One of Councilman Tony Daysog’s favorite sayings – for which he credits Chief Justice John Roberts rather than his mentor, the late Mayor Ralph Appezzato – is that, as a member of Council, his job is to “call balls and strikes.”
Now, it seems, with the newly elected Council in place, Mr. Daysog has decided to move out of his umpire’s crouch and step up to the plate himself.
During the process engineered by ex-Mayor Marie Gilmore to ram approval of the Del Monte development project through Council before she left office, Mr. Daysog was the lone naysayer. His main objection, he said, was the transportation demand management plan for the project, which he found “inadequate” in both its analysis of potential traffic impacts and its proposed measures for mitigating them.
But after voting against the Del Monte project Mr. Daysog didn’t stop. Instead, as soon as the new Council took over, he submitted a Council referral calling for preparation of a City-wide “comprehensive transit/traffic strategic plan and implementation tool.”
The Merry-Go-Round believes Mr. Daysog’s suggestion makes eminent sense. Here’s how we suggest Council proceed:
The first step would be to direct staff to collect and analyze data about the overall traffic impact of all of the development projects expected to be built over the next few years: the residential portion of Alameda Landing, the Del Monte warehouse and adjoining sites, Marina Shores (aka Marina Cove II), Boatworks, and, of course, Alameda Point. (Not to mention other projects that may surface for developing Encinal Terminals, the old Island High School site on Eagle Avenue, and the Shipways buildings in Marina Village).
When Mr. Daysog publicly bemoaned the absence of such aggregate data, City Planner Andrew Thomas admonished him that every developer already is required to analyze the “cumulative” traffic impact of a proposed project. And that is true: for all of the projects presented to the Planning Board thus far, one can find a traffic impact study (or similarly named document) that forecasts traffic conditions at specific intersections at a future date taking into account the growth that is expected to occur after the project is built.
The problem is, these traffic impact studies were done at different times for different projects, and they produce what, on the surface, appear to be inconsistent results.
For example, the Marina Shores traffic impact study (done in September 2012) predicts that, by the year 2030, absent any mitigation, traffic at three intersections along the northern waterfront will be “at capacity, with extremely long delays. Queues may block upstream intersections.” The Del Monte traffic impact study (done in March 2014) predicts the same result at the same three intersections by 2035, but it also puts two other intersections in the “F”-rated category.
Sure, you may say, the variance arises because the Del Monte study was conducted at a later date and covers a later period. But then how do you explain the traffic impact study for Alameda Point (done in September 2013) that, like the Del Monte study, focuses on traffic conditions in 2035 but assigns a failing grade to 10 intersections (four of them cited in the Del Monte study and six others)?
The simple explanation for these inconsistencies is that the different studies cover somewhat different geographic areas and make somewhat different assumptions about the future. All three studies we’ve cited start with the forecasts of future traffic volumes published in the Transportation Element Update Draft EIR. But that analysis was certified in 2008, so the studies have to adjust the forecasts to include development projects announced after that date. Not surprisingly, each study makes a different set of adjustments.
We don’t mean to criticize the work done by the consultants. But their assignment was confined to identifying the impact of a specific project on traffic conditions, now and in the future. None of them was given the task of presenting Council or the public with a comprehensive picture of the overall impact of all of the development projects now in the works or under consideration.
If that data is collected and analyzed, we’ll know exactly what the scope of the “problem” is. Then it’ll be time for policy choices.
The extreme positions are easy to imagine. There may be some who say that the overall traffic impact created by new developments is so great that Council should ban any future projects altogether. There may be others who say that the overall traffic impact, however great it might be, shouldn’t matter. Development is a good thing, they’ll argue, and clogged tubes and crowded streets are an acceptable price to pay.
These extreme positions should be debated – but we hope that neither of them will prevail. Instead, let’s assume that there will be some development creating some traffic impact. We’d hope that Council then would turn its attention initially to the relationship between the type of development and the severity of the impact.
