Letters to the Editor: Point traffic figures flawed

Letters to the Editor: Point traffic figures flawed

Letters to the Editor
Alameda Point

In his June 11 commentary in the Alameda Sun, John Knox White, a city Planning Board member, attempts to defend that the analysis for the environmental impact report for Alameda Point’s 1,425 homes and 9,000 jobs will result in net-one-car-off-Island during the morning commute.

His long-overdue admission that the report did rely on one net car off-Island during the morning commute is followed by a preposterous attempt to explain why concluding that a massive project like Alameda Point would produce only “one car off the island” and “isn’t as crazy as it sounds.” His belief is that Alameda residents who leave the Island will no longer do so because they will instead go to the new jobs created at Alameda Point.

It is every bit as crazy as it sounds.

“One-net-car” is the canary in the coal mine, but there is much more wrong with this environmental impact report. Its calculations are based on assumptions that are pure fantasy. And using them produced these erroneous results. The most surprising of all was the report concludes there will be no congestion at the West End now or after all is built. That’s right, vitally important and totally unbelievable.

To wit: The environmental impact report’s traffic analysis assumed a total of 5,400 new homes on the Island, including 1,200 new homes at Alameda Point, and 20,000 new jobs citywide, including 8,000 new jobs at Alameda Point.

To believe Alameda will generate 20,000 new jobs over the next 20 years, one must put blind faith in a whopping 66 percent increase in jobs, from 30,000 today to 50,000 in 2035. That kind of job growth just isn’t going to happen! An increase of 8,000 citywide over the next 20 years is unrealistic for an Island city like Alameda. But an increase of 20,000 more jobs is delusional.

This high job assumption skewed the calculations significantly and reduced the estimated traffic leaving the Island from both the Alameda Point project and the 4,200 other homes planned outside the Point. These errors were compounded by a non-professional like White to take it one step further. He adds his layman’s opinion to back into the report’s conclusions of one net car off-Island due to Alameda Point project during the morning commute and no change in traffic delay at the West End now or after all is built.

The people of Alameda are not anti-development, and neither am I. We just want development to be reasonable, well-considered, and based in reality. The Alameda Point environmental impact report’s citywide traffic results including White’s commentary are not reality-based; they are a trip down the rabbit hole.

Yes, the homes will be built. There is high demand for housing. Site A, the first project at Alameda Point, is primarily housing, with 800 units. And it is possible 5,400 homes can be built citywide as staff claims. The new zoning approved by the previous City Council allows for it.

We want to say yes to developers, too, but only when realistic data such as realistic commercial and housing development goals have been obtained and only if it will lead to good planning, reliable engineering, and fiscal neutrality (i.e. the base infrastructure not costing taxpayers in general).

Where Alameda Point and all the other projects are concerned, the people just want to know: How bad will the traffic be? How long it will take to get off the Island? Instead of the simple truth, we’re getting ridiculous claims of 8,000 jobs on the base and 20,000 citywide jobs, and city zoning allowing 5,400 more homes – ignoring the voice of the people when they voted down the SunCal plan.

Alamedans are being asked to believe the projection of zero morning outbound traffic at the Island gateways due to the Alameda Point project; no traffic congestion at the West End, now or after all is built; and the vast majority of us living encapsulated lives where we never leave the Island.

It is not just crazy, it is insulting.

I urge Alamedans to speak up. The council must carefully scrutinize staff reports to ensure the veracity and reasonableness of all information they contain. Doing less may result in far worse repercussions.

This environmental impact report’s citywide traffic study is flawed and should not be reused repeatedly to approve rezoning and new housing applications, as it has been.

Eugenie P. Thomson

Eugenie P. Thomson, P.E., is a retired licensed civil and traffic engineer and a longtime resident of Alameda and has volunteered on community projects.

Comments

Submitted by John L. (not verified) on Thu, Jun 25, 2015

Concluding that the proposed Alameda Point development will result in "one net car off island" (with no +/-) gives the impression that somehow planners were able to statistically model the impact with certainty to a single car. I agree with Ms. Thomson that their assumptions are ridiculous and their conclusions are insulting. More problematic, the study and our elected officials fail to acknowledge (or maybe simply do not care) that there is already a traffic problem on the West End and that getting from Atlantic Avenue through the Posey Tube can take 30 minutes or more (like it did this morning). Instead of chasing one-time grants and building "complete streets" (see: Shoreline Drive) to pad their resumes, our Public Works Department should be tackling this traffic problem and pushing a moratorium on new houses until it is fixed. Alameda Point is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity... a parcel of land on the Bay overlooking San Francisco. Building tract homes is completely uninspired. Ten years from now, these houses will be revenue neutral and have no appreciable impact on the cost of living in Alameda (or the Bay Area). It seems the only people that want to build housing are the ones that profit from it - out-of-town developers and elected officials that can use the short-term infusion of cash to scratch the backs of unions and then use that backing to jump to a county or state position.

Submitted by Steve Gerstle on Tue, Jun 30, 2015

Do we know what percentage of those currently working in the new development of Alameda Landing live in Alameda? What percentage are coming from other communities? What is the average wage of employees at Alameda Landing and what percentage of Alameda housing is affordable for them?

Submitted by Mario (not verified) on Sat, Jul 4, 2015

I totally agree with Eugenie. The authors of the report used unrealistic assumptions to justify their conclusion. Even if Alameda would add 20,000 jobs, that just does not mean that everyone taking those jobs would live in the island.

In terms of new housing, a more reasonable and still fairly conservative assumption is that at least 50-60% of the people who will live in the 1,425 new homes will commute in and out of the island every day. That is roughly 700 cars assuming each household uses only one car.

In the world of engineering we have the expression "garbage in" equals to "garbage out". This means that if you initial assumptions are incorrect, the outcome of your analysis will be incorrect as well. I am not against development, but I do think we must be transparent about the potential impacts on traffic.