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.


sanford miles March 28, 2011 at 01:34 PM
S.Y.S. March 29, 2011 at 04:13 AM
Public transportation is really BAD in Novato. How do they expect people to use it when it is not available? We also tried Dial-a-Ride once, when they just started, then, no more, they always have excuses for not taking reservation.
Pam Drew April 09, 2011 at 06:03 PM
Kelly Dunleavy: When your article's second paragraph combined with the first implies that 100 people at a workshop on Saturday have spoken for the 250,000 people of Marin County, you clearly reveal a flaw in the perspective being offered. When you see the location of the next 2 workshops, you reveal that mass transit is being slanted toward people living in workforce housing in the Canal and in Marin City. Yes, these are the most frequently used mass transit bus nodes. Yes, people living in the Canal district and in Marin City will most likely know best how to improve their access to transportation and SHOULD benefit from improved access. It does not follow however that the people have spoken. It follows that 100 people from a self-selecting group, actively-engaged in this issue have spoken. MTC will listen and certainly they will maintain a record of the public participation. How representative that sample of 100 = N is is the REAL question, alongside of how skewed will the results be. Does anybody out there think that anecdotal evidence does not give a completely reliable picture? The present model of stakeholder groups presents a quandary both to the general population and to the planners. No one can represent the silent majority though many have tried and failed. Unfortunately the silent majority is so underwater that perhaps they won't even notice.
Kelly Dunleavy O'Mara April 10, 2011 at 12:12 AM
Sure, it's not everyone in Marin that comes to these workshops. But, I don't think that can be blamed on TAM or MTC. They are actively seeking input from the community right now to help get a sense of Marin residents' transportation priorities -- both through the workshops and through the online survey -- and to try and foster new projects. Yes, they can only take into account the views of those that respond, but that's true with anything (I only know the views on this site of people who feel compelled to comment or email me, which is certainly not yet everyone who reads it) and it seems unfair to fault them for not knowing what people who haven't spoken up have to say. I also think that in an instance, such as this, it actually works for the sample group to be self-selecting. Those that don't use public transit probably don't have a lot to say about public transit.
Edwin Drake April 10, 2011 at 04:46 AM
I was at the meeting, and the article misrepresents what happened there. Aside from that, there are ways to conduct community outreach that get to more people than just those willing to show up on a afternoon to be lead by facilitators. It's completely fair to fault government for deliberately failing to get past "the usual suspects." (Can anyone say 'Bicycle Coalition?') That's one of the jobs of government, to best represent what ALL the people want.
Kelly Dunleavy O'Mara April 10, 2011 at 05:03 AM
Well, besides "misrepresenting what happened" the article also said there is a survey to share your opinions, wants, comments too here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/TAM_RTP_Survey ALL people can take it.
Darren Sargent April 18, 2011 at 03:42 PM
"This survey is currently closed. Please contact the author of this survey for further assistance." I guess they're not *that* keen on receiving feedback.
Pam Drew April 18, 2011 at 04:14 PM
Looks like the heat in the kitchen got too hot.... Pam Drew
Edwin Drake April 21, 2011 at 01:38 AM
It's a dog-and-pony show anyway. TAM knows exactly which projects they want to propose, long before any "community input." When it comes to transportation projects, "the fix is in."
OctaviusIII April 22, 2011 at 09:10 PM
Improving bus reliability of the primary corridors would be a good start: "A bus leaves for the Transit Center at least every 30 minutes, if not less." Right now they're so sporadic you need to know the schedules of the 22, 23, 24, and 27 buses to get there, and headways between buses vary from 5 to 45 minutes. Terrible! Tweaking the schedules to provide corridor reliability is a cheap way to improve service.
