Bay Area Council Blog: Transportation and Land Use Archive

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Bay Area Balance: Preserving Open Space, Addressing Housing Affordability

Failure to produce housing in the Bay Area’s urban core and near transit represents a serious threat to the region’s open space, according to a new study released yesterday by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute that makes the economic case for preserving natural and working lands and identifies opportunities for responsible development in the region.

Despite the vast opportunity and need – let alone a requirement by law to help meet California’s ambitious GHG reduction targets – the Bay Area has made glacial progress realizing only 57% of the full potential for infill housing development of its urban core. Inability to build housing in the region’s core is forcing development further away from job centers, jeopardizing valuable open space and undermining state climate change goals. The analysis estimates the Bay Area greenbelt’s value to be as high as $14 billion per year – with direct and indirect benefits stemming from food, recreation, clean air, natural resources and protection against sea level rise.

“Building more housing and protecting open space are not mutually exclusive,” says Bay Area Council Economic Institute President Micah Weinberg. “We need to develop responsibly and actually fulfill state-mandated requirements to build within Priority Development Areas, meeting transit-oriented, infill housing goals. Smart growth will spare our open space and keep the Bay Area economically resilient, sustainable and equitable.”

Read Bay Area Balance: Preserving Open Space, Addressing Housing Affordability>>

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Council Hails Key Vote on Bill to Address Bay Area’s Traffic, Commute Crisis

SAN FRANCISCO—Following weeks of intensive advocacy in the Bay Area and Sacramento, the Bay Area Council today hailed a pivotal vote by the Assembly Transportation Committee on a bill that could lead to $4.2 billion in new funding to help ease the Bay Area’s traffic and commuter nightmare. The bill—SB 595 authored by state Sen. Jim Beall—would authorize a regional, nine-county ballot measure in June 2018 for a $3 toll increase on state-run bridges in the Bay Area that a recent poll found was supported by 56 percent of voters.

“We’re one step closer to taking a big leap forward in addressing the region’s transportation and traffic crisis,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “With the funding that a regional toll increase would generate we can make important investments to expand mass transit like BART, Caltrain and ferries, ease congestion on traffic-clogged freeways and address the number one frustration plaguing Bay Area commuters. We applaud the Assembly Transportation Committee under the leadership of Chair Jim Frazier for working to create a balanced plan that makes meaningful improvements to the region’s beleaguered transportation system.”

With the Committee’s approval, the bill now moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for a vote and, with approval, to the Assembly floor later this summer for final approval before heading to the Governor’s desk for his signature. Passage is expected. The passage of SB 595 would set the stage for a region-wide vote in June 2018, which the Council would play a leading role in organizing. Voters have approved two previous measures.

The Council provided key testimony in support of the legislation at today’s hearing and has worked closely over the past few months with Bay Area legislators and many other stakeholders to shape the spending plan included in SB 595.

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Key Vote on Bill to Authorize Regional Transportation Funding Measure

A critical vote is scheduled for Monday, July 10 in the Assembly Transportation Committee on legislation (SB 595) to authorize a regional transportation funding ballot measure, and the Bay Area Council is urging lawmakers to approve it. The committee is chaired by East Bay Assemblymember Jim Frazier, who has been a champion of improving transportation and was co-author of SB 1, the landmark bill to invest $52.1 billion to fix the state’s roads, highways and bridges, fight congestion and enhance transit. On SB 595, the Council has been working directly with state lawmakers who are crafting a $3-$4.2 billion regional plan that would support a major expansion of regional ferry service; acquire new high capacity BART cars; break freeway bottlenecks; and invest in other critical improvements that will address the Bay Area’s transportation crisis.

These badly needed improvements would be funded by a gradual increase of tolls on state-owned bridges (Regional Measure 3) in the Bay Area that voters in all nine counties would be asked to approve in June 2018. Recent poll results found that Bay Area voters fed up with the region’s awful traffic and overcrowded transit systems would approve a toll increase of up to $3. The Council will be in Sacramento on Monday testifying in support SB 595. To learn more about the Council’s transportation policy work, contact Policy Director Emily Loper.

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Council-backed Housing Bill Heads to Governor’s Desk

The Bay Area Council today (July 6) cheered the passage by the California Legislature of a bill by state Sen. Bob Wieckowski (Fremont) that clears the way for the construction of up to 20,000 new housing units near BART stations. Introduced at the Council’s request, the bill would extend from a quarter mile to a half mile the distance at which BART can engage in transit-oriented housing developments on land it controls. BART estimates that the change could result in 20,000 units of new housing, including 7,000 designated as affordable, and reduce carbon emissions by 680,000 pounds daily. The bill now heads to Gov. Brown’s desk, where the Council will be advocating for his signature.

