Julie Lind Rupp

Julie Lind Rupp 

James Ruigomez

James Ruigomez

We can all dream of a future when today’s unbearable traffic congestion is a thing of the past. Traffic would flow freely on Highway 101, Interstate 280, State Route 92 and the Dumbarton corridor because smart, safe, reliable technology will have improved mobility on our traffic corridors, expanded the use of public express buses and maximized the capacity of our highway network.

But that future is a long way off, and we must balance the potential of future technology with the daily reality that faces San Mateo County residents and workers who must get to where they need to go regardless of their job or income level.

Traffic congestion has become a part of our daily lives. Routine travel has now become an incredibly stressful daily experience that is increasingly robbing us of valuable time with our families; and making it even more difficult to get around — especially for working families and low-income residents.

Surveys show that congestion on our highways and major roads is the number one transportation challenge facing our county; and that traffic has a profoundly negative impact on every sector of our local economy and our overall quality of life. This is true whether you work in a restaurant, public school, grocery store, a tech company or if you’re enjoying your retirement.

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about how to relieve traffic congestion on the Peninsula, and these talks need to occur. There are many differing opinions about how to improve the situation, whether those solutions are for now, or in the future.

Some say focus on Highway 101, fix the bottleneck at 101 and 92, and improve congestion at other interchanges such as Willow Road, Woodside Road and Grand Avenue. Others believe that improving east/west commutes on the San Mateo-Hayward and Dumbarton bridges is the top priority. And some believe that mass transit and improved bicycle and pedestrian options are the only true solution.

The fact is there’s a clear need to make improvements in all of these areas to provide congestion relief for every resident, in every community and across all project categories. Pitting projects and solutions against each other in a zero-sum game is not the answer and will fail to reduce traffic congestion.

We must take a realistic and balanced approach to reducing traffic congestion by investing in infrastructure projects that address today’s traffic jams and bottlenecks, while also ensuring that these investments create new mobility options for existing transit dependent residents, and incentivizing more solo drivers to make smarter travel choices. These projects and solutions must improve the lives of everyone — no matter where they fall on the socioeconomic range locally.

A project to modernize Highway 101 between San Jose and San Francisco by adding an express lane is already underway and is poised to receive $233 million from the state and $50 million from private companies. This project will reduce congestion in the four existing general purpose lanes on 101 and will move buses, carpools and toll-paying drivers to a fifth dedicated lane designed to accommodate new services that reward transit riders and carpool passengers with faster travel times. This project would also create good jobs for local construction workers and reinvest public dollars back into the local economy.

Not all commuters are fortunate enough to work for a company that provides bus service for employees as an alternative to driving alone. New express lanes will create the opportunity to run new express bus service that connects San Mateo County commuters with their jobs throughout the region.

In fact, the state awarded $15 million to the San Mateo County Transit District to launch the first of these services and, with revenue generated through express lanes, we can expand that network and invest in other strategies to reduce solo car trips, and provide better travel options for low-income populations, seniors, youth and the more than 65,000 county residents who cannot afford a car.

Reducing traffic on Highway 101, our most congested highway, is a critical and an increasingly more urgent part of these efforts. Doing nothing is not an option.

We are all in this together, and we can have effective solutions if we just work together to balance the multitude of needs with a common-sense plan of action that make San Mateo County a better place for all to live, work, raise a family and retire.

Julie Lind Rupp is the executive officer/executive secretary treasurer of the San Mateo County Central Labor Council. James Ruigomez is the business manager for the Building and Construction Trades Council of San Mateo County.

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(6) comments

Marge Colapietro

And don't forget about affordable housing in and around transit hubs. Great opportunity for those who eager for public transportation so they won't have to waste valuable time in congestion zones.

TRANSDEF

You might enjoy a blog I posted, discussing this piece: http://occupymtc.org/union-leaders-and-their-fantasies/

pangolin76

I totally agree with acozette. There are lots of dubious statements here and very little substance or hard data:

- "Pitting projects and solutions against each other in a zero-sum game is not the answer and will fail to reduce traffic congestion." - This naive. Everyone has choices in how to get from point A to point Z. It will always be faster to do so in your car (even with congestion) than via train, bike, or on foot. If it is a lot faster via car, other transportation modes will lose out. If car travel is only mildly faster, more will chose train and bike. Adding another lane on 101 will (temporarily) make car travel faster, increasing the number of people who drive and decreasing the number of people who take the train or bike.

- Reducing solo drivers. - How does adding traffic lanes on 101 reduce the number of solo drivers on 101. You claim that more lanes will reduce congestion on 101. This will further encourage more people to drive instead of train or bike.

- The added managed lane will reduce traffic in the other lanes - This fails to consider induced demand. If traffic gets faster in the existing lanes, this will encourage more drivers to shift from 280 to 101 and others to shift from train/bike to solo driving. Eventually we will reach the same congestion equilibrium.

"This project would also create good jobs for local construction workers and reinvest public dollars back into the local economy." - Based on anecdotes from friends trying to start construction jobs, builders have no shortage of work and are commanding premium rates. They don't need additional tax money to do well. Regarding "investing public dollars in the local economy", if the sales tax doesn't pass, won't the money still be in the pockets of San Mateo County residents? Why do I need to pay a tax to ensure that the money stays in SM County???

- "New express bus services" My understanding is that SamTrans has recently scaled back express bus service due to poor demand. Why is this suddenly attractive? If the private sector tech buses are working, why do we need to create public buses to serve the same purpose?

- "Express lane revenue" will allow us to increase spending elsewhere - I have read that, after expenses, the express lanes will yield little money.

- Good for low income populations? - What will be the impact on the low income residents who live adjacent to 101? Increasing auto travel will increase incidence of lung and heart disease for those who live in the most affordable sections of the Peninsula.

In the end, this simply amounts to a continuation of the status quo - continued investment in auto traffic as the primary means of travel on the Peninsula. The winners will be solo drives, especially those who live in Morgan Hill, Modesto, and other far away locales and thus will see the largest improvement in driving times.

Claus knudsen

One way to ease traffic would be to get rid of carpool lanes and metering lights. Carpool lanes encourage ride sharing, but also contribute to air pollution by creating more traffic in the other lanes. Cars produce more pollution while idling than when they are moving. Metering lights are just plain stupid. All they do is cause more congestion and rear end collisions. It's only a matter of time before someone dies, especially by cause of the metering lights at the merge between two freeways, such as between 380 and 101.

Ray

Metering lights just make drivers do what they should do themselves: leave space between cars, especially when merging.

acozzette

At this point it has been well established by many studies that highway widening projects do not reduce congestion in the long term. The authors are ignoring this fact because as representatives for labor and the construction industry, they stand to gain financially from highway spending.

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