MTC Opposes Regionalism, Yet Again

MTC Opposes Regionalism,
Yet Again

09/24/14 Filed in:

In 2013, MTC adopted a
regional plan called
Plan Bay
Area
, in
response to state requirements under SB 375 to reduce
greenhouse gases (GHGs). Continuing its long history
of putting politics before its mandate of improving
the Bay Area, the Metropolitan Transportation
Commission voted today to adopt an

eviscerated set of
Guidelines
for Bay Area counties. Draft
Guidelines had been developed that called for
counties, when developing their Countywide
Transportation Plans, to look to the goals
of
Plan
Bay Area
.

That draft was then amended by MTC’s Planning
Committee (the yellow highlighted text), under the
leadership of Solano Supervisor Jim Spering, to
explicitly call the Guidelines voluntary–something
that is obvious in the very word Guideline.
The net result was to send a message to counties that
they can safely ignore what goes on at the regional
level. Spering, backed up by a
roster of business
entitites
, opposed the coordination of
planning for the purpose of achieving regional
results. Anyone wondering why MTC is such a
failure at regional governance need look no
further than the list of businesses that supported
the Committee’s amendments. Why they don’t want an
effective regional government that can achieve
results remains mysterious, and seemingly contrary
to their economic interests.

Comments to the
Commission

TRANSDEF’s President offered these remarks to the
Commission:

Today is your opportunity to set a direction, by
formally notifying Bay Area transportation agencies
of their responsibility to do their part to reduce
GHG emissions and achieve other regional goals. This
is very much needed, because transportation
professionals have spent their entire careers
thinking of VMT growth as the inevitable consequence
of development.

Alameda CTA unapologetically adopted a plan with a
46% growth in VMT. CCTA is now workshopping a plan
with a 35% increase in VMT. The heart of these plans
is the implicit assumption that life will continue
just as it has for generations of suburban
development.

This is a time of profound change in
transportation-land use planning. After a great deal
of study and thought, MTC adopted Plan Bay Area.
These Guidelines ask the counties to become full
partners in implementing that plan. The Planning
Committee’s amendments unfortunately reject that
request and respond: “We don’t need no stinking
guidelines.”

Agencies need an official notice that times have
changed. That’s what these Guidelines are. They are
guidelines, not mandates. That’s why the Planning
Committee’s amendments are so off-the- mark.

Let’s call those amendments what they are: a
declaration that someone else needs to be responsible
for dealing with climate change. Those amendments are
an adamant refusal to acknowledge that Bay Area
counties share a common fate with the rest of
humanity. Keeping that common fate from turning
catastrophic is the responsibility of each of us.

Just as racism is no longer considered socially
acceptable, the amendments’ rejection of our common
fate must not be allowed to infect these Guidelines.

The Climate March and UN Conference on Climate Change
bring home the importance of local action to protect
the climate. These Guidelines are the single most
important action MTC can take in the near-term to
benefit the climate. Transdef urges MTC to adopt the
draft guidelines, minus the Planning Committee’s
amendments. By doing so, MTC will play its part in
this historic week of climate action.

Comments on the Draft
Guidelines

TRANSDEF submitted these comments on August 28, 2014
during the development process for the Guidelines:

Having
been part of the CTC Working Group that twice revised
the RTP Guidelines, I am very familiar with what is
needed to create useful guidelines. The draft
Countywide Plan Guidelines fail to provide an
adequate context for transportation planning.

What’s missing is an introduction that sets the stage
for what amounts to a revolutionary change in
transportation planning. In a total break from a past
of politically driven pet projects, the new reality
of climate change demands that scarce transportation
funds be spent strategically. Unlike the past,
transportation investments now need to produce
tangible results on the RTP performance measures.

As an example of past non-strategic investments, many
billions of dollars invested in BART extensions have
resulted in the total ridership of the Bay Area’s top
six transit operators now being lower than it was
thirty years ago. (See chart.)

Unless Countywide Plans are directed towards
achieving results on RTP performance measures, the
region will see a worsened environment and worsened
quality of life for Bay Area residents.

A recent example comes to mind: the Alameda County
Transportation Plan projected a 46% increase in VMT.
(The agency recently backtracked, claiming the
increase is “only” 27%, or roughly the rate of
population growth.) Plans that maintain–or even
worse, increase–VMT per capita keep the region on an
unsustainable trend to ever-greater GHG emissions and
congestion.

The CTP Guidelines need to have a frank introduction
that makes it clear to both staff and decisionmakers
that the old days are over, and that a new regime has
arrived. Unless such an introduction is provided,
only slow incremental change will occur. Given how
extreme conditions are becoming at the North and
South Poles, that would be too little and far too
late.

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