Support Local Climate Solutions: Update Measure M for better transit and safe bike routes.
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We urge the Sonoma County Transportation Authority (SCTA) Board of Directors to make climate mitigation and equity the guiding principles behind the Measure M reauthorization under consideration for the November 2020 ballot. We believe that a reauthorized Measure M should modestly increase current levels of funding for local street rehabilitation (paving), refocus local street projects on “complete street” projects, and significantly boost investment in alternative transportation options that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help working families.
Specifically, we support a measure that includes the following elements:
● Minimum 60% of Measure M funds dedicated to equitable alternative transportation (40% transit, 20% bike & pedestrian);
● FREE county-wide bus system;
● Frequency that makes public transit feasible and reliable for workers, students, seniors, disabled and other vulnerable users;
● Fund for "quick-build" projects that support safe and efficient bicycle and pedestrian routes.
A quarter cent sales tax can generate more than $450 million over twenty years for transportation infrastructure and operations in Sonoma County. Unless the current tax allocation is revised to address our declared climate emergency, 80% of those funds would go to roads and freeways and only 19% to climate-friendly alternative transportation. Since Measure M’s passage in 2004, 40% of the funds have been dedicated to widening the 101 freeway—a project which is now fully funded. This is our chance to update the measure to respond to the imminent threat of climate change and unleash the many public benefits of bicycling, walking, and public transit.
Climate change is the most urgent challenge of our time. The RCPA’s own climate emergency resolution states that “an urgent global climate mobilization effort to reverse global warming is needed to achieve zero net emissions as quickly as possible.” Scientists tells us that we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by almost 8% per year if we want to meet the Paris Agreement target of staying at or below 1.5 degree Celsius temperature rise.
Every year we delay before making such significant reductions pushes the annual target higher and harder to reach. Transportation accounts for nearly two thirds of the county's greenhouse gas emissions. The SCTA board has an incredible opportunity to spark a transformation of our cities and streets into thriving, safe, equitable, climate-healthy communities that help solve climate change and inspire other cities and counties to follow suit.
The multiple benefits that can flow from investment in alternative transportation cannot be overstated: Safer streets; Healthier communities; Thriving streetscapes supporting local businesses; Low income families with more money in their bank accounts at the end of the month; Facilitation of new housing inside cities and rural towns; Cleaner air; A healing planet.
With this in mind, we support bold changes to Measure M towards achieving carbon neutrality. Rather than simply allocating increased transit funds as general operating funds or a list of projects from cities and public agencies, Measure M should guide how these funds are spent.
A minimum 60% of Measure M funds should be dedicated to equitable alternative transportation (40% transit, 20% bicycle & pedestrian.) The remaining 40% of funds should remain dedicated to local street uses. However, because pavement conditions in Sonoma County remain among the poorest in the region and pothole repair remains top-of-mind for voters, we recommend increasing the allocation to 25% for Local Street Rehabilitation (LSR), while reducing to 15% the allocation to Local Street Projects (LSP), which historically have been underutilized. To ensure a static funding formula doesn't continue to exacerbate the objective inequities we see in pavement quality throughout the county, local jurisdictions that have already achieved a high Pavement Condition Index (PCI) should have their allocations capped, and returned to the pool of funds reserved for pavement rehabilitation in unincorporated areas and areas of low PCI. This will help ensure equitable access to good roads.
We also recommend that the Local Streets Project (LSP) program be re-titled to "Local Complete Street Projects" while adding new criteria to sharpen its focus. This would continue to set aside funds for use at the discretion of local governments, while ensuring that they aren't misspent on local roadway capacity increases or other ancillary amenities (e.g., wider lanes, freeway on-ramps, overpasses, soundwalls, landscaping, etc.) that either undermine priority VMT reduction efforts or do nothing to help us achieve our more urgent VMT and Vision Zero objectives. To be clear, such amenities would remain fundable, but only to the extent that they fall within the context of a Local Complete Streets Project.
In summary, our recommendation allocation of funding is:
25% - Local street rehabilitation ($5.5-6.25 million/yr)
15% - Local complete street projects ($3.3-3.75 million/yr)
40% - Free and improved local transit ($8.8-10 million/yr)
20% - Safe bike & pedestrian routes ($4.4-5 million/yr)
Other ideas worthy of consideration include:
● Accelerated replacement and electrification of the transit fleet to achieve 100% EV by 2025;
● A feeder fleet of electric vans that would shuttle residents to the nearest bus or train stop;
● Weekend shuttle buses to take residents and visitors to parks, trailheads and the coast;
● Increased EV ownership for low-income residents and people of color, leveraging and enhancing the reach of state programs in Sonoma County;
● Adoption of a bike share program in downtown areas;
● New policies and infrastructure to double the use of electric bicycles, scooters, and other lightweight personal mobility solutions by 2025;
● Expanded parking pricing and other highly effective Transportation Demand Management programs, with credits for low-income travelers;
● If any funds go towards SMART train, they should be dedicated to affordability for lower income passengers and/or “bus bridge” to Healdsburg and Cloverdale and/or a shuttle to the Larkspur Ferry.
We also urge the board to consider supporting and coordinating an additional climate action funding measure sooner than 2022. We believe such a potential funding measure can gain support and achieve climate mitigation and adaptation by focusing on the need for resiliency in the face of catastrophic fire threat and an unreliable power grid. It would likely include: carbon sequestration in the form of carbon farming and afforestation of burn scar areas; increasing the resiliency of our electrical grid through creation of microgrids; increasing the renewable energy content of our electricity; reducing fossil fuel energy use in our buildings; and supplementing Measure M funding for low-carbon transportation.
WHY WE CARE:
Climate change – We can better steward the Earth and leave a livable planet for our children, avoiding more catastrophic wildfires and floods.
Fairness – By investing in better public transit, we can help our family members, friends, and neighbors who cannot afford to own a car, or share one car between two working adults, and are struggling to make ends meet.
Health – Supporting more active transportation options (walking, biking) supports a more healthy population and lower health care costs.
Community – Cultures around the country and world that prioritize walking, biking and transit often have lively, vibrant streets that support rich community.
Economy – Walkable, bikable streets are good for our local businesses as they struggle to compete with online retail. Strong public transit also helps workers commute efficiently and affordably.
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