Obviously, commercial development creates different traffic impacts than residential development. But the nature of the commercial or residential project is important, too. For example, compare a new office building that provides jobs for Alamedans to a new retail complex that seeks customers from the entire Bay Area. The former will cause less congestion at the tubes and bridges than the latter. Or, accept the assertion by housing advocates that apartment residents own fewer cars, and generate fewer automobile trips per household, than single-family homeowners. If so, assuming the need (or desire) for a given number of housing units, apartment complexes are the way to cut the associated traffic impacts.
The issue of the type of development to permit (or encourage) calls for Council to make a policy judgment. Some likely will argue that the “community” already has made that decision. We aren’t so sure. Whenever we hear that the “community” thinks a certain way, we wonder whether the speaker is referring only to the community of true believers of which he is a part.
And even so, why isn’t the decision worth revisiting? At one time, the objective for development at Alameda Point was supposed to be to provide more housing. (Some think it is still is). In recent years, we’ve heard even members of the former Council state that the goal has shifted to creating more jobs. And perhaps one of the reasons for the shift is that it is assumed, rightly or wrongly, that different uses produce different traffic impacts.
These kinds of policy decisions ought to be made before Council even gets to the mechanics of “transportation demand management” programs. But once we’re there, another host of policy issues arises.
To borrow a phrase from Alameda Point Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Ott, a TDM program takes a carrot-and-stick approach to mitigating traffic impacts – or, as the planners put it, to reducing “vehicle trip generation.” The “carrot” is to make public transportation more attractive. The “stick” is to make automobile ownership and use more onerous.
Thus, all of the TDM programs proposed so far – for Alameda Landing, Alameda Point, Del Monte and Marina Shores – offer free shuttles to BART. All but the Alameda Landing program also provide free passes for AC Transit buses. And the Alameda Point and Del Monte developments include space for use by car-share services like City Car Share and Zip Car.
As far as we know, no one objects to the idea of increasing public transportation. But, as a strategy for getting people to reduce their automobile ownership and usage, the effectiveness of this approach depends on how “convenient” these transit alternatives are. As City Planner Andrew Thomas conceded when discussing this aspect of the Alameda Point TDM plan, “It’s very hard to quantify how many people will actually use it. They may pay for it, they’ll get a pass, they’ll put it in their wallet, but will they really use it?”
Take bus service. The longer it takes to get from home to a bus stop, and the longer one has to wait for a bus to arrive after that, the less likely it is that a commuter will want take the bus to work. And unless the City wants to get into the motor coach business, it can improve bus service to Alameda only by cajoling the transit agency that provides it. AC Transit sent a representative to the December 2 Council meeting to report that it was “looking at” restoring a bus route along Buena Vista Avenue and expanding the trans-bay “O” line. But no promises were made.
Similarly, we hear a lot of talk about promoting the trans-bay ferries as a way to get San Francisco-bound commuters to stop driving to BART or – heaven forbid – over the Bay Bridge. (For example, Councilwoman Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft encourages people to follow the example of her husband, Howard, who bikes to the ferry terminal and then takes the boat to work). But it’s WETA – the Water Emergency Transportation Agency – not the City that controls the ferry service. And even the occupant of the “Alameda seat” on the WETA board, IAFF Local 689 president Jeff DelBono, can’t get the Board to spend money on a new ferry boat as if it was Council funding an emergency operations center.
The “stick” in a TDM plan usually involves parking. For residential developments, parking is “unbundled” – i.e., residents who want to park on-site have to buy or lease a parking space in addition to their condo or apartment. For commercial developments, parking is made scarcer and more expensive. This requires both limiting the number of on-site parking spaces and charging a fee for off-site, public parking.
Neither the Alameda Landing TDM nor the Marina Shores TDM plan includes “unbundled” residential parking. But it is a feature of the Alameda Point TDM program, and it was a feature of the original Del Monte plan. From the beginning, neighborhood residents rebelled at the idea, arguing that it would inundate adjacent streets with cars from Del Monte dwellers seeking to avoid the on-site parking charges. As one speaker told the Planning Board, “Giving the Del Monte residents the choice of buying a $30,000 parking spot, a $20,000 parking spot, or parking for free on the street, how many people will park on street?”
