Nine new highway boondoggles slated to cost $25 billion

Highway expansion projects too often come with big price tags and paltry benefits. Yet at least nine new such expansions are planned across the country, including one in California.

On June 18, 2019, CALPIRG released its fifth “Highway Boondoggles” report, which profiles these projects. Making the list is California’s proposed High Desert Freeway, which is expected to cost $8 billion and, in stark contrast to California’s global warming goals, will inevitably lead to more driving, more pollution and more sprawling desert development.

“To improve California’s transportation system and hit our climate and clean air goals, we must reduce our reliance on cars and highways,” said Emily Rusch, CALPIRG Education Fund executive director. “This project does the opposite, doubling down on a car-centric system that will encourage more people to hit the road…”

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Nudging Union City into the 21st Century

Route of the Union City Mayor’s New Highway

Here are two recent BATWG letters, each emphasizing the superiority of a new Dumbarton Rail service between the Union City BART  station and Caltrain’s Redwood City Station over U.C. Mayor Carol Dutra-Vernaci’s  “anachronistic short highway to nowhere”.

 Bay Area Transportation Working Group  

                                                              July 9, 2019

Dear Mayor Dutra-Vernacic (Mayor of Union City): 

We remember you as are a strong supporter of the plan to create a passenger rail service via a rebuilt Dumbarton Rail Bridge between the Redwood City Caltrain Station and the Union City BART Station.  We agree.    Continue reading

Getting DTX Back on Track

Connecting the 78-mile long Caltrain line via a 1.3 mile extension to the nine Muni and BART subway lines, the Market streetcars and dozens of bus lines in downtown San Francisco has been a San Francisco transportation objective for over 40 years. In 1999 the voters of San Francisco approved the idea by an overwhelming 69.3%. Since then tens of thousands of new transit-oriented housing units and 19 major highrise buildings either already exist or are under development in the immediate vicinity of the new Salesforce Transit Center.

Yet the Center’s vast underground train levels sit bleak and empty awaiting the arrival of passenger trains to link Silicon Valley, the San Mateo Peninsula and downtown San Francisco. Recently, thanks in large part to conflicts among various elements of San Francisco’s government, the Caltrain extension project (DTX) appears to have once again ground to a halt. Continue reading

An Update of BATWG’s Suggestions for Increasing AC Transit Ridership

Since its inception in 2012 BATWG has repeatedly called for significant changes to AC’s east bay and transbay operations designed to increase ridership. In last month’s BATWG Newsletter we listed 11 of the major gaps in the Region’s network of trains and buses that are deterring people from curtailing their commute driving. Here are Gaps 7 and 8:

7. “Needed: a major improvement in AC Transit’s current very low appeal to would-be riders who are not transit-dependent. Catering only to the transit-dependent is no longer adequate, if it ever was. In the Bay Area there are simply too many riders of choice to ignore.”

8. “Thanks in part to decades of inaction on the part of MTC, it is now unlikely that the Central Bay Area will see another subaqueous rail tube before 2060. Unless AC Transit invigorates its transbay bus service, getting between Oakland and San Francisco will become increasingly difficult.”

The following letter to the AC Transit Board outlines our current thinking on the matter: Continue reading

$100,000,000,000 to Fix Bay Area Transportation?

Matthew Lituchy, Chief Investment Officer of a major Bay Area development company, was recently asked how he felt about placing large commercial and residential projects adjacent to transit. Here are excerpts from his response as printed in the San Jose Mercury on July 7, 2019: “Traditional methods of commuting have gotten over-stressed. Our freeways are impossibly clogged with traffic. Commute durations are at all-time highs. People are looking to commute by alternative methods. Trains, light rail, Caltrain, bus, BART are the alternatives. Being in a place where you can easily move around the Bay Area, and both live and work close to these modes of transportation is important”.

Mr. Lituchy’s concerns are shared by millions of other Bay Area residents.

On May 30, 2019, at the Alameda County Transportation Commission retreat, a new plan to raise up to $100 billion to address the Bay Area’s ever worsening transportation condition was unveiled. The Plan, which has apparently been under discussion in private circles for some time, was presented and explained by Bay Council CEO John Grubb; Council Senior VP, Linda Lynn Litvak; Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG) VP Jason Baker, and former Transform Executive Director Stuart Cohen.

Problem.pngSince the Plan is still in its earliest stages, the presentation was limited mostly to a description of the Region’s existing transportation problems and the Plan’s strategic, outreach and funding goals and objectives. As Mr. Baker of the SVLG put it, “…..we think the time is ripe to work for a world class, more integrated transit system that is faster, more reliable, more affordable and more equitable for the Bay Area”. Continue reading


Supposing the first two sentences of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address had read like this?

“Four score and seven _________ our
______________forth____________ on ____________,
a new _________ in
Liberty, and dedicated to the
____________that all
_______________. Now we are
________ in a great _______,
____________that nation, or any
nation_________, can long _________.”

With such gaps, the Gettysburg Address would never have become one of the most enduring and beloved axioms in human history.

The damage done to the Gettysburg Address by the above omissions is analogous to the damage done to a region when there are major gaps in its network of trains and buses. There is no better way to illustrate the dismal effect on Bay Area travelers and public mobility of such gaps than by simply listing them: Continue reading

BART-to-San Jose Extension….More of the Same?

Bay Area transportation infrastructure projects tend to cost much more than expected (and in some cases more than necessary) and invariably take much longer than expected to complete. It appears that the Phase II BART subway proposed for San Jose may be no exception.

Map.pngThe following critique responds to the presentation made to the BART & VTA  “Special Committee” meeting at BART’s Oakland Headquarters on May 31, 2019. Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) is proceeding with its 16 mile long, two-phased extension of BART from the current Warms Springs terminal through San Jose to a future terminal station in Santa Clara. Phase I, covering the first 10 miles of the project will be constructed mostly on viaduct and include the Milpitas and Berryessa Stations. Phase II will proceed from Berryessa for six miles in mostly subway and include the Alum Rock, Downtown San Jose, Diridon and Santa Clara stations. Phase II is where things really get expensive. According to the EIR, the total cost of Phase II is projected to be $4.7 billion. It is anticipated that bottom of the tunnel extending for five of the six miles of this phase will be 121 feet below street grade (equivalent to the height of a twelve story building) and that the tunnel hole needed for the entire 5 miles will be 55 feet 10 inches in diameter. This raises several important questions: Continue reading

Regional Watchdog

In the Bay Area local and regional transportation and land use policies evolve continuously. These policies and their impact upon the region are usually discussed in public meetings convened by public agencies. Sometimes these meetings are adequately publicized and sometimes they aren’t. Certain public agencies are notorious for releasing only the rosiest of scenarios for public consumption.

By video-recording as many of these important public meetings as possible, videographer Ken Bukowski has devoted himself to making certain the public is given an opportunity to see what’s actually going on. To accomplish this Mr. Bukowski spends many hours a week carrying his recording equipment across the region to capture important meetings and events. Continue reading