Bob Kerns May 04, 2011 at 11:23 AM
If you invest in paved roadways to every nook and cranny in a community -- you get traffic. If you cut feeder routes and bus schedules, don't provide adequate parking at transit hubs, don't maintain or build sidewalks, divide communities with freeways with limited options to cross, and crowd the pedestrians onto narrow walkways while cars get four wide lanes, and if you route bicycles in conflict with cars and generally make it plain that the only supported means of transport is the automobile -- you get traffic. Our system of roadways is so successful because it has reached critical mass. You can hop into your car, when you want, and go where you want -- unless everyone else has the same idea. In New York, Boston, or Tokyo, you can walk out of your house, take a bus or walk to a subway station, and expect to reach your destination in a reasonable time, reliably. They have invested in transit, and it has reached critical mass -- often making it faster, less expensive, and more reliable than the automobile. I was skeptical that the Cal Park tunnel would be viable, but I have been quite pleasantly surprised, and will be using it on occasion. Every time we do something to make life better for cars, we should be doing 10 things to make life better for humans.
Edwin Drake May 05, 2011 at 11:47 PM
Hey great! One guy will be using the Cal Park tunnel "occasionally." Hurrah! All that money is well spent.
Simon May 07, 2011 at 05:47 PM
'Bout time, gosh darn! I've been taking Golden Gate Transit for over a decade and, by Jove, a horse and buggy would've been a faster way to get places. Can't tell you how many novels I polished during daily 45-minute waits at bus stops. One bus an hour with most routes, perpetually jacked fares, and drivers are so used to no one taking the buses that you have to scream and wave to get them to hit the stop. BUT, the MTC is not the main problem. The root of the issue is that there is not enough demand for transit improvements because most Marinites are autosapien, afraid-of-walking car addicts. Even that walk to the stop, let alone the wait time, seriously cuts into the efficiency of their busy schedules.
Bob Kerns June 06, 2011 at 11:36 PM
Edwin -- I really didn't expect it to be used much. I expected it to be dark, a hangout for the homeless, gangs, teens, etc, and avoided by everyone else. To my surprise, it is well-lit, secure, and has quite a bit of traffic. Was the money well spent? I don't know how to answer that, really. Is all that money well-spent on widening 101 over the same hill, twice while I've lived here, only to see traffic grow to fill it up again? What I can say is that we spend a lot of money on the wrong kinds of transportation infrastructure. And that our network of bike/pedestrian trails here in Marin is a treasure. And if people get out of their cars, and give other modes of travel try, they'll find them to be much more pleasant, busy but not crowded, and even have a chance to stop and chat with neighbors. Cars don't do any of that. Of course, they do keep you dry in the rain. But personally, I'd rather be out in the rain, dressed appropriately, than sitting in a metal box, sweating, dressed appropriately for the rain when I get out of the car, and peering through fogged-up windows trying to see those while lines under the glare of the oncoming headlights. But that's me.
Edwin Drake June 06, 2011 at 11:50 PM
Here's the BIG lie. What, now, is preventing people from using bicycles? What in the last 10 years has prevented bicycle commuting? Some people are doing it, so it's certainly possible. But why not more people? Because people like cars! People like an individualized mode of transportation. I'll accede, internal-combustion exhaust gases are hurting the planet. But that's a separate issue from utilizing our current auto-centric transportation structure, which we've spent over a century building, longer than we spent expanding the railways. So, make cars electric, make them fuel-cell, make them zero emission, make them smaller ... but don't try to undo what is CLEARLY the popular choice for transportation. While you're at it, the buses should be predictable and easily accessed. (But they run on the SAME roads as the autos.) Mass transit should be inexpensive and flexible. The bike people may be healthy but they don't "get it." Just as they've been sold down the river on the SMART bike-path, they don't understand that they will never be more than a small segment of the population who use two-wheels to get around. The old, the young, families, shoppers, anyone who needs to move more than simply themselves will choose the auto. Why? It's practical and it works!
Scott June 07, 2011 at 04:14 PM
"In New York, Boston, or Tokyo, you can walk out of your house, take a bus or walk to a subway station, and expect to reach your destination in a reasonable time, reliably. " Silly and irrelevant comparison. Those are urban cities where housing and employment are very close to transportation stops. One can quickly walk from their home to transportation and then from transportation to their work. In Marin, it's the last mile that's the issue. Public transportation cannot reach close enough to people's home's to make it worthwhile. If people have to walk half an hour each way to get to public transportation, they won't. Worse yet, it would be job killing if they did given the loss in productivity that would result. Add in the hills that dominate where people of Marin live and cycling is equally unattractive.
