Council moves forward on transportation plan

Council moves forward on transportation plan

Michele Ellson

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.


Submitted by MJ (not verified) on Thu, Apr 2, 2015

Spencer has it right... you don't need to spend $400,000 on a study when the main answer is to limit development.

Not that common sense transportation alternatives are bad, like a bus to the west end ferry, but you don't need a $400,000 consultant to tell you that - get it done and actually solve a problem... not study it.

Ashcraft has it wrong... a quixotic quest to change residents behavior while blowing $400,000 in studying the heck out of it.

This city council has mistaken studying something for actually solving a problem via difficult decision making and effort.

Hey, what about that study that shows that no amount of new development at the point will change traffic? Great study. A classic. Worth every penny.

When this city is absolutely bankrupt, this city council would spend $400,000 studying it.

Submitted by Patti C. (not verified) on Thu, Apr 2, 2015

A $400K plan in order to "create a framework for reducing solo driving trips?" Yes, traffic on the island needs to be addressed but wow, still little to no mention of emergency evacuation planning. Continuing to fill every nook and cranny with dwellings and people in a 10.61 square mile space surrounded by water? I guess we're just supposed to hope everyone can swim.

Submitted by MM (not verified) on Thu, Apr 2, 2015

A "Cross Alameda Trail for pedestrians"?? Don't we already have that? Isn't it called a sidewalk? You gotta spend $400k to study that crap!

Jon Spangler's picture
Submitted by Jon Spangler on Thu, Apr 2, 2015

"We have met the enemy, and he is us." - Pogo

Traffic congestion will continue to worsen in Alameda--even if no more homes or multifamily housing units are built. Every traffic study performed for the past decade or more shows this. WE are the traffic congestion problem, and the only way to reduce congestion is to drive our cars less. (This analysis has been confirmed throughout the Bay Area by numerous reputable and reliable studies. Alameda is no different than any other city in the region.)

MJ and others who believe that "the main answer is to limit development" are operating on the incorrect assumption that traffic congestion will magically disappear if Alameda stops building new homes. This is not the case, however, and flies in the face of the facts.

Reducing the number of solo car trips we take and shifting the way we move around (away from single-occupancy vehicle trips and towards transit, walking, bicycling, carpooling, etc.), on the other hand, DOES work. This is the common-sense solution to reducing traffic congestion that many people do not want to face:

"We have met the enemy, and he is us." (Pogo)

Our nation and our region have spent 100 years spending billions of dollars to engineer a transportation grid that makes driving a car solo everywhere as convenient and cheap as possible. The result is worsening traffic congestion. It's time to rebalance the scales in favor of moving people, goods, and services as efficiently and conveniently as possible--instead of trying to move cars. (This means investing less in auto-centric facilities and investing more in "complete streets," transit, bike facilities, and pedestrian access. That's how we make transit, bicycling, and walking safer, easier, and more convenient.)

It is far cheaper and healthier for all of us to move around via transit, bicycling, walking, and other alternatives than it is for us to all own cars and drive them everywhere. And we have to make these changes in order to:

a) slow down global climate change by reducing our individual and collective greenhouse gas emissions;
b) reduce local and regional traffic congestion;
c) clean up our air and water;
d) improve our individual and collective health (reduce diabetes, obesity, heart disease, etc.);
e) extend the functional capacity of our existing transportation infrastructure (Alameda's bridges, tubes, streets, roadways);

Making these changes is not really "optional" if we want our children and their children to live in a world with clean air and water--and not lose the planet's climate balance entirely.

Given that kind of choice, I will choose changing my transportation behaviors over stubbornly driving my "convenient" car everywhere. And I hope others would make the same logical and reasonable choice. Because
the congestion WILL get worse, even without any further development.

Submitted by nora (not verified) on Thu, Apr 2, 2015

Previous Alameda City Councils became notorious for wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars (must be millions by now) on redundant studies by outside consultants who must start licking their chops every time Alameda puts out another RFP. These outside consultants come up with ever more fanciful (and impractical) solutions to Alameda transit issues. Once it was Gondolas over the Estuary. Last night, we again heard from the guy who insists driverless cars will help (although all his examples are for multilane roads which will never be built in Alameda).
Ms Ashcraft is sadly a holdover from that era. Kudos to Spencer for not wanting to waste more Alameda cash on exotic expertise, when common sense is what is needed.
I wish Ms. Ashcraft would direct as much of her attention towards the inner workings of that library she advocated so strongly for. The computer software seems to become obsolete and slow 2 weeks after every time it is updated; the computer lab is still closed more often than it is open, and the chairs need replacing.

