Where do the PDA funds go now?

The future downtown station area will need some work. Image from City of San Rafael.

The future downtown station area will need some work. Image from City of San Rafael.

Now that the Civic Center Priority Development Area (PDA) has been rescinded, TAM is left with a bucket of PDA-designated cash and even fewer places put it. While Mayor Gary Phillips says downtown San Rafael’s PDA is a logical place to put it, none of the proposed projects in the area are at a stage where they need funding.

Part of the delay is due to San Rafael Public Works (DPW) Director Nader Mansourian’s reported insistence that any road alterations wait until after SMART starts service in 2016. As a result, anything that might disrupt a road’s or intersection’s capacity, or level of service (LOS) will have to wait until the needed capacity is known. That includes bike lanes, traffic lights, crosswalks, bus lanes, etc.

PDA funds must be dedicated to improving the transportation infrastructure within a PDA. While they can target projects outside of a PDA, the project must have a direct positive effect on transportation service within the PDA.

It’s up to the Council and staff to get a slate of needed improvements to the area, from the small to the large. Some possible proposals:

Study which projects in the Downtown Station Area Plan would and would not impact traffic. This is probably the most basic study that would need to be conducted, given that it will be three years before SMART runs and likely another year beyond that before traffic patterns start to emerge. This would give a slate of small projects that could be priced, studied, and built before the train.

Link traffic lights to the rail crossings, done in concert with SMART’s work on the rail crossings themselves. When trains start moving through downtown, they will need to coordinate with traffic flow By linking traffic lights to the crossings, San Rafael could prepare for the trains’ arrival today. The linkage will need to happen on Day One of train operations, and so cannot wait for traffic studies to even begin.

While they’re at it, link traffic lights to bus service. Buses currently crawl through downtown San Rafael, especially northbound trunk service like routes 71 and 101. By allowing traffic lights to sense approaching buses and turn green, a system called signal priority, San Rafael could improve speeds for all bus travelers and improve transit access to and through the downtown station area. While DPW will no doubt want a traffic study to find out precisely how the system should work after SMART, the study will only show how to tweak the system once SMART runs. Benefits could flow long before then.

Fix the Andersen Drive/SMART crossing. One of the principal barriers to getting SMART down to Larkspur is not the station or track but the at-grade intersection of SMART tracks and Andersen Drive. The angle of approach for the train is too shallow for state regulators and so will need to be fixed before the train can proceed south to the ferry terminal. Given that the problem was caused by San Rafael when they extended Andersen, it’s on San Rafael’s head to fix the $6 million problem.

Begin a comparison study of how people move through and shop in downtown. How do shoppers get to downtown? How many people move through downtown? This will give San Rafael planners a snapshot of how SMART and the Station Area Plan changes San Rafael and how to target improvements in the future.

The other pressing projects, even under-freeway parking garages (proposed by the Station Area Plan), will change traffic flow and so won’t pass Mansourian’s muster without a Council mandate. However, staff should draw up a decision tree and timetable for implementation of bike, parking, transit, and other traffic-impacting roadway improvements before SMART begins,

What else would be a good fit for TAM’s PDA-dedicated funds?

Note: I reached out to TAM to determine which of these projects are fundable with PDA money and which are not, but staff have been in a crunch time and haven’t been able to answer. I’ll post an update when they reply.

About David Edmondson
A native Marinite working in Washington, DC, I am fascinated by how one might apply smart-growth and urbanist thinking to the low-density towns of my home.

43 Responses to Where do the PDA funds go now?

  1. Richard Hall says:

    It’s concerning that the PDA funds for Civic Center were earmarked for bike/ped when the housing being imposed/enticed/expectation set would have created a far more acute issue for traffic at intersections and the costs would have been over $20m (when all that was being offered was about $1m over 4 years – not the ridiculous “millions” claimed by Sustainable San Rafael and it’s cohort of uncredibles such as Jim Geraghty).

    Remember had it not been for residents pushback on the ludicrous housing numbers proposed by the station area plan we’d have had 1,414 more housing units (over double the current 1,054).

    We need to avoid over-fixation on bike/ped and “walkable communities”. Sure bike paths are nice for recreation and for a few for work, but 50x people rely on roads to get to work, trying to change this in a suburban area, not a BART county, is going to be a money pit.

    I love walking around Civic Center and do so frequently – I can confirm it’s a wonderful place to walk with the wetlands, not overly imposing urbanization and lack of a noisy and frankly entirely unnecessary heavy diesel train going through every 15 minutes.

    If you think it’s going to have >82 riders and reduce emissions I’d like some of what you’re smoking.

