Interesting Article in today’s Chronicle about a study by the National Resources Defense Council that links transportation expenses and foreclosures, and argues that access to alternative transit modes should play a larger factor in lending. Check it out.
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In today’s Chronicle, there’s a great Letter to the Editor about the freeway revolt from Phillip Richardson, a San Francisco highway planner in the 1960s from Tiburon.
Thank you for the interesting article about the city taking back control of regional highways in its usual self-centered way (“Freeway Revolt set S.F.’s course,” Insight, Oct. 11).
The result transportation-wise is that there are congested streets – Oak, Fell, 19th Avenue and Lincoln Avenue – that would now be free of all through traffic and livable again. The two routes that you mention, Park-Panhandle and Golden Gate, were the only serious programs ever put forth by the state. They both were underground or depressed and would not have been noticed by city residents.
However, the Division of Highways was not set up to sell such a program, and the NIMBYs, as you call them, were totally ignorant of what they were contesting.
The result is serious regional highway disconnect and a quite reduced level of livability for the city.
Division of Highways planner
There’s so much good stuff to dissect here. Richardson’s core argument rests upon the belief that San Francisco’s freeway revolt was led by a group of “self centered” NIMBY residents “totally ignorant of what they were contesting.” Richardson argues that some of San Francisco’s busiest streets–such as the 19th Ave, Lincoln, and the Panhandle–would be “free of all traffic and livable again” with “underground or depressed [freeways that] would not have been noticed by residents.” Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Richardson fails to recognize his own self-centeredness as a suburban Marin driver, believing that San Francisco should completely change its cityscape to fit his desires. Maybe he should actually go to Hayes Valley or the Embarcadero and ask residents if freeways made their neighborhoods more livable (I suspect the answer will be a “HELL NO!”). The notion that residents would not even notice freeways is nonsense–imagine a depressed freeway in place of the Panhandle, or the surrounding traffic impacts of offramps and onramps along 19th Avenue. The current situation on Fell/Oak, 19th Ave, and Lincoln is nothing near ideal, but it still beats bulldozing victorians and businesses for a traffic aquaduct (a really big traffic sewer? I tried).
Richardson’s backwards logic is a true relic of the postwar freeway boom in which central cities were expected to bend over backwards for the desires of their suburban residents. If Richardson had his way, San Francisco would be split with freeways and even more gridlocked due to induced demand and insufficient capacity. The most important lesson we can learn from is the arrogance implicit in Richardson’s argument–his assumption of the infallibility of the freeway plan and his dismissal of local objections as ignorant and irrational. San Francisco’s freeway plan was not a fundamentally sound plan doomed by a poor marketing strategy; it was a selfish attempt by power-hungry suburbanites to fashion San Francisco into their own image at the expense of the city’s residents (especially the working class and Black populations). The Freeway Revolt was one of the most pivitol moments in San Francisco’s history and the history of urban planning as a whole. Without it, San Francisco would be an awful city to live in.
Public transit agencies across the country are being hit extremely hard by the economic downturn, especially at a time when ridership is at an all-time high. Here in the Bay Area, the problem is compounded by the loss of 55 million dollars of State Transit Assistance funds in the California state budget. As a result, every single agency faces massive shortfalls, with Muni, Bart, AC Transit, VTA, and others raising fares and cutting service to cover million dollar deficits. In fact, Caltrain will likely become the first agency to declare a fiscal emergency, allowing it to cut service and raise fares without an environmental review.
With 85 agencies cutting service, this is the beginning of a nationwide crisis. Yet, while the federal government has given the automobile industry 17+ billion with the potential for more in the future, public transit has recieved nothing. Nobody has put a figure to the shortfall, but I’d speculate that if you provided funds to cover one years worth of a shortfall, it would be around one billion.
Maybe its just me, but one billion for a years worth of support to agencies which reduce our emissions and oil use, provide mobility for millions of carless Americans, and help foster more livable communities sounds a lot better than 17 billion for a couple month toward an industry which has gone out of its way to perpetuate our dependence on oil and has provided no practical means to become a viable company geared toward the public interest. One thing is for sure: the 2009-2010 fiscal year will be one of the toughest for public transit agencies in recent memory.
This is the inagural post of my new blog, 21st Century Urban Solutions. This blog will primarily focus on transportation and urban design issues on the national, state, and local scales, and their relationship to the various challenges we face in the 21st century, including Climate Change, dependence on foreign oil, congestion, public health, the economic downturn, and beyond.
A little about me: my name is Daniel Jacobson and I am an undergraduate student at Stanford University in Urban Studies. I am from Richmond, California, and have closely followed Bay Area urban planning issues since 2005. I have interned the past few summers at nonprofit San Francisco firms such as Livable City and Urban Ecology, and spent much of my high school career working at the Donald P. McCullum Youth Court in Oakland. I intend to go into urban planning because I believe that it is the most effective way to change the short-sighted, narrow-minded urban policies of the past (and present) and create more livable, sustainable cities in the future (cliche, I know, but it will take many,many posts to fully articulate this point).