“Building new housing near mass transit is a no brainer,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “We are facing a massive housing shortage and affordability crisis and this bill smartly leverages public land to serve the public good. Putting more housing near BART will keep jobs and workers in the Bay Area, reduce commutes and cut greenhouse gas emissions. We applaud Sen. Wieckowski for his leadership in authoring this bill and we encourage Gov. Brown to sign it.”

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Poll: Strong Majority Back Bridge Toll Increase to Ease Grinding Traffic

Bay Area voters fed up with grinding congestion badly want new funding for large, regional traffic relief and transportation improvement projects and are ready to dig a little deeper to cross state-owned bridges to pay for them, according to results of a new poll released today and commissioned by the Bay Area Council, Silicon Valley Leadership Group and SPUR. The online poll of more than 9,000 voters found that 56 percent of voters from all nine Bay Area counties would approve gradually increasing tolls by $3 over a four-year period.

The results come as state lawmakers are crafting legislation that would authorize a regional ballot measure to raise bridge tolls that voters could be asked to decide in June 2018. The measure would require majority approval. The exact amount of any toll bump hasn’t been finalized, and legislators are considering increases ranging from $1-$3. The increase would apply only to state-operated bridges in the Bay Area and not the Golden Gate Bridge, which is operated separately.

“Paying a little higher bridge toll to lessen the awful toll of traffic is clearly worth it to a strong majority of Bay Area voters,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “When you consider the huge amount of time that commuters waste in traffic every day, adding a couple extra dollars to bridge tolls will help cut congestion and expand critical regional mass transit that benefits the entire Bay Area.”

Read the bridge toll poll results memo>>

Voters were unequivocal in their feelings about traffic, with 85 percent saying it has gotten worse in the past year, according to the online poll conducted by Oakland public opinion firm FM3. Voters were also very clear that they don’t want half measures. An overwhelming 74 percent want the proceeds of any toll increase to pay for “big regional projects” that ease traffic and improve mass transit, including enhancing freeway carpool lanes and expanding BART, regional ferry service and other bus and commuter rail systems.

The three non-partisan, public policy organizations are working together to help shape the legislation authorizing a regional measure and plan to partner on a regional campaign to win voter approval should it be placed on the ballot. Voters have approved two previous bridge toll increases to fund traffic relief and improvements to mass transit. To engage in our transportation policy work, please contact Senior Vice President Michael Cunningham.

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Real Reasons to Embrace Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous, or self-driving, vehicles are undeniably cool, but, in their meeting with industry experts from Waymo (Google), Zoox, and Lyft, Bay Area Council Transportation Committee members learned that the real reasons to applaud the development of autonomous vehicles are safety, mobility, and sustainability. Over 35,000 people died in automobile accidents in 2015; 95 percent due to human error; and, after decades of declines, the number of fatalities is rising at 7 percent per year. Fully autonomous vehicles, with no human interaction ever required, are probably the safest solution, and they’re also the solution that will offer mobility to people (blind or disabled, for example) that can’t safely drive themselves.

Our industry experts and Committee members also considered how autonomous vehicles will be owned and used, and concluded that the most likely scenario is that households will choose to reduce their transportation costs by reducing or eliminating vehicle ownership, and instead turning to on-demand transportation services from fleet operators. The Council will continue its efforts to create a clear and hospitable legal environment in California for autonomous vehicle development. To participate, contact Michael Cunningham.

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Traffic is Hellish: New Measure Big on BART and Ferries Will Help A Lot

Our polling and traffic studies all confirm what you experience – traffic is the Bay Area is epically bad. The Bay Area Council is working directly with the Bay Area Caucus (our state Senators and Assemblymembers) on a $3-$4.2 billion regional plan that would massively increase ferry service throughout the region; get BART new, higher capacity cars; break critical freeway bottlenecks; improve freight movement; and secure other critical improvements our members and residents badly need (or really, needed “yesterday”).

Ferries, in particular, can play a huge role in addressing growing Bay Area traffic congestion. Ferries used to carry 55 million passengers a day. Dormant for decades, a new system was launched in 2004 behind the Council’s strong advocacy. Ridership has since skyrocketed, climbing 78 percent in just the last two years to 2 million riders a year. With terminals costing just $10 million apiece (on average) and boats costing between $1.5-$15 million depending on their size, it’s possible to get a “BART-on-the-Bay” armada crisscrossing the waters from Silicon Valley to the Carquinez Strait in a very short period of time, and at a low cost. New York City just brought a system of 20 boats online in nine months, and after 60 days the system is over capacity and the city is scrambling to get more boats built.

