City offers traffic reduction plan for Alameda Point

City offers traffic reduction plan for Alameda Point

Michele Ellson
Alameda Point

The Planning Board took a first look Monday at a plan intended to blunt the traffic to and from Alameda Point by offering incentives to walk, bike, carpool and take public transit.

The Transportation Commission will offer its recommendation on the draft transportation demand management plan on April 23, and the City Council could approve it on May 19.

“The main goal of this plan is getting people onto transit, and out of vehicles during peak hours,” Alameda Point Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Ott told the board Monday.

The draft plan calls for a new agency to oversee the promotion, creation and implementation of transit and other programs designed to get solo drivers out of their cars. The new agency would be staffed by newly hired workers and funded by assessments paid by Point residents and businesses, along with parking fees and fines, grant money and other sources.

Long-term solutions for reducing traffic that are spelled out by the plan will cost about $2.4 million a year to operate, an amount that includes the cost of managing a host of city-run parking lots. Setting up that shared parking, along with parking meters and vehicles for enforcement officers, could top $27 million over time, the draft plan says.

Alameda’s general plan and additional planning documents for the Point require city leaders to find ways to reduce anticipated rush hour car trips generated by businesses by 30 percent; peak hour trips generated by residents must be 10 percent less than they’re expected to generate. City leaders anticipate building 1,425 new homes at the Point and creating as much as 5.5 million square feet of commercial space there.

Near-term services listed in the plan include shuttle service to BART’s 12th Street station in Oakland, car share and emergency ride home programs, along with the creation of marketing materials and a website to help promote the services. Long-term plans set to roll out as the Point is built out include incentive programs designed to get people to try out different commute options, a program to reduce car trips to schools and a bicycle commute program.

Both residents – through their homeowners associations – and employers would be responsible for helping to reduce traffic, and the plan offers guidelines and ultimately, assistance drafting plans. The plan is set up to be flexible enough to meet employers’ specific needs – and also, to offer additional traffic-reduction measures if initial efforts aren’t successful.

A primary strategy for reducing traffic, though, will be controlling the amount of free parking available at the Point. While plans for other developments typically require a minimum number of spaces, plans for the Point cap the amount of private parking developers can build there, and they call for public lots that drivers will have to pay to use. Even with the public lots, though, the Point will have just 70 percent of the parking a typical development contains.

Board member John Knox White, a longtime cycling and transit advocate, expressed excitement about the plan and said he’s ready to move forward with it, while board member Lorre Zuppan asked where all the money to fund the services in the plan will come from – particularly in the beginning, when there will be few homes and businesses to fund it.

Zuppan also asked whether the Point’s transportation management agency might coordinate with another set up for Alameda Landing to share services and save money.

“I think we could go so much farther with what we’re spending if we require them to work together to reduce traffic,” she said of the agencies.

Ott said that developers will likely be asked to help shoulder the cost of commute services as Point development gets off the ground, and that the city could consider contributing a small portion of the $11 million in lease revenues the former Naval Air Station generates each year. She said the city applied for a grant to pay for someone to lead the creation of the new agency and to get its programs off the ground.

But Ott acknowledged that funding the programs just as development is starting will be challenging.

“In the beginning it’s going to be, ‘How are we going to be able to cobble together sources of revenue?’” she said.

Existing tenants – including Google-owned Makani Power, which is greatly expanding its presence and tenure at the Point – won’t be required to pay assessments to the new agency, though Ott said provisions to require those payments will be written into future leases.

And the city will face long-term funding challenges, too. A city tax consultant determined that the top tax rate residents will be willing to pay is 1.8 percent, and the top rate commercial property owners will bear is 1.6 percent; residents pay 1.14 percent of the value of their home in annual property taxes now. The remaining amount will be needed to cover a variety of services, a list that could include public safety services, maintenance and flood control in addition to transit services.

