Streetsblog Endorses Regional Measure 3

On the whole, it makes things better--but shows the region is still pursing failed road policies

Vote

Regional Measure 3 (RM3) would increase bridge tolls in the Bay Area to raise $4.45 billion for transportation. It will be on the Tuesday, June 5 ballot.

RM3 will provide $500 million for more BART cars, $300 million for more ferry service, $150 million for the San Francisco Bay Trail and the Safe Routes to Transit program and $325 million towards the downtown extension of Caltrain. There are also a slew of other transit projects and operational funds in RM3. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission put together this breakdown of where the monies will go.

That’s all great.

But RM3 is also kind of a bummer, because to get enough legislators on board it was necessary to include hundreds of millions for more pavement. Because, of course, adding a lane here or there, or widening an interchange, will somehow magically eliminate traffic and reduce pollution.

Because of the transit and bike money, TransForm, SPUR, the San Francisco Transit Riders, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Bike East Bay, and probably a few other advocacy groups we’re forgetting about (sorry!) are solidly behind RM3.

But Liveable City is giving no recommendation. “The expenditure plan is less a plan than a grab-bag of transportation projects chosen by state legislators. Many of these will make the Bay Area more sustainable and equitable, while others will increase automobile traffic and pollution,” wrote Livable City’s Tom Radulovich. “It also includes several hundred millions of dollars to expand freeway capacity, including I-80, I-680, US 101, and various freeway interchanges. State legislators picked their favorite projects to include in the measure, and prevented the region from re-prioritizing funds towards more equitable and sustainable alternatives; the measure runs in perpetuity, so fixing its defects would require yet another regional measure.”

Radulovich is right. RM3 will result in more cars and trucks burning more fossil fuels.

But the other advocates are also right to endorse–there’s a whole lot of good that comes with this bad. The truth is it’s going to take decades to turn the state fully away from its insane obsession with failed road-expansion policies. And for that to happen, we’re going to need to build great transportation alternatives that the general population finds preferable to driving.

At some point, advocates for sustainability are going to have to say “no” when it comes to these hodge-podge measures that bundle transit with road building. The question is, have we reached that point yet, or do we still have to accept more bad policy with the good?

The answer to that question should determine how you vote on RM3. Streetsblog encourages a “yes” vote, but, like Liveable City, we also ask that you research the bill, think hard about where you stand, and decide for yourself.

Regional Measure 3 will be on the ballot for voters in the city and county of San Francisco and the following counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma. A yes vote is a vote in favor of raising bridge tolls in the Bay Area—excluding tolls on the Golden Gate Bridge—by $3 over six years. Full details are available at ballotpedia.

  • thielges

    Yup, this is politics in action. Not every voter understands transportation and few bother to think more than a decade into the future. So you have to throw in a bunch of bad dead-end projects to attract voters who believe that every trip begins with a twist of the ignition key and ends with setting the parking brake.

    You can observe this attitude by asking anyone in Silicon Valley how to go from SJ to SF. The first answer will be “take 101”. Ask for an alternate and you’ll get “take 280”. Keep asking for alternates and you’ll get “El Camino”, 880 to the Bay Bridge, or various permutations of crossing from 101 to 280 before your frustrated interviewee runs out of ideas. Few people will propose the fastest, cheapest way: Caltrain. That option is completely off most people’s radar.
    I’m no big fan of the term “awareness” but that’s what is needed to start to steer this massive ship of ours towards a more sustainable future. Just being aware of the options is the first step. Using them, even if they’re are not as convenient as driving, is the next. That will snowball into greater political support for alternatives and make alternatives easier, faster, cheaper, and more convenient than driving.

  • djconnel

    People will always use whatever car infrastructure capacity you give them, undoing advantages in public transit. I will never vote for a measure which widens freeways, including this one. This measure is like turning on the air conditioner and the heat at the same time. Get it right and come back with something better next year.

  • Aaron

    I would note that the measure actually does potentially serve to boost public transit in one respect as increased tolls over the Bay Bridge effectively provide an additional financial incentive to use BART instead to cross between San Francisco and Oakland.

    While admittedly not the ideal, increased tolls over the bridges also definitely provide an additional incentive for people to carpool to work. The tolls over a month can be effectively cut to 1/3 for each employee if they are part of a three person car pool arrangement for example.

    At least the effects should have a positive impact on top of the money going directly to public transit.

  • david vartanoff

    A vote for RM3 is a vote of confidence in the MTCs policies and control of which projects actually get funded. After they restore the $91 million “reprogrammed” from the Dumbarton rail line to cover BART overspending, call me.

  • _prt_

    It must feel great to stiff the East Bay bridge commuters with a bill for projects completely unrelated to the bridges.

  • omaryak

    I didn’t feel good doing it, but I voted yes because it included all the major transit projects the area needs built (Caltrain downtown extension, Dumbarton commuter rail, and more BART cars to relieve transbay congestion).

  • omaryak

    Not completely. Additional BART cars will relieve transbay congestion during peak hours. This builds on Measure RR, which improved transbay tunnel capacity.

  • omaryak

    It’s a mild congestion charge, with mild transit improvements

  • _prt_

    For a vast majority of bridge commuters, BART is not an option. This measure will do nothing for Dumbarton and San Mateo Bridge commuters, and yet they will be paying for it. It is a transfer of wealth from the East Bay to the Peninsula.

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