  2. John Parnell says:

    As the Mansourian Brothers play one off the other, the real reason becomes apparent for San Rafael’s 20 year sales tax extension. Other than paying for their pensions (which they won’t disclose), the Council needs all that money to fix Anderson Drive for SMART.
    So why won’t they tell us the truth?

    • The Andersen fix wouldn’t even soak up the first year’s sales tax revenue, much less 20 years’ worth.

      • Richard Hall says:

        I think I recall Mayor Phillips saying yesterday Anderson might cost around $15m to deal with. Unclear where the money is coming from. Needs to go under or over.

      • Franz Listen says:

        Agree with Dave. If a grade separation is required and costs $20M+, there is no way the City will pay for this with sales tax proceeds. In such a circumstance, I doubt that SMART will force the closure of Andersen either, even if they have that right. The result would be that SMART would be stuck, while everybody waits around for some deus ex machine funding source to bail the City out.

        • Richard Hall says:

          Why not instead save a boatload of money and switch SMART funding to express buses? We could genuinely reduce emissions and congestion, using some of the money to subsidize fares.

          Or must you really have your (ridiculously expensive, and fails to reduce GHGs or congestion) train?

          • Franz Listen says:

            Some thoughts…

            1. The debate about SMART is over
            2. A relatively inexpensive solution to Andersen Dr. might be possible, who knows
            3. Agree that the train is not a big GHG reducer, however still think its on the positive side of the line – think your math could use some perfecting
            4. There is not a strong basis for thinking that more express buses on Hwy 101 would be big emissions and congestion relievers either.

          • Richard Hall says:

            Franz – be specific on the train GHG figures – here’s the math:

            CAR EMISSIONS
            One has to compare to a car at the midpoint of the train’s 30 year lifespan which is 2016 + (30 years /2) = 2031
            Average passengers 1.67 (source: Federal Highway Administration 2009 survey, table 16 page 33)
            Average mpg of *new* car in 2025: 54.5mpg
            This will become the average for all cars by 2031
            Source: Whitehouse / EPA legislation
            54.5mpg x 1.67 passengers = 91.05

            gallons per passenger mile:
            1.1 mpg (source: SMART)
            82 passengers (rounding down to be generous to the train)
            1.1 x 82 = 90.2 per passenger mile

            There are no approved SMART ridership numbers (unless you’re smoking something and buy into the Dowling numbers which even SMART’s board dont buy into – we’ve had that discussion). Lillian Hames, the prior general manager of SMART, released that the entire morning commute would have 130 riders (all trains) and that was with the entire line length, not just the initial operating segment.

            So realistically if Hames was right SMART is probably likely quintupling greenhouse gas emissions and removing about 77 of the 188,000 cars from 101. But then to be fair we’d have to add in all the cars added by:
            – Larkspur Station Area Plan (920 units)
            – Downtown San Rafael Station Area Plan (~270 units)
            – at least we can strike Civic Center’s 1,414 units, I mean 620 after Linda Jackson tried to sneak that through 1,414 and got busted

            Am I really off by a factor of 5?

          • Franz Listen says:


            The mean occupancy may be 1.67, but that is skewed by the mini-van that takes 6 kids to a soccer game on Saturday. The mean for a journey to work is only 1.13. That’s a more apt comparison. See the same table that you referenced

            The current U.S. on-road avg fuel efficiency is only about 22 mpg. Lots of crowing in the press about how the 2013 model year averages 24.8 mph based on sales. (The model T got 25 by the way). When SMART opens in couple years, we’ll probably be around 23 mpg. [Plus, what kind of conditions are most cars on Hwy 101 operating in during the peak periods? Optimal testing conditions for maximum fuel efficiency ? or stop and go ? We’ll be generous here]

            23 * 1.13 = 26 mpg


            28 trains per day * 40 miles per train = 1,120 train miles

            2900 passenger per day per Dowling forecast for 2015 = 58,000 passenger miles. [Using the WES line passenger miles in Portland is not a good substitute. 5 Stations vs. SMART’s 10. 14 miles vs. SMART’s 40. 16 runs per day vs. SMART’s 28.]

            58,000 / 1,120 = 51.8 people on average per train

            1.1 mpg for train (I could not find anything else. Will use your number)

            51.8 * 1.1 = 57 mpg

            If we did a forecast targeted for 2031, it would not look any better for the car.

