For most cities, emerging technology is squarely in the mobility realm, presenting new opportunities to develop shared frameworks and best practices—and incorporate the complex needs of low-income communities, says Clarrissa Cabansagan, the new mobility policy director at TransForm, a local trans-portation advocacy organization. But in many cases, the go-to planners’ goal of transforming drivers into cyclists or pedestrians ignores a reality exemplified in the Bay Area’s demographic shifts: As rising rents displace people and families from the transit-rich urban core and shifts them into areas built with auto dependency in mind, the gaps in transit alternatives pose a crucial concern.
“We assume that all folks have 9-to-5 jobs. We’re planning for peak levels of service. But what about the woman with kids and multiple jobs who has no other alternative to [using] her car?” Cabansagan says. “I want technology to highlight [those needs]. If we don’t highlight those trips as important, if we treat them as the CEO of Lyft getting from meeting to meeting, we lose that opportunity.”
...“The backlog of need isn’t just public investment; it’s public and private investment that contributed to the inequities we see today,” Cabansagan says.
An added draw for future residents is that three AC Transit bus lines have stops near the property, according to Edie Irons of Transform California, an organization that promotes transportation sustainability and which consulted on the project.
“There is a growing demand for homes in walkable, transit-rich places like this for the many people who don’t want to use a car for their daily needs,” Irons said. “This project meets that demand, and it’s specifically designed to attract those residents. Though not all residents will choose to be car-free, they will be able to walk, bike or take transit for more of their trips.”
“We needed to do something, and this compromise has winners, and the obvious losers are the ones with permits from before 2017,” Cohen said. “But by doing that, it is allowing Caltrans to keep the program going and allowing new cars into the system.”
“While there are still details in the bill to be worked out, such as affordability requirements, it looks like a tremendous improvement over SB 827. One of the biggest improvements is in the area of tenant protections; sites wouldn’t be eligible if they had been occupied by tenants within seven years preceding the date of the application. While this will reduce the number of eligible sites, it negates the potential for the loss of significant rental stock upon signing of the bill,” wrote Stuart Cohen of TransForm, an organization that did not support SB 827, in an email to Streetsblog. “The last thing we need is a new round of displacement.”
“The bill also now applies to job-rich areas even if they don’t have qualifying transit access,” continued Cohen. “In these areas, as well as near high-quality bus-corridors, there would be no density restrictions and minimum parking would be capped at 0.5 spaces per unit. Building heights would not change from existing codes. What this does is allow more units but without changing the character of communities.”
El planificador urbano Chris Lepe asegura que el desarrollo es muy relevante para San José porque se estarían generando empleos a un área que ya cuenta con mucho transporte público y zonas comerciales.
The measure’s passage was even more significant because it lacked the kinds of flashy expansion projects that often draw voter’s attention and focused instead on ensuring there is adequate funding to support bus and Caltrain services that already exist, said Edie Irons, a spokeswoman for TransForm, a transportation advocacy nonprofit. That support for existing services will be important if regional transportation leaders decide to come to voters with a proposed “mega-measure” to pay for large expansion projects, she said, such as a new transbay tube for BART.
“We’re going to be advocating for big, bold projects,” Irons said, “that really move the needle on equity, mobility, and sustainability.”
With the board and the California Transportation Commission scheduled to discuss the report in December, Joshua Stark of the public transit advocacy group TransForm hopes the regulators will “look forward” when it comes to allocating transportation funding.
“The Legislature and state agency leaders need to focus more of the state’s transportation dollars on meeting our climate goals,” Stark said.
“If Prop. 6 passes it will set our movement back tremendously, possibly by many decades! Yes, we would we lose the direct annual funding — $100 million for active transportation, $750 million for transit and $1.5 billion (with a B) for local road maintenance that is fixing our cracked roads and bringing us so many complete streets with it,” wrote Stuart Cohen, Executive Director of TransForm. “But we would also have a MUCH harder time winning these funds again.”
Of course, many of these ideas are cost-prohibitive–at least for now. However, “you might really be able to take some of these more visionary ideas and, even if they don’t make it as a full-scale, regionwide project, you can ignite people’s interests and get some pilot projects going,” said Stuart Cohen, co-founder and Executive Director of TransForm, and one of the judges of the competition, in a phone interview with Streetsblog.
Chris Lepe, a transportation advocate with TransForm, a nonprofit that seeks to promote public transportation and social equity, said gas taxes are also regressive.
“Sometimes we have to support sales taxes in order to enhance the greater good and in order to advance equity,” he said. “Even though [Measure W] is a regressive taxation approach, the spending is going to be progressive and that’s why we support it and what the folks on the other side are not taking into account.”
He said SamTrans may face service cuts up to 30 percent if Measure W fails. “If you’re trying to make an equity argument and trying to advance the needs of low-income folks in this county, why would you oppose something that’s going to avoid cutting the very service they rely on to get to a job or to services. To me, that’s playing with fire,” Lepe said.
“We absolutely need to start transitioning the fleet to electric buses, but there is certainly a learning curve and a transition cost,” said Stuart Cohen, executive director of TransForm, an advocacy group in Oakland. “Put on the right routes, e-buses can be a huge win-win.
“They are quieter and smoother to ride, they reduce local air pollution and street noise, and when focused on low-income communities of color most impacted by pollution, they can be a way to reduce the tremendous health disparities in our society.”
Communications Director Edie Irons was a guest on Your Call with Rose Aguilar, an hour-long call-in radio show, focused on transportation issues on the November ballot.
"This is the most powerful statement I've ever seen in transportation policy," said Stuart Cohen, executive director of the nonprofit group TransForm. He praised Lara and other state legislators for recognizing that something as seemingly small as a freeway lane can lead to opportunity and social mobility.
“When you get into that freeway lane, you get to your job faster,” Cohen said. Societal disparities get worse, he noted, when rich people can buy their way into the lanes, and poor people are shut out.
There are solutions to this problem that would spare clean-air drivers, such as increasing vehicle occupancy requirements to three or more people; instituting or increasing tolls; or constructing more diamond lanes, according to Caltrans. But those fixes are either cost-prohibitive or politically unpopular, said Stuart Cohen, executive director of TransForm, an Oakland transportation advocacy group.
“This is absolutely the simplest way to tackle this issue,” Cohen said.
Clarrissa Cabansagan, a transportation advocate with the group TransForm, says companies need to be “held to a higher standard,” than what’s in the ordinance.
The plan would require that a majority of scooters be deployed in what are called “communities of concern” — a designation for low income and underserved neighborhoods. But that designation covers most of Oakland.
“That can mean all in the Lake Merritt area, downtown,” says Cabansagan.
Cabansagan, with TransForm, adds that scooter companies should work with community groups to spread the word about the affordable option, and how to ride safely. She also says scooters highlight a need for more bike lanes and better pavement.
“In places like deep East Oakland, people are riding on sidewalks and they’re riding on sidewalks because they feel safer on sidewalks, because sidewalks don't have as many potholes as the streets,” says Cabansagan.
Cabansagan says the scooter craze has opened a window of opportunity to invest in safer streets. Some scooter companies have already pledged to fund more bike lanes in the cities where they operate.