Op-ed: Traffic and Alameda Point
Op-ed: Traffic and Alameda Point
Rush-hour traffic congestion on Alameda’s bridges and through the Webster- and Posey tubes is a constant concern. Because of this, the city’s General Plan requires city planners to identify how new developments like the one being discussed for Alameda Point will impact transportation throughout Alameda and to figure out ways to reduce the negative impacts of growth rather than try to accommodate increases in auto traffic.
The city’s policy can initially look counter-intuitive. I mean, if we’re building more buildings, shouldn’t we be widening roads to allow for more traffic? Our city council and planners asked that question many years ago, and after much consideration realized a couple of things:
1. Total travel time matters: Our access points are already congested and projected to be more whether or not another development occurs. What is the benefit in building wider roads that speed vehicles along their way only to reach the tubes/bridges and sit in congestion there? It was decided that door-to-door travel time is what matters; whether a trip to work/school/etc. will take five minutes more or 30.
2. Neighborhood livability: Nearly every street in Alameda is a residential street. Wide roads and big intersections are unpleasant to live around, so they are not a problem-free solution to keeping roadway congestion down.
Because Alameda has limited points of exit and entry and because of space and quality-of-life issues, the city cannot simply build bigger, wider roads to avoid traffic congestion.
Past transportation planning pretended that congestion could be fixed by building gargantuan intersections like Webster and Atlantic. But all they did was push the problem up the road to the tubes. Travel time didn’t change for drivers, but a lot of money was spent rebuilding the intersection multiple times. Thankfully, the City Council stopped the last increase in 2008.
Based on these decisions, the General Plan now requires that with new developments planners create programs and policies that have been shown to reduce driving and its increased congestion.
The changes in the General Plan policies require the city look honestly at development and its impacts. If the traffic that is projected to come about as a result of a development cannot be acceptably mitigated, the City Council has the information that it needs to decide whether or not to approve the project.
The Alameda Point Environmental Impact Report (EIR), which looks at the impacts of a variety of development scenarios at Alameda Point, is out and can be downloaded at http://alamedaca.gov/alameda-point/drafteir. It’s a large document that provides information on impacts at over 50 intersections and multiple transportation corridors, as well as on actual environmental issues like air and water quality and native species. This document neither plans nor approves development at the Point. It’s an important tool in providing information on how a proposed development may impact the community.
If you want to comment on the veracity or thoroughness of the analysis, the city is accepting comments until October 21st. You can e-mail your comments to AThomas@alamedaca.gov.
If you’re interested in providing comments on what/how things should be planned at Alameda Point, the Planning Board will be discussing the concept and zoning for the Alameda Point development on October 14. There will be no master plan for the Point, except for the town center, so the zoning will likely be the only guiding document providing direction to city staff, the City Council and developers. The discussion and decisions made at this meeting will play a huge part in determining what will/can be built at the Point; this is the meeting to make your voice heard. You can send written comments before the meeting to AThomas@alamedaca.gov.
John Knox White is a member of Alameda's Planning Board.