Alameda Point Traffic Study

Last week, The City released its Traffic Impact Report for the Alameda Point project. And it’s a pretty good report. Honest, conservative (meaning likely overstating traffic), and presenting the information in a way that give readers (non-technical readers) the ability to understand the overall concepts and results.

Over at The Island, Michele has already pointed out that the report basically says SunCal initiative or not, Alameda Point will generate lots of new traffic. But had the report stopped at “X # of car trips per day” the numbers it would have been pretty meaningless. But the report doesn’t stop there. It looks at the bridges/tubes and key intersections and asks “what will happen if the initiative passes?” and compares the results to what the traffic model shows Alameda’s existing General Plan generates. So in the end, one can see what the ultimate result of allowing for a larger development at Alameda Point will be (since that’s really what it’s all about).

The SunCal initiative sets aside money for traffic mitigations (TDM), but doesn’t specifically lock in what those mitigations are (a good thing, though to be sure it leaves things up to interpretation). The City hired hired Nelson/Nygaard, one of the foremost leaders on Transit Oriented Development and Transportation Mitigations, to come up with a conservative mitigation plan, based loosely on SunCal;s Alameda Point Transportation Plan. What this means is that they didn’t assume as much mitigation as SunCal has proposed, giving readers a sense of a slightly worse case scenario, they also present a “no mitigation” scenario which would be a worstest case scenario, but extremely unlikely.

The report’s assumptions about the traffic mitigations is that it would reduce traffic by about 30%. The FTA recently completed a study of existing Transit Oriented Developments (TODs), including some in the Bay Area, that found that TOD’s on average reduce traffic by about 44%, so these numbers are conservative (again, a good thing in a report).

At the Gateways (tubes/bridges), At the tubes, Alameda Point (with mitigations) would generate 145 more cars an hour than the current General Plan would resulting in an additional 4 minutes of delay in traveling from Alameda Point onto I-880. Driving to the East End bridges would take about 3 minutes longer. Not insignificant, but not catastrophic either.

What the report attempts to do is focus on the effect of the development, the delays, etc. and that’s what should be discussed. It’s easy to pick out large scary numbers and present them in a vacuum, but without addressing the effect of the information, they don’t really mean a lot.

14 comments for “Alameda Point Traffic Study

  1. David Hart
    September 21, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    I’ll repeat what I posted on the Bayport site:

    4 minutes each way X 250 work days = 33.33 hours a year. That’s 4 workdays of lost productivity, or if a person keeps their work day the same, it’s the equivalent amount of personal & family time lost. That is a very significant economic & societal cost.


    Does it makes sense for every commuter, or their employer, to cough up 4 days a year?

    And can you explain why the report shows relatively large gains in traffic due to the PDC but fairly small increases associated with Suncal’s net additional houses? That doesn’t hold water.

  2. David Hart
    September 21, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    And what in the Suncal initiative is going to bring 79 agricultural jobs?

  3. John Knox White
    September 21, 2009 at 2:49 pm


    The “general Plan” numbers include Full build out of Marina Village, the northern waterfront, Alameda Landing, Harbor Bay, Towne Centre, etc. Not just Alameda Point, but everything on the books. So there’s a big jump between today and 26 years from today, but the increment repsonsible between the difference in the PDC and SunCal is only a small part of it.

  4. David Hart
    September 21, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    From the report, table 2 on page 13:


    So the existing GP is 2000 additional households vs the 4599 at the point. Is it rational to believe that the 2000 dwellings spread, as you note, across town create more traffic than 4599 of Suncal concentrated near the tube? And 4599 vs 2000 is “only a small part of it?”

    And I notice you left unanswered the question about 1 neighborhood taking 4 days a year from the rest of the Island’s commuters. Dang, I was rather looking forward to your spin on that one.

  5. September 21, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    Sorry, I don’t understand your point on the GP v. SunCal.

    You made a statement about 4 days, I thought your question was rhetorical.

    Quite honestly, I don’t think the 4 days info is particularly meaningful as people won’t actually be losing 4 days of work and the 4 minutes probably won’t come to pass. Anyway, I let it stand as it was, a mathematics fact. Multiply 4 minutes by 250 by 2 and divide by 60 and you get 33.33 hours.

