UPDATE: The Countywide Transportation Plan survey deadline has been extended – you now have until March 27th to fill it out.
Much of the discussion of transportation planning and funding on the national and local level is based on us vs. them dichotomies. Should we fund highways or high speed rail? Should we make space on our streets for car parking or bike lanes? The discussion even pits alternative modes of transportation against each other. Are buses or rail superior? Should local funds be spent on pedestrian infrastructure or bike lanes?
It’s a really unfortunate way of looking at transportation decisions, especially since most everyone in this country and city use multiple modes of transit. We are all pedestrians (yes, you are, even if you just walk 10 feet from car to destination), and nearly all of us use at least one more mode, be it buses, rail, biking, or driving. Infrastructure improvements can also benefit multiple modes. Fixing potholes benefits drivers, bicyclists, and bus riders, and reducing traffic through expansion of alternative modes of transportation helps speeds up the commute of drivers.
Like it or not, we’re all in this together and need to figure out ways to use the limited resources available sensibly and to somehow increase that small pot of funding.
So I was excited when I heard about the public process the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC) is undertaking to develop the Alameda Countywide Transportation Plan (CWTP). From ACTC’s site:
The Alameda Countywide Transportation Plan (CWTP) is a long-range policy document that guides transportation funding decisions for Alameda County’s transportation system over a 25-year horizon. This includes capital, operating and maintenance for freeways, buses, rail, ferries, and other modes like walking and biking. The Plan is updated every four years and serves as a vital guide for the transportation infrastructure investment decisions in Alameda County.
Additionally, the CWTP serves as Alameda County’s input to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) in their development of the Regional Transportation Plan, which is also underway in 2011. All projects requesting state or federal funding must be consistent with this Plan. The sales tax expenditure plan (currently Measure B) is another key source of funding for transportation projects and programs in Alameda County. Projects and programs for the expenditure plan are drawn from the CWTP.
To inform this plan, ACTC is asking for public input, at forums throughout the county and via an online survey. Sadly, their survey often pits mode against mode.
Here are some of the questions:
5. The CWTP should prioritize:
Maintaining streets, roads and highways OR
Expanding transit services and reliability
6. The CWTP should prioritize:
Expanding highway capacity and efficiency to reduce congestion OR
Providing more alternatives to driving (walking, biking, transit, expanding educational/informational programs)
7. The CWTP should prioritize:
Maintaining and operating existing transit services OR
Improving goods movement and freight
And the question that gave members of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee the most trouble when we discussed this:
8. The CWTP should prioritize:
Improving transportation services for seniors and people with disabilities OR
Expanding bicycle and pedestrian improvements
Sigh. Even though the survey isn’t what I had hoped for, it’s still important to participate and not all of the questions force you to choose between two important priorities.
The survey will be online through this Tuesday, March 15 so take a couple minutes to fill it out (it’s very brief). Your input will inform ACTC’s decisions about what projects to include in Measure B authorization. Let’s make sure boondoggles like the Oakland Airport Connector don’t get anymore funding and that projects that are worthwhile, like the Broadway Shuttle, do.
And when you’re done with the survey, for a refreshing perspective on the issue of forced transportation dichotomies, read Ezra Klein’s excellent piece – “Can’t I just be pro-transportation?” My hope is that yes, one day advocates can just be pro-transportation and not have to fight out us against them scenarios.