Responses to PBA 2040 Spring 2015 Open House Questions

Questions from Marin County Workshop Hosted by Marin County’s ABAG Delegation – May 16, 2015

1.  What I am seeing is a lack of funding, any direct funding, to address [congestion] on the level – not on buses – but on the level of our roads, which are impacted by this. And, any kind of updating of the traffic and circulation elements. Now, what can be done in this Plan, which seems to be overburdened with the idea of housing, which we really cannot impact us anymore? What is being done to address circulation?

Response: Plan Bay Area 2040 will include a number of projects aimed at improving traffic circulation, but funding is limited to what we can realistically expect to come to the Bay Area and each local jurisdiction, and the funding for various projects is allocated by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and other public agencies through separate actions. The Transportation Authority of Marin will be recommending projects for inclusion in Plan Bay Area 2040, and will be seeking public comment to inform their recommendations.

2.  Do you see using regional transit planning funds as a device to allocate and drive growth in certain cities?

Response: Plan Bay Area 2040 is the Regional Transportation Plan for the nine-county Bay Area. It includes a transportation investment plan over a number of years that is based on realistic assumptions about what revenue will be available. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission has funded a local grant program to help incentivize local jurisdictions who agree to build more housing in centralized locations near public transit. This incentive program, known as One Bay Area Grants (OBAG), is delegated by MTC to county-level Congestion Management Agencies, including TAM in Marin County. An eligible use for OBAG funding is for local planning related to Priority Development Areas (PDAs). This is an important funding program, but it is relatively small in comparison to other major funding programs.

3.  The elephant not the room is Caltrans. Caltrans, I do not know what role they have in all of this, governs what happens with the money available for road construction and improvement. And yet, we have Caltrans that doesn’t show up at any civic meetings hardly ever and yet, they are responsible for the Richmond Bridge, what is going on north of Novato on that nightmare going north up to Santa Rosa, and also for doing the road improvements down in southern Marin -- even just getting some energy going to clean out the drainage culverts down by Manzanita and Marin City led to a traffic jam that went all the way up to the north end of Petaluma; traffic was stopped for a whole morning. And, where is Caltrans and how do we make Caltrans become a responsible public agency? This is one of the biggest issues in this county right now.

Response: Caltrans is a state agency set up to implement state laws and takes direction from the governor. Caltrans recently completed a major public outreach effort throughout the state on a California Transportation Plan, and their staff staffed displays at Plan Bay Area 2040 open houses in all nine Bay Area counties, including Marin County.

4.  I would like to comment on your icons on this page (Performance Targets). I am somewhat offended that your Performance System is represented by an automobile. And, in terms of our other regional goals, we need to move to more commuter transit, more public transportation and more opportunities for people to get around this county without getting into their own single passenger vehicle. I would urge you to find another way to represent that.

Response: Thanks for your comment. The icon was revised to represent multiple transportation modes.

5.  Transit in Marin County is not working. I try to use it because I am an environmentalist and I am unsuccessful most of the time. No wonder it is down. It is hard to use, it doesn’t go where we want to go and when you want to get there. We need to put resources into improving that system, not taking it away because ridership is down.

Response: See response to question below. 

6.  I am a big promoter of walking and biking and glad that we have had a lot of money coming into that. But, one of the biggest problems with transit is the way it is set up. You can get transportation money for capital improvements, but you cannot get money for operation. There is a certain set amount that you can get for operations, and this is why we cannot improve our transit systems. We don’t have frequent enough transit to make it tenable for anybody to use it for doing anything, but going into San Francisco. If you work in the Financial District, you got a great transit system. Other than that, it is hell on wheels to get anywhere. Somewhere in this whole formula there needs to be an opening for getting transportation money for operations for transit. 

Response: See below.
Answer for two questions above: MTC has long sought to increase revenue for transit operations. Unfortunately there is very limited funding available and public transportation service requires a heavy public subsidy. In aggregate, for every 35 cents of fare revenue, 65 cents of public subsidy is needed to operate the Bay Area transit system. Because of limited public funds, difficult choices often must be made to cut service that is not financially sustainable. Options for raising revenue include raising bridge tolls, local sales taxes or the fare itself. The California Constitution prohibits use of the state gas tax on anything but public roads, and the Federal Highway Trust Fund is in the brink of insolvency. Congress is considering measures to keep it solvent, but has yet to pass anything of a comprehensive nature to ensure a reliable and steady stream of revenue to support America’s public transit operations.

