The Chronicle’s lead story today, Measure would hike tolls to cut congestion, is a glowing promotion of the benefits of Regional Measure 3. To be able to check the box for journalistic balance, a short section on the opponents is stuck near the very end of the article. This perfunctory treatment, however, is immediately neutralized by MTC spokesmouth Randy Rentschler:
Considering all the fixes we need in the Bay Area, there are going to be people upset they don’t get theirs included. I get it. It doesn’t take more than a day driving around in the Bay Area to figure we can’t get all the infrastructure relief we need from RM3. We need more.
He frames the objections as gripes over the dividing up the pie. That is to be expected–that’s exactly how MTC thinks. However, environmental opponents like TRANSDEF are saying that MTC is heading in totally the wrong direction. That’s a fundamental criticism MTC has never countered.
While the Chron’s quote from TRANSDEF’s David Schonbrunn doesn’t sound like his language, it nevertheless offers an entirely new conceptual framework for congestion:
This [what’s needed to reduce congestion] is not about building stuff. This is about changing behavior.
This quote hints that the Bay Area’s congestion problems are more like a software problem than a hardware problem. That is, the choices drivers make contribute far more to the congestion problem than inadequate infrastructure. RM3 focuses on infrastructure improvements because MTC assumes behavior to remain constant. With MTC’s regional plan projecting solo driving to remain a constant proportion of the commute, congestion delays will increase substantially (44% between now and 2040) because of population growth.
This indicates that MTC is knowingly heading in a futile direction, leading to ever-worsening congestion. Alternatively, influencing behavior by heavily promoting carpooling could have a significant effect at a very low public cost. This is where the region should be starting, before committing billions more to shopworn strategies that haven’t resulted in long-term congestion relief.
The article is factually incorrect in stating that there is no organized opposition. The distinction is that opponents are organized and coordinating their campaigns, but they are not raising money. We don’t believe money-raising to be a valid definition of an organized opposition. Ballot arguments were submitted by our coalition in each of the 9 Bay Area counties, although not all were selected for publication.