PLEASANT HILL (KPIX) — With the pandemic dealing a devastating blow to the Bay Area’s transit systems, transportation officials on Monday unveiled a plan to help get public transit off life support.

Even as the economy has reopened in California, public transit agencies have been slow to recover ridership.

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When the pandemic began, traffic on the toll bridges dropped by half, but public transit ridership dropped by 90 percent. And it isn’t rebounding like the car traffic is. At the Pleasant Hill BART station, Athena Marshall said she only rides public transit because she has no other choice.

“Only if I have to, and I do have to. I don’t have a car,” Marshall explained. “It’s good for the environment, but I wouldn’t choose it.”

That’s a big problem for Bay Area transit agencies, most of which are only surviving the pandemic because of huge subsidies from the federal government.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission has formed a recovery task force that put together 27-point action plan to help transit recover.

“[It’s] a set of specific, near-term actions that will build momentum towards a transformational outcome,” said task force chair Jim Spering.

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They plan to do that by transforming transit into one seamless system. Currently there are 27 different agencies in the Bay Area, all with their own schedules and policies.

The plan is to coordinate them as much as possible, offering similar signage and route mapping and real-time scheduling to cut down on confusion for new and existing riders. They also want to standardize payment systems, such as Clipper Cards and new mobile payment platforms.

“I think the next step is focusing on what does this mean to the rider in terms of their experience?” said task force member Alfredo Pedroza.

They will focus on making public transportation faster and more reliable, increasing transit priority with bus-only lanes on streets and highways. They want to increase accessibility for disabled and lower income riders.

Late Monday afternoon, the task force voted unanimously to approve the Transit Transformation Action Plan and send it to the full MTC Board for consideration.

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It is an ambitious plan with an ambitious timeline…all within the next 3 years. But transportation officials understand that — unless they can get people back on the trains and buses — the transit systems themselves could be another casualty of the pandemic.