May 29, 2023
Final Reports
San Mateo Courts - Civil Grand Jury

2001 Final Report:

Consolidation of San Mateo County Transportation Agencies

Summary | Background | Findings | Recommendations | Responses


Three local agencies deal with intra-county transit issues in San Mateo County. They manage bus service (SamTrans), administer Measure A sales tax funds (the Transportation Authority), and manage state-provided "congestion management" funds (the City/County Association of Governments, "C/CAG").

Some California counties, such as Santa Clara, combine these three functions into a single entity. Such an entity better integrates transportation planning and removes one or more layers of bureaucracy in the planning, financing and operation of local transportation projects, thus speeding the planning process and reducing costs.

The Grand Jury interviewed a variety of transportation experts and officials. Most indicated that consolidation of the three functions mentioned above would be beneficial.

Issue: Would San Mateo County benefit if its three transportation agencies were consolidated?


The 1997 Grand Jury recommended,

"The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors should take all necessary steps to create a San Mateo County Transportation District by December 31, 1999 …."

Three county agencies deal with intra-county transportation issues: the San Mateo County Transportation District (SamTrans), which provides bus service; the San Mateo County Transportation Authority, which administers the half-cent transportation sales tax approved as part of 1988's Measure A; and the City/County Association of Governments (C/CAG), which administers state-provided "congestion management" funds.

The Grand Jury examined several factors related to the functions of these agencies:

  • The effectiveness of the current countywide system
  • How the county might benefit if the agencies were consolidated
  • The experiences, successes and challenges of neighboring counties, such as Santa Clara, that have a consolidated system
  • What legislation would be required to consolidate
  • The structure of the consolidated agency capable of managing transportation

The Grand Jury conducted extensive research relative to the composition of boards, agencies, committees and groups engaged in design, funding, operation and administration of transportation within the county. Those interviewed included members of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, a former Santa Clara Supervisor, grand jury members from 1997 and 2000-2001, state legislators, Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board members, a Transportation Authority attorney, a right-of-way litigator, the C/CAG Executive Director, the C/CAG President, and the University of California, Berkeley transportation department librarian


The Grand Jury believes that the current transportation system provides satisfactory services and programs for San Mateo County, although duplication of responsibility among the various agencies gives the impression of inefficiency. Both the Transportation Authority and C/CAG, for example, can be petitioned to provide funds for such projects as highway overpasses. Bus service to, and improvements at, Caltrain stations in the county could require that plans be reviewed by SamTrans, the Transportation Authority and C/CAG, as well as the Joint Powers Board, which governs Caltrain. This could, and often does, delay the start and completion of a project without compensating benefit. Such delays increase project costs, ultimately burdening the consumer.

The Grand Jury found numerous indications, including expert opinions, that consolidation of local transit agencies would provide substantial benefits. These include better integrated transportation planning and removal of one or more layers of bureaucracy in the planning, financing and operation of local transportation projects. This would streamline projects, speed their completion, and reduce inflationary cost increases. County residents, moreover, could see a true inter-modal transportation system if public transit and auto transportation plans were handled by one agency.

A consolidated agency would provide a more streamlined transportation policy, make it easier for the public to follow the decision-making and operating processes, and save money.



1. The County Board of Supervisors should study the savings in time and money if the three transportation agencies were consolidated.

2. If the study demonstrates that consolidation would be beneficial, the Supervisors should initiate the process.


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