information and guidance. 

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Operations Committee approved a $6 million contract Friday with the mapping company Applied Wayfinding Inc. to develop a streamlined system of maps, signage and information at every transit station in the nine-county Bay Area.

The regional mapping project is part of a 27-point plan devised by the MTC’s Blue Ribbon Transit Recovery Task Force in 2020 to help the region’s transit systems rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic while making public transit more efficient and easier to use.

“This is a great step forward in making transit more accessible and understandable for regular and new riders alike,” MTC Chair and Napa County Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza said in a statement. “As more people come back to public transit after the pandemic, a unified system of maps and signage will make it easier for Bay Area residents to feel comfortable riding transit wherever they find themselves in the nine counties.”

Under its current timeline, the MTC expects to received prototypes of possible integrated maps and signs by 2024, with the design and implementation of a common mapping system planned for 2024 and 2025.

The system would first be implemented at all transit stops in Sonoma County before expanding into Solano County. The system would then be expanded to the rest of the region in 2026.

The MTC has endorsed additional methods of better integrating the region’s 27 transit agencies, including the introduction of a universal fare system and coordinated schedules.

State Sen. Josh Becker, D-San Mateo, introduced a bill in February that would require all 27 agencies in the Bay Area to implement a standardized fare system and align their schedules by mid-2024. 

Becker argued after introducing the bill that the region’s transit agencies have multiple fare structures, discount and loyalty programs and trip planning systems and lack integrated schedules and live transit data. 

Taken together, he said, riders often find transferring between multiple transit systems to be burdensome and force them to wait for needlessly long amounts of time.

Some of the Bay Area’s transit agencies have already taken steps to align their schedules. BART and Caltrain have coordinated arrivals and departures at Millbrae Station, while Golden Gate Transit provides local service within San Francisco. 

“Transforming more than two dozen separate transit systems into one coordinated network demands focus on the customer experience, and that starts with clear and consistent information that applies to every one of the Bay Area’s buses, trains, ferries, light-rail vehicles, streetcars or cable cars that crisscross our region,” Becker said in a statement praising the MTC for forging ahead with developing a new mapping system. 

Becker’s bill was approved by the state Senate in May and is currently under committee consideration in the Assembly. 

Information about the MTC’s transit recovery and fare integration task forces can be found at https://mtc.ca.gov/about-mtc/committees/interagency-committees.