Getting Real About Seamless Transit

There’s been a lot of recent talk in the Bay Area about seamless transit. Different people and groups seem to have different opinions of what the term means.

To get this straight, it is necessary to start with an objective. In the first place it is obvious that traffic congestion has gotten out of hand in many places. In addition most scientists now agree that man’s excessive use of fossil fuel energy is causing global warming, including such disastrous “byproducts” as hurricanes, habitat destruction, ocean rise, fresh water shortages and wild fires. In as much as 45% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions comes from transportation, seamless transit can be regarded as an effort to reduce transportation’s share of the problem.

To cut greenhouse gases and ease traffic congestion will require in part that our bus, train and ferry boat systems become convenient enough to convince many travelers to drive less and use transit more. So what would it take to actually bring this about?

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Caltrans’ I-205 “Managed Lane” Project: A Classic Example of what Happens when Highway Planners Ignore the Big Picture

Excerpts from BATWG’s 11.4.21 letter to Mr. Scott Guidi of Caltrans respond­ing to the Notice of Preparation (NOP) for a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the I-205 Caltrans/SJCOG project.

NOP: The goal is “….to improve local, regional, and interregional circulation for all modes of travel between the Central Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area” by addressing the following problems:

  • Increased commute times and corridor congestion on I-205
  • Increased use of I-205 as an intercity and interstate truck or freight route
  • Need for alternative [non-automotive] modes of transportation between San Joaquin County and the San Francisco Bay Area.

BATWG: The project proposes to examine a “no build” and four “build” alternatives – three of which would add freeway lanes and a fourth that would convert an existing I-205 mixed flow lane in each direction into a multiple-occupant vehicle (HOV) lane.

Currently five westbound lanes converge at the I-205/I-580 junction: three westbound from I-205 and two westbound from I-580. Three of the four NOP build Alternatives would add a fourth westbound lane on I-205. It is obvious that six westbound lanes funneling into four I-580 lanes would make the already bad congestion problem even worse. Under no circumstances should I-205 be widened in a manner that would add either traffic or congestion on I-580. The fourth build alternative would reserve an existing I-205 lane in each direction for multiple-occupant vehicles. Arranged with proper traffic controls, Alternative 4 could achieve the three stated NOP objectives listed above, but is probably a non-starter.

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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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Current State of California’s Highways

The preceding article lists Five Myths used as reasons for continuing to expand highways. Dan Walters is one of California’s most independent and highly-rated professional journalists. Here are excerpts from what he had to say in the December edition of CalMatters about the state of California’s highways. It’s pretty clear that in California there should be less highway expansion and more highway maintenance:

California is No. 1 — in Rough Highways


December 16, 2020 at 9:02 a.m.

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Time for Transit to Adapt

The following six paragraphs were excerpted from an excellent editorial by Bay Area News Group editor Dan Borenstein published in the East Bay Times on January 2, 2021:

“The Bay Area’s housing, job market and transportation could be radically reshaped now that employers and white-collar workers have discovered the enormous potential of working remotely.

Early in the pandemic, Twitter announced that its employees could permanently operate from home. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg foresees half his workforce doing the same. And Google is exploring a permanent hybrid plan that would allow workers to split their time between their homes and offices.

For years, large-scale remote work has been an idea that employers and their workers toyed with. “Now we see that it can be done, that the economy continues, that life goes on,” says Russell Hancock, president and CEO of Joint Venture Silicon Valley. “There are wonderful new efficiencies that we didn’t even realize.……….”

“It’s by no means limited to tech workers. Lawyers, accountants, computer programmers and even journalists are discovering that they don’t need costly commutes to offices to get their work done, and their employers are finding that they can reap large savings as a result.

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