Sunday, June 29, 2014

Larkspur gets a Reality Check

Larkspur gets a Reality Check from Planning for Reality
Larkspur Gets a Reality Check
While groups such as CALM  claim that  Marin can somehow be made more “livable” by adding 920 housing units, a hotel and over 100,000 square feet of office space to the already congested Larkspur corridor, the Golden Gate Bridge Highway & Transportation District responded to the plan’s Environmental Impact Report with this serious reality check (full letter):
Paid parking at the Ferry Terminal and a dedicated transit shuttle, The Wave, in addition to existing transit routes serving the Terminal have not altered the demand for parking.
These facts, in combination with peak commute ferries operating at capacity…are cause for the District to pursue multiple solutions to improve operational capacity.
An overriding consideration is that such uses not conflict with the operational need to provide increased ferry parking.
Under ImpactTRANS-6 (page 153) is is indicated that proposed development will increase demand for Golden Gate Ferry service, but it will be built over a period of time that allows the District to adjust ferry service levels accordingly. The EIR states that this is a less-than serious impact. However the District’s ferry service already operates at capacity in the peak direction. Any cumulative increase in demand for service in the traditional commute direction (i.e. to San Francisco in the morning, to Larkspur in the afternoon) will result in the need for additional crossings (trips). Increases in the number of crossings will trigger the need for a full environmental review of the additional ferry service.
[emphasis added]
It’s important to note that no more crossings can be added without causing unacceptable impact to the environment.  The Greater Marin, published by one of CALM’s steering committee members based in Washington D.C. , states:
Too many departures and the wakes will erode what is very rich habitat. To help combat this problem, GGT has limited the number of crossings between LFT and San Francisco to 42 per day.

Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) – Multi-Modal Solutions

The Transportation Authority of Marin’s approach seems to fly in the face of the realities of Golden Gate Transit. Remember that Golden Gate Transit’s letter demonstrates that additional transit is not altering or diminishing demand for parking or use of cars. Furthermore the transit authority states there is an operational need to increase ferry parking. But here’s what TAM has to say on the matter (full letter):
Principal Arterials with high traffic volumes were designated to be monitored for decreases in Levels of Service [Sir Francis Drake is already at levels E or F at many intersections meaning that it is at or beyond acceptable levels]. The DEIR study area includes four key roadway segments that have been monitored for performance. Simultaneously, these segments have remained as “grandfathered”, meaning that regardless of performance changes, they are exempt from required mitigations. Nonetheless, TAM continues to monitor traffic on these segments, and encourages multi-modal solutions to congestion.
Larkspur LOS
Larkspur levels of service (LOS) with the station area plan project implemented
TAM then identifies 5 segments at levels of service C and D.  If one reviews the map on page 49 of   the Larkspur SAP workshop document one starts to see the significance of this statement “they are exempt from required mitigations”.
What is concerning here is that TAM encourages “multi-modal” solutions to congestion. But we are already seeing Golden Gate Transit that has increased transit service stating that this has not affected (e.g. diminished) demand for parking. They further expect demand for ferry parking to increase. So there appears to be a major disconnect.
Orwell-quotePart of the problem is that “multi-modal” is a suggestive buzzword. It’s designed to sound convincing in that it will deliver a solution – but as Orwell might put it, it’s “pure wind”.
[Note: Orwell's quote here referencing murder is a little too strong, but you get the gist]
Update: The TAM Board did not approve TAM’s Larkspur SAP comment letter. Some suggest  that without board approval TAM didn’t have the authority to submit this letter. Perhaps that’s why planning manager Linda Jackson and not TAM executive director Steinhauser signed it – so this is how the game is played?
It is precisely these types of transit-oriented development reality gaps, game playing and planning based on whims that concerns the author. What is needed is a firm grasp of reality which means:
  • People are going to continue driving cars in increasing numbers in suburban areas, even the transit authority sees the writing is on the wall
  • Providing transit or “multi-modal” solutions is not going to cut it
  • Planners should not be adding development that pushes traffic levels of service beyond acceptable levels
  • People in Marin are not increasing their usage of transit: The US Census shows that transit use in Marin is in steady decline, starting at 10.2% in 1990 and down to 8.6% in the latest census data from 2012
Perhaps we need to define what “livable” means. For the author it reflects preserving quality of life  that includes avoiding adding unacceptable travel delays for the 75.8% of Marinites who through necessity or preference travel by car.

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