On February 22, a majority of MTC commissioners honored their prior decisions and rejected an attempt to prioritize politics over performance.
As described in a previous post, MTC was considering how to use the “Project Performance Assessment” (PPA) of 80 of the biggest projects in the region to inform the selection of specific transportation projects for the preferred transportation investment package for Plan Bay Area (the Regional Transportation Plan & Sustainable Communities Strategy). The draft process would have used the PPA to identify low-performing projects that should be excluded. And it would also have allowed each county to present a “compelling case” for specific low-performing projects, based on one of two arguments: if MTC's travel model didn’t properly recognize the project's benefits or because the project is needed to meet federal requirements.
At the February 17 MTC Planning Committee meeting, a few commissioners tried to add a third category of reasons (“Category 3”) to allow more low-performing projects to make a case for their eligibility. The Planning Committee debated but did not decide, and sent the item along to the full commission. TransForm sent another letter to MTC objecting to “Category 3”. We argued that "Category 3" would let too many more projects off the hook, often on the basis of polls and politics instead of performance. We pointed out that MTC will already have to make tough decisions about how to allocate scarce money among many high-performing projects; the region should not add more low-performing targets to the mix.
We are pleased to report that after much discussion and deliberation, the full commission decided on February 22 to reject the new “Category 3.” Thank you to the 9 commissioners who placed performance over politics: Commissioners Bates, Campos, Dodd, Halsted, Kinsey, Liccardo, MacKenzie, Wiener, and Worth. Please help us thank them by clicking here. The discussion got started when Commissioner Wiener urged his colleagues not to change the rules of the game part-way through just because someone doesn't like some of the outcomes. Among other comments, Commissioner Liccardo also stated that MTC is a regional body and needs to act like one.
Now the counties will decide which low-performing projects to make a "compelling case" for. And MTC will put together a financially-constrained package of transportation improvements. As they do so, we will encourage them to include the slam-dunk high performers, such as the BART Metro Project, and exclude poor performers (see our recent report for a list!).
What you can do:
Watch your county CMA’s agenda for when they will discuss whether and how to create a “compelling case” for specific low-performing projects. Speak out for performance! For more info, see our page on the RTP in your county.
Be ready to comment at the March/April Planning Committee meeting, where county agencies will be asked to “justify” low-performing projects.
4. Contact us to find out how else you can get involved.
Posted February 28, 2012, by Jeff Hobson and Manolo González-Estay.