The problems endemic in Bay Area transportation

Posted on our sister website transdef.org is a large body of work that speaks to the problems endemic in the world of transportation: 1. The politicization of the distribution of funding. Public agencies are heavily influenced by self-interested entities that do not care about the effectiveness of projects for the larger public. Even though MTC spends massive amounts of money, it is so poorly spent (think the Bay Bridge East Span) that the public gets relatively little benefit out of it. The process most definitely does not function to maximize public benefits. Cost-effectiveness is not even among MTC’s top10 considerations. The…

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The backstory of Seattle’s success with buses

CityLab offers more details about how Seattle succeeded in accommodating a large increase in population with an expanded bus system. A good representative quote: The first lesson for any transportation planner looking to reverse-engineer Seattle-style success: Make room for buses. Seattle is one of the few cities to escape the transit death spiral, where budget cuts lead to reduced service hours, which leads to lower ridership. Seattle has created a virtuous circle, where good bus service leads to higher ridership, which supports better service. The article also mentions that the Nashville, TN transit measure mentioned previously here was defeated in…

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Seattle leads on parking, too!

In Seattle’s latest act of transportation greatness, parking minimums were eliminated in areas with good transit. Councilmember Rob Johnson, the legislation’s lead sponsor, said at Monday’s council meeting: Fundamentally I come to this because I believe it’s unfair for us to have parking that’s abundant and free and housing that is scarce and expensive. I’m working hard to change that. The measure unbundled parking fees from rents, thereby creating an economic incentive to reduce or eliminate household automobiles. It also authorized the renting of surplus off-street parking to non-residents of the building in which it is located, thereby reducing the need…

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Women lead the way on climate policy

A very significant opinion piece by three women leaders suggests that the upcoming San Mateo sales tax needs to acknowledge that the era of highway widening is over: Please urge our county’s Board of Supervisors and the leaders of our transportation agencies to end the cycle of highway widening, and instead, fund projects with this ballot measure that improve mobility without adding polluting car trips. TRANSDEF applauds these leaders for helping the public grasp the seemingly counterintuitive notion that widening highways doesn’t solve congestion. The piece is well-worth reading. Highway widening is controversial up in Portland, where strong dissenting opinions…

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Union leaders and their fantasies

Two union officers penned an opinion piece for the San Mateo Daily Journal that laid out their fantasy for transportation: We can all dream of a future when today’s unbearable traffic congestion is a thing of the past. Traffic would flow freely on Highway 101, Interstate 280, State Route 92 and the Dumbarton corridor because smart, safe, reliable technology will have improved mobility on our traffic corridors, expanded the use of public express buses and maximized the capacity of our highway network. The problem is, their fantasy is actually the unexamined assumption underlying all transportation planning in the U.S. When…

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Marin Independent Journal Publishes TRANSDEF Opinion Piece

Today’s Marin Independent Journal published TRANSDEF’s piece explaining how suburban development leads to solo driving, which leads to congestion. This problem is the result of our governance structure: Suburbanization is a piecemeal process, governed by local government. What’s been missed for the past 80 years is the cumulative effect of many thousands of subdivisions in dozens of jurisdictions on the region’s transportation network. That kind of analysis requires regional governance with the power and will to enforce consequences on development that has negative impacts on the region. The editorials opposing Regional Measure 3 by the Mountain View Voice and Palo…

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Supervisor Canepa Opposes Toll Lanes

San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa published an opinion piece Toll lanes good for the rich, bad for the environment today. What’s especially significant about the piece is that he is saying that MTC’s priorities are heading in the wrong direction: If we are really serious about combating climate change, encouraging solo drivers to use toll lanes during peak commute hours is not the answer. … Toll lanes will not reduce traffic in the long term and will not reduce GHG emissions. The second largest expenditure allocation in Regional Measure 3 is $300 million dollars for “Bay Area Corridor Express Lanes,” the…

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Cupertino City Council Votes to Oppose RM3

In a highly unusual agenda item, the Cupertino City Council discussed the flaws in Regional Measure 3 and voted to oppose it. They will send a letter to other elected officials, informing them of their reasons for doing so. The item starts with public testimony on the measure, led off by TRANSDEF. Councilmember Steven Scharf offered a striking slide presentation. Vice-Mayor Rod Sinks presented a passionate and thorough recounting of the promises to Cupertino that have been broken by VTA. Councilmember Barry Chang urged the Council to take a leadership role in opposing the measure. Finally, the Council formulated its final…

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Massachusetts Learns from Seattle

In an interesting article, representatives from Massachusetts visited Seattle and found useful lessons. The contrast between Seattle and California are instructive. One striking takeaway: Plan for growth. The Seattle area has enormous demand for housing, and, like Boston, struggles to ensure affordability. We learned that the State of Washington’s  Growth Management Act (in law since 1990) compels a forward-looking plan at every level of government, so that the region’s housing, transportation, land use and service delivery have a framework for success. Does that sound anything like the Bay Area? Lots of taxpayer money is going into transit projects that enable people to leave…

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Why Driving Alone Produces Incurable Congestion

An excellent article on the Heaven or Hell future of autonomous vehicles has a great chart that illustrates the choices for moving large numbers of people needing to travel at the same time. It is apparent from the images that when the numbers get high enough, there simply is no way to provide enough physical space for everyone wishing to travel alone. This is why the only convenient form of transportation from ever-increasing suburbanization has brought the Bay Area’s roads to a crisis point.  Regional Measure 3’s proposed expenditures have all been tried before: “Traffic is at an all-time high,” said Rebecca…

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