The Coastal Post - October, 1999

Transit Tax Will Fail To Reduce Traffic Congestion

By Don Deane


Tired of getting stuck in traffic along Highway 101 from 6 A.M. until 10, and from 3 P.M. until 7?

Angry about spending one to three hours a day in gridlock instead of time with your family, on the golf course, or participating in your community?

Frustrated and furious enough to vote for the Marin Transit Tax on the November ballot to get some relief?

If you are, you are a victim of the biggest political con of the century in Marin County. The Transit Tax will not reduce traffic congestion one bit. It will not relieve traffic congestion in your lifetime.

The political and business interests that have packaged this little hocus-pocus hairball are very clever. They knew if voters got frustrated and angry enough about new traffic generated by the continuing buildout of office buildings, commercial centers, and housing developments along the 101 corridor, something drastic could happen-building moratoriums, radical development levies to mitigate traffic, maybe political revolution.

Something had to happen to relieve the growing anger over exploding traffic congestion. OR, something had to happen to create the illusion that something was being done to reduce traffic congestion.

That is precisely what Transit Measures A and B will do: Create the illusion that something will happen to reduce traffic congestion. The 1997 Multi-Modal Transportation & Land Use Study Final Report prepared by Calthorpe Associations, and the draft copy of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission Study will tell you congestion will not be reduced with the $300 million dollar transportation tax.

If certain business and political interests wanted to create this illusion, how could potential opposition from citizen groups, environmental interests and others be cut off at the pass?

Get them involved in the process in meetings behind closed doors and give them a piece of the pie.

How will your $300 million in "transit" dollars be spent? Who and what is getting a piece of the pie?

$70 million to improve local bus service. This will not reduce traffic congestion on 101.

$75 million for light rail service from Sonoma County to San Rafael. The rail service is expected to take riders away from the buses but not reduce the number of cars currently causing congestion on local streets and highways.

$55 million for land purchases to protect from development. This $55 million is hush money and has effectively silenced the tax measure's opposition from the Sierra Club and the Marin Conservation League. Both have endorsed the "transit" measures.

$40 million to improve local streets. This is expected to have little or no impact on reducing traffic congestion, but is a huge incentive for city governments and local politicians to support the "transit" tax.

$35 million to add new carpool lanes to Highway 101 between the Civic Center and Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. This is also projected to have little or no impact on reducing traffic congestion because of new, planned development.

$15 million to expand transportation service for people with disabilities. Needed, but will not reduce traffic congestion.

$10 million to improve bicycle and pedestrian paths. This is nice but won't decrease traffic congestion.

Fortunately, there is growing opposition to the November transit tax.

The Marin Audubon Society and the Environmental Forum of Marin oppose the 20-year tax as being a disaster for Marin wetlands and an expensive growth inducing boondoggle.

The Marin County Republican Central Committee is calling the measure bad public policy with no guarantee that the $300 million will be spent as intended. The proposed tax cleverly circumvents the Prop. 13 requirement for a two-thirds positive vote by calling it a general tax with a companion advisory vote "suggesting" that the money be spent for "transit."

The Marin United Taxpayers are slamming the proposal because only 11 percent of the $300 million addresses traffic congestion.

And in Sonoma which has a companion $600 million transit tax measure, the Environmental Defense Fund is opposing the measure as wasting millions, as bad tax policy and bad environmental policy.

Coastal Post readers who support the transit tax have said, "It may not be perfect, but if the Coastal Post can't propose a better solution, the paper should remain silent."

Dear readers, there is no solution for traffic congestion in Transit Tax Measures A and B. The "solution" is an illusion. The fat man can't become skinny by eating more and more food. Closing his eyes as he stuffs his face won't make the fat man skinny.

If expanding development continues in Marin with disregard for the thousands of additional cars it spits out onto Highway 101, we are doomed to a growing gridlock nightmare and a declining quality of life. A real solution for traffic congestion could be developed but the mix would have to include less building, less commercial development, and the elimination of payoffs to special interest groups which has guaranteed the transit tax to be the political abomination that it is.

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