Planning Board considers traffic reduction plan

Planning Board considers traffic reduction plan

Michele Ellson

Becky McMahon drives to work every day, though she loves the idea of bicycling instead.

“It just doesn't work out for me because I have to drop my son off at school first,” said McMahon, who added that she has to be to work by 8 a.m.

City leaders are reviewing a plan that they hope can reduce local workers’ solo car trips by 30 percent, though the plan’s authors said that some factors that could have a significant impact on traffic are out of the city’s control. The traffic-reducing options offered by the draft plan could be used as a road map by developers who will be required to manage traffic created by what they build, one of the city’s top planners said.

The Planning Board on Monday had its say on the draft plan, which contemplates better pedestrian and bicycle access, parking restrictions and charges and better promotion of transit and other programs that could reduce car trips. The plan and their comments are expected to be considered by the City Council sometime in the next few months.

If every development contemplated by the city’s general plan is built as planned, by 2030 nearly every entrance and exit to the main Island will have more traffic during peak commute hours than it was built to handle, according to the 108-page draft plan, which was prepared by Dowling Associates and Mobility Planners LLC.

But at least one of the most effective ways to reduce traffic – better transit – is out of the city’s hands, wrote the consulting firm’s staffers, who noted service cuts enacted by AC Transit. They said it’s unlikely the city can reduce workers’ single-occupancy car trips by the 30 percent called for in the city’s general plan.

“The objective of 30 percent vehicle trip reduction from commercial development in the General Plan is not feasible given the imbalance of jobs and housing, relatively segregated residential and commercial land use patterns, existing transit service availability and free and ample parking conditions at job sites in the City of Alameda,” the consultants wrote. “Outside of Alameda Point, a more realistic target objective would be a 10-15 percent.”

Curtailing workers’ access to free parking, which the plan said costs $7 to $12 per space, is a critical step toward reducing solo vehicle trips, the plan says.

Other traffic reduction strategies for developers include doing a better job of promoting existing ride and car share programs, improving facilities for cyclists, flexing employees’ work schedules, supporting shuttles to transit and providing transit passes for workers at companies with 100 employees or more.

The city could also consider road and signal improvements to make it easier for buses to travel on the Island and also for pedestrians to cross roads safely. And the plan calls on the city to create a citywide association to manage traffic reduction strategies.

The city’s supervising civil engineer, Obaid Khan, said the developer of Alameda Landing is required to fund an association that covers their planned development an that it could ultimately be expanded citywide.

Some 25,000 people work in Alameda, the plan says, and 2000 U.S. Census figures showed that nearly 70 percent of them drove alone to work. A survey of 955 local workers found that 95 percent of them had free parking at work, while fewer than 10 percent used an alternative to solo car use to get to work once a month or more. More than 80 percent of the workers surveyed were unaware of car share and ride programs that could get cars off the road, the survey found.

Alameda’s smaller businesses – which employ most of the Island’s workers – can’t afford to put other programs in place, the plan says. But some bigger businesses, including Wind River and Abbott Diabetes Care, are helping to get their workers out of their cars.

Wind River offers its employees several programs intended to reduce solo car trips, including one that allows employees to spend pre-tax dollars on transit while the company contributes an additional $15 a month and other allowing employees to telecommute. The company participates in the county’s Guaranteed Ride Home program, which offers emergency rides to workers who need them, and it’s also a stop on the Estuary Shuttle. Employees also organize carpools, said Bryan Thomas, Wind River’s senior director of corporate communications.

Owners of the Harbor Bay Business Park operate a shuttle that runs from the business park to BART and the Harbor Bay Ferry, which carries 180 passengers per day. An estimated 5,000 to 5,500 people work in Harbor Bay, the plan says.

Measures like the shuttle can reduce car trips, but are less effective in areas that lack transit and have ample parking, the draft plan says. And workers have plenty of other reasons for wanting to drive their cars, it says.

Oz Beckers said she only works 10 minutes from where she lives in Alameda. But she hasn’t been able to find an affordable bicycle and feels she can’t justify paying $4 for the round trip bus ride to and from work she told a reporter who solicited commute stories on Facebook.

“I wish I didn't have to use my car because parking is IMPOSSIBLE when I get back,” Beckers said.

Planning Board members said they want more input on the plan; they sent it to the council with their input and asked that it come back to them for refinement. Board member John Knox White said he’s concerned proposals to make it easier for buses to get across and off the Island will also bring more cars, but he said the plan could also help the city tackle its parking issue.

Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft said she’s hopeful that more mixed-use development will help people get out of their cars. While the plan wasn’t created with non-commute drivers in mind, Khan said the traffic reduction strategies could also be implemented in residential developments.

“(It) goes to where we build homes – near shopping, business, do we have the density, etc. I think some of this is a good road map for what we’re looking at,” she said.

WHAT IT COSTS

Here are estimated costs of some of the traffic-cutting measures proposed in the city’s draft traffic reduction plan.

Class I bike/pedestrian trail: $880,000

Shared community bikes: $3,500-$5,000 per bicycle plus administrative costs; $2.5 million for 500 bikes

Sidewalk installation: $86 per foot

Pedestrian countdown signals: $20,000 per intersection

Park and ride lots: $6,000 to $8,000 per space construction costs

Bus-only line-jump lanes: $250,000 per lane

HOV lanes for buses and carpools: $300 per foot plus right-of-way costs

Peak-hour shuttle service: $125,000 per shuttle per year

Source: Draft City of Alameda TSM/TDM plan

Comments

Jon Spangler's picture
Submitted by Jon Spangler on Tue, Apr 10, 2012

The proposed TSM/TDM Plan suggests that Alameda will be able to achieve only a 10% reduction in auto traffic using these suggested incentives. We will need far more drastic reductions in daily auto trips than that if we are to meet our carbon emission reduction targets, clean up the air, and keep our traffic lanes from clogging up.

The good news is that Alameda is flat, offering great opportunities for walking, bicycling, and taking transit year-round. And Alamedans, who have been walking and bicycling in ever-greater numbers in recent years, are quite capable of surpassing the minimal 10% traffic reduction targets. If we keep working on living with a little less fossil fuel each day and each week, we can make a bigge difference than we might have thought.

Submitted by tomcharron on Wed, Apr 11, 2012

BICYCLES $3,500-$5,000 per bicycle????? + Administrative cost?
Hopefully this is a simple decimal point print error!