But the true believers insisted that “unbundled” parking was key to the success of the TDM plan. “Everybody needs to understand,” Mr. Thomas told the Planning Board, that, without unbundled parking, “you will likely increase the amount of traffic from the project, and you will likely decrease the use of transit services, and probably, depending on how much you increase it, reduce the number of car share spaces available.” And the Board’s self-proclaimed transportation guru, John Knox White, pronounced: “[T]he #1 thing we can do to address the concerns about traffic is unbundling spaces.”
Ultimately, a majority of the Planning Board agreed to a “hybrid” approach in which each unit would come with one parking space included in the price of the unit, but the owner/renter would be entitled to lease one additional space at a “market rate.” To some, this was a reasonable compromise between competing interests. To others, it was the worst of both worlds. But in any event it was a decision made by the Planning Board, not by Council. Unfortunately, the Board member who cast the deciding vote – union honcho Mike Henneberry – gave absolutely no explanation of his reasoning.
The “stick” to be waved at commercial users has gotten less attention, but it, too, has not received universal acclaim.
Of the two projects with significant commercial elements, Alameda Point is the one that has been chosen as the test case for a “parking management strategy.” (The Alameda Landing TDM plan contains no parking restrictions, and the project provides 1,117 parking spaces for retail customers). The Alameda Point zoning ordinance establishes maximum ratios for on-site parking at commercial buildings that may be increased only with Planning Board approval. And the TDM plan calls for the City to build publicly owned parking lots and garages – the plan shows seven locations – and charge visitors by the hour – at rates intended to discourage long-term parking – to park there. By design, this plan will offer 70 per cent less parking at the Point than the City’s “conventional” zoning otherwise would require.
When the Alameda Point parking plan was presented to the Planning Board, it drew a favorable response from the TDM devotees – except for Mr. Knox White, who complained that it “didn’t go far enough.” But other Board members, particularly Lorre Zuppan, pleaded for what she called a “more balanced” approach. Ms. Zuppan noted that one of the stated goals for Alameda Point was to reduce sales tax “leakage” by attracting commercial and retail businesses to the Point. What would be the impact on this goal, she wanted to know, if the City made it more difficult and more expensive for employees and shoppers to park there? “I don’t think it’s smart economically, and smart for the City, to implement” the proposed parking restrictions, she concluded.
Typically, Mr. Knox White dismissed these concerns out of hand. And the rest of the Board didn’t appear especially troubled by them, either. (By restricting parking, “we’re moving in the right direction,” Board president David Burton said). The Planning Board never actually voted to approve the TDM plan that included the parking restrictions, but, after review by the Transportation Commission, it was sent to Council, which discussed it for fewer than 10 minutes and then voted to accept it. No one brought up of any of the concerns raised by Ms. Zuppan.
Mr. Daysog’s proposal would require Council to decide the features a City-wide TDM plan should include. How big of a carrot can the City convince the transit agencies to provide – and how soon? How big of a stick can the City swing without undermining other goals? To answer these questions, Council would need to make judgment calls about the extent to which behavior modification is possible and trade-offs are tolerable.
Then there is the issue of monitoring and enforcement.
All of the proposed or adopted TDM plans call for annual monitoring in which, among other things, the actual number of trips generated by the project during peak hours is compared to the projected number to determine whether the plan is meeting the “vehicle trip reduction” goals set by the Transportation Element (10% for new residential developments and 30% for new commercial developments). But they differ on what happens if the monitoring shows that the goals aren’t being met.
This is the topic that most animated Mr. Daysog during the Council discussions of the Del Monte TDM plan. There were, he pointed out, no penalties for failure. He was right – but the TDM plans for the other recent projects don’t contain any penalties, either. Indeed, the Alameda Point TDM plan states that its drafters considered, and rejected, fines and the like in favor of “allow[ing] the plan to be self-enforcing.” If the current plan isn’t working, the remedy is “to prepare and implement a refined Plan with new or substantially revised strategies.”
This, too, is an issue calling for a policy decision to be made by Council. Physician, heal thyself, may not be the choice they make.
In the end, we hope that, by taking up Mr. Daysog’s referral, Council can avoid repeating the experience the last time a City-wide “strategic plan” for addressing the traffic impacts of development was on the table.
