I work in San Francisco but live in Alameda which is adjacent to Oakland. I commute to work via ferry. On Wednesday, April 20, I attended a City of Alameda Transit and Transit Demand Management (TDM) Advisory Committee meeting. There are actually a series of public meetings planned. This meeting was just the first, attended by about 30 individuals that represented various stakeholders in Alameda. The meeting was hosted by Jennifer Ott, Chief Operating Officer for Alameda Point, and Gayle Payne, Transportation Coordinator for the city of Alameda, and included other city employees as well as employees from companies such as WETA (Water Emergency Transpiration Authority), BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), and AC Transit (Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District).
For a full list of the materials, see this PDF. This blog article just highlights a subset of that material with some of the discussion from the meeting.
The timeline for the project involves collecting feedback and modifying the plans until they can be presented to the Alameda City Council in July 2017.
Democracy is indeed a slow process, but this allows for everyone to voice their concerns.
Alameda peaked in terms of transportation-related activity such as new housing and job growth just before the dot-com bubble began to burst.
In recent years, activity has been on the rise.
There are 6 areas of focus related to Alameda's transit and transit demand management planning.
Congestion on I-880 is up 40% since 2010.
Interstate congestion impacts Alamedans' ability to enter the island via its bridges and the tube.
In addition to the interstate, the bridges and tube are also congested.
There are only 4 bridges and 1 tube to enter and exit the island.
There are no plans to add any more bridges or expand the number of lanes associated with bridges or the tube.
With developments like Alameda Point, the number of houses and businesses in Alameda is on the rise.
If Alameda only creates low paying jobs, then Alamedans who seek higher paying jobs will have to travel off of the island. If Alameda property values increase such that minimum wage earners cannot afford to live in Alameda, then minimum wage earners will have to travel to Alameda to fill those jobs. Both of these conditions exacerbate the traffic situation.
The good news is that single occupancy vehicle travel is on the decline while alternatives like public and private transit are on the rise.
Today, 40% of millennials don't bother to get a driver's license. They are content to live in big cities where they walk, use mass transit, or Uber to where they need to go. My daughter lives in Chicago, has a driver's license, but does not own a car.
Cities today are a combination of people: driving alone, carpooling, riding public transit, walking, biking, and telecommuting.
Per capita, Alameda still has more people driving alone than Oakland but is ahead of San Leandro. Berkeley leads the Bay Area in its reduction of single occupancy vehicle driving.
Alameda has a vibrant public transit system.
Unless you have a fancy sports car on an open road, most people don't enjoy driving. They just want to get where they want to go in the least amount of time possible. They also have to arrive at their destinations on time. If I could summon a self-driving Uber car and have it take me anyplace I wanted to go and have it get me there on time, I would never drive again. Only 20% of Alamedans who work in San Francisco drive there.
Most Alamedans are under the impression that an increase in housing and jobs necessitates an increase in traffic jams. Actually, it can be quite the opposite. The increase in population makes it more attractive to mass transit providers (e.g., AC Transit, Uber, Blue & Gold) to provide more frequent service since the demand allows them to do so.
Some of the levers that the city has available to work with include:
It is possible to create traffic light bias and lane restrictions that give public and private transit solutions priority over single occupancy vehicles.
For the Central Avenue project, the drivers paid a price (a lane reduction) to provide a benefit to the bicyclists (dedicated bike lane for safe passage). This created a sharp divide between drivers and bicyclists. IMHO, the goal of Alameda's transit and transit demand management plans should be to improve travel for everyone, including single occupancy vehicles. Plans that get more cars off the road benefit all drivers as now they are less frequently stuck in traffic jams, or at least shorter traffic jams.
There are 2 ways to discourage people from driving alone: the carrot and the stick. Incentives like employer provided stipends for public transit are the carrot. Parking is considered the stick. If there is ample parking everyone, there is no reason for Alamedans to use alternatives. So the amount of parking to make available is a strategic decision.
I take the ferry to work. I take the 6:10 am ferry because the ferry parking lot fills up for those commuting later in the day. So will the city of Alameda fix this? On the one hand, I am doing the right thing by using the ferry instead of driving alone across one of Alameda's congested bridges or tube. On the other hand, will the city not be satisfied unless I walk, ride my bicycle, or take a bus to the ferry? The answer I got at the meeting is that the city plans to address the parking issue at the ferry terminal.
Ride-sharing reduces the numbers of cars dramatically.
A meeting attendee pointed out that Alameda traffic really increased when the Alameda Unified School District eliminated its school buses as a cost saving measure. Now parents all have to drive their children to school. The effect is real as everyone can tell the difference in traffic when school is out for the summer. So it's not just congestion on the crossings and Interstate highways. Traveling across Alameda is also congested. Either the district should bring back the buses or someone should invent a ride sharing service for getting children to school.
The private sector is stepping up to address transit needs.
Services like Uber and Lyft and technologies like Google self-driving cars will change the traffic patterns of Alameda over the coming decade. The city's plans need to keep this in mind.
As of this first draft, the goals of the project include:
GOAL 1: No increase in drive alone trips in the peak period at island crossings
- Objective 1.A: Improve transit travel times during commute hours at island crossings
- Objective 1.B: Improve transit reliability and speed at island crossings
- Objective 1.C: Improve access to transit options, including BART, ferry and transbay bus
- Objective 1.D: Increase public awareness and perception of transit options
Transportation Demand Management Objectives
- Objective 1.E: Provide Transportation Demand Management programs and strategies to reduce drive alone for new developments and throughout the city
- Objective 1.F: Integrate land use changes and transportation improvements
- Objective 1.G: Elevate priority of carpooling, transit, bicycling, and walking options in policy and funding decisions
- Objective 1.H: Increase public awareness of Transportation Demand Management programs
GOAL 2: Enhance multimodal mobility within Alameda
- Objective 2.A: Increase trips made by taking transit within Alameda
- Objective 2.B: Improve access to transit options within Alameda
- Objective 2.C: Increase public awareness and perception of transit options
Transportation Demand Management Objectives
- Objective 2.D: Provide Transportation Demand Management programs and strategies to reduce driving alone to/from destinations within the city (not just for new developments)
- Objective 2.E: Increase trips made by taking shuttles, bicycling or walking within Alameda
- Objective 2.F: Improve access to shuttles, bicycling or walking within Alameda
- Objective 2.G: Increase public and employee/employer awareness of TDM programs
- Objective 2.H: Use parking management strategies to reduce incentives to driving
So that's my takeaway from the meeting. The plan is to get this original group (the Advisory Committee) back together after public input has been collected via a series of meetings.
- First Community Workshop: Thursday, May 5 at 6:30 p.m. in the Main Library (1550 Oak Street). The second community workshop is expected to be held in the fall.
- Next Transportation Commission Meeting: Wednesday, May 25 in the City Council Chambers (2263 Santa Clara Avenue) at 7:00 p.m.
- Next Planning Board Meeting: Monday, June 13 in the City Chambers at 7:00 p.m.
- Presentation to City Council: July 19 (tentative date) in the City Chambers at 7:00 p.m.
- Next Advisory Committee Meeting: Fall 2016
For more info:
- Project Website: http://alamedaca.gov/citywide-transit-tdm-plans
- Open Forum Web Survey: https://alamedaca.gov/publicworks/open-forum
- Staff Contact: Gail Payne, Transportation Coordinator
Transportation planning is alive in the lab.