7.  On the table are the relative priorities assigned to the various [goals] of the Plan Bay Area; in seven of the eight counties that have been polled, climate protection is only mentioned by one of them. At the same time, in the summary of performance, in the next 25 years, it states that the Plan projects CO2 emissions per capita declines by 18 percent. Since we have such low level of support for climate protection on the one hand, it seems to me a disconnect on what you project will happen in the real world over the next 25 years.

Response: Thanks for your comment. The California Air Resources Board sets a target for the Bay Area to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light-duty trucks. Plan Bay Area as adopted in 2013 is projected to meet that emission reduction target.

8.  I am looking at the key milestones chart, and it talks about scenarios. I am having trouble understanding what that really means. What is a scenario? It looks like three will be chosen and then of the three, one will be chosen and I have trouble just picturing what that really means. So, wonder whether you could elaborate a bit on that?

Response: Scenarios refer to “what if?” options for future growth. They are used as a tool to consider the outcomes of different alternatives for the future. For the current Plan Bay Area, as adopted in 2013, ABAG and MTC developed a variety of land use and transportation scenarios that distributed the total amount of growth forecasted for the region to specific locations. These scenarios sought to address the needs and aspirations of each Bay Area jurisdiction, as identified in locally adopted general plans and zoning ordinances, while meeting Plan Bay Area performance targets adopted by the agencies to guide and gauge the region’s future growth.

9.  Regarding the second target on affordable housing -- back in the 2013 Plan that was one of the items that showed that the strategy for meeting the affordable housing targets in Plan Bay Area missed its mark. What is happening between the 2013 Plan and the 2017 Plan that that target might be met? 

Response: Plan Bay Area as adopted in 2013 did fall short of its performance target to decrease by 10 percentage points (to 56 percent, from 66 percent) the share of low-income and lower-middle income residents’ household income consumed by transportation and housing. The plan moved in the wrong direction; the share of household income needed to cover transportation and housing costs is projected to rise by three percentage points to 69 percent for low-income and lower-middle income residents over the life of the plan. The metrics identified earlier in the process will be the basis of an analysis to gauge the effects of Plan Bay Area on the region’s economy, environment, and low-income and minority populations. Equity Metrics provide a framework for evaluating equity concerns for the approximately one-fifth of the Bay Area’s total population that live in areas with large numbers of low-income and minority populations. Promoting access to housing, jobs and transportation for these residents advances Plan Bay Area’s objective to advance equity in the region; it also increases our chances of meeting the other performance targets. For the update to Plan Bay Area, the analysis of the equity metrics (including the supplemental equity analysis conducted for Plan Bay Area) will be fully integrated into the performance analysis of the scenarios rather than developed through a separate evaluation. To further address any issues related to low-income communities and communities of color, a Regional Equity Working Group will be established and meet as needed for the focused update to Plan Bay Area, drawing from membership of the Regional Advisory Working Group and MTC’s Policy Advisory Council.

10.  My other comment is on the key milestones and MTC’s public participation plan for Plan Bay Area. Many of us looked at MTC’s public participation plan for Plan Bay Area and see that it is a pretty closed system and is not what is occurring in this meeting. This is outstanding to have this dialogue today. But the public participation plan looks like it is measuring effectiveness by saying how many meetings were held and how many press releases were sent and how many people visited the website. There is a certain lacking substance in terms of there being a real exchange and consideration of what thoughtful people like people in this room are bringing forward of questions and concerns. So, just wondering if you can comment on the public participation plan and how we can we can keep substance in the public participation.

Response: MTC as the metropolitan planning organization for the Bay Area is required to adopt a public participation plan to ensure an open and transparent process. MTC partners with ABAG to develop this participation plan. The last process for developing and adopting Plan Bay Area was robust and even boisterous at times. Still it drew an unprecedented number of interested residents into a very important planning process. Thanks to public comments from across the Bay Area, MTC and ABAG modified Plan Bay Area’s goals and targets to reflect what we heard. Because of public input, Plan Bay Area as adopted in 2013:

  • Includes the strength of our economy as a measure of success
  • Contains the goal that we are working to preserve open space and agricultural land; and
  • Promotes the health and safety of communities by encouraging biking and walking.

The adopted 2015 Public Participation Plan commits to measuring the effectiveness of the public participation program. This includes not just measuring how many mentions in local media but also asking participants if there was sufficient opportunity to comment/ask questions, and opportunity to learn about the Plan. More importantly, the Public Participation Plan lays out the process for engagement in key technical milestones and policy board decisions for the Plan Bay Area 2040 update. We welcome your direct and active engagement in the process. 

