Joint Policy Committee Blinks

David Schonbrunn’s remarks:

At its last Commission meeting, MTC made a major policy decision that will strongly constrain the ability of the RTP to accomplish regional goals. They voted on whether to hold previously selected projects to the same standard of regional effectiveness as new submissions.

This vote on a committed projects policy told the world that MTC really doesn't care about achieving results, and that it is only interested in the politics of transportation dollars. Every member of the Commission did the calculation: if it comes down to the regional interest or to my project, which am I going to support? The majority decided that their personal interest was more important than the interest of the larger region.

This is the crux of why regionalism is so difficult. It begs the question "who is going to speak up on behalf of the region, if the JPC doesn't?" The JPC was tasked by the Legislature to be just that voice.

Is anyone here not scared silly by the power of climate gone wild, as evidenced by recent tornadoes and floods? Do you need any more proof that a strong assertion of the regional interest is needed, if the Bay Area is to provide leadership meaningful to global survival?

The problem is that MTC has a record of mediocre accomplishments with its RTP projects. Yes, they get done, but at what cost. Even more importantly, at what opportunity cost? There are very large dollar values locked up in committed projects that could potentially be better spent.

Many of you know that my organization sued MTC, but you probably don't know why. We sued because we were very dissatisfied with the regional results MTC was achieving. MTC had committed in an air plan to increase regional transit ridership by 15% over 1982 levels.

The District court agreed with us, but a Court of Appeals dominated by Bush appointees overturned the ruling. The sick part of this story is that, to this day, MTC has still not achieved the increased ridership, despite a big increase in population. The problem is that MTC has spent billions on politically driven projects, which have had abysmal results.

One thing you'll never see MTC do is go back to evaluate how their project selection decisions have worked out. That is a taboo subject at the agency--its dirty little secret. If you want results, you are going to have to go beneath the surface, and look at what has been hidden for decades.

Are you willing to stand back and let MTC come up with another politically driven RTP, or will you insist on the best transportation plan we can think of? Transdef urges you to agendize a discussion of the implications of the new committed projects policy on the ability of the RTP to accomplish regional goals. I invite you to visit our blog at for a deeper analysis than I can give here in 3 minutes.