Opinion: Hike tolls to fund transit, ease traffic
- Published Tuesday, November 4, 2003, in the Redwood City Independent
It's time to get a grip on traffic problems
By Mike Nevin and James Fang
Bay Area traffic congestion is back. A biotech worker in South San
Francisco says she is driving an hour to reach her home in nearby
Foster City, and Bay Bridge commuters once again face the dreaded 45-
minute crawl through the toll plaza maze.
Today, four of every 10 people who work in San Mateo County commute
from outside the county -- 97 percent of them by car. As housing
prices here continue to rise and the region's population grows by
1.4 million people during the next 25 years, traffic will get worse.
If we don't take action now to build new transit and get cars off
the road, we'll someday heed to turn employers' parking lots into RV
campgrounds because workers won't have time to commute back-and-
forth to their far-flung homes across the bay.
Fortunately, we have a historic opportunity to tackle this problem.
A detailed, specific, well-thought-out bridge-corridor traffic
relief plan that builds new transit and provides the money to help
operate it is ready for voter approval next spring.
If we vote in March 2004 to raise the tolls on the Bay Area's seven
state-owned bridges by $1, we'll buy more than $3 billion worth of
new transit that will take cars off the region's most clogged
freeways and bridges.
For less than the price of a cup of coffee, we will get more BART,
more buses and more Caltrain. We also will get more ferries to new
places, and more HOV lanes. We know we need better connections
between transit systems, and this will pay for it. And importantly,
the dollar provides critical operating funds to keep the transit
running and the fares affordable.
We need all the new transit we can get, particularly here in San
Mateo County. We must get more cars off 101 and the bridges. These
new transit projects will do that.
Raising the tolls from $2 to $3 will generate about $125 million a
year. Among the new transit improvements that will directly benefit
San Mateo County:
* Caltrain service across the Dumbarton Bridge to Union City, which
one day will connect BART, Caltrain and the Capitol Corridor train
at Union City.
* A new Transbay Terminal in downtown San Francisco that will
accommodate Caltrain, express buses, and eventually high-speed rail.
* The seismic upgrade of the BART tube and two new extensions of
* Express bus service across the San Mateo Bridge.
* New fast, affordable ferry service connecting South San Francisco
to San Francisco and the East Bay, including 35 years of operating
funds, that will serve commuters and recreation riders, and help
keep people moving if we have an earthquake or other disaster that
closes roads and bridges.
Our region's economic future depends on making this investment now
so we can build it and have it running before growth completely
overwhelms us. Traffic will increase by as much as 500 percent over
the next 25 years because of our population growth and the 1.2
million new jobs accompanying that surge.
The proposed transit-spending plan is a balanced mix of new transit
that can be built and operated in time to make a real difference --
if we act now. If you are sick and tired of hearing about problems
that never seem to have solutions, take heart -- here is your chance
to help fix a problem and be part of the solution.
San Mateo County Supervisor Mike Nevin is chair of the Bay Area Toll
Authority <http://www.mtc.ca.gov/bata>. James Fang is a director of
BART <http://www.bart.gov> and the San Francisco Bay Area Water
Transit Authority <http://www.watertransit.org>.