11.  Performance target number 4 says to reduce by 50 percent the number of injuries and fatalities from all collisions including bike and pedestrians. Is that the goal to be accomplished over 8 years? I cannot believe that it is remotely possible or even reasonable expectation. Or, is it a statement of making safety a priority and not having a goal that is reachable? 

Response: Plan Bay Area as adopted in 2013 indeed includes a performance target of reducing by half the number of injuries and fatalities from all collisions (including bicycle and pedestrian). Making the Bay Area safer for motorists, pedestrians and bicycles is an important an ongoing priority. This target reflects an emphasis in Plan Bay Area to enhance safety for all travel modes across the region. The target is adopted from the state’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan (2006), and also reflects a long-standing regional goal of making streets, highways and transit service safer. Approximately 39,000 individuals were injured or killed on Bay Area roads during the year 2005, highlighting the critical need to improve roadway safety. Unfortunately, as a result of the region’s growth in total population and in total vehicle miles traveled, we lose ground against this target over the course of this plan. Although as a region we continue to invest in safer roads for all modes of transport, over 46,000 individuals are forecasted to be injured or killed in collisions in year 2040, an 18 percent increase in roadway tragedies compared to 2005. While it is some comfort to know that they per-capita rate of collisions is projected to decline by 10 percent during this plan period, the sheer number of people traveling on the network – combined with the certainty of occasional human error – overwhelms the safety improvements for which the plan allocates funding.


Questions from Santa Rosa Open House:

Where has sea-level rise taken place, and by how much?

Sea level rise is different in different places; in the Bay Area, the San Francisco Presidio gauge is reporting a rise of 7.5 inches over the last 100 years. A map of sea-level rise trends that shows the amount of sea level rise by U.S. Region can be found here:

Questions from San Jose Open House:

The statistic that just five percent of county highway lanes are congested on the display board under “County Focus” is hard to grasp, given that our highways always seem congested. Can you explain how you get this statistic in a nontechnical way?

We understand how many might question this statistic if they travel certain routes at peak commute times. But it’s important to know that for the most part, our highways are not congested. There are several things to keep in mind. First, realize that we define “congested” as speeds below 35 miles per hour — the speed that traffic engineers deem the efficiency “sweet spot” (faster meaning excess capacity, slower meaning extreme delays). It’s worth noting that a larger share of daily vehicle miles traveled occurs at speeds below the speed limit but above 35 miles per hour. Second, the majority of trips are not for commute purposes – many take place at times of day when congestion is minimal or non-existent (midday, evening, etc.). Finally, the vast majority of vehicle delay is on only a handful of freeway corridors; the remaining segments of the system (the vast majority of the mileage) are operating efficiently.

Questions from San Mateo Open House:

Is it possible to convert a general purpose lane for carpools? For bus-only use? For a toll lane? In other words, is it ever possible to convert an existing lane or do you always have to add a new lane before you can restrict it to a specific use?

There is no prohibition in state or federal law on converting an existing general purpose lane to a carpool lane. However, state law does prohibit converting an existing general purpose lane to an express (or toll) lane.

When will there be a carpool lane north/southbound 101 from Redwood City to Daly City?

In June 2012, San Mateo City/County Association of Governments (or C/CAG) studied the feasibility of extending the HOV lane on US 101 from Whipple Avenue in Redwood City to I-380 in San Bruno, a distance of approximately 13 miles. With the recent completion of a more formal Caltrans Project Study Report, San Mateo C/CAG is ready to move this project into the environmental assessment phase. It is expected that the environmental process will take two years, followed by design phase and then construction. Under this current approach, a carpool lane on US 101 may be open to traffic within the next 8 years (2023). However, there is interest to consider alternative design and project delivery approaches to provide a carpool and express lane to relieve congestion in the next five years. For more information, you may wish to contact San Mateo C/CAG at (650)508-6200.

Questions from Walnut Creek Open House: 

What is the effect of Plan Bay Area on average commute time?

Plan Bay Area as adopted in 2013 is projected to slightly reduce commute times compared to what conditions would be like without the projects and policies included in the Plan (this is referred to as the “No Project alternative” in the environmental impact report that was completed in conjunction with the current Plan). By the year 2040, the average commute time under the existing Plan is expected to be 20.4 minutes; in no-project conditions, the average commute time would be expected to be 21.1 minutes. However, both commute times are slightly higher than baseline conditions in 2010 (19.8 minutes). This reflects a growing population, greater demand for existing infrastructure, and increased preference for alternative travel modes in future years, and the effect of the recession on traffic volumes in 2010.

