OAKLAND, CA — Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Dave Cortese took over the reins of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) today after the 18 voting members of the 21-member regional Commission unanimously elected him as chair for the two-year term running through February 2017.
The Commission is charged with planning, financing and coordinating transportation for the nine counties comprising the San Francisco Bay Area, a mission that also extends to integrating transportation facilities and services with development while promoting sustainability. MTC oversees several travel resources in the Bay Area, including the free 511 traveler information system (on the phone at 511 and on the Web at 511.org), the Clipper® transit fare card and the FasTrak® electronic toll collection system.
Cortese brings to his assignment two years as MTC’s vice chair, and eight years overall as an MTC commissioner. He was first appointed to MTC in 2007 as the Association of Bay Area Governments’ (ABAG) representative, later transitioning to Santa Clara County’s seat on the Commission. In February 2015 he started his third four-year term as an MTC commissioner.
“I am honored to be steering MTC during this time of tremendous challenge and opportunity for the agency and the region,” Cortese said. “On the one hand, the Bay Area is blessed with renewed economic growth, but on the other, we must contend with the transportation impacts of this growth, and work to ensure that people at all income levels have access and mobility options.”
Cortese pointed out that he is the first Santa Clara County representative to lead MTC since Jim Beall, who served as chair of MTC from 1999 to 2001 and as an MTC commissioner from 1987 to 2006. Beall served on the San Jose City Council and the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors before being elected to the California State Senate, where he recently assumed the role of chair of the state Senate Transportation and Housing Committee. “I feel fortunate to be stepping into the MTC chair role at a time when the Senate Transportation Committee is being chaired by someone as knowledgeable about transportation and the Bay Area as Jim Beall,” Cortese said. “The close working relationship we’ve developed over our many years in government will be helpful as the region partners with the state to implement the Cap and Trade Program and address other urgent issues.”
Cortese has served on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors since 2008, and in January of this year, was elected to serve as the 2015 president of the board after a stint as vice president.
A native of San Jose who comes from a public service-oriented family and is trained as a lawyer, Cortese brings to his new MTC assignment strong credentials in transportation and environmental stewardship. As an MTC commissioner, he fought to bring federal stimulus funds to the region, and helped shepherd to adoption the groundbreaking Plan Bay Area, the first regional long-range plan to closely link transportation investments with sustainable development patterns. As a member of the Valley Transportation Authority Board of Directors, he pushed to ensure BART’s expansion into Santa Clara County.
Cortese also serves as chair of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors’ Housing, Land Use, Environment and Transportation Committee, where he has secured funding for more school crossing guards, and for an evaluation of “hot spots” of pedestrian and bicycle accidents/fatalities in order to improve safety. He also has advocated for expanding the use of renewable energy, and protecting the local environment, parks and open spaces.
In 2009 he launched the “Cortese Kids Climate Club,” a program where elementary and middle school students become Planet Super Heroes by agreeing to certain practices in order to protect the environment.
Prior to his county service, Cortese served eight years on the San Jose City Council and led efforts to preserve street trees and increase the urban canopy, and to adopt goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the city. He served two years as San Jose’s vice mayor and has served as president of ABAG.
MTC’s Commission also serves as the governing board overseeing the work of two affiliated agencies, the Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA) and the Service Authority for Freeways and Expressways (SAFE), and Commissioner Cortese will chair those bodies as well.