Mill Valley Traffic–Bursting at the Seams
09/15/15 Filed in: Transportation Planning
With traffic in Mill Valley reaching record levels of congestion, the City Council designated a Mill Valley Traffic Task Force to look for solutions. TRANSDEF’s President offered these thoughts to the Task Force, indicating that solutions would not be found that restore past conditions:
I’d like to offer you a mental frame for the traffic issue, one you’ve probably never heard:
We’re at the point where the roadway system in developed areas has reached a state of maturation. The fiscal and environmental costs of expanding capacity are so high that it is mostly out of reach. Yet vehicle trips keep increasing. This results in ever-increasing congestion all over the Bay Area, which is significantly worse here.
Mill Valley is something like a pressure cooker, because of its isolation from the rest of the county. Because of that, Mill Valley is at the bleeding edge of this change.
Households here now drive twice as many trips per day as they used to, which is twice as much as the roadways here can comfortably accommodate.
Because of this, the fundamental assumption of suburban mobility has stopped working. Now, you can no longer jump into your car anytime of the day, and just go.
IJ Columnist Dick Spotswood has gotten this exactly backwards. There is no feasible fix that can bring back how people got around thirty years ago. Those days of driving alone are long gone.
While I believe our transportation system can be improved, doing so will require new concepts and letting go of long-held expectations. An improved system will not look like the past.
Our institutions will need to change as well, as Caltrans, MTC and TAM are responsible for a significant amount of congestion.
The implication of this profound change is that residents need to be conscious of their driving habits. Dealing with traffic is a lot like water conservation. We each need to do our part.
Part of the solution is fewer solo auto trips. We need more carpooling, and the creation of shuttles for school kids and general circulation.
A surprisingly large share of NB 101 PM traffic comes from Mill Valley. These cars are driven by people that work here, going home. To reduce that traffic on 101 and E. Blithedale, there’s an action you can take:
Expand the applicability of the employee benefit ordinance. This is a program promulgated by the Air District that requires employers to offer commute benefits to their employees. The City could make the program applicable to smaller businesses. These incentives could cause a shift to transit, and reduce traffic.
If needed, further incentives could be considered as part of a transportation demand management program or TDM.