San Mateo County Drafts Business As Usual Transportation Plan

C/CAG hopes to ensure roadway widening "improvements" such as this one proposed for Woodside Road near downtown Redwood City are eligible for funding through Plan Bay Area 2040. Image: Caltrans
C/CAG wants widening “improvements,” such as this one proposed for Woodside Road near downtown Redwood City, eligible for funding through Plan Bay Area 2040. Image: Caltrans

Note the ‘call to action’ at the end of this post.

City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County (C/CAG) officials unveiled a draft update of the agency’s Countywide Transportation Plan [PDF], the first since 2001, at three community meetings last week. The new plan calls for billions of dollars in highway expansion projects [PDF] over the next 25 years while it ignores many potential transit and active transportation upgrades.

A complete draft of the plan was written in early 2016 by C/CAG planners in consultation with staff from other transportation agencies, including Caltrans and the San Mateo County Transportation District (Transportation Authority, Caltrain, SamTrans), prior to taking any public input. The agency hopes to approve a final version as early as December.

The plan’s central mission statement calls for “an economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable transportation system that offers practical travel choices, enhances public health through changes in the built environment,” yet proposes a massive expansion of highway traffic capacity for which C/CAG would seek funding through the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC)’s Plan Bay Area 2040.

“While the role of the roadway system is supporting all modes of travel, its role in accommodating individuals driving their own automobile is probably the most essential,” states the plan. “Even with significant new transit investments, the private automobile will remain the dominant mode of travel within San Mateo County in the year 2040.”

C/CAG predicts that 70 percent of all new commuting trips in San Mateo County over the next 25 years will be made by automobile (driving alone and carpooling). Accordingly, most of the infrastructure projects recommended by the plan–to qualify for funding through the regional Plan Bay Area–are highway traffic expansions. Costs for the individual projects are not listed but total several billion dollars.

Residents discuss the draft San Mateo Countywide Transportation Plan 2040 with City/County Association of Governments (C/CAG) agency officials at a September 29 community meeting in Menlo Park. Photo: Andrew Boone
Residents discuss the draft San Mateo Countywide Transportation Plan 2040 with City/County Association of Governments (C/CAG) officials at a September 29 community meeting in Menlo Park. Photo: Andrew Boone

Like the draft Countywide Transportation Plan, the agency’s guiding Congestion Management Program 2015 [PDF], intended to “alleviate and control congestion,” also sets no specific goals for reducing vehicle trips or vehicle miles traveled, and notes little change in travel patterns since 2000.

While the plans states that “significant investments in pedestrian and bicycle facilities will enhance safety for non-motorized travel as well as contribute to healthier, more active communities,” it proposes no significant investments. Bike/ped improvements are lumped into a single “county-wide implementation of bicycle/pedestrian enhancements” project while 25 separate highway expansion projects are separately listed.

“This isn’t a Capital Improvement Program,” said C/CAG Programs Manager John Hoang at last Thursday’s community meeting in Menlo Park. “These are projects identified by the cities as critical to meet local transportation needs.”

San Mateo County transportation officials note little change in commuting patterns since 2000 as evidence that growth in future traffic volumes is inevitable. Image: C/CAG Congestion Management Plan 2015
San Mateo County transportation officials note little change in commuting patterns since 2000, as evidence that growth in future traffic volumes is inevitable. Image: C/CAG Congestion Management Plan 2015

The C/CAG transportation plan update does make a number of sound recommendations for San Mateo cities, although the agency has no way to ensure these policies are implemented.

“Most zoning codes require a minimum number of parking spaces,” states the plan, for example. “Such requirements have contributed to an asphalt landscape dominated by the automobile and difficult to navigate by foot or bicycle.”

And the plan sets modest mode share goals for 2040–15 percent of all trips by walking, 5 percent by bicycle, and 7.5 percent using public transit. However, no goals are set for reducing vehicle miles traveled in the county, and the plan doesn’t explain how so many major highway expansions can possibly meet the mandate set by California Senate Bill 32 to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030.

The deadline for comments on the San Mateo Countywide Transportation Plan 2040 is October 31, according to the plan’s website. The final plan “is expected to be complete in late 2016 or early 2017.” No additional public review of the plan has been announced.

Read the draft San Mateo Countywide Transportation Plan 2040 here [PDF].

Call to action:

Send comments to:
C/CAG Programs Manager John Hoang
jhoang@smcgov.org
(650) 363-4105

  • Jeffrey Baker

    I love this plan! Even the Denny’s gets bulldozed!

  • Eamonn

    So they’re basically going to demolish every structure in the county to make way for these mega roads. Got it.

  • jd_x

    Ugh, more stroads that could ballooning. And that “suicide lane” for bicycles should be illegal, especially when one side is traffic getting on/off a freeway which means motorists are operating in a freeway mindset, i.e. driving fast. It’s unbelievable that some communities (ahem, suburbs) well into the 21st century still plan their cities like it’s 1975. The reason the non-driving stats are so low is exactly because these sorts of designs — which clearly put the car well above all other modes of transit, including eviscerating any nearby commercial buildings that face directly onto the street — vehemently preclude any mode of transit but the private car. It’s a sickening Catch 22 that only short-sighted, anachronistic communities like San Mateo County can come up with. And then mock the entire livable city movement by superficially appropriating phrases like “an economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable transportation system”.

