November 7, 1990
Attn: Public Information
101 8th Street
Oakland, California 94607
Re: Draft State TCM Plan
Consistent with every other MTC action since you abandoned your "Transit First" policy, the current TCM plan continues to put highway expansion first and air quality a distant second. It is clear that you are going to let nothing short of a court order deter those plans.
Chris Brittle announced today that MTC had decided to stop trying to comply with the Cortese legislation, with its difficult-to-reach emission reduction requirements. Blatant ignoring of the law is nothing new at the MTC, but I find your thumbing your nose at any authority you don't like really offensive.
Although your emission reduction figures were mostly bogus, at least they were something we could use to judge whether the plan was at all realistic. Now we have only vague promises -- no quantification of how you are going to reduce HC, CO, or PM10.
Obviously, the HOV lanes you include in your plan are not TCMs, and hence violate the Cortese law and the California Clean Air Act (CCAA). They constitute increased vehicle capacity, which in the long run will increase emissions. I have asked many times, "Where is the evidence that adding HOV lanes improves air quality", and no one has been able to point to a single piece of evidence! On the other hand, there is lots of hard, scientific evidence that highway expansion worsens air quality. Jean Roggenkamp explained this enigma at a recent visit to the Sierra Club Bay Chapter Air Quality Committee: "It's a political decision". In spite of what the ARB (another "political" body) says, stopping highway expansion is a TCM, is a reasonably available TCM, and is therefore required by the CCAA!
You say you are waiting for the ARB to determine if the Bay Area is a "Serious" or a "Severe" nonattainment area under the CCAA. It doesn't take the ARB to determine that. The law is very clear: Until you can demonstrate that the Bay Area can meet the California air quality standards by 1997, you will have no choice but to use the "Severe" designation. (By the way, 1.5 persons per vehicle means just that; you can't "fudge" by counting pedestrians, bicyclists, and skateboarders with the passengers! The 1.3 figure you quoted for the Bay Area is bogus.)
It is also inappropriate to use the funds collected under the air quality program to fund more highway expansion, as your plan indicates (e.g. earthquake-retrofitting and widening bridges), however politically attractive it might be.
The cost-effectiveness figures are a total joke. You equate the massive costs of highway construction with the revenue generated by smog fees. I am not an economist, but I know the difference between expense and income! You actually are asserting that collecting smog fees from polluters (a little paperwork) is more expensive than constructing billions of dollars worth of concrete-and-steel structures? The benefits alleged for "freeway incident management", "arterial operational improvements", "automatic vehicle identification", and "TOS" also seem greatly overrated.
Your suggestion of eliminating free parking, on the other hand, is very promising. However, it should consist of charges passed down from state or regional government (giving the owner of the parking spaces the option of simply eliminating the parking and putting the land to more profitable uses), and there must be some way to ensure that any parking charges are borne solely by the drivers, and not distributed among the business's customers. Perhaps there should simply be a tax on all pavement! That would recover some of the property taxes lost when land is taken to build highways, and would satisfy the requirement for an indirect source program for roads. That would also give local jurisdictions an incentive to minimize road space -- certainly a very desirable goal.
There were a number of complaints from business representatives this morning in the TCM Task Force meeting about the parking charges. However, keep the following in mind: Almost everyone in the meeting (except for me and Norman Rolfe) were there only because they were being paid to be there! In other words, they are concerned about money, not air quality, and should be discounted accordingly. Knowing that someone is being paid to say what they are saying tends to cast doubt on their veracity, don't you think? Do you believe advertizing???
Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.