Joint Policy Committee Blinks

Joint Policy Committee

05/20/11 Filed in:

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

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

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

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