  • xplosneer

    “But we put it all in the bike master plan”
    -that you’re only going to implement “61%” of in 16 years
    -that you’re not going to fully fund
    -that you’re going to ignore given other priorities.

    “Sidewalks” are not an acceptable alternative for freeway overcrossings unless you clearly mark them for bike use.

    “Based on monitoring…these roadway segments have a peak-hour service level of ‘F'”

    So?! You could expand some of these by 3 lanes and it would still be F LOS.

    Crazy.

  • This proposal is a joke. Keep building those mega roads, SM County, so more people can sit in traffic.

  • thielges

    “While the role of the roadway system is supporting all modes of travel,
    its role in accommodating individuals driving their own automobile is
    probably the most essential,”

    By continuing to pour billions into a single-mode system SM County guarantees that driving will continue to remain essential. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    The only way to break out of the eternal cycle of auto-dependence is to make some difficult decisions that will initially be unpopular but eventually will pay off in a big way, improving the health, safety, productivity, and happiness of future residents.

  • Hey, it’s no Perkins.

  • Don’t Ever Change Ever

    But I thought most trips were going to be made in self-flying helicopters by 2040.

  • gneiss

    This is so obviously a broadside against the state laws that have been passed recently to address climate change that the State should sue San Maeo County over this plan, same as what they did with SANDAG http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/Lawsuit-Challenging-Regional-Transportation-Plan-Upheld–283772261.html

  • Jeffrey Baker

    An infinite spreading plane of cars is the logical end state of San Mateo County planning.

  • You’re asking people to change, both their thinking and resulting behavior. In the city, we’re trying to get boarding islands installed at several stops on the L-Taraval line, but are facing a lot of opposition. Apparently, safety isn’t as important as a few coveted parking spots. We’re also trying to eliminate stops in order to bring travel into the 21st century, but are listening to whining and complaining about having to walk a couple hundred feet.

    As for San Mateo County, just look at El Camino which is an endless strip of low-rise buildings which is prime for smart development. But, people don’t like change.

  • No different than Atlanta or Northern VA.

  • Jimbo

    great news! now we jsut need to get them to do this all the way to SF.

  • keenplanner

    So San Mateo just wants to perpetuate people’s destructive driving habits, even though most drivers would like to use an alternative if it was available and fast.
    The ironic part, (and a huge waste of taxpayer dollars) is that expanding highways just induces more driving, and in a short time they will have more lanes of congestion than they have now.
    How this is consistent with Plan Bay Area GHG-reduction targets? Idiots. Braindead suburban fools.

  • keenplanner

    El Camino needs BRT. Soon.

  • KJ

    Why are they estimating that only 7.5% of people will be using public transportation in 2040 when the current percentage is already 10% (see above); they should instead build on that 10% and design for more transit (as well as walking, biking, etc.). They seem to be designing for single-occupancy cars only (e.g. there are no transit-only lanes in that “after” picture of Woodside Road even though Samtrans and many commuter buses currently use Woodside Road).

  • thielges

    For sure changing the status quo will be a struggle. But it is a worthy struggle. I’ve written jhoang@smcgov.org with my input and encourage others to do the same:

    Dear Mr. Hoang – I read about San Mateo
    County’s 2015 Congestion Management Program and am concerned about the enduring impacts on the quality of life and business impacts of this plan. The automotive mode of transportation is inefficient, expensive, and dangerous. Building extra capacity will simply breed more demand and we’ll end up the same congestion problems passed on to future generations but at a larger scale. Why not instead invest in more efficient, less expensive, and safer modes of transportation? Those modes not only scale much better by
    using less space for transportation, but they also create a safer and more healthy community. I realize that this is a
    harder sell to your customers but hope you realize that it will create a better future for the county.

  • thielges

    FYI, John Hoang replied to my email with thanks for the input. He also added the following that I thought readers here might find interesting:

    “You mentioned the 2015 CMP. You may know this already but we are developing the SMCTP 2040, which is a long range transportation planning effort. In case you haven’t done so, please visit our project webpage here http://ccag.ca.gov/smctp2040/ for more information.”

  • Mike Auck

    It’s good to see projects like this moving forward. Those of us who pay taxes, and have to transport the elderly and the sick cannot put them on bicycles or force them to walk, all in the name of a fanatical religion known as AGW. The reality of the world, is our population is aging, and feel good ideas like public Transportation and bike ways do not help those who have worked hard and paid taxes for the past 40 years. Besides, even with the governor’s draconian cuts in emissions, on a global scale, it is statistically insignificant.
    If you want to help, plant a tree, move to another state, and stop exhaling CO2. In the meantime, stop trying to block positive progress.

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