          • John Parnell says:

            Franz – the debate about SMART is far from over, since their lies mean they need to come back for more money, even just to pay the pensions. Lillian was a liar about all the numbers, so there is no point in quoting her about anything.
            As far as SMART ridership projections, I agree, in that nobody knows, except they were all exaggerated. SMART’s projections are ridiculous. Dowling et al are irrelevant. All that will matter is who rides. I see lots of empty buses, but supposedly, more people will ride the train, because it goes less places, has less stops & frequency, and is a sexy choo-choo. We will just have to see about that one. However, SMART isn’t doubling their tax like they need to, until they can prove they aren’t liars & that all their promises aren’t a bunch of bullshit.
            They have already proven their lack of honesty, as they continue to pillage our road money for this train, despite the promises not to do so.
            And [Removed for violating comments policy.] Where is your skin in this game? (For the record, I have none, other than the taxes I pay.)

          • Richard Hall says:

            Interesting run at it Franz. Genuinely appreciate someone rising above all the sentiments being thrown around that such and such is “common sense”.

            – the mpg of cars today is nearly meaningless. The train will start running in late 2016, at least that’s the latest promise SMART made (they also told us they would run to Cloverdale)
            – we have to look at the efficiency of cars at the midpoint of the lifespan of the train. So if you buy into it running in 2016 the locomotives will have a 30 year lifespan so midpoint is 2031. So the mpg of cars today is nearly irrelevant.
            – no one, not even SMART or it’s board buys into the Dowling study
            – more on the 1.67 average passenger ridership

            “If we did a forecast targeted for 2031, it would not look any better for the car”. Last time I checked car fuel efficiency is steadily improving, and more importantly US buyers are now really paying attention to mpg. Hybrids are becoming a stock part of the fleet and all electric vehicles are emerging.

            One also has to look at the cost of saving a ton of greenhouse gases. Mckinsey’s abatement curve shows that you need to be under $50 / ton or there’s much better things to be spending your money on to reduce emissions.

            BTW How does the same equation come out for an express bus compared to SMART? Now that would be interesting. (SMART conveniently glossed over visiting such an alternative).

          • Richard Hall says:

            Some other questions:

            1) What percentage of train riders will be existing bus users who won’t be switching from cars. I’d suggest 30%

            2) Do your figures assume that riders are riding the entire length of the line, if so your train figures would need to be doubled or tripled.

            3) We really cannot use the Dowling ridership figures. Judy Arnold, the SMART board, no one buys into them.

            4) Many SMART riders still need to drive cold-start cars from their homes to the train station. Perhaps running kids to school on the way. Are you factoring that in.

            5) Will SMART cause crowding out of bus funding so that bus services disappear causing people to revert to using cars? I see SMART already reneging on promises not to cut into existing transit budgets with a budget top up a couple of years ago from TAM and now Greebrae.

          • Franz Listen says:


            Let’s use the 2031 midpoint year. Fair point.

            It’s important to understand that CAFE Standards are not calculated the same as EPA standards that you see on the car sticker. http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/latest/epa-mpg-2025-cafe-standards-0811#slide-2

            Moreover, what you see on the EPA sticker often itself over-states real world performance. This U.S. news article says that a 54.5 mpg CAFE will translate to more like 36 mpg. http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2012/08/29/545-miles-per-gallon-for-all-cars-by-2025-not-exactly

            However, I think even that is overstated. Many auto-makers simply pay the minimal fine for violating CAFE standards and produce what consumers want instead. Its a business decision.

            I’d be surprised if we even get to 30 mpg, real world on-road fleet average by 2031. Over the last 20 years, we’ve moved the needle from 18mpg to 22mpg. We’ve have to more than double our rate of progress over the next 18 years to get to 30.

            In one of your blog posts you argued that cars last 18 years. That long left helped you in your cost benefit analysis. Ok, so the 2013 model year with an avg of 24mpg will still be on the road in 2031.

            Plus, we are talking about highway driving mpg figures. Stop and go mpg figures look much worse. I’ll put that aside.

            30mpg * 1.13 (mean commute occupancy) = 33.9 mpg

            It is possible that this number could be exceeded. However, that will take very high and sustained gas prices, which is possible. However, very and high sustained gas prices will likely drive train ridership as well.

          • Franz Listen says:

            Now for SMART.

            You are really hung up on this Dowling thing. Many rail enthusiast have suggested that those numbers are ridiculously low. They also point out that SMART has also added stations back into the program since the forecasts were conducted. SMART’s EIR had more like 5,000 riders for the year 2025 (although with the whole length of the line assumed). Dowling had close to 4,800 for “Initial Operating Segment” the year 2035.

            Personally, I don’t think anybody knows exactly how many riders SMART will have – not me, or you, or SMART, or Repeal SMART, or Mike Arnold, or July Arnold, or Dowling, or anybody else. Let’s just use a sensitivity test. Let’s go with 1,000 – 7,000 in one thousand rider increments.