Back in 2012, the City obtained a grant from CalTrans to come up with such a plan. Staff retained a consultant, who prepared a 116-page report providing data about current and predicted traffic conditions, reporting on “best TSM/TDM practices” used in other cities, and evaluating specific TSM/TDM strategies. The report then set forth recommendations for the TDM programs a developer should be required to implement to meet a chosen “vehicle trip reduction” goal. The higher the target, the more the developer had to do.
When the consultant presented the report to the Planning Board, Mr. Knox White, newly appointed to the Board, subjected him to skeptical cross-examination. According to the minutes, the Board then voted to forward the plan to Council “for acceptance” followed by return to the Planning Board for “further refinement.”
The consultant’s work product never made it to Council. Nor did it ever come back to the Planning Board. “[W]e had a hard time figuring out what had happened here,” City Manager John Russo told us in response to our inquiry. “As best as I can tell, the Planning Board was none too happy with the quality of the report anyway so that may have been a reason for the inaction.” In any event, he suggested, “the recent uptick in the economy probably means that we need a more robust and up to date TDM plan than would have been considered adequate back in 2011 when the PW study was likely researched.”
Now, thanks to Mr. Daysog, maybe that time has come.
Alameda Landing: Traffic impact study (2011-10-24 Fehr & Peers transportation report); TDM plan (TDM-Ala Landing 5-2007)
Alameda Point: Traffic impact study (4c_traffic (final)); TDM plan (TDM plan)
Del Monte: Traffic impact study (Del Monte Warehouse – initial study); TDM plan (Final TDM Program)
Marina Shores (aka Marina Cove II): Traffic impact study (Marina Cove II initial study & MND); TDM plan (2014-07-28 Ex. 4 to staff report to PB re Marina Shores -Transportation Plan)
Dowling & Associates TSM/TDM study: AlamedaTSM_TDM_Plan_FinalReport
If the council decides to explore citywide transit and transportation issues, I hope we can avoid ending up with a set of double standards. Much has been said about parking and how important it is to place restrictions on parking so we can encourage families to visit new retail and eatery establishments on their bicycles. But back when the Park Street Visioning process was taking place more than a decade ago, a new parking structure was one of the centerpieces of business revitalization. It is serving its intended purpose. There would have been no theater restoration without a new parking structure for the convenience of moviegoers, and there would have been no spillover for the rest of Park Street. Yes, the city parking garage is a form of subsidy for car ownership and for businesses on park street, but without this subsidy we would today have a less viable business community. If a person views Alameda as a bedroom community, that may be OK.
As regards Alameda Point, there needs to be adequate public parking for the expected ferry terminal, for restaurants, other retail establishments, and for the use of the public’s waterfront. If we want to reduce traffic, in my opinion, we need to offer incentives and alternatives to driving, not restrictions that end up burdening businesses or discouraging public waterfront access.
Still not big on having a point in all of those words apparently. What’s your beef, reading back through all of your posts, the merry go round just seems like a roundabout of complaining with no point than to take shots at the former mayor, the vice mayor and a planning board member. Did they run over your dog or something? Maybe you could footnote your anger?
Well certainly one of the points was “what happened to the CalTrans 116 page report?” And if, as John Russo alludes to, that the planning board was “not to happy with report”, why wasn’t that
explained. 116 pages is a lot of stuff and it’s hard to believe it was all bad. This is what transparency in government is all about.
Bob thank you for your article. The citywide traffic data is in the Alameda Point EIR. This EIR evaluated the largest area since 2003 and includes all of the city and areas in Oakland. And is the most up to date. The traffic model from the 2008 General Plan Amendment for its new Transportation Element, was expanded for the traffic model employed in the Ala Pt EIR.
The cumulative analysis for Yr 2035 after all the development is built including Alameda Point is provided from a traffic perspective in the Traffic section of this EIR.
BUT the assumptions such as model and model reports including contractor products and other city wide traffic data is held at the consultant offices in Oakland.
