Golden Gate Transit: A Traffic Congestion Solution

By the 1960s, traffic congestion on the Golden Gate Bridge had reached an all time high as thousands of commuters travelled to jobs in San Francisco. For perspective, by 1967, 28.3 million vehicles crossed the span, up from 3.3 million in 1938.

Public and political pressure was mounting throughout the Bay Area for expansion of existing facilities or the creation of new transportation facilities. Concepts ranged from building new bridges, to the construction of a tube beneath the Bay, to a lower deck on the Golden Gate Bridge.

In spite of the strong support for a second deck, particularly among frustrated Marin and Sonoma commuters, on November 24, 1967, the District Board of Directors voted to “not contract for further studies or planning which look toward construction of a second deck until substantial improvement of mass transportation has been proven unable reasonably to relieve congestion on the Bridge during peak commute hours.”

With the last of the original Bridge construction bonds due to be retired on June 30, 1971, and with $22.8 million in toll reserves, the District was developed a public transit system as a traffic management solution for the congestion on the Bridge.

On November 10, 1969, California State Assembly Bill 584 authorized the District to develop a mass transportation program for the Highway 101/Golden Gate Corridor. The word “Transportation” was added to the District’s name. As the District did not have the authority to levy taxes, Bridge tolls would be used to subsidize the operation of the public transit system.

On December 10, 1971, AB 919 required the District to next develop a long-range mass transportation program. After 21 public hearings, a multi-modal system of buses and ferries emerged as the best means to effectively serve communities and reduce congestion.

On August 15, 1970, Golden Gate Sausalito Ferry began service to/from San Francisco. On January 1, 1972, Golden Gate Transit (GGT) bus service between Sonoma, Marin and San Francisco counties began, and in 1976, ferry service began between Larkspur and San Francisco.

The capital cost of both the GGT and GGF transit system infrastructure (buses, vessel, shops, terminals, etc.) was financed by a combination of federal grants from the Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA) and District toll reserves.

Since its humble beginning in a muddy lot in San Rafael, GGT has become an integral part of life in the counties it serves and continues to be a major contributor to the relief of traffic congestion in the Highway 101/Golden Gate Corridor.