Responses to PBA 2040 Spring 2016 Open House Questions

Questions from the 2016 Plan Bay Area 2040 Open Houses

  1. Increased parking cost and traffic: Higher density in the PDAs will result in greater traffic and expensive parking as in downtown San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley. Where is the traffic data that show what traffic will be like and what parking will cost in the PDAs? What will the traffic increase be like in areas surrounding the PDAs?

Response: Priority Development Areas (PDAs) are not one size fits all — the answer to this question varies widely, a function of local decisions about housing, employment, transportation improvements and parking. The objective behind PDAs is to locate homes close to transit, which can help make transit an attractive option.

  1. Commute times increases: Nationally commuting on public transit takes twice as long as driving. What will the increase in commute times be by transit and driving under this 2040 plan?

Response: We have not yet adopted Plan Bay Area 2040.  For the scenarios we analyzed and presented at the open house, the forecasted average travel times on trips made as part of commutes in 2010 and 2035 are as follows:

  • Year 2010 (simulation): automobile, 19.9 minutes; transit, 38.4 minutes;
  • No Project: automobile, 23.2 minutes; transit, 39.5 minutes;
  • Main Streets: automobile, 20.9 minutes; transit, 38.8 minutes;
  • Connected Neighborhoods: automobile, 20.8 minutes; transit, 38.1 minutes;
  • Big Cities: automobile, 20.4 minutes; transit, 38.2 minutes.
  1. High rents and housing cost in PDAs: New construction is expensive. New two bedroom 850 sq. ft. apartments with no parking in downtown Berkeley cost $2,500 per month or higher. What is the size and costs of the new apartments, houses and condominiums built in the PDAs?

Response: Home prices and rents are a function of market supply and demand, local tax and regulatory policies, as well as local decisions about types of housing desired. The size of new houses, apartments, and condos is also driven by the market interacting with local policies and tends to be similar to the size of existing units nearby.

  1. Air pollution in PDAs: Air pollution gets worse locally in higher density areas with more traffic. What is the projected air pollution in PDAs?

Response: The assertion that air pollution gets worse locally in higher density areas with more traffic is partially correct. Particulate matter (or PM for short) as a localized air pollutant can become worse in higher density areas with more traffic. With that said, it is important to note that concentrations of PM and other pollutants can vary widely depending on location and time; and that the Bay Area has made substantial progress in improving overall air quality, especially for pollutants such as ozone that are regional in nature. 

As part of the environmental impact report (EIR) for Plan Bay Area, a local pollutant impact analysis was conducted to assess the potential localized health impacts to most of the Priority Development Areas (PDAs) and Transit Priority Projects (TPPs) corridors included in the plan.  This analysis identifies PDA and TPP areas with PM concentrations relative to the established EIR threshold.  In general, the impact analysis figures show that areas over the threshold tend to occur along high traffic freeways, high use rail lines, locations with numerous stationary sources, and locations where a single stationary source has very high estimated cancer risk or PM concentration levels. For more detailed information we invite you to review the Plan Bay Area EIR.

  1. Cost-effectiveness of greenhouse gas reduction: Reducing per capita GHG production can only be achieved if the cost per ton of GHG is low. What is the cost per ton reduction under this plan? What parts of this plan are the most cost-effective ways of reducing GHGs?

Response: SB 375, the state law that provides the regulatory framework for the Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy, stipulates a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction target and requires Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) to reach that target. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) developed the target based on extensive analysis, including consideration of the efficacy of regulations, technology, and available planning tools. Meeting the GHG emissions reduction target established by SB 375 and the CARB Scoping Plan is a state law. MPOs do not have the option of claiming that it is simply too expensive to reduce GHG emissions.

Although not required by state law, a cost-benefit analysis was completed for large capital projects proposed for Plan Bay Area 2040. Reducing GHG emissions is one metric included in the benefit estimation of each project. Other benefits include travel time and cost saving, reduced costs of collisions, and reducing the health costs of air pollution and active transportation. In developing the final list of projects for the preferred scenario, the “high performing projects,” which are based on either cost-effectiveness or qualitative scoring, will be prioritized for funding. This Plan, similar to Plan Bay Area 2013, will also include a suite of projects with the sole purpose of reducing GHG emissions, known as the Climate Initiatives Program. For Plan Bay Area 2013, this program accounted for 6.3% of the GHG emissions anticipated by 2035. Since Plan Bay Area was adopted, we’ve evaluated the first round of Climate Projects. The full evaluation, of which cost-effectiveness is one metric, can be found here:

More information on the Climate Initiatives Program can be found here:

  1. New transit cost and market share: Even in the Bay Area with BART and light rail systems, 90 percent of commutes are still by car. Even then BART only covers half their costs including depreciation with fares. BART is also reaching capacity to San Francisco and cannot take many more commuters. What percentage of commutes will still be car under the 2040 plan, how many by bus and BART?

Response: We have not yet adopted Plan Bay Area 2040.  For the scenarios we analyzed and presented at the open house, the share of trips made as part of commutes by automobile, BART, and all other (i.e., non-BART) transit in 2010 and 2035 are as follows:

  • Year 2010 (simulation): automobile, 82.5 percent; BART, 4.2 percent; other transit, 6.3 percent;   
  • No Project: automobile, 81.8 percent; BART, 4.3 percent; other transit, 7.1 percent;   
  • Main Streets: automobile, 81.3 percent; BART, 4.1 percent; other transit, 7.6 percent;   
  • Connected Neighborhoods: automobile, 79.8 percent; BART, 4.5 percent; other transit, 8.4 percent;   
  • Big Cities: automobile, 79.4 percent; BART, 4.3 percent; other transit, 8.9 percent.
  1. Bike lane cost: Many bike lanes have been built in the Bay Area over the last 10 years but they still seem to carry a very small share of travel. What percentage of trips are now made by bicycle compared to 10 years ago? Is this increase significant? What is the cost of bicycle lanes per passenger mile?

