“Those people enjoyed three, maybe four years of HOV lane access and if they want, and what we’ve heard is some people are gonna trade those in and get a new electric vehicle,” said Stuart Cohen, executive director of TransForm, an Oakland-based non-profit seeking to reduce the number of commuters and vehicles on Bay Area roadways.
“The current system is definitely broke; right now the carpool lanes are losing,” said Stuart Cohen, executive of TransForm, a transportation advocacy group in Oakland. “Many of the Bay Area’s carpool lanes are slowing down 75 percent or more of the time. At that point, commuters lose all incentive to carpool.
“Even worse, buses, carpools and shuttles that may be carrying five to 60 people per vehicle also come to a crawl. That means more solo driving and more congestion for everybody.”
“San Francisco has traditionally been the place where these companies all want to play — particularly in the Financial District,” said Clarrissa Cabansagan, new mobility policy director for TransForm, a regional transportation nonprofit.
Nor does the survey take into account housing, which is typically the largest single cost for any individual or family and one that often influences people’s decision to drive a car or take transit, said Edie Irons, a spokesperson for TransForm, a transportation advocacy nonprofit.
The high cost of housing may be driving low-income residents from the area, while at the same time limiting the expendable income for those who stay, she said. So, even if it looks like people are more affluent, they may still be struggling to pay transportation-related costs.
“That seems likely to be the invisible factor in these changes,” Irons said. “We know housing is closely connected to transportation choices, and transportation spending is the second-largest expense for many households, especially low-income households.”
... But, she said there might be other, more positive, factors at play, as well. The agency’s transbay bus lines have seen a growing number of riders over the past few years, and are now its most popular, carting some 14,000 passengers each weekday as more people opt out of Bay Bridge traffic.
“The thing that could very well be happening … is that transit is working well for people,” Irons said. “It’s going where they want to go and they see the benefits of transit, whether that’s avoiding traffic or driving less to do something good for the environment or wanting to have a more relaxed commute.”
As part of its commitment, Lyft will work with nonprofit organizations like TransForm to develop programs that support people with low incomes.
“The majority are not making enough to live in not just San Mateo, but in the neighboring county,” said Stuart Cohen, executive director of TransForm. The housing shortage has forced many teachers, emergency workers and service employees out of the county, he said.
Consider the following statistics, released June 14 in a report jointly authored by TransForm
Evelyn Stivers, executive director of the Housing Leadership Council, says that because the problems of traffic and housing are so linked, policymakers should also take this into account.
"We could spend billions on transportation and actually have traffic get worse if we don't build enough affordable homes," she said in an interview. "The goal overall is to think about transportation and housing holistically."
"We can't keep planning for transportation in a vacuum. We need to build housing in ways that reduce the need to drive in the first place," said Chris Lepe, Senior Community Planner at TransForm. "We can help people get out of their cars by providing real alternatives that are reliable, safe, and pleasant," Lepe said. "The transportation sales tax is exactly the tool we need to invest in effective public transit, sidewalks, and bike lanes."
Others were celebratory but nuanced, such as TransForm’s Stuart Cohen: “This gradual toll increase will provide an important boost to expand Bay Area transit and biking and walking infrastructure. We’re particularly excited that the measure will fund Safe Routes to Transit, operating funds for express buses, Bus Rapid Transit projects, and work on the Bay Trail — lower profile projects that will mean a lot for transit riders and low-income residents.”
But he added that “Social equity was definitely our biggest concern about RM3, which was shared by many opponents and is likely responsible for the somewhat narrow margin. Even though 75 percent of toll payers make more than $75,000, we know this may be a hardship for low-income commuters already struggling to afford living in the Bay Area.”
Meanwhile, TransForm’s Cohen is already thinking about the next steps to get transportation funded and built in the Bay Area. “Now that RM3 is in the bag, advocates are immediately looking to an upcoming ‘mega measure’ for transportation that could provide even bigger, bolder solutions to our transportation and housing woes. If RM3 has taught us anything, it’s to make that mega measure as equitable and comprehensive as possible.”
“We’re in a vicious cycle,” said Stuart Cohen, executive director at TransForm in Oakland, a transportation advocacy nonprofit, “where the more traffic, the slower the buses go, leading more people to abandon them, leading to more traffic, and so on.”
A letter from East Bay transportation advocacy group TransForm, however, noted that a BRT project coupled with core system improvements would reduce Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT) and reduce carbon emissions at a higher rate, and for a lower cost, than a Livermore BART extension.
“Building Conventional BART would cost $1.2 billion more than BRT, but would result in a time advantage of just three to nine minutes,” wrote Joël Ramos of TransForm. Ramos noted that despite the high cost of the BART extension, it would get fewer commuters out of cars to ride BART from Livermore than funding core capacity improvements.
“Trains are infrequent, delays are common and the community I’m part of more and more is refusing to take BART,” said Zack Deutsch-Gross, a graduate student of public policy at UC Berkeley [and TransForm intern]. “Why expand the system when it’s hemorrhaging riders already? We should focus on what we do have and improving that, rather than going beyond our means.”
Joel Ramos, policy director for TransForm, a Bay Area transit advocacy group, who grew up in Pittsburg when the nearest station was in Concord. “I know what it’s like to feel you were promised something. But that time of being able to build beyond our resources is long gone.”
The light-rail-like buses would use toll lanes on I-580 to ensure they never reach speeds of less than 55 or 50 miles per hour, said Joel Ramos, regional planning director for TransForm, a transportation advocacy nonprofit.
And it could get built right away, he said. “You can’t add a room to your house if your foundation is cracked and that’s essentially what BART is trying to do,” Ramos said. “If you want relief now, we need to go with the bus rapid transit.”
A speaker from TRANSFORM echoed his sentiments. He pointed out that the money is available to fund the bus rapid transit now. Funds are getting more and more scarce. He predicted that funds would not be available for such a poorly performing project as a full BART extension.