Loud and Clear: Residents Want More Transit Options

But, will the funding be available to improve those services?

Marin residents have spoken and they want more bus service, better pedestrian and bike pathways, safer streets and intersections, and more transit accessibility for seniors and those with disabilities. Now, the question is: will the Metropolitan Transportation Commission listen?

Yesterday, March 26, over 100 Marin residents gathered at the to discuss what they’d like to see included in the Bay Area’s Regional Transportation Plan.

“Every four year, we ask ourselves what are our priorities,” said Bonnie Nelson, of Nelson\Nygaard Transportation Associates, a consultant on the project who led the workshop.

The workshop was part of a process for the Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) to consider transportation plans and projects. TAM then makes proposals to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). MTC updates its Regional Transportation Plan every four years to allocate funding, prioritize certain projects, and reevaluate Bay Area-wide transportation planning. The proposals that TAM, and other county agencies, make by the end of April will be considered for funding in the future.

Over the next 30 years, MTC has $32 billion in discretionary funding to dole out, but as it plans for the region as a whole it allocates all forms of transportation revenue, totaling $223 billion, including Measure A funds in Marin, which generates around $20 million per year, and the recently approved vehicle registration fee in Marin, which generates around $2 million per year.

The last time the plan was updated, four years ago, projects in Marin included the addition of High Occupancy Vehicle lanes on Highway 101 through San Rafael, the restructuring of the 580-101 interchange, the improvement of bike corridors like the Cal Park Tunnel, and work with Safe Routes to School to provide more biking and walking options for kids. Projects still on the list from the last go-around include widening the Novato Narrows and $65 million allocated to revamp the Greenbrae/Sir Francis Drake/Highway 101 interchange.

“Are these projects still the projects we want?” asked Nelson.

Maybe, residents said.

As people broke up into small groups to brainstorm and propose transportation priorities for the county, the importance of improving public transit came up over and over.

“We don’t have to be those people [crowding the freeway during commute time]. We can be smarter,” said Emily Larsen of San Rafael.

A large group from the Grassroots Leadership Network representing Marin City asked to prioritize more bus stops and more frequent buses, including shuttles around areas like the Canal and Marin City, which are currently underserved by public transit.

Roberto, whose kids go to , spoke through a translator about the need for better lighting, sidewalks and safety, including crossing guards for kids, on certain streets and at certain intersections. Increased bus services and better access – such as the Canalfront bridge that would connect the Canal to Montecito Plaza – would make it easier for residents in the Canal to get to Montecito, to , and to downtown and the Transit Center.

The list of proposed ideas in the end included Safe Routes for Seniors, public transit that actually goes to the Larkspur Landing Ferry Terminal, increased lighting and safe sidewalks for pedestrians, free rides for seniors, more bus access for seniors, transit-oriented low-income and senior housing, shuttle systems in key underserved areas, bike and pedestrian paths, encouraging carpooling through a county-wide card ID system certifying someone as a driver/rider, increased bus service, express buses for long rides, water taxis, educational programs, maintaining roadways, improved safety at the Marin City transit center, and even adding a second deck on the Golden Gate Bridge.

With all the different ideas of how to get there, the community seemed rallied around the same goal of improving the non-driving options for residents. 

“We’re not necessarily interested in building out the driving infrastructure,” said Jelani, of the in San Anselmo. “Make it more expensive and less desirable for people to drive.”

Of course, not all the ideas will be implemented.

Even just to maintain all the local roads at their current level and pave them adequately over the next 30 years will take $850 million more than local governments in the Bay Area have available for road maintenance, according to the MTC. And, with the economic downturn, cuts have been wide and extensive for public transit. As gas prices continue to ride, more people will turn to buses, but those buses may not be there, said Nelson.

In addition, Marin has long been at odds with the regional growth numbers used by the Association of Bay Area Governments and MTC to determine predicted job growth, housing allocations and, in turn, transportation projects. The projections have Marin growing by 10,678 households and 21,418 jobs by 2035. The majority of that growth will come in San Rafael (6,676 jobs), Novato (5,368 jobs) and Corte Madera (2,720 jobs), but smaller towns also have large growth projections. Mill Valley is projected to grow 1,719 jobs by 2035, Sausalito 1,198 jobs, San Anselmo 416 jobs and Larkspur 451 jobs.

As these community ideas are taken from this workshop and formulated into actual projects, TAM will attempt to reconcile Marin’s goals and proposals with MTC’s goals and proposals, which are focused on high-density development and transit-oriented growth.

“Are these goals your goals?” asked Nelson of the workshop attendees.

TAM will hold two more workshops on April 5 in the Canal and on April 7 in Marin City. Projects will be approved and submitted to MTC by April 28. And MTC will make it’s decisions by December.

You can take TAM’s survey on what projects you’d like to see at tam.ca.gov.


Kevin Moore January 03, 2012 at 12:46 AM
Not sure why you revived this 9 month old article. "Mill Valley is projected to grow 1,719 jobs by 2035, Sausalito 1,198 jobs," How are these two "built out" areas going to add almost 3,000 jobs? Everybody wants everything, but there is only so much money to go around. Or maybe China will loan us a trillion, like the Feds?
R Darcy January 03, 2012 at 05:29 AM
"Not sure why you revived this 9 month old article..." I think it's because someone made a comment. it makes the story rise to the top again, kind of like if you attached a hot air balloon to it.
Pam Drew January 03, 2012 at 06:46 PM
Density is THE issue. Mass transit works in New York, Boston, and Tokyo BECAUSE of the density. What is little known is that the plan for the Bay Area for the next 25 years to vastly INCREASE the population by infill, thus to INCREASE the density in order to PRODUCE the conditions necessary for successful, sustainable mass transit.
Bob Kerns January 03, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Density is not THE issue, it is A factor in the economics, but hardly the only one. Read my earlier comments about far-flung Tokyo suburbs. Even more important than density is rider behavior, which is not driven by density, but by factors of convenience -- proximity, schedule, reliability. And the same factors of lack of density make providing roads far more expensive on a per-rider basis as well. 100 years ago, Massachusetts had an extensive streetcar system, extending out as far as Springfield, MA (in western MA). That would be sort of like going from San Francisco to Ukiah. Western MA, even today, is far less densely settled than Marin, or even Sonoma. It was successful, and it was economically viable, until it was displaced by government-subsidized roadways built for the automobile. Except for the occasional toll road, we have a double standard, expecting roads for free, but expecting transit projects, at a far lower cost, to pay for themselves. Infill is inevitable. I wouldn't call it a "plan", but rather a very obvious prediction. The alternative is to destroy our open space -- and even that would add to the average density, but would make it much harder to provide proximity. But given the inevitability, it certainly does make sense to plan for it.
John Ferguson January 04, 2012 at 01:27 AM
I feel pretty lucky to be living in an area that has so much protected space. Does it increase my housing costs? Sure it does, but having undeveloped space literally a stone's throw from my back door is well worth the addtional costs I incur from living here. I have absolutely no problem living cheek by jowl with my neighbors as long as we all have undeveloped land around us. As far as transportation goes, I rarely drive anywhere and find it pretty easy to get around without using the car. Maybe it's just me..


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