Representatives from a pair of Point businesses said Monday they’d love to be able to get customers out of their cars, though they said the draft plan doesn’t fully address their needs.

Ayn Kirkendall, assistant manager of the tasting room at St. George Spirits, said that business and others in the Point’s Booze Alley draw hundreds of visitors in a typical weekend. But bus and ferry service are so infrequent – and the bus service, AC Transit’s 31 line, has such a long travel time – that they’re not viable commute option for customers.

Kirkendall and Faction Brewing co-owner Claudia Davis noted that the draft plan offers little shuttle service during the weekend – Booze Alley’s busiest time. Davis said she’d like to see the needs of existing Point businesses considered.

We’ve got a lot of alcohol related tourism,” Kirkendall said. “We’d like to be responsible and push transit.”

Ott said the plan focuses on solutions intended to reduce peak hour traffic; Point development is expected to generate about 2,900 morning rush hour car trips and about 3,300 trips during the afternoon peak. But Planning Board members including Danya Alvarez-Morroni said that the plan should be flexible enough to meet existing businesses’ needs, too.

“Let’s try to get a phase zero to help them be successful now,” Alvarez-Morroni said.

Related: Alameda Point Explained: Taming traffic (part two)

Comments

Submitted by Steve Gerstle on Tue, Mar 25, 2014

The only existing bus service, Line 31, does not go to the ferry terminal or to "Booze Alley." Its service to Alameda Point is limited and it only runs every 30 minutes.

Limiting parking may sound like a good idea, but it could also result in a lot of illegal parking.

Submitted by tom (not verified) on Tue, Mar 25, 2014

I am always amazed by the lack of understanding of simple economics…..if the price of fuels, be they gasoline or batteries or electricity is high enough, then the user/purchaser will decide whether to purchase for transportation…..if high enough then user/purchasers will change behaviors related to transportation.

At present Electricity and gasoline are very cheap. Too cheap to make societal transportation changes. Vehicle battery replacements are not cheap (but the purchasers of electric vehicles have little understanding of this fact).

To support massive public transit systems there must be a critical density of population. The population density of the planned Point is too low to economically support the infrastructure of 'alternative' transportations which can operate on a frequency to support movements of such low numbers of residents.

It will be interesting to see how all this planning, taxing and financing process for a economically flawed development proceeds.

Submitted by Richard Bangert on Tue, Mar 25, 2014

“In the beginning it’s going to be, ‘How are we going to be able to cobble together sources of revenue?’” she said.

It would be less of a problem if there was a different philosophy among the public officials and agencies that distribute transit funding. There is always a seemingly inexhaustible pool of money for roads and bridges that help maintain the status quo. But when it comes to funding simple strategies for getting people out of their cars, we have to "figure it out."

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission funded the design of Alameda Point's Town Center, on the grounds that it would be transit oriented. But given that the new "village" is not on an existing transit corridor, it's necessary to create one. That's where the MTC has let us down. A few pennies for some nice plans, but no money for shuttles.

Submitted by Jeff Heyman (not verified) on Tue, Mar 25, 2014

Hey, I have an idea: How about a loop route of historic streetcars (like those on Market Street in SF) that could ferry shoppers, etc., around the island. The system could use old railroad right of ways. I think it would add a touch of class and fit in perfectly with our Alameda lifestyle.

Submitted by TO (not verified) on Sun, Apr 27, 2014

I agree with the trolleys! Has anyone talked about the traffic that will be added from the tens of thousands of new cars from Brooklyn Basin and Treasure Island! Traffic through the tunnel is already at maximum capacity and 880 hellish!

Submitted by Michael (not verified) on Fri, May 2, 2014

I see in the possible plans talk of maybe a premium outlet mall. I hope no one is seriously considering that since outlet malls tend to draw people in from a wide region which means cars and only cars. No one is going to take public transportation from an outlaying area and certainly is not going to lug all their purchases home on public transportation. Those malls may be great for the tax base but terrible for traffic.

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