Can you conduct an “Infrastructure Assessment” that incorporates impacts of new growth on water, sewers, electrical, police/fire in Plan Bay Area, and consider this as a performance metric?

These types of infrastructure impacts are included in the Environmental Impact Report required for all Regional Transportation Plans under the California Environmental Quality Act. Impacts to public services, utilities, and facilities are quantified as part of that report. Staff will include this suggestion on the list of suggested performance measures for the Plan.

How can we deal with coordination between local jurisdictions on traffic issues caused in adjacent towns with BART? (For example, in Moraga – Lafayette – Orinda?)

Congestion Management Agencies (CMAs) are the designated county-wide body charged with helping to coordinate land use, air quality and transportation planning among local jurisdictions.  Traditionally, CMAs prepare county-wide Congestion Management Programs (CMPs) and Countywide Transportation Plans (CTPs). 

CMPs play a role in the countywide and regional transportation planning processes by identifying near term projects to implement the longer-range vision established in a Countywide Transportation Plan (CTP).  Through CMPs, the transportation investment priorities of the multiple jurisdictions in each county can be addressed in a countywide context.  CMPs establish a link between local land use decision making and the transportation planning process. 

In addition to CMPs, many CMAs and other countywide planning agencies adopt Countywide Transportation Plans (CTPs) that are multi-modal long-range visions that have an inter-dependent relationship with the regional plan.  State law requires that CTPs should be developed with participation from the cities and transit operators within the county.

How is ABAG factoring drought into housing development planning?

Water for our population and businesses is managed by water agencies in the region. ABAG is engaging with these agencies to understand how they are responding to the California’s current drought. We have been working on three tasks: (1) ABAG’s most recent conference, Spring General Assembly 2015, examined Green Streets and Infrastructure Strategies, Sharing Best Practices Around Creating Complete Communities, Drought Protection, and Water Management. (2) The ABAG Executive Board meeting on May 21, 2015 will include a presentation by Santa Clara Valley Water District. (3) ABAG will organize a forum focused on strategies to address drought in Spring of 2016.

ABAG is interested in how local water purveyors are working to reach the current reduced demand levels recently set by Governor Brown; the planning underway by the water districts for a possible continuation of this drought for several more years; and what planning may be underway or contemplated for a major drought disaster like the 10-year event that Australia is recovering from now.

At this point, the drought is unlikely to reduce population or job growth, thus the need for housing remains. If the drought were to continue and intensify, we might see an impact in future decades. The Plan Bay Area forecast will be updated as economic, demographic and environmental conditions change. Plan Bay Area is structured to increase the range of housing choices in the region to address sustainability and the efficient use of water, energy and infrastructure.

Contra Costa uses more pesticides than any other Bay Area county. Please address this as part of healthy and safe communities and open space preservation. How can we get them to stop?

Pesticide use, particularly use that requires a permit, is managed by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation and local County Agricultural Commissioners (CAC). Please see the document entitled “Pesticide Info: What You Should Know About Pesticides” available at

Contra Costa’s CAC, Chad Godoy, is the appropriate entity to address the current use of pesticides in the county. For your information, Contra Costa has an Integrated Pesticide Use (IPMU) committee that meets every other month – it is a public forum to discuss pesticide use. Tonya Dirlk is the IPMU coordinator. Chad Godoy and Tonya Dirlk can be reached at 925-646-5250.

Questions from Pleasanton Open House: 

On your display about public transit, what does “Daily Wheels boardings” mean?

Wheels is operated by the Livermore Amador Valley Transit Authority (LAVTA), and provides fixed-route bus and paratransit services in the cities of Dublin, Livermore, Pleasanton and in certain unincorporated portions of Alameda County.

Boardings refer to the number of times passengers board public transportation vehicles - passengers are counted each time they board a vehicle.

Where do you get your data for your display about Alameda County Demographics? Your information seems wrong.

Many of the demographic data come from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

Where do you get your figures about monthly rent in Alameda County? Rents are higher than the $1,200 listed. Your data sources seem “out of reach.”

These figures are based on 2013 data from the American Community Survey, the most recent data available from the Census Bureau. The amount might seem low because (1) it is from 2013, and (2) it reflects the median rent payments by all households who rent including long-time renters. Monthly rent payments are different than rapidly rising list rents for apartments on the market right now. Rent payments better reflect what the typical household pays their landlord each month.