The improvements included in the regional plan would be paid for with a toll increase on the Bay Area’s seven state-owned bridges, which early polling suggests voters would back in a June 2018 election.  The legislation (SB 595) will have several critical votes in the next few months, and we will keep you updated. To engage in our transportation policy work, please contact Senior Vice President Michael Cunningham.

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Leading the Megaregion Charge for Better Rail Connections

The Bay Area Council continues to lead the charge for enhancing megaregional rail system, and on Wednesday joined a gathering of 50 key decision makers from passenger rail operators, regional planning organizations, and state agencies representing all corners of the Northern California Megaregion. Council CEO Jim Wunderman delivered the keynote address in which he laid out a future vision for dramatically enhancing rail service to keep economic growth within the megaregion by seamlessly connecting outlying areas with growing population to the job centers of the Bay Area.

The meeting built off of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute’s landmark 2016 report on the megaregion and the Council’s ongoing advocacy efforts to improve both passenger and freight rail service. Participants on Wednesday discussed ideas for better megaregional coordination and the steps necessary to achieve a networked train system for Northern California, including Capitol Corridor, ACE, San Joaquins, Caltrain, BART, and future high speed rail trains. The meeting was hosted by the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority in Oakland. To engage in our megaregion policy work, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

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New Oakland A’s Stadium Would Generate $3.05 Billion in Economic Benefits, 2K Jobs

Oakland residents and businesses would reap $3.05 billion in economic benefits over the first 10 years from the construction and operation of a new privately financed Oakland A’s stadium and the increased attendance and game day spending that would come with it, according to an analysis released Tuesday (June 20) by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute. Building the stadium would also create 2,000 construction jobs, many of which would go to local workers and businesses under hiring agreements expected to accompany the project. The analysis breaks down the economic impacts from the first 10 years of stadium operations into three categories, including:

  • $768 million from construction and related spending
  • $1.54 billion from game-day spending
  • $742 million from ballpark operations

Read the Oakland A’s stadium economic analysis>>

The study does not identify a specific location in Oakland for any new stadium and does not include estimates for the considerable additional economic benefits from new commercial development and other business activity that would likely be spurred by the arrival of a new ballpark. The study also estimates that a new Athletics stadium could lift annual attendance from its 2016 level of 1.5 million to 2.55 million in the first year of operation before settling back to an average of 2.4 million in subsequent years.

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Oakland Zoo Expansion Benefits Entire Region

The launch of the new California Trail, an $80 million expansion project that will double the size of Oakland Zoo, heralds an exciting new commitment by the Oakland Zoo to enrich the lives of people and wildlife in the Bay Area by connecting people with nature through its extensive public engagement, education and wildlife conservation efforts. Members of the Bay Area Council met last week at an event held at the new California Trail Landing Café to learn about the impact of this new addition to the Bay Area landscape from a social, environmental and economic perspective and the exciting collaboration opportunity that it presents to corporations committed to supporting a thriving Bay Area.

Guests were treated to an enlightening panel discussion between Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Bay Area Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman, San Francisco Travel President & CEO Joe D’Alessandro and Oakland Zoo President & CEO Dr. Joel Parrott on why this new development matters to the people who live, play, work and visit the region. The education and conservation focus of Oakland Zoo were a major topic of discussion amongst the panelists. Oakland Zoo already positively impacts the lives of more than 60,000 young people across the Bay Area each year through a range of STEM-related education programs. California Trail will provide an opportunity to extend the reach of these programs with a focus on increasing access to more Title 1 schools in the region.

“The new gondola and the entire California Trail Project is one of the most exciting additions to come to Oakland and the Bay Area in many years. As a Trustee of Oakland Zoo, I couldn’t be prouder of the incredible efforts of Dr. Joel Parrott, who with the Oakland Zoo team, the Board of Trustees, and many generous people and foundations, have made this incredible project possible” Wunderman said. “It’s now time for Bay Area companies committed to a thriving Bay Area to embrace the opportunity to partner with the Oakland Zoo team in their important work to enrich life for people and wildlife in the region.  Their support will not only be good for the Bay Area but also for the companies themselves as they go about doing good and doing well.”

To learn about partnership opportunities with the Oakland Zoo, please contact Special Assistant to the CEO Suzanne Robinson.