January 20, 2017

Sierra Club sues for better Regional Transportation Plan–current plan doesn’t deliver on public-transit, city-planning, or climate-change goals

Cleaning up greenhouse-gas emissions should be a major priority for any transportation plan. 580 and I80 Traffic Jam.

Cleaning up greenhouse-gas emissions should be a major priority for any transportation plan. 580 and I80 Traffic Jam. Photo: Flickr / Walter Parenteau (cc)

On Aug. 19 the Sierra Club, along with Earthjustice and Communities for a Better Environment, filed a lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court challenging the most recent Regional Transportation Plan of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments (see “Will regional planning stumble on climate change?).

Plan Bay Area is supposed to serve as a multi-decade regional plan to improve the reliability, accessibility, and affordability of public transportation in the Bay Area and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions while overseeing smart growth to meet the demands of the area’s growing population.

The Plan falls short of these goals. The Plan does not spend enough on public transportation, and instead invests in building new highways. The current Plan will result in more time on the roads and increased greenhouse-gas emissions. The Plan also fails to protect West Oakland and other vulnerable communities from the health effects of cars, trucks, ships, and rail that pass through their communities. The Plan will also displace low-income residents and residents of color from their communities.

For $292 billion of spending, we deserve a plan that dramatically reduces greenhouse-gas emissions.

The lawsuit challenges the environmental review of the agencies’ Plan Bay Area under the California Environmental Quality Act.

Matt Williams of the Sierra Club Bay Chapter Executive Committee says, “Climate disruption is a threat to Bay Area families, yet our planning agencies have failed to reduce reliance on cars and trucks, the number-one source of climate–disrupting air pollution in California. We need a Plan Bay Area that expands public transportation and creates more affordable housing near these transit systems. Bay Area planners should make getting around town easier, cleaner, and more affordable.”

The legal challenge cites the following problems with Plan Bay Area.

  • Under the current Plan, people will be spending more time in their cars and more time on the roads. Through 2040 (the life-span of the current plan), the number of daily vehicle trips is expected to increase by 22%, and the number of miles travelled during peak travel times is expected to increase by 51%.
  • The Plan does not spend enough on shoring up inadequate public transportation systems, and in fact, invests valuable resources in building more highway lanes. Only 7% of the Plan’s total budget is dedicated to expanding public transportation.
  • The Plan proposes housing developments without committing to investments in the public transportation serving those communities.
  • The plan fails to protect the communities closest to major transportation hubs, highways, and ports from increased toxic air pollution, as the region increases freight movement around them. Instead it defers these issues for future study. Without smart planning, low-income communities and communities of color located near these hubs, like West Oakland, will suffer.
  • The Plan fails to address the population growth and rising housing costs of the San Francisco Bay Area, which are causing more people to move to areas with inadequate public transportation. It will drive more people to rely on cars for their daily commutes, worsening air pollution, quality of life, and traffic.

You can read the complaint at http://earthjustice.org/sites/default/files/files/PlanBayAreaPetition(8-19-13).pdf.


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