Alameda Point: Spring Break Reading

Whenever concern is raised about the traffic generated by a future Alameda Point development. Those screaming “stop” rely on the false premise that not building at Alameda Point will remove all traffic impacts to Alamedans.

Though this article by Economist Joe Cortright at is on road-pricing, it also highlights the tremendous effect of traffic on congested corridors (think the tubes or I880) and also shows the dramatic effect of small reductions in overall driving.

Last year, the US made more progress in reducing traffic congestion than any other time in memory. New data show that in the nation’s cities congestion declined by 30 percent overall and was improved at every hour of the day.

How did we make these big gains? Not by adding more highway lanes or transit. Our physical infrastructure barely changed. Rather, we did it with a very modest decline in car travel. On urban interstate highways, total vehicle miles traveled in the US declined by about 3 percent compared with 2007.

Their key conclusions: “peak hour congestion on the major roads in urban America decreased nearly 30% in 2008 versus 2007*,”…

A 3% decrease in Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT) reduced congestion by nearly 30%. SunCal’s proposal proposes transportation strategies that if memory holds, would reduce island-wide commute trips by 2%. Concerns have been raised about the “academic” approach to planning and the “theoretical” nature of the proposal. However real-world data like this that can add a measure of comfort to the proposals strategies for minimizing the effect on island access.

5 comments for “Alameda Point: Spring Break Reading

  1. dave
    April 8, 2009 at 7:20 am

    Nah, it had NOTHING to do w/ $4 gas and rising unemployment, nothing at all.

  2. David Kirwin
    April 8, 2009 at 7:52 am

    SunCal’s proposal proposes transportation strategies that are based on the hopes that more Alamedans all over the island will abanodon their personal vehicles and uses busses instead.

    Yea right!

    People expect the city Transportation Commission to be looking out for our mobility, not just trying to stick us on busses for which we have neither the time nor inclination to use.
    Too bad members of our Transportation Commission such as yourself and Krueger are TOD zealots. Too bad you are supposed to be working for Alameda which lacks the modalities of “T” for TOD.

    Perhaps if we had BART, and trains, subways and trollys, and real transit hubs (where buses, trains, u-bahns, etc, intersect, not just calling a bus stop a ‘transit hub’) your ideas would have merit.

    But alas, this is Alameda, the island city virtually at the end of the road. Alameda itself will never be a ‘transit hub’ thus can never support TOD. So please, as your duty on the TC to protect our citizen’s transportation.

    The #1 modality for the 75% or more Alamedans who work off the island is the SOV going across the estuary.

    Like it or not, it is your duty as an Alameda Transportation Commissioner to protect the ability of our workers to get to and from work with the transportation modality of choice. – The people’s choice, not yours.

    Why are you willing to sacrifice the mobility of the vast majority for the developers?

  3. April 8, 2009 at 9:29 am

    How about making some real-world improvements to what we already have?

    For instance, the timing of the stoplights heading out to Alameda Point is ridiculous. Pedestrians at Broadway and Otis have to wait quite some time to cross any which way…. why can’t this be improved?

    How about lining up the buses (that we already have) with the ferry schedule. It’s insane how the bus is always leaving as commuters dis-embark the ferry. The message to them is clear: drive or you will be stranded.

    Get your buses to go where people actually want to go and maybe we’ll ride. But I think your biggest mistake is: you totally ignore human nature. Especially in terms of Californians. If Suncal builds their 5000 units, the new residents will bring their cars. And they will use them, no matter what alternatives you dream up for them. Why? Why wouldn’t they?

  4. Edmundo Delmundo
    April 8, 2009 at 10:35 am

    I kinda need to agree with Dave that the decrease in congestion is more attributable to $4/gallon gas and a bunch of unemployed workers.

    I am very skeptical of the transit scheme proposed for Alameda Point. The is a HUGE assumption that the majority of Alameda Point residents will work in Alameda Point – therefore they won’t need cars. That’s a big IF in a development of this scope.

    The other assumption is that a significant percentage of Ala Point residents will work in downtown SF and take the ferry to work. I’m a little more comfortable with that one (if Tiburon/San Rafael/Larkspur is any example).

    Trying to present rational concern and opinion to a traffic commissioner here. Assuming 4000 units, say 3/4 of them are dual income, we’re talking about 6000 potential commuters. I can’t see more than 20% of them working “on campus” and perhaps another 30% commuting out to SF via ferry service. So now we’re talking 6000 commute trips in and out daily (3000 each way). Seems like a lot of cars to me. Even if you cut my guestimate in half it’s a pretty sizable number.

  5. Michael Krueger
    April 9, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    Nobody is denying that the recent decline in driving was primarily due to high gas prices and a weak economy. Here’s another quotation from the same article:

    This natural experiment has an important implication for transportation policy. Reducing car trips at the peak hour–transportation demand management–can cut congestion and make travel faster for everyone else. In effect, over the past 12 months, we’ve implemented demand management through the combination of higher gas prices and a weaker economy. But we could just as effectively–and more efficiently–accomplish the same purpose with other policies, especially variable road pricing.

    The point is that if you can reduce demand even a little bit, you can achieve huge reductions in congestion. This also speaks to the question of building developments in ways that reduce car use. It’s not necessary to build a development in which nobody will ever need a car, just one in which most people will choose to drive a bit less. Such small reductions in driving can produce big reductions in congestion.

Leave a Reply