Better Regional Planning: Recommendations for the Bay Area
MTC 2009 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP)
RTP recommendations should be inspirational, hard-hitting and provocative, and should be well-differentiated from MTC positions. (12.9MM ton CO2/yr cuts)
Steve Raney 6/7/07
Recommended Changes to Overall RTP Vision
Vision 1: Backcasting
Given 2020 and 2050 GHG reduction goals, work backwards to a series of projects/proposals to achieve those goals. This is a significant departure from typical regional planning practice.
Former Berkeley professor Martin Wachs authored,
"How Can Transport Become More Sustainable?" 3.6MB, pages 54-62,
Vision 2: Efficient Human Settlement Patterns
The transportation triangle
We will not meet CA 2020 and 2050 climate protection objectives without significant innovation in transportation and land use. Smart Growth is a terrific effort in the right direction, but, in the face of expanding population, Smart Growth must get Smarter. Davis Professor Dan Sperling summed up the Asilomar Climate Change Conference: "We need significant innovation."
The funding of TALC's TravelChoice is an example of innovation funding. The recent CA ARB $25MM PHEV funding is another example. Washington State's Commute Trip Reduction competitive grant program is another example.
The main point of Davis Professor Dan Sperling's Access article on the Asilomar Transportation Climate Change Conference effort is: "we need significant innovation:" http://www.uctc.net/access/29/Access%2029%20-%2003%20-%20Asilomar%20Declaration.pdf
Smart Growth is a terrific effort in the right direction. However, we need to acknowledge that, in the face of continued Bay Area population growth, smart growth fights a losing battle in the face of larger trends. Many regional plans are characterized by smart growth scenarios that foresee 50% population increase and 40% VMT increase. Thus, while smart growth scenarios are far better than business-as-usual, best current smart growth practices only serve to reduce the acceleration of environmental degradation in comparison. The RTP should result in accelerating improvement, not in degradation. We must augment our smart growth toolkit to make smart growth smarter.
As Fred Keely, former Executive Director of the Planning and Conservation League laments, "A few twenty-acre transit villages represent an insignificant blip in the face of California's projected growth."
The Bay Area is the world's center of innovation. Transistors, stem cell cures, google, myspace, iPods - they all came from here. The world needs Bay Area's innovative leadership and creative thinking applied to global warming, the most serious challenge facing the world.
Vision 4: Reduce Suburban VMT
Suburbia is superb. U.S. quality of life has increased over past decades because of suburban benefits: single family homes, good schools, etc. Amidst the background of all the goodness of suburbia, we do have a serious suburban global warming problem. On a worldwide basis, U.S. suburban households account for far more VMT and GHG than any other type of household.
"The State and MTC have made GHG reduction a very high priority. In order to be able to accurately measure the effectiveness of projects to reduce GHG, we must have very high quality, timely data to measure the progress of project implementation. This will allow us to rapidly change course if a project does not deliver successfully on forecasted GHG reductions." Chuck Purvis's budget should be doubled.
Vision 6: Peak Oil
Within the RTP planning period, there is a significant chance of "Peak Oil" occurring. Gas prices could reach such high levels that low-income workers are "priced out" of commuting to their jobs. The economic impact of Peak Oil on the low-income community could be similar to Katrina. A "Peak Oil economic disaster plan" should be prepared, with special emphasis on helping low-income workers.
We plan to add 2 million new residents during the RTP period. New housing and human settlement patterns built during the RTP period will still be standing in 2050 when we hope to have achieved major GHG reductions, hence, this new growth should be energy efficient to 2050 standards. We assume this means a sea-change move away from auto-centric growth. A minimum of one million of these new residents should generate 1/4 the VMT of current suburban residents. At least one-half of this new housing should be in compact mixed-use communities located close to jobs and connected by excellent transit.
Calculation: 1MM new green residents * 9 tons CO2/yr saved for high-density low-VMT mixed use lifestyle = 9MM tons CO2/yr
Project 1: Innovation: VMT Reduction
Innovation Grant Program
We will not meet CA Climate Action Team 2020 and
2050 climate protection objectives without significant innovation in
transportation and land use. The goal of the VMT Reduction Innovation Grant
Program is to augment the smart growth and TDM toolkits, making smart growth
smarter (more effective). Also, allow risk-taking and the development of
innovative policies that have difficulty in getting funded right now.
