Campaign for a Livable Bay Area
San Francisco calls for an end to Bay Area highway expansion
San Francisco's Board of Supervisors recently approved a resolution [PDF file] calling for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) to stop spending regional funds expanding highways, and instead redirect those funds towards improving transit. Livable City co-authored the resolution, which was introduced by Board President David Chiu, approved unanimously by the Board, and signed by Mayor Gavin Newsom.
MTC's recently adopted a Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) proposes spending $6.4 billion on widening highways, despite the huge shorftalls for transit ($17 billion over the next 25 years) local streets and roads ($11 billion) and maintenance of existing highways ($13 billion). See our Bay Area page for more information about the Regional Transportation Plan.
The resolution also directs the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and California Department of Transportation to develop and fund projects which reduce the negative impacts of freeways on walking, cycling, and transit access and the livability of adjacent neighborhoods.
San Francisco's new policy comes in the 50th anniversary year of San Francisco's "Freeway Revolt". In 1959, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed the first of several resolutions that stopped further freeway construction in San Francisco.
Livable City will soon release its action plan for improving and possibly removing San Francisco's remaining freeways.
Regional Transportation Plan
Speak up for a more livable Bay Area!
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), a regional body empowered by the state and federal governments to plan and fund transportation in the Bay Area, recently adopted a Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), whch guides investments over the next 30 years. The RTP must be updated every three years.
MTC's planning got off to a promising start in 2008, with much talk of addressing climate change and promoting compact, walkable communities to prevent sprawl. The July 2008 draft RTP showed some distinct improvements over its predecessor; $1 billion towards a regional bicycle network, and big funding increases for the land use program, safe routes to school, and the regional lifeline transit program.
Unfortunately, MTC's plan directs billions towards expanding highways, and neglects the transit needs of urban riders. The plan directs $6.4 billion towards highway expansion, even though vehicle miles travelled (VMT) in the Bay Area has begun to decline. Despite surging transit ridership, the plan puts nothing towards adding capacity to existing Muni and BART lines, which have become increasingly overcrowded. The RTP leaves huge shortfalls for capital replacement and maintenance at Muni (approximately $4.2 billion) and BART (7.2 billion) over the next 30 years.
If the RTP is adopted as proposed, transit will become slower, less reliable, and more crowded. This RTP does not support MTC's stated land use goal of preventing sprawl and promoting compact communities; without investment, urban transit will not be able to accommodate the ridership growth resulting from job and housing growth in the urban core.
You can speak out at one of MTC's workshops this week, or comment on the draft plan by email (firstname.lastname@example.org), fax (510 817-5848), or mail (Attn: Public Information, MTC, 101 Eighth Street, Oakland CA 94607)
The Draft Regional Transportation Plan and its draft environmental review can be viewed on MTC's web site.
Livable City's program for improving the Regional Transportation Plan:
What the RTP got right:
What it got wrong:
Livable City's plan to improve the RTP:
Beyond the sprawl economy
Sprawl has hit the wall. The unsustainable home mortgage market collided with unsustainable gasoline consumption in 2008. The lowest-density suburbs, furthest from the centers of commerce and culture, were generally the hardest hit, while walkable urban neighborhoods have generally fared better.
The crisis of 2008 merely accelerated a larger cultural shift in American life. As documented by researchers like the Brookings Institution's Christopher Leinberger, more and more Americans are expressing a preference for living walkable urban places. Unfortunately, much of the housing produced in the last decade is in driveable suburban places, where walking, cycling, and public transit have been effectively designed out. This represents both a market failure homebuilders missing the shift in cultural values and a regulatory failure, caused by outdated zoning regulations that make compact, walkable communities illegal in most places.
Transportation and land use are intimately interconnected, and the Federal government's transportation expenditures should respond to and foster this shift in cultural values towards community and sustainabilty by infrastructure investments that support compact communities and sustainable transportation choices. President-elect Obama is proposing a huge economic stimulus program of infrastructure investment. Will those investments foster compact communities, livable neighborhoods, low-impact transportation choices, and green jobs, or will they try to prop up the sprawl economy?