Climate change is sending increasingly strong messages–through catastrophic floods, droughts, and wildfires–that human societies must shift their priorities if they are to survive beyond the next few generations. Unfortunately, transportation professionals–including the Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM)–still haven’t accepted the responsibility of reducing the impact of transportation on climate change.
Climate change is caused primarily by the greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted from the burning of fossil fuels. Motor vehicles are the biggest source of GHGs in California, in the Bay Area, and in Marin. Because driving keeps increasing, GHG emissions keep increasing, even while the State is working hard to reduce other GHG sources.
TAM placed Measure AA on the November ballot. It would extend the existing 0.5% transportation sales tax for another 30 years. As an environmental organization, TRANSDEF opposes this measure.
TRANSDEF presented TAM with evidence that its policies will result in more driving and higher GHG emissions, specifically because the measure will do nothing to influence how people choose to travel (mode choice). After we requested that TAM study how the measure would impact the climate and the State’s efforts to reduce GHGs, TAM explicitly refused to do so.
TAM’s mentality is pure Business as Usual, as if climate change didn’t exist. It is operating as if it were still 1980. It is an out-of-touch agency that thinks it is highly successful. However, it’s not like TAM has been doing a fabulous job in its role as Marin’s Congestion Management Agency. TAM has managed congestion so well that traffic has consistently gotten worse over the decades.
With that track record, we are unwilling to give TAM control of a sales tax for the next 30 years. We’re confident the future would be like the past, with funds wasted due to the lack of a strategy, without achieving significant results.
TAM polled the voters and now is telling them what they want to hear. TAM claims its goal is to “reduce congestion and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” This is blatantly false advertising: TAM has no understanding of the causes of congestion and no strategy for how to lessen it countywide.
TAM recently adopted a “Strategic Vision Plan” that offered no vision and no strategy to get there. Instead, it was a compilation of tired old projects that merely continue the status quo. TAM is unwilling to do what the State recognizes as necessary to reduce GHGs: reduce driving.
Marin and other suburban counties have grown beyond the limits of what the existing highway infrastructure can handle. It is neither financially nor environmentally feasible to expand it.
Interestingly, the crisis of traffic congestion has the same solution as the crisis of ever-increasing motor vehicle GHGs: a future with fewer vehicles on the roads, and with more people in them. What’s called for is a shift away from solo driving, with much more carpooling, cycling, walking and transit use.
Tired of sitting in traffic? It’s time to create new options. What if you had a fast, convenient no-hassle commute that didn’t rely on solo driving? That’s how many millions of Europeans get around. We could focus our collective energies on something positive, rather than stay stuck in the habits and expectations of the past. Voting NO on Measure AA is the way to tell TAM you want a different future.
Measure AA is not good enough. It fails to even recognize that fundamentally different priorities are needed to successfully adapt to the challenges of the future. There’s no need to rush to extend the existing sales tax–it runs for another six years. Defeating this sales tax will put pressure on TAM to develop a far better solution. Let’s not commit our resources to a dead-end solution that is hostile to the environment.