I did make multiple California Public Record Requests during the public comment period of the Alameda Point EIR. Some public records finally arrived three months later and after four CPRA requests and only after the Planning Board’s approval of this EIR and only days before the Council. And not giving enough time to review. Only a subset of the public records I requested were received and the ones provided were dated after the publication of the DEIR so still do not know what was used. Still cannot find what land use assumptions ( by location and size) that were used for the cumulative condition in the Alameda Point EIR,
So the traffic data exists and should be summarized and obtained from the consultant.
There are though some unbelievable citywide traffic results that have not been openly debated. And this was reported in both 2008 EIR and the Alameda Point EIR but buried in the Consultant’s office or buried deep in the technical details.
And that was staff and consultants assumed in the Traffic Model that Alameda would become a company town with a job and housing balance. That is many of the new 9000 jobs at Alameda Point would be filled by existing residents and many of the new residents would live and work on the island. The consultant and staff assumed this in the Traffic Model according to their responses to my one key comment to the Alameda Point DEIR. But the assumption was much too aggressive and is only partially possible not at the extremely aggressive levels assumed by staff.
This major job housing balance assumption in the Traffic Model had the effect of eliminating primarily all of the traffic impacts associated with Alameda Point Project as illustrated by the following comments to the EIR.
My first comment was it Is unbelievable the Ala Pt EIR documents NO added traffic leaving the island due to Alameda Point project during the morning commute. None-whatsoever from Alameda Point at any of the five crossings outbound for the cumulative 2035 during the morning commute. 1400 homes and no added traffic volumes leaving the island?
Second comment was why NO traffic impacts at the west end and only impacts at the east end and due primarily to the commercial component of Alameda Point, not the housing.
Third major comment was why is the traffic at 2681 vph outbound in the Posey tube for the cumulative condition year 2035 and LESS than the historical volumes since the base closure.
City and Caltrans records show the Possey tube AM peak volume typically at 3000 vph since 1997 and lower than the 3600 vph capacity of the Posey tube reported by Caltrans.
Basically what staff is saying that after Alameda Point homes and all the other homes in the Housing Element are occupied , there will be no added cars to the Posey tube and no additional congestion approaching the Posey tube for example.
These unbelievable traffic results come from staff and consultants’ unrealistic assumptions in the traffic model of an overly aggressive assumption of job and housing balance and the use of of intersection operations methodology that ignores downstream congestion. ( the intersection methodology employed is only applicable to free flow conditons not urban condition with congestion. ).Plus the consultant did not calibrate the traffic model so the model’s hourly forecasts could used and consultant appears not to have performed a reality check on existing delays versus that produced by their intersection operations model because no delays were reported approaching the tubes and on the roads to the 6 th I 880 on ramp for the existing traffic conditions.
No one questioned the major omission of no impacts at the west end except for the city of Oakland and the Chinatown Coalition in their comment letters.
I believe few had the time to spend to read these massive techno speak documents and there has been no transparency regarding the traffic problems today and in the future, and the final EIR was published just before Christmas.
The traffic facts and key assumptions need to be openly debated and address how long it will take residents to leave the island for example or address neighborhood traffic and parking intrusion,. And all this should be done before development applications are individually submitted and done from a citywide perspective.
What has been missing is a new Land use Element of the General Plan. And this should be evaluate concurrently with the Transportation Element including TDM.
So yes Bob a citywide analysis is needed and all the data and models are set up and our taxes have paid for these. Cities typically do this via the General Plan process and for such large projects as Alameda Point. And typically consider more than Transportation Demand Strategies and consider the availability of public funds.
(By the way,the EBRPD also pointed the lack new General Plan’s Land Use Element in their legal arguments for their Neptune Point complaint. Doing a Transportation Plan like was done in 2008 should have included an updated land use plan. I obtained the consultant model record for this 2008 EIR and it reports housing grossly different than what was in the Housing Element approved on July 3, 2013. And as a result city should not have used this 2008 EIR for their environmental clearance of that Housing Element and why staff had to update this for the Alameda point EIR .)
Thank you Bob you have demonstrated that working through the City process is not working and you are bringing to light what should be done. We appreciate the time and effort you and Jane are spending.
