What better time to inaugurate a blog on progressive transportation choices than when there’s a crucial debate at hand like the Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission's Committed Projects policy - a decision about which projects to exempt from analysis and discretion.
This Friday, April 8th, the Metropolitan Transportation Committee (MTC) will revisit a discussion about how many projects will undergo performance analysis as part of Plan Bay Area (the long-range, 25-year transportation and land use plan for the nine county Bay Area that will be part of the Sustainable Communities Strategy).
MTC will designate some projects as “committed projects” and thus exempt them from analysis or Commission discretion during the Plan Bay Area process. On Friday, Commissioners on the Planning Committee will vote either to have MTC staff conduct performance analysis on a smaller (“Option 1”) or larger (“Option 2”) number of projects. (Friday's Planning Committee meeting packet and agenda available here.)
We think performance analysis is a good thing. Projects, especially very expensive long-term transportation investments, should be reevaluated regularly to make sure they remain wise choices. This is why TransForm and many other are recommending Option 2 to the Commission’s Planning Committee members.
This slide from MTC’s forthcoming staff presentation outlines the differences in the two options:
Especially in this era of limited funds and difficult choices, we must take advantage of the RTP’s opportunity to develop the best possible investment scenario for the future of the Bay Area. If we are going to save our transportation system from decay and disinvestment, we need fewer “sacred cows” and all options on the table.
Things change. Projects change, costs go up. The staff report (see slide 6) shows that the average transit project’s cost increases by 50% after a project goes through environmental review. It is just common sense to review our investment strategy every four years.
That’s why TransForm urges the Commissioners on the Planning Committee to choose Option 2 on Friday. Let’s take advantage of this once every four-year moment and take a good, long, hard look at our investment strategy. Are they the right projects?
Let’s find out.