September 9, 1993
Metropolitan Transportation Commission
101 8th Street
Oakland, California 94607
Re: 1994 Draft TIP and TIP Air Quality "Assessment"
For the third year in a row, there has been no significant change in MTC's policy of promoting highway, sound wall, and parking lot construction, road widening, traffic signal synchronization (TSS), and numerous other means of subsidizing motor vehicle use and making it easier to drive, while giving short shrift to pedestrians, bicycles, public transit, and other cleaner modes of transportation. The Highway volume is almost twice as fat as the Transit volume, and costs more than 6 times as much ($12.4 billion for highways, vs. $2 billion for transit)!
Although ISTEA mandates that the TIP have a bicycle element, there is none. Even though bicycling is superior to motor vehicle transport economically as well as environmentally, there are hardly any bicycle projects.
Meanwhile, MTC has been actively promoting TSS throughout the Bay Area and offering cities millions of dollars for this when it has never been demonstrated to benefit either fuel consumption or air quality. If you go to U.C Berkeley's Institute for Transportation Studies and look at the so-called "research" claiming to support TSS, you find that it consists of either computer modelling runs, or studies that don't measure area-wide fuel consumption or emissions. Computer programs, of course, merely spit out numbers that follow from their assumptions, and all of the models used assume that measures like TSS improve air quality. (E.g., they assume that making it easier to drive doesn't cause people to drive any more.) In other words, they prove nothing. And the other studies, by not measuring fuel consumption or emissions area-wide, but only per vehicle, fail to prove any overall benefit to the area. (Helping some long-distance drivers travel faster, at the expense of bicycles, transit, and all other modes doesn't necessarily provide any net benefit to the community!)
A couple of examples from the TIP: Santa Clara is being paid $300,000 to "interconnect" (synchronize) just 4 signals on de la Cruz Blvd. -- $75,000 per signal! Pleasant Hill is spending $500,000 to connect just 6 signals ($83,300 each) on Contra Costa Blvd. Vallejo is spending $811,000 to "upgrade and interconnect" just 5 signals -- $162,200 each! San Francisco is spending $110,000 for just one signal (at Alemany and Mt. Vernon). This kind of money would buy a lot of bicycles, and that would obviously do a lot more for air quality. Is this MTC's idea of "cost-effective" projects???
"Soundwalls" do nothing to reduce noise. Because they are a hard surface, they simply redirect the noise. Many residents near the I-680 soundwalls found that the walls actually increased their freeway noise level.
Nowhere in the TIP or RTP is there any recognition that oil sources are finite, and that the best estimates are that it will begin to run out by 2020-2030 in the U.S. That makes all the highway construction pretty absurd. We will eventually have to use our precious final bit of oil to tear out all of the pavement that we are now laying, in order to provide essential living space and agricultural lands.
MTC plans to spend unbelievable amounts for parking as well: one 165-space "park and ride" lot at Vasona Junction will cost $5 million! That is $30,300 per parking space. Since basically only one person will use that space each day, it is a $30,300 bribe to one person to get them to carpool or take transit. (Of course, transit funds, rather than highway funds, will be spent on this.) In Fairfield, at West Texas/Buck and Rockville Road, 1250 spaces will be constructed for $12.125 million -- $8,970/space! Needless to say, nondrivers don't get such royal treatment. In fact, everywhere you look, nondrivers get the short end of the stick, and know that they are second-class citizens.
Similarly, rail grade separations, which basically are to make sure auto users aren't delayed, are being built with transit funds. Ramp metering, which might be beneficial if it were used to prevent the need to widen freeways, is actually being used to give priority to long-distance drivers, and hence to promote more polluting.
The "Air Quality Assessment", as usual, is a joke. Many of the TCMs will actually worsen air pollution (e.g. expanding freeways, building parking lots, and synchronizing traffic signals). The "Scoring Criteria" are designed to favor highway expansion, TSS, and other automobile-promoting "improvements".
In short, had the TIP been written honestly, it would say "The purpose of the TIP is to try to suck up as many federal and state dollars as possible, and spend them on projects designed to enrich our friends (developers and business people)". It is written in such a way as to claim air quality, fuel conservation, and other environmental benefits, while actually doing the opposite.
Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.