Submitted by Jan Greene on Thu, Apr 2, 2015

So has there been a study before that looks at the current state of Alameda transportation, taking into account the new employers on Bay Farm and elsewhere, and the food and entertainment bringing people from other parts of the Bay Area to Park Street, South Shore, Webster and the Point? Seems like it would be important to really understand traffic and transportation and what's contributing to it, because housing is just one factor, right? There are lots of reasons why people drive (and bike and bus, etc.) around Alameda. Makes sense that policymakers would want solid data rather than anecdotes and people's impressions of increased traffic in certain situations.

Submitted by Richard Hausman (not verified) on Thu, Apr 2, 2015

Perhaps if the reduction of city staff personnel were eased by hiring more people, the Council could reasonably ask a staff person to draft a plan. As it is, who's available on staff for such drafting? Andrew Thomas? Yeah, he doesn't have anything else to do.

Submitted by Bill2 (not verified) on Thu, Apr 2, 2015

If we have $400,000 available to do a study that would be of little value, why not use that $400,000 to help get the Jean Sweeney Open Space Park going, where there will be bike paths and pedestrian paths for all to use?

Submitted by MJ (not verified) on Thu, Apr 2, 2015


You say, "MJ and others who believe that the main answer is to limit development are operating on the incorrect assumption that traffic congestion will magically disappear if Alameda stops building new homes."

Did I say congestion will disappear, magically or otherwise?

To clarify, I am saying that adding more cars is the biggest traffic negative that needs to be addressed and you don't need a $400,000 study to know that.

Otherwise, what are we doing? Adding more groovy transportation alternatives to a drawing board somewhere so that one of these days we can partially mitigate the effect of thousands more cars?

I'm all for common sense transportation alternatives, but it's a little like bailing out a sinking ship with thimble before fixing the hole.

(This comment has been edited to reflect our commenting standards.)

Submitted by Jen (not verified) on Thu, Apr 2, 2015

In agreement with the majority of comments here. One place to start gathering data (internally, WITHOUT spending $400K on a consultant study) is to use the traffic data gathered through the police department with their apparatus that tells us how fast or slowly we are driving. It is my understanding that these also monitor the number of cars within a certain time period. If they don't do that, other tools are available through the city's departments. Isn't that how they "plan" the traffic lights, and the timing of those lights?

There are actions that could be put into place immediately through many different avenues that will help reduce the traffic while some also help in other areas of concern:
1 - Let's start a big push towards parents to STOP driving the kids to school, and start walking either by themselves or with parents, or biking. Less traffic during the start and end of the school day and health advantages for both.
2 - Businesses in our community all have a responsibility to the people where they do business. If shuttles are available to go to and from BART, then they can become available between shopping "stations." Even with existing businesses, because these shuttles will bring the people to those shopping areas. Shouldn't a business shoulder a large per cent of that expense?
3 - After being a commuter to the city for 17 years, riding both BART and the ferry (my preference), I can say from personal experience that the connections from Alameda to these commuter transports are abysmal. When I missed the ferry from the city at night and took BART home, waiting for a bus that could get me to my car at the Main Street ferry terminal was next to impossible. There needs to be not only more buses that run from and into Alameda, but these need to be coordinated with the ferry timing to make sense for commuters.
4 - Put those tools that the police department and traffic department already have to use, and don't wait for the consultants to take 18 months on a study.

These are only a few observations from a non-expert in transportation planning. It is hard to believe that the council once again takes action to take no action. At the very least, a concurrent plan of action, to do BOTH a study AND start to DO SOMETHING by addressing the low-hanging fruit that addresses the most obvious and egregious items makes sense. If the council continues at this pace, the next election will see more council members removed and replaced with common sense people.

Submitted by Karen Bey (not verified) on Thu, Apr 2, 2015

The reason for the study is clear – it is to coordinate the existing transportation plans and resources and look at creating one citywide transportation plan. I think it is a great idea!

