Public policy veteran, community advocate and campus alumnus Ben Fong is running for the director seat in the AC Transit Board of Directors in Ward 1 under the campaign motto, “When we ride together, we rise together.”
The great-grandson of immigrants to Oakland Chinatown, Fong said his campaign was born out of a passion for public transit and its role in upholding economies and providing opportunities to people of all backgrounds.
If elected, Fong hopes to halt threatened cuts to bus services, streamline rider experience and work to combat climate change by making transit more efficient, according to his campaign website.
“I want to see the East Bay connected, not divided,” Fong said in an email. “I want roads that are safely shared by buses, cars, bikes, and pedestrians. We need to save the 72, build the (Bus Rapid Transit) on San Pablo, and connect people to job opportunities.”
Fong worked in the Obama administration as a foreign service officer and diplomat in postings from Mexico to Mumbai, India, a role that he said granted him the experience necessary to drive tangible change.
During the 2014 Ebola pandemic, Fong helped with the U.S. Department of State’s response. He intends to implement this “hands-on expertise” as Ward 1 director by keeping buses safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to his website.
Through Fong’s career in public policy, he helped introduce and implement bike-share and sustainable transportation solutions to dozens of cities. Fong added that his experience in partnering with cities and understanding of policy would enable him to help keep the transit system “solvent, successful, and safe.”
Environmental issues also form a cornerstone of Fong’s platform.
While working in the Department of State, he helped improve access to renewable energy equipment across the Asia-Pacific region, according to his website. As an AC Transit Director, he plans to push for investment in electric buses and environmentally friendly transit infrastructure.
More locally, Fong founded the donation campaign Fork in the Road in June, which aims to help Berkeley restaurants transition to outdoor dining by supplying them with funding for amenities including roadside barriers and outdoor dining tables and chairs.
Fong is also a veteran of the Berkeley Planning Commission, where his projects included helping develop the Adeline Corridor to expand bike and pedestrian lanes and implementing incentives to increase transit ridership.
The first-time AC Transit candidate has amassed more than 30 endorsements as of press time, including those from California State Sen. Scott Wiener, BART director Rebecca Saltzman and City Councilmember Rigel Robinson.
“We have shattered expectations at every turn,” Fong said in an email. “It has been heartwarming to see what we can accomplish when we believe that change is possible and when we work together to make a difference in our community.”