Scott June 07, 2011 at 04:16 PM
Exactly! Some people like to determine what other people should want to do because it fits their agenda. They have no regard for how others would like to live their lives.
Bob Kerns June 08, 2011 at 03:08 AM
S -- not silly or irrelevant. An example of scenarios that actually work, for study and comparison. You highlight some of what you perceive to be the differences -- mostly accurately. But I would point out that if you don't think that Tokyo has suburbs, and that those suburbs don't have mountains (not just "hills" like here in Marin), then you've never really explored outside the core city. People there use transit, because it works. They also sometimes use cars, because sometimes cars work better. But they use bikes to get to bus or train stops. They have HUGE bike parking lots. They have invested in public transportation, just like we have invested in public highways. The point is not that cars have no place, but rather, that we have given them such priority to actually DAMAGE and INTERFERE with such basics as walking. I just returned from a 21 mile round trip via Segway (from home in East Corte Madera to my office on Smith Ranch Road in San Rafael, via the Cal Park Tunnel, and back). Along the way, I got to see first-hand the conditions that pedestrians must endure. Some places are nicely connected, with room for people to pass both ways. But there are many gaps with no sidewalk, or broken sidewalks, or sidewalks so narrow two people cannot pass, or overgrown with bushes. Meanwhile, cars have a total of 10 lanes, between the freeway and the frontage road.
Bob Kerns June 08, 2011 at 03:08 AM
Density is really NOT the issue. That just means riders ride longer distances. Getting to and from the stops is relevant-- and having so few stops, with such infrequent service, with no good options for getting there other than a long walk is quite relevant to the problem. You can ignore the harm that is done by all these cars if you want, and just focus on the benefits each driver reaps. That's what we do every time we get into a car. We also ignore the risks we assume to life and limb in the name of convenience. But don't try to argue that we should just do cars because people want cars. People want cars largely because the situation as it presently exists make cars more convenient. People want cars because the individual benefit outweighs TO THEM the general harm. People will want cars LESS in a more balanced transportation environment. I used to work in the city. I could have driven -- but I took the ferry. All the time I would have spent in a car would have been wasted time taken from my life. But on public transportation, you can read, work on a laptop, or even take a nap. Cars are not more convenient. They're just the only option we have. An expensive one.
John Ferguson June 08, 2011 at 06:34 PM
+1 on the people who use the Cal Park hill tunnel more than occasionally. I use it 4 or 5 days a week. There are plenty more like me who I see using it every day.
John Ferguson June 08, 2011 at 06:43 PM
I have no problem with people liking cars, but the argument that bikes aren't individualized and that you have to be a super buff adult to ride them just doesn't hold water. One reasonable argument around here is that the hills keep people from using them. Fair enough, but there are ways to combat that issue as well. Electric motors are getting more and more efficient and electric bikes can easily flatten out the steepest hill. The big problem with cars regardless of their propulsion method is their size and popularity. Congestion happens, and we can't build our way out of this problem. If we want to keep our roadways uncongested we have to consider alternatives to solo driving. Carpooling would work, so would increased use of mass transit and so would getting people to use smaller conveyances such as bicycles, motorcycles, etc. I think most of the anti-bike sentiment in Marin is cultural. It's an us-vs-them argument, but you can make that argument about almost anything if you like (just look at the Republican party..) Let's set culture aside and look for efficiency whereever it might be found. If you don't want to ride a bike then don't, but don't stand in the way of creating a more efficient transportation network that benefits everyone..
John Ferguson June 08, 2011 at 07:24 PM
When you consider time lost as an expense (and you really should), cars are getting more expensive all the time. Forget the increasing cost of fuel, the real cost is time lost to commuting regardless of method. This cost may be reduced if you take public transportation and work on the bus or ferry but because those methods take longer anyways it's probably a wash in the end. If you drive your car to work or school during commute times, I can't imagine why you would be opposed to spending money on bike lanes, sidewalk improvements and transit improvements. I mean, even if you don't use them the fact that others will ends up in a win for you - less traffic.
John Ferguson January 02, 2012 at 09:42 PM
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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