Between all the new approved projects so far – there will be millions of dollars of transportation funding available annually to improve our transit systems. Developers are required to pay traffic impact fees, and new home buyers will be paying an annual transit fee. For example, the homeowners in the Marina Shores development will each pay $550 per year – similar to a transit tax. Those funds go directly into the transportation funding pool I spoke of earlier.

A citywide plan will allow us to use those funds more efficiently, and the studies will layout a plan to accomplish that.

You can’t blame new development for the traffic congestion we’re currently experiencing. The only new homes being built right now are at Alameda Landing, and they haven’t even closed escrow yet. The remainder of the new homes in the development pipeline will come on line thru 2017/2018. So, the transportation problem we have right now is us. In my opinion, it makes sense to look at ways we can change some of our habits that will improve traffic, and how we can take advantage of some of the new transit opportunities coming in the future. The study will address this.

Regarding new development, it’s new development that will be funding the very ideas people are talking about (Citywide free shuttle, water taxis, new AC transit lines, ferries, bike paths, etc.); so in reality, new development is part of the solution. I applaud the City Council for moving this forward – and I look forward to the solutions that will come out of this study.

Richard Bangert's picture
Submitted by Richard Bangert on Thu, Apr 2, 2015

"Transit solutions that have a see it, feel it, touch it aspect to them."

Like a bus?

“I really do want to see us get people out of their cars.”

Supply a transit mode for them to get into.

Like a bus.

“Residents were affected by seeing a lot of development, and not seeing a transit solution.”

Like a bus?

“We will never be able to get people out of their cars with the limited public transportation that we have.”

"LIke" a bus. Invest in some.

Submitted by Darcy Morrison (not verified) on Fri, Apr 3, 2015

Here's a quote from Bob Sullwold's blog regarding TDM "enforcement" -- it doesn't exist. We've heard so much in the past from the city, John Russo especially, about TDM, and all the assurances about the very extensive planning process, yet in the end, there's no real enforcement. It's not surprising that developers won't assume responsibility - they know it's not a given.


The more difficult issue is what to do if the goals aren’t being met.

Councilman Tony Daysog has floated the idea of penalizing the developer if the TDM plan is falling short. But his suggestion to that effect during the hearing on the Del Monte warehouse project was not warmly received. Moreover, some developers – like Catellus – have negotiated provisions in their development agreements prohibiting the City from imposing any “penalty, fine, or other consequence (whether financial or otherwise)” if “any monitoring reveals that the TDM Program has not met any established goal.”

Submitted by nora (not verified) on Fri, Apr 3, 2015

When I was a teenager, AC Transit ran a lot more busses. And hardly anyone's parents had to drive them to school.

Submitted by joe commuter (not verified) on Fri, Apr 3, 2015

I remember when I took BART to SF years ago, Alameda funded mini-buses to run from the East End to Fruitvale BART. Good idea, horribly implemented. By the time it got through the geniuses at BART and/or AC Transit, the route went out to International Blvd, then down High Street into Alameda instead of hopping onto Fruitvale and Blanding. I tried it a few times, but with all the badly timed signals in Oakland, it took 25 minutes just to get into Alameda. It was actually faster to walk.

I fear any consultant will come in from outside Alameda and try to justify a big $400k fee by trying to brainstorm ideas without any understanding of the real issues and concerns, and not understanding that we're also impacted and limited by the severe stupidity of the traffic planners at the City of Oakland. By the time Caltrans and Oakland are done screwing up all the exits off the island on the east end, we might as well just all stay on the island.

And oh yeah, let's not forget the "value" we got from the brilliant consultants hired to look at the golf course options. They came in with a preconceived notion of what the answer should be. Privatize the course. Reduce to 27 holes. Close the Mif. Now pay us.

Submitted by C. Bernard (not verified) on Sat, Apr 4, 2015

Currently I take my car, or many times walk to errands when feasible. I have a bicycle - don't use it for errands because of the number of bike thefts on the island, locked or not. I agree with the majority of commenters, above. Call them what they really are, "consultants for a traffic study"...and save the $400K. Put all the cards on the table. Let's have at it.