BATWG Critiques Valley Link Draft Environmental Impact Report

For almost a year BATWG has struggled to find the transportation logic behind the frantic effort to push the $3,000,000,000 + Valley Link proposal to the front of the line for federal funding.

Background:  Valley Link is a proposed 42-mile commuter rail service with a significant portion to be operated in both directions on a single track. The line would run from the East Dublin BART station via the north edge of Livermore and Tracy to North Lathrop in San Joaquin County. On 9.24.20, $400,000,000 in Alameda County sales tax funds were unaccountably diverted from their voter-approved intent of improving transit connections between BART and the Tri-Valley to the Valley Link proposal (hereinafter VL.)

On 12.2.20 the Draft Environment Impact Report (DEIR), estimated to be at least 5,000 pages long was finally released, with public comment due by 1.21.21. During the ensuing 40 days BATWG critiqued the document which we believe fails to meet CEQA, Alameda County Measure BB and AB758 requirements in a number of significant ways. Our critiques were submitted to the sponsoring agency before the deadline. Here is part of what we found.

Project Alternatives:  CEQA requires that major infrastructure projects include viable alternatives to compare against the “preferred alternative”. Not a single one of the some 30 so-called “alternatives” listed in the DEIR come anywhere close to meeting this CEQA requirement. There were and are other options available. Here are two, either of which could serve local and regional travel needs better than VL would. Both have so far been ignored:

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Union City’s Station Specific Plan….Transit-Oriented in Name Only

The City of Union City has just revealed its ambitious 471 acre “Union City Station Specific Plan” in the general vicinity of the Union City BART station. The first chance the public had to learn about the project came at the City’s 2.11.2021 Scoping Meeting.

This venture, like so many others in the Bay Area is being loudly and continuously heralded as “transit-oriented”. The term admittedly has a nice ring to it. That’s because “transit-oriented”, is intended to suggest that placing a housing project near a train station or bus stop would cause people to forsake their cars in favor of less congesting and more environmentally-acceptable means of travel such as bus, train, ferryboat, bicycling and walking. Sounds positive, right?

Here’s the rub:

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Advancing Technology Improves Freight Movement Efficiency

Since COVID hit, you may have been pleasantly surprised to see how fast a product ordered through the internet can arrive at your doorstep. Why is that? What’s changed?

The fact is that thanks to a rapidly improving set of internet based, sophisticated computer-control measures, suppliers, forwarders, shippers, and distribution companies are adopting much better ways of keeping track of freight shipments than in the past. One of the benefits of a fast, responsive and efficient internal control system is that rather than having to ship everything from the factory or some other central location, suppliers can now set up and use more local and regional storage centers located closer to demand centers without losing track of their products. This can now be accomplished by sophisticated data analysis used to convert demographic trends, consumption records and advertising “hits” to input data suitable for entry into computer models capable of more closely monitoring freight shipping and storage.

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AC Transit’s New Website – a Work in Process

AC Transit’s new website (www.actransit.org) is an improvement. However to make AC Transit’s 158 line network of bus lines more useful to riders and would-be riders, additional work is needed:

Under “About Us”, “Facts and Figures”, there is an easy-to-understand set of graphics showing six measurable indicators of system efficiency and operating effectiveness. Included are On-time Performance, Mean time between Road Calls, Customer Complaints, Weekday Ridership, Annual Ridership and Fare box Recovery. Also needed are Weekday Transbay Ridership, Average 24-hour bus speed, and Operating and Maintenance Cost per Transit Trip.

Unfortunately these charts only go back a few months. It should be possible to see the trends in at least the 7 key indicators shown below for the last one year, five years, ten years and twenty years. Performance measures help gauge the effectiveness of any organization and should be easily accessible from website Home Pages.

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Road Widening Myths that Impede Climate Action

The five myths set forth below came from an excellent article by Urbanist Executive Director Doug Trumm, published in Streetsblog USA on December 29, 2020. 

“If you’ve  pushed back against a highway project, on the basis that catering to single occupancy vehicles is driving carbon emissions………………you’ve probably heard a few of the following myths about road widening and how good it is for the climate and environment”.

Myth 1: Car idling is bad for the environment so wider roads with free-flowing traffic is good for the environment.
The federal Department of Energy estimates that 2 percent of auto emissions come from idling. This means that if all idling were eliminated by making the traffic free-flowing, it would take just a 2 percent increase in the traffic using the newly unjammed roadways to equal the idling emissions saved.

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