For the detailed proposal, please see: http://www.cities21.org/RTP_SG_challenge.htm
Project 2: TOD: 23% Commute VMT Reduction via Paid Office Parking (cuts 2MM tons CO2/yr)
Past efforts to convert free office parking to paid parking in the U.S. have failed. This proposal comprehends past failures and employs two new strategies related to a) the Tragedy of the Commons, and b) real-estate economics / in-fill. Requested is a "named" and staffed MTC program (current examples include TLC and HIP).
Past efforts to convert free office parking to
paid parking in the U.S. have failed. This proposal comprehends past failures
and employs two new strategies related to a) the Tragedy of the Commons, and b)
real-estate economics. Because of the real-estate economics, this is an
"economically painless" pricing strategy, where no constituent group loses
financially. We have spoken to MTC staffers who are a) in favor of paid office
parking, and b) talk about this policy as being very hard to achieve, but being
the "holy grail of VMT reduction." By reducing traffic, this scheme
enables smart new in-fill on land that was considered to be "built out."
For the detailed five-page proposal, please see: http://www.cities21.org/paidParkingTALC.htm
Calculation: 3MM Bay Area commuters * 23% commute VMT reduction * 3 tons saved per year per reduced commute = 2MM tons CO2.
Project 3: Transportation Equity: Peak Oil Planning
Prepare a "quick implementation disaster plan" to increase SOV alternatives in the case of a rapid increase in gas prices. MTC should consider pooling resources with other MPOs who share the same need to plan for Peak Oil.
With Katrina, we knew the levees were weak, but we did nothing. With peak oil, we know it's coming, so, unlike the levees, we should plan for it. We should develop and prioritize the Top 20 actions we should take during a Peak Oil induced gas price shock, and train regional agencies to bring the actions about. Potential emergency solutions include: increased ridesharing, increased telecommuting, compressed work weeks, "ecodriving," and reduced highway speed limits.
First, let's think back before Katrina. We knew the levees were weak, we did nothing. Well, we know peak oil is coming (we just don't know when), but there are ZERO U.S. regional plans that have prepared for peak oil. Within the RTP planning time frame, we know there's a significant (but not guaranteed) chance of peak oil hitting. And, early in 2006, there was an unsuccessful terrorist attack on Saudi oil production. There are plenty of unnerving scenarios that could take out more than 4 million daily barrels of crude off the market with no warning. That would change pump prices from $3 per gallon to $12 per gallon in one week, leading to economic disaster.
In the same way that our planning for Katrina was negligent, our planning for peak oil is negligent. Hence, we should ask that the RTP prepare a "peak oil contingency plan." It might be reasonable to take some guess such as "there is a 25% chance that gas prices will below $6 per gallon thru 2012, then go to $12 in 2013, then $24 in 2014."
In the UK, Robert Noland has conducted research on immediate steps to take during an oil supply emergency. The RTP Peak Oil plan should review this and other research. An executive summary of the research can be found at: http://www.iea.org/textbase/npsum/SavingOilSUM.pdf. The study includes recommendations such as:
To add to this UK research, basic solutions such as increasing biking and walking should be added.
Policy implementation strategies should be defined in the RTP Peak Oil plan.
Project 4: Modeling: More and better trip diaries
Summary and Half-Page Description:
MTC measures household travel of 12,000 people every five years. We propose a) larger samples, b) more frequent data collection, c) more accurate measurement technology. From this better data, we will better understand the evolution of TOD trip-making over time and better understand how to create the TODs that minimize VMT.
should utilize leading edge technology to create more accurate trip diaries, to
measure the trips a person takes over the course of one week. In
of new technology that should be deployed is "GPS trip diaries." The
TRAC-IT automatically captures: time, distance, speed, and route. User enters trip purpose and vehicle occupancy. TRAC-IT algorithmically guesses the user's travel mode (car, bus, bike, or walk) and user may update the guess.
