Council moves forward on transportation plan
Council moves forward on transportation plan
City Council members took on the politically charged topic of traffic on Wednesday, voting to initiate an effort to draft a citywide transportation plan.
The council voted 4-1 to draft a pitch to prospective consultants to draft a plan, a process that could cost up to $400,000 and take 18 months to complete.
Councilman Tony Daysog - who originally pitched the transportation plan - said the plan would coordinate existing transportation plans and resources in order to create a framework for reducing solo driving trips. The request for proposals to be drafted by city staff should specifically spell out how a new plan will do that.
“We have all these pieces out there. We need to coordinate them,” Daysog said. “I think that’s what the residents are asking for: Transit solutions that have a see it, feel it, touch it aspect to them.”
Daysog said concerns over traffic – and specifically, the traffic that could be caused by new housing development – may have been a factor in former Mayor Marie Gilmore’s and former Councilman Stewart Chen’s losses at the polls this past November.
“Residents were affected by seeing a lot of development, and not seeing a transit solution,” said Daysog, who voted with Gilmore and Chen to move forward with plans for Alameda Point but against a plan to build new homes at the Del Monte warehouse over traffic management concerns. “Now is the time for all of us to step up not because it’s politically expedient, but because it’s the right thing to do.”
Mayor Trish Herrera Spencer voted against moving forward with the plan, saying she would rather hire an employee to do the work than a consultant and also that she wanted to move forward with solutions instead of a new study.
“We will never be able to get people out of their cars with the limited public transportation that we have,” Spencer said.
She said she wants more transit to get people around the Island – and less development.
“We cannot continue to build,” Spencer said. “We cannot continue to have so many cars going over our bridges in the morning. We cannot continue to have so many cars going through the tube.”
Council members voted to move toward hiring a consultant to draft a plan following a two-hour presentation from Jennifer Ott, the city’s Alameda Point development chief, that detailed the city’s transportation planning efforts and the work done to date to put those plans into action.
For example, the city has worked to extend its network of bicycle paths, most recently by constructing a protected bicycle track along Shore Line Drive, and the city is also working to construct a Cross Alameda Trail for pedestrians.
AC Transit planner Linda Morris said the bus agency is working on plans that would expand service in Alameda. It’s considering a new route along Encinal Avenue to the Main Street ferry terminal and another on Buena Vista Avenue that would take passengers to and from the 12th Street BART station in Oakland.
The city, Marina Village and Alameda Landing all operate free, public shuttles that take Island commuters to and from BART stops in Oakland, though council members wondered whether the shuttles could be better coordinated to avoid overlap – and better marketed to potential riders.
Alameda’s business associations are also pressing the council for new shuttle service that could carry passengers in and out of the Island’s business districts similar to Emeryville’s Emery Go-Round system.
Spencer said she was in favor of moving forward with such a service quickly, though other council members – who wanted to use the study to examine the viability of such a service – noted that the $3 million a year service is facing a financial crisis.
Speaker Darcy Morrison said the city should let the public direct the planning process, and that the plan should offer assurances detailing how the city’s traffic reduction goals will be met. She suggested the city survey residents to find out what would get them out of their cars – a suggestion the council seemed inclined to take.
“Let’s move away from top-down planning,” Morrison said.
Bill Smith said the city’s goals should be expressed in terms residents care about: The amount of time it will take them to travel to where they’re trying to go.
“That’s what people care about,” Smith said.
Council members said they wanted the plan to offer a series of strategies for getting people out of their cars, along with plans for implementing those strategies.
“I really do want to see us get people out of their cars,” Councilwoman Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft said
Vice Mayor Frank Matarrese, who wanted the council to get a firmer handle on its priorities and goals before handing off the planning process to a consultant, said this is a reasonable price to pay to manage billions of dollars’ worth of equity in existing homes and new development.
“This is a necessary piece for us to make decisions,” Matarrese said.