Improving Access to Alameda without Overrunning it with Cars


During 2000 I was the engineer on the City of Alameda's Alameda Rail Feasibility Study. The Study included the layout and conceptual design of a light rail line from the Fruitvale BART Station to Alameda and then along the existing rail right-of-way way to western Alameda, with a possible future subaqueous rail extension to the West Oakland BART station and beyond.

The objective of the study was to find a ways of attracting more Alamedans and more visitors to Alameda to leave their cars at home, at least some of the time. The reasons for the Study are even more compelling today than they were then.

Without a substantial diversion from auto travel to buses and other collective forms of travel, improving the auto access into and out of Alameda is doomed to failure. If the access roads are enlarged or otherwise changed to ease congestion there will soon be more driving. As the history of the Bay Area over the last half century has repeatedly demonstrated, when it becomes easier to drive there is more driving, the inevitable effect of which is the eventual return of congestion to the same level as before. However since the congestion is now occurring on enlarged roadways the inevitable effect is an increase in congestion elsewhere. Inside Alameda it means more backups at other choke points, where street enlargement is not possible.

For this reason access studies, such as the currently ongoing Oakland Alameda Access Study, must include ways of replacing some auto trips with trips on better and more efficient transit systems. Here are a few of the possibilities:

o Improve the layout and functioning of the transit networks serving Alameda

o On the tunnels and bridges accessing Alameda replace some mixed-flow traffic lanes with transit-only lanes, at least during peak driving hours

o. Improved ferry boat and bicycle connections

o. Estuary crossing tolls, with proceeds dedicated to transit improvements

o. Congestion pricing

o. Effective marketing

Gerald Cauthen
Former Senior Engineering Manager and Transportation Vice President, Parsons Brinckerhoff

510 208 5441

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