Last year, Americans drove 100 billion miles less than the year before. They also used public transit and participated in commute programs in record numbers. Regional transportation plans have the opportunity to accelerate these trends, help people cost-effectively meet their transportation needs, and be part of the global warming solutions now needed.
In 2035, 9 million people will be more efficient and less stressed in traveling the San Francisco Bay Area if all goes according to plan. Transportation 2035 is one of the nation’s first regional transportation plans to make reducing carbon emissions integral to such a plan. This regional plan will accommodate a 26 percent population increase compared to 1990, improve their transportation, while reducing CO2 emissions by 14 percent compared to 1990.
Most of the transportation budget will go to public transit which is forecasted to increase 75 percent over the 30 years.
The $226 billion of transportation funding over 30 years is primarily from local sources including transit fares, sales tax, and gasoline tax. Local, federal and state support is part of the funding, as it is throughout the nation.
In part, it is a demographic shift that will make the feasible the growth of public transportation. Although most people in the Bay Area now live in the suburbs, the Bay Area Governments forecast almost 70 percent growth in urban living and little growth in suburban living in the 30 years to 2035. Part of the shift to urban living is in the 25 percent of the Bay Area’s population that will be 65 and older in 2035. Similar percentages will be seen throughout the nation as 78 million U.S. Boomers are increasingly free from raising children and discover new priorities.
To speed suburban travel, an 800-mile Regional High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) Network on Bay Area freeways is mapped. The Plan states, “High-occupancy toll lanes, or HOT lanes for short, are carpool lanes with a twist: buses and carpools use the lanes free of charge, but solo drivers are allowed to use available capacity in the lanes, too — for a price.”
The estimated $3.7 billion construction cost of the network would be paid for with HOT toll revenues that are estimated at $6 billion. These lanes also allow commuter buses, vans, and carpools to get people to and from work much faster than driving solo. HOT lanes are effectively deployed in Houston, Seattle, Denver, Miami, Minneapolis, and Salt Lake City.
Although 30 percent of travel by bicycle is common in European cities from Copenhagen to Groningen. In the United States, however, Portland is the only city to even approach 3 percent. Transportation 2035 details a regional bicycle network to expand the carbon-free use of bicycles and improve the “last miles” solutions.
Better transportation for all of us certainly includes better expressways and bridges to somewhere, especially if they are significantly funded with tolls, HOT fees, and revenue tied to usage such as gasoline taxes. Ideally, better transportation is the result of a process that involves many employers, commuters, travelers, and governments throughout a region to plan effective multi-modal solutions.
John Addison’s new book – Save Gas, Save the Planet – will be available at Amazon and other booksellers on March 25.