Examples of new analyses made possible:
Project 5: Modeling: Better Journey-to-Work Measurement
The Urban Land Institute’s report, "Growing Cooler:
The Evidence on Urban Development and Climate
The CA Climate Action Team and the Bay Area
Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) are very
To protect the climate, we need innovation in
measurement of journey to work information: home
This proposal meets data anonymization/protection
standards found in European Parliament Privacy
Full proposal: http://www.cities21.org/journey2workData.pdf.
Project 6: TLC: Traffic Reducing Housing (cuts 1.2MM tons CO2/yr)
For new apartments and condos, Traffic Reducing Housing (TRH) selects residents with fewer cars who will drive less. Applying TRH to 400,000 of the new homes envisioned in the RTP will save 1.2 million tons of CO2 per year. MTC should: a) endorse this policy for VMT/GHG reduction, b) as part of an expanded TLC program, allocate $500,000 per year in grant money to cities for policy development and legal/demographic analysis. MTC's goal should be to have this policy adopted in 10 locations, in order to hit a tipping point where it will spread of its own momentum.
The 2006 JAPA Robert Cervero / Michael Duncan paper argues for emphasizing efforts to reduce jobs/housing distance to reduce VMT. The article is "Which Reduces Vehicle Travel More: Jobs-Housing Balance or Retail-Housing Mixing?" in the Autumn 2006 JAPA. Cervero argues that reducing journey-to-work distance is even more effective at reducing VMT than smart growth.
Locating housing next to jobs will:
How important is Walk to Work housing? Crucially important!
For more details including case studies (Redwood City, Stanford, and Santa Barbara), applicable fair housing law and demographic analysis, FAQ, employee/resident tenure analysis, etc:, please see: http://www.cities21.org/workerHsng.htm
Calculations: 400,000 new homes under TRH * 3 tons CO2/yr saved per eliminated commute = 1.2MM tons CO2/yr.
Project 7: TOD: Triple Transit Village Area (cuts 0.7MM tons CO2/yr)
The Bay Area has about 6,000 acres of transit villages. 17 large suburban office parks encompassing 20,000 acres should be converted to low VMT transit villages. As cars are removed, these job-rich areas should be in-filled with 68,000 new homes, to balance the jobs/housing imbalance, further reducing VMT over business-as-usual growth. Office parks are currently the Bay Area's most auto-centered places. A new transit circulator technology is coming to market in Fall of 2008, personal rapid transit (PRT). Peter Calthorpe and Sir Peter Hall believe PRT transit circulator technology can transform the Bay Area into a much more sustainable place. PRT will transform office parks into transit villages.
MTC should fund a "blue ribbon delegation" trip to Europe to investigate PRT. MTC should fund staff training on this technology. MTC should model a "PRT circulator" RTP scenario.
Peter Calthorpe of Calthorpe Associates & Fregonese Calthorpe: We need better transit circulator technology: personal rapid transit:
PRT (personal rapid transit) is coming to the world's largest airport (Heathrow) in 2008. PRT is given serious consideration in Europe, Asia, and the Mideast, but is mostly ignored in the states. Transportation alternatives in the U.S. require subsidy, but PRT as a circulator offers the opportunity to run at a profit. The EU Research Directorate believes PRT is an essential part of their sustainability strategy.
Sir Peter Hall: "The social perception of public transportation depends on the quality of the transportation. I think we may be looking to technological advances in public transportation to create new kinds of personal rapid transit. We had a big breakthrough announced only a week ago that a British system called, literally, PRT, Personal Rapid Transit, is going to be adapted for Heathrow Airport progressively over the next ten years. And when you drive your car into Heathrow to one of the parking lots, you will get your own personal vehicle and program it to go to your terminal, or vice versa. And if this is as successful as I think it will be, this could be a big breakthrough in developing new kinds of totally personalized rapid transit, which could transform our cities in ways that we can't yet see." Dec 15, 2005, Natl Building Museum.
There are 17 major suburban-style job centers in the Bay Area, covering 590,000 employees. Each of these jobs centers could dramatically reduce VTM via a PRT circulator making ridesharing and transit more effective. Details on the job centers can be found at: http://www.cities21.org/BABPC/
* HBP - Hacienda Business Park, Pleasanton.
One vision for a PRT-centered comprehensive mobility solution for bay area job centers can be found at: