Commentary: Bay Area Needs a Green New Deal

Map copyright ©2012 Brian Stokle
Map copyright ©2012 Brian Stokle

Across the Bay Area, a debate is taking place about how to best fund and dramatically improve the region’s transportation system. Our roads are increasingly congested, we lack frequent and reliable transit service, and our transportation infrastructure is crumbling. The result is that we are failing to meet essential state and regional climate goals.

Too many of the solutions offered, including rideshare and autonomous vehicles, put more cars on our streets and increasingly privatize public transit for private profit. Simply relying on new technology will not solve the challenges we face. One idea on the table is to put a regional funding measure on the November 2020 ballot to generate over $100 billion over 30 years to significantly improve the region’s transportation system.

Urban Habitat and our allies believe that freedom of movement is a human right and that an affordable, reliable, and connected public transit system is one of the fundamental building blocks of an equitable and healthy region. Meeting the mobility needs of Bay Area residents, while adequately responding to the climate crisis, requires nothing short of a Green New Deal for transportation. It also means ensuring that these investments address the legacy of past and current decisions that have resulted in structural inequality that disadvantages people of color and working-class communities.

For these reasons, we are part of a broad group of organizations, including transportation and environmental advocates, grassroots organizers, and labor, that over the past year have been engaging allies and residents to develop a regional transportation funding measure that starts with community-identified needs. We are working with communities to help create a bold plan that leads with our values as expressed in our vision and principles.

We need a regional funding measure that:

  • Prioritizes public space for people and public transit over cars.
  • Increases funding to ensure frequent, reliable, and affordable public transit.
  • Invests in a just transition from carbon to meet the demands of the climate crisis.
  • Supports the workers who run our transit system by paying them a living wage.
  • Modernizes transportation service and infrastructure by utilizing 21st century technology and reduces our dependence on the technology of the 20th century – fossil fuels and cars.

The Bay Area’s business community is also actively trying to influence the development of a regional transportation measure. Their initial public statements have raised concerns about who will pay for these critical investments and who will benefit.

We know the future has to look different from the past. That means creating a regional transportation measure in a fundamentally different way than the region has done with previous funding measures. Instead, we need to lead with our vision and principles, invest in a transit system that meets the needs of all Bay Area residents, and develop a funding measure that the voters will support.

Bob Allen is Urban Habitat’s policy and advocacy campaign director.

Interested in learning more? TransForm, Urban Habitat,  and Silicon Valley Community Foundation are hosting campaign advocates and leaders from Los Angeles and Seattle to share the successful transportation funding campaigns they led in their cities. Mon, August 26, 2019, 1-3 p.m., The California Endowment Conference Center, 2000 Franklin Street, Oakland. Register here.

  • DG

    I would support equitable transport for all and we need to address and correct the inadequacies of the past of minority communities, I strongly endorse Brian Stokle’s 2012 Map illustration of the future:
    (1) A possible Caltrain connecting West Bay commuters and East Bay commuters West and East regions to San Francisco County, San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, Alameda, and Contra Costa Counties using 2nd Transbay underwater tube with potential stations at Alameda – Jack London,
    (2) A Concord – Purple Line, connecting BART to Geary Blvd – Cathedral,
    (3) A Green Line connecting Eastmont – Cathedral and
    (4) Castro Valley/West Dublin Pleasanton connection to the City.

  • And more fantasy transit maps emerge.

    Very little has been accomplished in the 19 years I’ve lived in SF. The reality is nothing will ever be accomplished at a fraction of this scale, much less anything as robust as what’s proposed here. If you want proof just look at what’s been done in the past few decades. A 30 year plan to build something that should have been built 30 years ago?

  • agvs

    So… what is the actual plan? All this says is we should have better transit and let’s raise money for it. “Vision and principles” + “regional bond” do not a transit system make.

  • p_chazz

    One place to start would be consolidating the transit agencies. That would reduce overhead and achieve economies of scale, but I doubt that will ever happen.

  • Kieran

    Quite true. Things would actually get done if the transit agencies throughout the Bay were consolidated, compared to basically nothing being done as things are today. Though, realistically I don’t see that happening for another few decades at the least.

  • Voters approved the Caltrain extension twenty years ago and we are still waiting. Billions were sunk into the new “bus” terminal, but the DTX was never included in the first phase (surprise surprise) and is decades away from ever getting its first rider. You cannot tell me that even if DTX was originally earmarked for the second phase that in two decades an alignment could not have been decided and an EIR conducted. Goes to show you SF is a transit LAST city.

  • They can’t operate individually much less collectively.

  • Kieran

    That’s the sad truth of it. I’m just positing a scenario in which the putzes running these transit agencies actually had sense and wanted to join together in order to make things many times more efficient for the entire Bay Area’s transportation.

    Obviously, that ain’t happening. Yet another example of why America barely does transit right when needed the most.

  • thielges

    Maybe one of the reasons that transit agencies can’t operate well individually is that most are too small to support the operational aspects that define a well run transport system. Consolidation could create the economies of scale that can bring better service.

  • cygp2p

    “Better things arent possible because I haven’t seen them in the one city I live in and also I’m choosing to ignore all contradicting evidence” – Mark

  • TheOnlyElroi

    A Green New Deal with no consideration to boosting housing density is missing the whole point of why transportation exists.

  • “I clearly have no clue about what real transit is like and, therefore, can only criticize someone’s comment rather than offer an intelligent response.” – cygp2p

  • Christopher Sanders

    Agreed. The BayArea needs to be able to use eminent domain to confiscate property near the train system and get HUGE multipurpose apt buildings in place. What we have right now is destroying the environment and is not financially responsible.

  • Alan

    Planned Caltrain service upgrades will go a long way. Capitol Corridor service needs to follow suit as well. More regional ferries could address peak hour bridge capacity to an extent while more rail infrastructure is planned given 20+ year time frames for those projects. Bus lanes and transit priority infrastructure along major corridors would have the greatest impact but also create the most animosity with drivers so requires strategic implementation focused on low hanging fruit. Don’t ignore the option of using BRT on some of the identified corridors. The implementation time is probably less than half of putting in new rail.

  • Dave

    Also–government controls on the cost of housing. Don’t control rents–legislate a hard ceiling on them likewise fixed, finite sale prices on properties of all kinds for sale. Deny services of publicly funded police for evictions–we need to force the cost of housing down by command to enable people to live closer to work. The wonderful “free market” is a stone fucking failure in this area.


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