Next Generation Bay Area Freeways Study

The Bay Area’s freeways are too congested — people and goods are stuck in traffic — creating problems for individuals, for communities, for the environment and the economy.

Karl Nielsen

The Next Generation Bay Area Freeways Study will explore how pricing and other strategies could transform the Bay Area’s freeway network into a modern network with reliable transportation options.

This planning study is a first step in identifying a roadmap to implement Plan Bay Area 2050’s Strategy "T5." It looks to 2030 and beyond, and will consider tolling on congested freeways in areas that also have good public transportation options.

Pricing strategies need a clear focus on social and racial equity. Without it, they can and will deepen existing inequities in our transportation system and in society as a whole. The Next Generation Bay Area Freeways Study will explore equitable and politically acceptable pathways that combine pricing with additional strategies that will work together for equity goals. This may include exemptions, discounts or transit improvements. The overall goal is to reach win-win outcomes and advance Plan Bay Area 2050’s equity, climate and mobility targets.

Areas of Focus

MTC invests in various programs and projects that help provide alternatives to driving on freeways. However, many people in the Bay Area need to drive — often alone — for a variety of reasons. The current system, which is free to use, is not equitable if people who absolutely need to use it cannot make reliable journeys.

The Next Generation Freeways Study will look at freeway corridors that are (or would be) served well by public transit, and seeks to determine if pricing would:

  • Encourage drivers to travel during off-peak hours
  • Encourage drivers to consolidate their trips and make their own driving routes more efficient
  • Encourage drivers to choose alternate destinations, if possible
  • Encourage drivers to take public transit or carpool instead of driving alone

The study will also seek answers to questions like:

  • Who is using the freeway network now? And why are they driving alone?
  • What are our shared goals for a next generation freeway network?
  • Can new tolls be implemented in a way that is equitable for all people in the Bay Area?
  • How could toll revenues be used to advance equitable outcomes?
  • How do we make sure that new fees will not harm people with low incomes?
  • How could transit improvements be implemented before tolls begin?
  • Due to the jobs-housing imbalance, many people live far from where they work. How will freeway pricing work for them?
  • What is the impact on local streets that are parallel to freeways?

Many other questions remain to be addressed, and an equity framework will provide a foundation for discussions in this study.

Three Major Study Components

  1. Community engagement with the diverse communities of the Bay Area, as well as stakeholder engagement with government and non-governmental organizations
  2. Technical analysis using MTC’s travel model to evaluate the effectiveness of proposed pathways and their impacts
  3. Exploration of operational deployment, including the potential costs of implementing tolling

What are “Pathways?"

Pathways are defined as packages of pricing and complementary strategies that could help transform the Bay Area’s freeways. Pricing strategies cannot be one-size-fits-all and must work together with various policies and investments that enable win-win outcomes.

Complementary strategies could be:

  • Exemptions and discounts
  • Credits and rebates
  • Transit improvements
  • Local street and road improvements
  • Walking and biking improvements
  • Other mobility programs

Staff Contact

Anup Tapase, Next Generation Freeways Study Project Manager

Related Documents

May 2022 Staff Report to the Equity & Access Subcommittee

April 2022 Staff Report to the Policy Advisory Council

February 2022 Staff Report to Joint MTC Planning Committee with the ABAG Administrative Committee

Study Timeline

Phase 1 & 2 — 2022: Defining the Problem and Goals and Pathways Development

February Finalize membership of Next Generation Bay Area Freeways Study Advisory Group
March First Advisory Group meeting; develop equity framework and understand existing conditions
Spring Develop preliminary goals and concepts with the advisory group
Summer Engage with communities to understand concerns with pricing, needs and priorities
Fall Develop initial sketch of pathways; MTC staff will present engagement findings to the Joint MTC Planning Committee and ABAG Administrative Committee

Phase 3 & 4 — 2023: Refining Pathways and Planning for Next Steps

Winter Prioritize one or two pathways based on technical analysis and identify two or three specific corridors for further refinement of pathways
Spring-Summer Develop an understanding of potential operational deployment options; Engage with communities to refine pathways
Summer-Fall Recommend a pathway for a corridor with most promising potential for implementation
Fall Lay out a ten-year roadmap of actions toward implementation


Advisory Bodies

The Next Generation Bay Area Freeways Study is advised by a staff-level advisory group and an ad-hoc executive group that bring together diverse perspectives from non-governmental and governmental organizations.

The role of the advisory group is to:

  • Help define policy
  • Advise on equity and engagement
  • Advise on technical inputs for analysis
  • Collaboratively evaluate and develop recommendations

The role of the ad-hoc executive group is to provide strategic direction for the study and endorse staff and advisory group recommendations.

These groups bring together representatives from:

  • Low-income communities and communities of color
  • Business organizations
  • Labor unions
  • Freight
  • Agriculture
  • Non-profit
  • Youth
  • Academia
  • Local and state agencies