Plan Bay Area Has Not Fixed Anything Yet.

The recent unveiling of Plan Bay Area 2040 provides a nice reason to revisit one of the most comprehensive public comments on Plan Bay Area 2013, submitted to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) by Thomas A. Rubin, a consultant with over four decades of experience in planning and transportation. Although Mr. Rubin’s comment letter dated May 16, 2013, is listed along with many others on a Plan Bay Area Archives list, links to these documents return a “Page Not Found” message.  However, Orinda Watch, thankfully, provides good links to excellent reports submitted to MTC testifying to the foibles inherent in Plan Bay Area, among those reports is Thomas Rubin’s.

In Comments on ABAG’s and MTC’s Draft Plan Bay Area and Environmental Impact Report Plan Bay Area Draft, Thomas Rubin presents massive amounts of figures and graphs to demonstrate that,

 “…the Plan’s and DEIR’s [Draft Environmental Impact Report] transit components will not only fail to achieve their stated objectives, but there is a very significant chance that they will be counter-productive.  The Plan’s transit components are simply a continuation of the Bay Area’s past emphasis on expensive fixed guideway [trains, monorails, streetcars] transit projects, an emphasis which has not increased transit ridership over the past thirty years.” 

“The housing elements of the Plan, by eliminating almost all of the small remaining potential for new Bay Area residents to achieve their ‘American Dream’ of a single family detached home in the nine Bay Area counties, and attempting to force them into high-density developments, will instead drive many of them to locate outside the Bay Area counties and commute – primarily by driving – to jobs in the Bay Area.”

“…the capital and operating costs of such undesirable, but expensive, housing will require large taxpayer subsidies, making the already extremely high cost of doing business, and living, in the Bay Area far higher still.”

Plan Bay Area 2013 was implemented without much heed to what many experts were saying.  Now four years later --  No more traffic jams? We all have nice affordable homes?  Folks have short easy commutes to their jobs?  No, not really.  Maybe it is time to revisit Tom Rubin’s suggested alternatives:

“…emphasizing those modes [of transportation] that can be implemented quickly and with relatively low capital cost, including improvement of motor bus and vanpool services…, plus expanded transit service on new high-capacity automated vehicle lanes.”

“Major fare reductions, particularly for those types of services utilized primarily by the transit-dependent and economically-challenged.”

…”carpooling…to both reduce vehicle miles traveled by increasing average passenger load and provide additional transportation opportunities for the transportation disadvantaged.” 

The May 2013 report was followed by others that questioned the Plan’s methodology, such as that used to determine the decrease in greenhouse gases needed for the Bay Area to abide by the mandates of Assembly Bill 32, Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. For example, the Air Resources Board adjusted upward its green house gasses inventory method to conform to new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change protocols and other change factors, but it did not revise the 1990 GHG emissions figure.  The level of GHG in 1990 is the target called for by AB 32.  This from one of Mr. Rubin's articles in Reason magazine,

“Crucially, however, ARB has not revised the 1990 GHG emissions figure upwards to reflect the new methodology. The effect of this is to increase the amount of GHG emission reduction required to meet the statutory target.”

Looks like Bay Area residents are dealing with a moving target, adjusted at will that could demand increased levels of central planning in land use and transportation.  In the mind of the average central planner, that usually means a lot more of the same regardless of results.  Think more density along transit corridors, higher taxes to subsidize astronomical housing costs, no parking, and seemingly never enough money left to fix potholes.