MTC-ABAG Merger Study Kicks into High Gear

At a meeting this morning, officials from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments heard a presentation about a potential merger. The two agencies are jointly responsible for preparing Plan Bay Area, the long-range plan for integrating transportation, housing, and land use in the nine-county region. Today’s meeting continues a process formally initiated in December with MTC and ABAG’s agreement to hire Management Partners as consultants in charge of studying merger possibilities.

The impetus for the study relates back to MTC’s June 24, 2015 vote to extend funding to ABAG for half of the fiscal year starting July 1, 2015, instead of the expected full fiscal year. ABAG officials responded with a memo addressing the financial implications this decision could have on their agency, and followed up on that document in greater detail with a white paper. After some discussion, the two agencies adopted resolutions (MTC’s 4210 and ABAG’s 12-15) in October outlining a path forward that included conducting an institutional merger study.

Management Partners consultants explained in their presentation this morning that they have been gathering information from both staff members and elected representatives of each agency, as well as from other comparable regional entities across the state (Sacramento, Los Angeles, and San Diego) and the nation (Chicago; Washington, D.C.; and Seattle). They have also interviewed a variety of regional stakeholders (including the League of Women Voters of the Bay Area, four of whose board members met with the consultants last week), and in March will hold open forums to further engage the community. The schedule for those forums is:

March 2, 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., in the offices of SPUR San Jose, 76 South First Street in San Jose;

March 8, 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., in the Contra Costa Transportation Authority Board Room, 2999 Oak Road in Walnut Creek; and

March 14, 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., in Novato City Hall Council Chambers, 901 Sherman Avenue in Novato.

Management Partners will present stakeholder feedback to MTC and ABAG in a meeting on March 25 — if time permits. Priority items for this meeting will be financial forecasts for MTC and ABAG, as well as “alternative models/options for consideration by the respective committees and analysis criteria.” The likely time and venue for this public meeting is 9 a.m. in the MetroCenter Auditorium at 101 Eighth Street in Oakland. Interested parties can check www.mtcabagmergerstudy.com for updates and additional information.

As this process moves along at the regional level, the state Assembly will be following it as well, through a special select committee that first convened last Friday in the Elihu Harris State Building at 1515 Clay Street in Oakland.

Those interested in additional history on the origins of Bay Area governance and how the region arrived at this current crossroads are encouraged to read “ABAG: A Concise History” by Revan Tranter, a former ABAG executive director who attended today’s meeting and spoke during the public comment period.

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