Response: Data collection technology and methods continue to improve, allowing us to better capture and understand the growing use of bicycling for both work and non-work trips throughout the region. The bike mode share data is on the Vital Signs web site, and increase has been statistically significant. The share varies considerably from community to community, with Palo Alto seeing a share of 9 percent, while the share for the region as a whole is 1.8 percent. The cost of implementing bicycle infrastructure like bike lanes and other facilities varies greatly by city and by implementation strategy. Since the Bay Area adopted a “Complete Streets” policy in 2006, regionally-funded projects are required to consider the travel needs of all users, including bicycle travel, as part of any roadway project. As an example, this means that a resurfacing project will include striping for bike lanes where appropriate, and piggybacking the bike lane on the existing project in this way means the cost is extremely low compared to the cost of the overall project – as low as $5,000 per lane-mile.

  1. How dense is dense? What is the maximum density for residential areas?

Response: Density is specified in locally approved zoning ordinances and varies considerably from city to city. Residential density in San Francisco can be up to 300 units per acre, while in Walnut Creek you would see a maximum density of 150 units per acre in the PDA and much lower outside of it.

  1. How is public comment at these meetings incorporated into the Plan? Previous public comment appears to have had no effect on the plan.

Response: Comments from the open houses as well as those submitted online will be analyzed, summarized and reported back to MTC’s and ABAG’s policy boards. MTC’s Planning Committee will receive a summary of comments from the May and June 2016 public engagement activities at their July 8 meeting. Public comments played a significant role in shaping the first Plan Bay Area, adopted in 2013. For example, based on public comments, the Plan adopted in 2013 includes the strength of our economy as a measure of success. It also contains the goal to preserve open space and agricultural land. You can review a presentation and summary of public comments from the Plan Bay Area 2040 open houses from 2015 All information, including comments heard by county, is available here.

  1. How will property rights be affected? Will property owners in Priority Development Areas (PDAs) be forced to sell or adapt their property to the PDAs?

Response: Cities and counties, not MTC or ABAG, are ultimately responsible for the manner in which their local communities continue to be built out in the future. Cities and counties are not required to revise their land use policies and regulations, including their general plan, to be consistent with Plan Bay Area 2040. The Plan merely provides a land use vision that, if implemented, would achieve the greenhouse gas emission reductions targets. The proposed Plan will only be implemented insofar as local jurisdictions adopt its policies and recommendations.

Plan Bay Area 2040 provides incentives and opportunities for local jurisdictions to support growth in Priority Development Areas (PDAs).  In addition to funding transportation and planning projects in PDAs, the Plan sets the stage for cities and counties to increase the efficiency of the development process, if they choose, for projects consistent with the Plan and other state legislation.

  1. In high density housing built in San Jose along light rail lines, most trips are still made by car. Where is the data showing what proportion of trips in PDAs will be made by car?

Response: We do not have mode splits broken down by PDA. We do have that information summarized along a variety of other dimensions. For example, the vehicle miles traveled per capita for residents of Santa Clara decreases from about 15.5 miles per typical weekday in 2010 to 14.0 in the Big Cities Scenario in year 2035. The expected drive alone commute mode share for San Jose workers decreases from 57.6 percent in 2010 to 51.7 percent in the Big Cities Scenario in year 2035.

  1. What are effects on rents and property values? For example, how does the proposal to tax in areas with high vehicle miles traveled (VMT), such as eastern Contra Costa county to pay for high density housing in San Francisco affect rents and property values?

Response: Overall, at the regional level the VMT fee has very little impact on rents and property values. However, rents and property values of existing housing in high VMT areas would increase by a moderate amount because the supply of housing in those areas (relative to demand for housing in those areas) would decrease and each unit that is built would cost more because of the fee.

  1. Greenhouse Gas Emissions: The plan makes frequent claims to be "sustainable" yet never explains by what measure. For example, sustainable greenhouse gas (GHG) is probably 1 ton per capita, and currently the US is about 20 tons per capita. Since this plan makes no calculation on GHG per capita, how can it claim to be “sustainable?”

Response: The Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for Plan Bay Area defines greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction in “daily tons of CO2.”

Senate Bill 375 (SB 375) requires the Bay Area to prepare a Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS) to demonstrate how the region can reduce its per capita CO2 emissions from passenger vehicle and light-duty trucks. The State has set targets for the Bay Area to reduce GHG emissions by 7 percent in 2020 and 15 percent by 2035, based on 2005 levels.

The certified EIR for Plan Bay Area, adopted in 2013, identifies the CO2 Emissions per Capita (lbs) as: 

  • 20.5 in 2005
  • 19.2 in 2020, -6.2% from 2005
  • 19.0 in 2035, -7.0% from 2005
  • 18.9 in 2040, -7.7% from 2005

Similar data will be quantified as part of the EIR for Plan Bay Area 2040.

  1. If traffic around PDAs creates congestion for adjoining areas, will residents be able to stop further PDAs?

Response: PDAs are identified by local governments as places where they are planning for more growth. ABAG requires the local government to adopt a resolution to designate a PDA. If a local government proposes to adopt a new PDA, residents can engage with their local city/town council or board of supervisors about the merits of creating a new PDA.

  1. What is the impact of PDAs on local services, such as schools, emergency services, etc.?

Response: PDAs are identified by local governments as places where they are planning for more growth.

Local governments retain control over decisions about local services. The PDA designation can result in access to additional transportation funding to provide community benefits, through programs such as the One Bay Area Grant (OBAG).