Supervisor Chiu Urges MTC to Invest in Transit Over Freeway Expansion

178744312_a4e9e575d7.jpgFlickr photo: pbo31

In honor of the 50th anniversary of San Francisco’s famous "Freeway Revolt," car-free Board of Supes President David Chiu has introduced a resolution calling on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to reallocate funds for highway expansion and "prioritize investment in public transit maintenance."

"This is really to put us on record as saying we really think the funding ought to be used in different ways," said Chiu, who plans to ask the two MTC Commissioners representing San Francsico, Supervisor Chris Daly and Jon Rubin, to "take this up as their issue at the MTC."

The resolution points to the MTC’s Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) proposal for $6.4 billion in highway expansion projects over the next 25 years, which "will encourage sprawl and increase greenhouse gas emissions," while public transit agencies are projected to have shortfalls for capital needs: a $4.5 billion deficit for Muni and $7 billion for BART.

"We wanted to talk about some of the trade offs of investing in highways, particularly highways where you have public transit corridors that ride alongside," said Chiu. The resolution acknowledges how "poorly-designed highways often serve as barriers to the movement of sustainable transportation modes."

Tom Radulovich, the executive director of Livable City who sits on the BART Board of Directors, helped craft the resolution:

MTC’s regional transportation
plan makes it abundantly clear: the region must choose between highways
and transit, because there is nowhere near enough money to fund both.
Unless we choose to stop pouring money into highway expansion, transit
will get more crowded and unreliable, our local streets will continue
to fall apart, and transit fares will go up and service will get cut.
Unless we stop building highways, we will not be able to meet our
environmental goals, protect the climate, or preserve our greenbelt.

In response, Randy Rentschler, a spokesperson for the MTC, called the RTP "the most transit-friendly plan of any metro area in the entire country." He said that many of the decisions the MTC has made about highway expansion have been at the voters request, including Proposition 1B in 2006.

“This notion that my agency is so powerful that we’re able to essentially bend every decision is just simply not the case. The fact that the Board of Supervisors wants to make this statement, look, that’s just fair game. I get that. That makes perfect sense, that given where we are with transit, whatever we can, let’s do more of it.  But it also doesn’t reflect basic factual points that are out there that the voters have spoken on and there’s little to do about changing that.”

But Radulovich said he hopes San Francisco will "start a regional movement to pull the plug
on freeway expansion, and fund a linked-up regional transit network
instead," and he noted the groundbreaking movement that stopped seven freeways from being built in the city in 1959:

2009 is the 50th anniversary of San Francisco’s Freeway revolt.
San Franciscans realized back then that freeway building was ruining
the city’s environment and destroying its livability, and set itself on
a different path. Despite the wavering political support for transit
over the years, San Francisco is a success story – we invested in
transit, and added tens of thousands of jobs to the city without adding
any new freeways – in fact, we removed a few. San Francisco set an
example that cities around the world are now following. Now it’s time
for the rest of the region to choose the path towards a sustainable and
livable future.

Updated 4:20 p.m.

  • Prop 1B in ’06 did make mention of highway de-congestion through expansion, but ALSO through improving public transit. I fail to see the spokesperson’s argument holding any water.

  • Peter Smith

    How about the supes lead the charge on the highway revolt of the 00’s, and stop the Doyle Drive Highway expansion?

    Also, I’d like to see a deemphasis on ‘the environment’ (polar bears, save the whales, carbon offsets, carbon copies, carbon fibers, and whatever else), and more focus on having a decent, safe place to live — maybe even a nice place to live.

    ‘Attrition of cars, or attrition of the city.’ –JJ

  • Ben K

    What is the best/most effective way we can take action locally to support Supervisor Chiu’s resolution?

  • In response, Randy Rentschler, a spokesperson for the MTC, called the RTP “the most transit-friendly plan of any metro area in the entire country.”

    Caltrain is “the most bike-friendly commute train in the country”. This did not stop us from demanding it be even better. And we got the improvements, I almost want to say we got “concessions”. Improved service should not be something that management of a transit agency “concedes”.

    Just because you are the best, does not mean you cannot be better.

  • Steve Schindler

    If freeways are so bad, why do they carry more passengers than any other form of transportation?

  • anonymouse

    Steve: if the rapid transit network were as extensive as even the freeway network, I’m sure we’d see a lot more transit ridership.

  • Steve,

    Five years from now it is likely you won’t own a car. In any event, you’ll be clocking less than half the miles on the freeway by private car that you currently do now. Very shortly we are going to be extremely grateful for every inch of alternative transportation infrastructure that we have cobbled together. Ten years from now we are going to wonder why we spent so much of our money on vast stretches of concrete we can’t afford to use or maintain. The end of the internal combustion engine has arrived, even if the smoke hasn’t cleared yet.

  • gs

    being the “best” of awful, doesn’t make you good.

  • Gillian Gillett

    Sadly, MTC is creating HOT lanes by widening the freeways in some places where there isn’t an HOV lane to convert to HOT (101, for instance), rather than re-purposing existing lanes to HOT. This will cause more asthma in San Francisco, where we don’t have space for or interest in widening roadways. See http://www.mtc.ca.gov/planning/hov/Res3868_Att_B-HOT_Network_Principles.pdf

  • David “Buster” Fitzpatrick

    It dismays me to hear that many local governments as well as the state are claiming that they’re trying to pay off deficits when it’s possible that what they’re really doing is giving tax breaks to the rich and super rich, lining the pockets of the “governator”& pro-highway legeslators and increasing highway funding at the expense of the transit industry at a time when their services are increasingly in demand. I fear that if the this terrible trend continues we could wind up without any viable public transit and passenger train services in 5-10 years! We need a major shift away from funding “seatbeltways” (freeways) to passenger railways and urban rail transit.

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