TransForm wins TransitCenter grant for working on equitable, environmental, and economical traffic solution

 Eric DemarcqTurn on the radio on any given morning in the Bay Area, and you’ll hear one word over and over again: traffic.

This year, San Francisco was named the second most-congested city in the United States, with San Jose making an appearance at number six on the list. The Bay Area’s gridlock is reaching historic proportions, and it’s not a title we should be proud to claim. That’s why TransForm is working to redefine how we deal with traffic in the Silicon Valley, with a strategy that could set a new course for the entire region.

For too long, the solution to gridlock has been to build more roads – and study after study shows this just doesn’t work. Not only does a strategy of expanding highways not reduce traffic, it increases pollution, degrades precious open space, and costs a lot of money.

Instead, we need to think outside the highway. On highway 101 in San Mateo County, where one of the main lifelines to Silicon Valley is clogged with gridlock, we have an opportunity to do just that. 

We’re thrilled to have been awarded a grant by TransitCenter for our work on improving transportation in the busy corridor between San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

We’ve led years of studies and written two reports exploring how we can improve everybody’s transportation experience along Highway 101 without building new lanes or pricing people out of the solution. Now, thanks to support from TransitCenter, we’re equipped to continue pushing for innovative ways to solve this dilemma.

The question we seek to answer is: how can we move more people with less traffic, in a way that positively impacts people who take public transportation, and is environmentally sound?

The terrible car traffic on Highway 101 is a result of many factors piling up. As the cost of living and housing prices rise, too many Bay Area residents are forced to live far from their current jobs, and end up having to commute by car up to 4 hours. This is exacerbated by the influx of people on the highway during commute hours who work in Silicon Valley but live in San Francisco and the East Bay.

In addition to the negative environmental and health impacts that come from impatiently idling in your car for hours every day, the equity impacts are severe.

For low-income people who can’t afford to own a car, people with disabilities, students, youth and seniors who can’t drive, there is no fast, easy way to travel along Highway 101. Our region’s disjointed transportation system turns what should be a short trip into a journey that can take hours, with several different transfers; and that’s assuming all your buses and trains arrive on time and don’t break down along the way. We need to make transportation better for everyone traveling along this busy corridor, not just those that can afford to pay an express toll, or rely on a tech bus to get them where they need to be.

So what are we, as a region, going to do about this?

Our new strategy proposes a way to end highway expansion and increase funding for transit.

At TransForm, we’ve been working for nearly two decades to figure out a solution to the Bay Area’s traffic and transit troubles. Our efforts have brought a sea change in how the region looks at transportation, but outdated thinking still lingers in the planned regional Express Lane Network.

That’s why we’ve focused on the emerging plans to create an express lane on highway 101 in San Mateo County.  Instead of continuing the old pattern of highway expansion, we believe this corridor could pioneer a new way of combatting traffic.  Our proposal for High-Occupancy Toll lanes – creating a new express lane from an existing lane, and using the savings to expand choices for everyone – would save money, move more people with less traffic, and share the benefits more equitably with all travelers on the corridor.

And as of this summer, research conducted by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission confirms we’re right. We’re starting to see momentum in the right direction, but there’s a lot of work to do.

We're injecting innovation into Silicon Valley's transportation system.

With TransitCenter’s support, we’ll continue our work to bring this new strategy of sustainable, fair, and effective traffic alleviation to the Highway 101 corridor. A successful High-Occupancy Toll lane network along this corridor would set a model for California – and the nation – that overturns the traditional bias towards highway expansion, and instead sets the stage for a more multi-modal future, where everyone has lots of reliable options for getting around.

TransForm was one of the 91 organizations from around the country who applied for this competitive grant. We are honored to be recognized and awarded for our “potential impact to improve public transportation”, and are excited to continue our work in the region and across the state to bring more transportation choices to all of California’s diverse communities.

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To learn more about HOT lanes, visit our website: http://www.transformca.org/landing-page/express-lanes

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About This Blog

TransForum is the blog of TransForm, California's leading transportation advocate. For more about our work, including ways you can take action and contribute, visit TransFormCA.org.