TRANSDEF is clear that suburbanization is no longer a viable strategy for growth in the Bay Area. It stopped "working" long ago. Unfortunately, the public and its elected leaders have not yet recognized this alarming fact. TRANSDEF believes that the simultaneous problems of global warming, rising oil and energy prices, and congestion require a strikingly different approach to transportation planning: one that relies on cost-effective transit, Smart Growth walkable/bikeable communities and higher priced driving, to create incentives to use alternative means of transport.
MTC's continuing focus on expanding highway capacity wastes
scarce resources and facilitates more driving, which
releases more greenhouse gases, thus exacerbating global
warming. We need instead to transition to a future where
transit is the preferred way to travel longer distances.
MTC has a long-standing commitment to pursuing BART
extensions because of their political popularity, despite
their tremendous cost. TRANSDEF views this as a rejection
of the basic principles of planning, which call for
identifying the problem and serving it in the most
cost-effective manner possible.
TRANSDEF believes the region's biggest planning problems
1). Congestion on I-580 and I-80 resulting from commuters
driving in from the Central Valley and Sacramento.
2). The BART Transbay Tube is operating near its capacity.
TRANSDEF believes the most rational use of resources would
be to design the Bay Area's future rail extensions to
provide multiple services: High-Speed Rail, interregional
commuting, and regional commuting, all using the same
Instead, BART-worship has severely distorted MTC's
transportation priorities. MTC has thrown its support
behind proposals to build extremely expensive duplicative
infrastructure projects: High-Speed Rail via the Pacheco
Pass, a BART extension to San Jose, and the cynical promise
of improvements to the ACE corridor (which can't possibly
be funded, due to the cost of the other projects).
Meanwhile, MTC shifted funding for the Dumbarton Rail
project over to the BART Warm Springs extension, thereby
indefinitely delaying the most cost-effective new Transbay
In 1989, MTC was successfully sued by the Sierra Club and
Communities for a Better Environment for failing to do
enough to improve the Bay Area’s air quality. To fulfill
the court order resulting from that suit, MTC adopted a set
of Transportation Control Measures (TCMs) as its method of
reducing air pollution. Under the federal Clean Air Act,
these measures must be enforceable commitments. One of
them, TCM 2, committed to increasing regional transit
ridership by 15% over 1982 levels.
In 2001, seeing that transit ridership had increased less
than 1% despite a 30% population increase (more than a 21%
per capita decrease!), TRANSDEF initiated a lawsuit to
enforce the provisions of TCM 2. It was joined by the
Sierra Club, Communities for a Better Environment, Latino
Issues Forum, Our Children’s Earth Foundation, Urban
Habitat and the Bayview Hunters Point Community Advocates.
EarthJustice took on the extensive litigation, and won two
excellent trial court decisions and an attorney’s fee of
MTC took the case up on appeal and lucked out with the
assignment of judges, getting a very conservative George W.
Bush appointee. Two judges ruled that an enforceable
commitment (the very heart of Clean Air Act implementation)
was not enforceable, while the third judge of the three
judge panel supported the trial court decision, as written.
A petition to have the case reconsidered by an 11 member
panel was denied.
The Opening Brief
The Reply Brief
The Trial Court Decision on MTC’s
The Trial Court Decision on Injunctive
The 9th Circuit Appellate
This litigation almost succeeded in forcing MTC to actually
produce increases in transit ridership. MTC narrowly ducked
that bullet. Did they learn anything from the experience?
MTC considers itself one of the nation’s leading
metropolitan planning organizations, and possibly the most
advanced of them all. Ten years after the TCM 2 litigation,
after a 38% increase in Bay Area population over 1980
levels, transit ridership is now even lower than 1982.
After spending many billions of dollars on BART extensions
and highway widenings, regional transit ridership is an
astonishing 31% lower on a per capita basis. This is why
MTC never looks back to evaluate its performance.
Data from MTC’s Statistical Summary of Bay Area
Transit Operators and Bay Area Census
Absent powerful intervention like the TCM 2 litigation, MTC
will continue allocating funding to its favored projects.
While it mouths platitudes about increasing transit use as
cover for its funding of BART extensions, the chart above
demonstrates that MTC is uninterested in actually
delivering results. MTC is a massively failed institution.
Note on the chart below how Portland significantly
out-performed the national average. Knowing the innovations
that Portland introduced back then, this is clearly the
result of competent policy implementation.
(1992 was chosen as the base year for comparison, because
the daily VMT per capita was very similar: 19.80 for
Portland and 20.20 nationally.)