Gretchen is right about the need for open government and am hoping the new members on the city’s Open Forum will aid all us. At a minimum the city should include their technical appendices when referenced for public review during an CEQA or other document process. And the city’s consultant contracts should be changed to provide all contract products before final payment, our taxes paid for these and should be available, not at their offices and resulting in sole source contracting for the future use of the Traffic Model. This and other improvements could be done by the Open Forum.
Thank you Tony for standing up and working through what is best for all parties, I am still waiting for an explanation from city hall on their unbelievable traffic results in their past Citywide traffic analysis and in obtaining the public records, The efforts to get these and simple answers takes too much time and possible need to re sole my shoes from the too many visits for public records that seem to get lost abit too often at Public Works or records not filed and now told hidden in the consultant offices.
Eugenie Thomson, P.E.
Attached please find the power point presentation that guided my discussion last night (January 21, 2015) as to how I see “comprehensive traffic and transit planning” in Alameda. Thanks.
Click to access ComprehensiveTransit3.pdf
Quick note about last night’s discussion: last night I placed on the Council referral part of the agenda the matter of putting together what I call a “comprehensive traffic and transit planning and implementation strategy.” In doing this, let me be clear: as I said last night, I am **not** claiming to be inventing fire ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IS7Og1zvdy8 ). Rather, in looking at a variety of TDMs, I saw each of these referencing a variety of transit approaches on a cafeteria basis (i.e. shuttles, buses, car share), without (in my opinion) clear step-by-step analyses of how we are going to implement, say, shuttles, and, in implementing whatever solution, how said implementation would achieve needed traffic congestion reductions. In short then, this approach is simply building-off of the hard work done by getting at these next-level steps.
Council last night voted unanimously to move this along. Councilmembers provided great suggestions and observations. Councilmember Ezzie-Ashcraft encouraged us to have stand-alone workshops on this matter so that the public and Council can really roll-up their sleeves in weighing in on this important topic. Councilmember Oddie expressed the view that this is a way of bringing together needed information on different levels of transit solutions to address congestion, so that Council and the public can see the pros/cons and cost/benefits of, say, the “gold standard” approach versus other approaches. Mayor Spencer emphasized the need to view “comprehensive” in the context of city-wide, not just Northern Waterfront or Alameda Point, important as those areas are with regard to future traffic. Councilmembers Mattaresse and Oddie emphasized the importance of City Council taking the lead on this matter.
Also: let me add that in pursuing a “comprehensive traffic and transit planning and implementation strategy”, we are not just looking to implement this or that transit solution, as important as that is. This process also involves reviewing traffic analyses typically conducted during and for projects, so that we have the right congestion reduction goals and targets in place that the implemented solutions are aimed at addressing. Thank you.
Click to access ComprehensiveTransit3.pdf
Has anyone looked at the end goal of development in Alameda? Is there any limit to the development? We are an island. Do we want to be Manhattan? Shouldn’t we consider the optimum size we want to be and still maintain our character? Just as it is wise to consider traffic comprehensively, we should be looking way ahead to how much more construction there should be. Where do we want to end up? Then maybe we can plan better for quantity and quality.
Keith, Trying to “still maintain our character” presents hard choices. The character has long included a military base and an array of industrial users along the Northern Waterfront. The military is gone forever. And with all of the choices in the Bay Area and/or overseas, there was/is little chance that industrial users would repopulate the Northern Waterfront. The Collins property, for example, was not going to get a new industrial user, and the owner could not be forced to do so in any case, which would have left the site as the eyesore that it was if we kept it zoned industrial. Housing is inevitable for at least some, if not all, of the old industrial areas since it is the only option for eliminating blight. Without it, blight would become part of the character of Alameda.
Personally, I think we should spend more time trying to supply transit options than trying to prevent traffic through what appears to me to be token efforts to tweak the housing numbers.
Charge a toll for using the Posey tube, use the proceeds to expand it some day in the future. Sounds crazy? How about giving local businesses a tax incentive to hire local people?. Currently only about 25 % of Alameda residents who live here, actually work on the island. I think we need to start coming up with unique solutions to our particular issues, most of which come as a result of geography. We have to start thinking like an island, (maybe not Manhattan).