The Coastal Post - August, 1998

Transit Tax Won't Reduce Congestion;

It's A Boondoggle And Scam

By Don Deane, Editor-Publisher

The $300,000,000 transportation tax on the November ballot may well be the most senseless and expensive ballot measures in the history of the county. This is not a state proposition for $300 million. It is a Marin County tax, born and bred right here at home. And it doesn't require a two thirds majority to pass because of a legal slight of hand performed by consulting attorneys.

With matching federal funds you are looking at Marin spending more than a half-billion dollars to "address traffic congestion." Congestion: the experience you have along Highway 101 six to eight hours a day. The struggle you have getting through San Rafael, Novato, Mill Valley or to Fairfax. You can name other examples, you experience them every day.

Why is the tax measure senseless and a boondoggle? It won't make congestion go away. It won't even reduce congestion. It will just keep current congestion from getting worse. How can this be? It is because projected residential and commercial development currently in the pipeline and planned in the immediate future will keep traffic at critical mass.

How is that $300 million-plus going to be spent?

$70 million to improve local bus service. This is not projected to 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 conservation groups. The Sierra Club and the Marin Conservation group are not opposing the plan. The Sierra Club endorses the measure. Land purchases will not reduce traffic congestion.

$40 million to improve local streets. This is expected to have little or not impact on reducing traffic congestion, but will help keep it from getting worse due to new and increasing commercial and residential development in the county. The $40 million is a huge incentive for city governments and local politicians to support the tax measure.

$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, but is projected to keep it from getting worse due to new and increasing commercial and residential development in the county.

$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.

If you think this analysis just couldn't be possible, take a look at the Multi-Modal Transportation & Land Use Study Final Report prepared by Calthorpe Associates, June 6, 1997, or try to get the draft copy of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission study.

Traffic has been approaching critical mass in Marin since the late 80s. Studies done by the county then described a congested future. Few decisions by city councils and Marin Supervisors to allow new development have been tempered effectively by these projections.

A bleak 1998 forecast by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission states that growth in the Bay Area will continue adding time to daily commutes. The project manager for the MTC report is quoted in the Marin Independent Journal as saying, "You can't build your way out of congestion. No matter how many roads you build, you can't keep up with growth." The report does advocate more car pool lanes and improved transit, but the Calthorpe report on Marin says congestion will remain at current levels, not be reduced by these measures with ever increasing development.

Look around at your town and neighborhood. How many new $300,000 to $500,000 homes have popped up in the last ten years along hillsides, in cul de sacs, on that three acres of woodland, next to a creek, and on former ranchlands? How many new office and commercial buildings have been approved and built in that same period of time?

And before the transit tax measure even goes to the ballot, look at what's being built or reconditioned on former Hamilton Air Force Base or the development of the 1,240 acre St. Vincent's-Silveria property between Novato and San Rafael. Novato is literally blooming with development.

At Hamilton alone 2,223 housing units are or will be built in the near future with adjoining commercial development.

It appears that the Marin transit tax measure is designed to create the illusion that something is being done about current traffic congestion to placate the growing number Marin residents angry about the time that it takes to get around in the county. This illusion will make it easier for more commercial and residential development to take place. All of this will allow for a continuing booming economy in the county. Unfortunately the quality of life will be diminished. Congestion will remain the same or get worse. And politicians will say "We tried."

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