SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge ruled Friday that the Bay Area’s transportation authority must increase use of public transit throughout the region.
U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson ruled the Metropolitan Transportation Commission must increase Bay Area public transit use by 15 percent above 1983 levels.
The ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by community and environmental groups in February. The groups claimed that the commission and public transportation operators, such as San Francisco’s Muni and AC Transit, were out of compliance with a transportation control measure.
Public transportation levels now are about what they were in 1983, although the population in the area has increased, said Deborah Reames, an attorney with Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, who handled the case.
Transportation numbers were not immediately available, and often they are controversial because they usually are based on an estimate, said Randy Rentschler, spokesman for the commission.
No date has been set for the commission to achieve compliance.
The commission wants to increase ridership on public transportation, but getting people out of their cars is difficult, Rentschler said.
“We share the goals of increased ridership and more transit opportunities for everybody, (but) we don’t have a command and control economy,” he said. “People wake up every morning and choose if they want to drive their cars, ride their bikes or take public transportation.”
The ruling is expected to help reduce pollution in the Bay Area. Cars and trucks contribute about 50 percent of the air pollution in the region, Reames said.
“It’s not a huge amount compared to the total amount of reduction we need in the Bay Area,” she said. “The most critical thing about this is the court has made it crystal clear that the transportation control measure requires MTC and the operators to achieve the level and maintain it.”