  6. David Hart
    September 21, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    GP vs Suncal — I refer to the table on p. 13. Read it & tell me if you have a different interpretation of the numbers.

    33.33 hrs/8 = 4+ working days

  7. September 22, 2009 at 7:02 am

    I get what numbers you are presenting, it’s the point that you made that is alluding me.

    Are you saying that the GP numbers represent only 2,000 households, and that they will be spread all across town?

    Because that’s not what is in the the GP numbers. The 2000 housing units in Table 13 represent only the housing units in Alameda Point part of the GP numbers.

    The table you refer to is talking solely about the difference between the GP numbers and the SunCal Initiative. It doesn’t include Alameda Landing, Harbor Bay, Northern Waterfront, etc.

  8. David Hart
    September 22, 2009 at 9:07 am

    Understand. What are the GP dwelling numbers for those other areas? And are you certain that the tables present the numbers including them?

    Getting back to the 4 days thing. You start by saying the report is “pretty good” and indiacting that 4 minutes is virtuially meaningless. When it is demonstrated that 4 minutes is a significant burden on the city as a whole, you say you think it’s unlikely anyway. If a primary conclusion is deemed unlikely, is it still a “pretty good” report? And how are people not losing 4 days? Does the inititiative create a 369 day year?

  9. Annette Tisdale
    September 22, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Regarding the additional number of cars per hour through the tunnel. Is that averaged across the day do you think? The tunnel seems to get much of its traffic during commute hours. If the stated number is averaged across the day the increased time at peak hours could actually be much worse.

  10. John Knox White
    September 22, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Hi Annette, The numbers for the Tubes are “Peak Hour” which is the main commute time, the numbers for other hours are smaller and have less impact than they would at the congested commute time.

    Dave, the table on page 13 is just Alameda Point. I confirmed my understanding of the travel time data with Public Works (who oversaw the report) before writing the post. The traffic impacts analysis includes all the other developments that are planned.

    What I said was that your annual calculation of additional travel time was meaningless to anyone but an economist. People are concerned about their daily commute, will the development add 30 minutes to my commute in the morning. The answer is “no.” Trying to generate larger numbers to make your case is….what’s that word you like to use?…..disingenous?

    My point is that the report doesn’t overstretch and try to go out of its way to reduce the impact of the SunCal plan, in fact it is pretty conservative. Therefore, I feel more than comfortable saying it’s a good report and that I would guess that the delays it finds are likely worse than will actually happen.

  11. David Hart
    September 22, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Are economists the only people who measure things accurately? Are they the only ones who consider cumulative consequnces? Is tallying up numbers that you yourself quote disingenuous?

    No to all.

    You quote a number as meaningless, then when it’s demonstrated that it is in fact meaningful with significant, measurable & real effect (atrributes most wonks appreciate) you continue to insist it doesn’t matter. You aren’t helping your case.

  12. September 22, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    33.33 hours is meaningful to you. Congrats. I’m just suggesting it’s not meaningful to peoples daily lives.

    In my mind, that number is 4 minutes, the additional length of time added to a person’s commute.

    We can agree to disagree.

  13. David Hart
    September 23, 2009 at 7:47 am

    To those of us whose time has value, 4 working days a year matters.

  14. William Smith
    October 4, 2009 at 10:07 am

    The additional commute time of 4 minutes each way, or 8 minutes a day can be looked upon as an investment required to bring about the community vision for Alameda Point so thoughtfully laid out on this site. That investment by solo vehicle commuters can bring better bus, car pooling and ferry service as there will be more riders, more shopping and more recreational opportunities.

    Over the next 25 years as the freeways clog more and local transportation continues to shift away from single occupancy vehicles, even many of today’s solo commuters could be glad they invested up to 8 minutes a day to position Alameda to take better advantage of alternative transportation systems.

    Unfortunately, the current Alameda Point Initiative provides too little assurance that an investment of a few minutes a day extra travel time by solo commuters will generate improved transit. Let’s explore whether or not the EIR process will enable us to fix this and several other critical assurance problems with the Alameda Point Initiative.

Leave a Reply