Bay Area Transportation Commission Starts Climate Sustainability Fund

Transportation advocates were thrilled last week when the nine-county Bay Area regional transportation planning and funding body, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), established a fluid pot of money for innovative transportation projects, from Safe Routes to School programs and bicycle educational campaigns, to parking policies and demand management strategies meant to reduce the over-reliance on automobiles [pdf].

bay_bridge_traffic.jpgPhoto: pbo31

"This is the first program in the country dedicated to sustainability through travel demand management, not more capacity," said Stuart Cohen, Executive Director of TransForm, a smart growth and transportation advocacy organization.

The MTC allocated $80 million over the next three years, including $28 million that had previously been earmarked for highway ramp metering lights. Cohen said the MTC had received more than 500 letters from constituents around the region clamoring for the climate money and that senior staff had been refreshingly receptive and committed to dialoge.

"They were quite open in letting us help shape what the project will look like."

Long a priority for TransForm, the sustainability funding will focus on four key components:

  1. Climate action plans – the money will assist county and city leaders in developing climate action plans or implementing strategies already in developed plans. Cohen expected to see many more innovative parking campaigns like SFPark, SFGo and pricing and congestion mitigation.
  2. Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) –  This will be the first regionally funded SRTS
    program with money for every school in the region, allocated by county based on the
    number of children attending the schools. "They are actually doling out transportation money based on the safety and welfare of children," remarked Cohen.
  3. Educational outreach – Though this component is largely undefined, it will likely include money for education strategies around the
    relationship between climate and transportation choices.
  4. Evaluation models – Money to help to establish a meta
    evaluation program to make sure all of the regional projects funded with MTC money have similar, diligent metrics.

The final component was the one that Cohen highlighted as being one of the most critical. "There is a huge disconnect currently on how these programs are evaluated and their ability to get into regional travel models," he said.

we can’t translate these changes on the ground up into this regional
model, decision makers won’t allow these effective
strategies to compete for dollars with larger infrastructure projects," he added.

The MTC has yet to define what stakeholder input will be, but some projects will likely start to be selected for consideration by this summer, according to Cohen, who said the region’s planners have so often focused on improving or increasing capacity on roadways for cars, they’ve failed to develop strategies for reducing driving, which will be mandatory when California climate legislation like AB 32 and SB 375 reduction requirements take effect.

"We’re so focused on supply, we’re missing out on all these creative strategies to reduce driving," said Cohen. "The lowest hanging fruit is transportation demand management, getting more folks to use the programs and to reduce the [car] trips they are taking."

  • Yes, please! TDM! Not fake tech fixes for private cars!

  • Matt has been drinking the kool-aid again. $50 million Safe-Routes-to-Transit did not make the cut, but automobile parking improvements did.

  • Drunk Engineer,
    Debate the merits of the arguments and issues all you want; that is very welcome, but ad hominems don’t help the discussion. Stop with the Kool-Aid insults.

    In this article, our MPO has done something very few have: create a fund for innovative projects meant to limit climate impacts in the region. Is it only $80M over three years and is that tiny? Of course. But is it a new direction for MTC and is it ahead of the curve for other MPO’s? To my knowledge, yes. That is what the article is about. Does this same MPO still fund tons of road-widening projects in the guise of HOT lanes? Yes. Do they still allocate stim funds to resurrect dubious projects like OAC? Yes. I have no illusions about how far they are from ideal, but they are well ahead of most MPOs in the country and this article was not about whether or not they are ideal, but that they developed this fund.

    In the San Jose LOS article above, you missed (or chose to ignore) the nugget of the piece, which is that San Jose’s LOS standard for its Downtown and TOD zones is the cutting edge approach to super-ceding outdated, auto-centric LOS standards. San Francisco is spending hundreds of thousands (if not millions) in consultant fees and staff time to develop a nexus study over the next years that will arrive at essentially the same conclusion that San Jose did in 2005, though San Francisco might not be as diligent about bringing together the community and the developers to hash out the details. I don’t know of other cities in CA that are doing more?

    Does this change anything about the wretched history of San Jose’s 60 years of sprawling, suburban development patterns? No. The city has been built to cater to cars. I have no illusions about that. What the article addressed, however, was that San Jose is changing that framework in certain areas of the city and trying to encourage smarter development patterns that have less impact on the environment and create a more inviting public realm and tighter neighborhoods.

    And there is positive change at the top of SJ’s DOT. Countless advocates and reformist transpo professionals have said the same thing about Hans Larsen: he’s an urbanist and he’s committed to reshaping the culture of automobility in his department. Maybe they’re all wrong, but I don’t have good evidence to show me as much.

  • Bicycles are not, as claimed the ONLY users of the public right of way who use streets not designed for them — Pedestrians are the greatest users of the public right of way, particularly in crossing streets not designed for them, and are killed at least 3.5 times as often proportionately (by VMT) as other users (mainly drivers)(and likely 10 times more frequesntly by trip).


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