Everyone needs a plan. In the Bay Area the Metropolitan Transportation Commission released a draft of it’s long-range regional transportation plan, known as Plan Bay Area 2040, for public review and comment. Here are some key comments from a staff report written by Jennifer Yeamans to the LAVTA Board of Directors:
Plan Bay Area 2040 projects the region’s long-term growth in terms of jobs and population and identifies geographic areas sufficient to house that growth. Once the Bay Area’s housing need is projected, a housing plan is developed for communities and then supportive multi-modal transportation investments are prioritized to ensure the Plan achieves high returns on transportation policies and investments.
The core of the Draft Plan Bay Area’s Investment Strategy is a “Fix It First” policy whereby 90% of the Plan’s investments focus on operating, maintaining, and modernizing the region’s existing transportation system. Additionally, the Plan’s investment strategy highlights key transportation projects in the Bay Area, such as regional express lanes, BART to Silicon Valley, Caltrain extension to the Transbay Transit Center, etc.
Here at LAVTA we support and applaud MTC and ABAG for including full operating funding for transit operators through FY2039-2040 as part of its robust “Fix It First” funding strategy. Simply put, there is no way for the region to meet its current and future greenhouse gas reduction goals without fully funding the operational needs of our exisiting transit systems.
Three additional, important comments to consider:
- MTC should ensure a “level playing field” in the administration of competitive regional programs such as Bay Area Forward for large and small transit operators alike. Many of the small and non–fixed-guideway operators have greater short-term flexibility to innovate and experiment, but often find ourselves at a disadvantage in terms of competing for discretionary funding sources against much larger agencies with far greater staffing resources; this has been increasingly the case for many small operators at the federal and state level. MTC should recognize the potential small operators have in the region to be laboratories of innovation and ensure some regional discretionary program funds for these purposes are accessible to small operators.
- The Plan’s growth forecasts indicate the Inland/Coastal/Delta subregion (where the Tri-Valley is located) will grow by nearly a quarter in terms of both housing and employment by 2040, which is around half the rate of growth of the Big Three Cities. In terms of household growth specifically, the rate of growth in the Inland/Coastal/ Delta subregion is forecast to be substantially similar to the Bayside subregion. However, the distribution of major public transit investments in the Plan very clearly favors the Big Three Cities and Bayside regions, despite the fact that today, for example, the population of the Tri-Valley subregion is more than half the size of the city of Oakland, and larger than the city of Fremont, but has nowhere near the robust public transit network and connectivity that many the Big Three Cities and Bayside communities enjoy today. The Draft Plan should more fully acknowledge the differences in the present-day public transportation landscape in terms of their capacity to help all parts of the region grow sustainably and help meet the region’s and state’s long-range climate-protection goals.
- With the understanding that Plan Bay Area 2040 must meaningfully account for jobs-housing balance within the region, it is nevertheless vital to the region’s and state’s greenhouse gas reduction requirements to acknowledge the worsening reality of the regional in-commute, especially from the San Joaquin Valley, and the externalities these in-commuters create. Focusing on housing production within the region as a key component of the draft Plan’s Action Plan is a good first start, but as long as households and families desire relatively affordable single-family homes, commuters will continue to seek employment in the Bay Area while choosing to reside outside of the nine-county region. Express Lane improvements on Interstate 580 in Alameda County acknowledge this reality, but for a more sustainable, long-term strategy, this and future Plans should fully acknowledge the importance of inter-regional rail connections. One such connection in the Tri-Valley was identified in the 2007 Regional Rail Plan, which is currently being explored by the Altamont Regional Rail Working Group, of which LAVTA is a member. This project is highlighted on page 18 of the Draft Investment Strategy Report as the “BART to Livermore/ACE Project,” and LAVTA and its inter-regional partners look forward to helping advance this project and its funding needs in future regional planning and programming efforts, as LAVTA anticipates playing a principal role in providing local transit connections to this vital inter-regional transit linkage.
Looking for more information on Plan Bay Area 2040, including how you can submit your comments by the June 1st deadline? Visit http://2040.planbayarea.org/