            20 miles is my assumed average trip length for a 40 mile SMART line. We can multiply by this figure by SMART ridership to get passenger miles, then divide by the expected 1,120 train miles, then multiply the total by your 1.1mpg figure for the train. OK? Here’s what we get…

            1,000 = 20mpg
            2,000 = 39mpg
            3,000 = 59mpg
            4,000 = 79mpg
            5,000 = 98mpg
            6,000 = 118mpg
            7,000 = 138mpg

            So by my calculations, SMART only has to be over about 1,700 riders per day in 2031 to be a net Ghg reducer, given my expectations about the real-world performance of the on-road fleet 18 years from now. I think that it will cross that bar. You are welcome to think that it won’t.

          • Richard Hall says:

            So you really think that SMART, serving a population catchment of a meagre 700k users will blow all other US train ridership out of the water, even for trains serving 20x or more population?

            You propose / believe that SMART will have 51.8 riders. This figure doesn’t stand up to any realistic scrutiny.Dividing passenger miles by revenue hours we get the following average riderships:

            New Jersey Transit Corporation, River Line – 33.3:

            Click to access 2080.pdf

            Portland Tri-Met – 21.7:

            Click to access 0008.pdf

            North San Diego County Coaster – 36.2:

            Click to access 9030.pdf

            Capital Metro – Austin – 36.5:

            Click to access 6048.pdf

            So you’re telling me that this train will have nearly double the riders of a commuter train from New Jersey to Manhattan? Can I have some of what you’re smoking?

            [Removed for violating comments policy.]

          • 1) To imply that someone has an opinion because of undisclosed financial interest constitutes an ad hominem attack and as a violation of the comments policy I won’t have it here. Any further comments that imply such will be removed in their entirety.

            2) Vulgarity is not tolerated in any way.

          • John Parnell says:

            [Removed for violating comment policy.]

          • @Richard – You forgot to multiply your vehicle revenue hours by two. 1,700 passengers per day works out to 25.9 passengers per vehicle revenue hour.

          • I should add: It’s vehicle revenue hours, so with a 2 car train, that’s 2 vehicles.

            Passengers per vehicle revenue hours is pretty bad way of measuring productivity. You could just as easily have said it’s preposterous to think that ACE, serving just commuters from a number of depressed, second-rate downtowns to a second-rate Bay Area city, would even approach that of a New Jersey to Manhattan line, and yet it exceeds it, at 36.5 passengers per revenue hour. Coaster does it, too, as does Austin! If our Gold Standard of rail productivity is Manhattan commuter trains, then it’s pretty clear this measure doesn’t cut it.

          • Richard Hall says:

            Time for a peer review. Have a fiddle around with this Google Doc spreadsheet.
            Let me know what you’d change.


            It’s likely that there are errors so let me know your thoughts. For simplicity, I have not incorporated the emissions from construction of cars & roads vs trains and tracks (which would likely further favor the car).

            Note- I’m not a professional transit consultant. I’d welcome input to get this sheet right.

          • Franz Listen says:


            I think that you meant to say “dividing passenger miles by revenue vehicle miles”, not revenue vehicles hours, right? Passenger miles divided by revenue hours might be interesting, but we are trying to figure out the mean occupancy of a train.

            When I calculated the figures for Austin using revenue vehicle miles I get the same figure as you do – 36. However, there is an important consideration – The National Transit Database considers each train car to be a separate “vehicle”. So, the Austin service averages about 36 people per train car. I think that they are running mainly 2 car consists, so that would be 72 people per train on average. So, if (for the sake of argument) the Austin train gets 1.1 mpg it will get an effective 79.2 miles per gallon.

            Again, I don’t know how many people SMART will carry. However, the Dowling forecast would equal about 25.5 per train car which is lower than most commuter rail services.

            As far as your spreadsheet goes, it first needs to take the auto mpg gallon for 2031 way, way down, along with the mean occupancy per vehicle. This is the part where I ask for some of what you are smoking. Read up on CAFE standards.

          • Richard Hall says:

            If I take a fairly extreme position to your side (not saying I agree with) of 54.5mpg but you only achieve half of that. mpg, 51 riders per train. Train gets 20% less than advertised mpg (both car and train mpg are marketing figures). I use 1.13 passengers per car and 51 per train. Then I come out with cost per ton CO2 emissions reduced as $153k. Of course based on Mckinsey you need to be under $50 per ton. So if we really wanted to reduce emissions we could be doing 3,000 times more effective using other methods identified by the Mckinsey abatement curve.

            Not saying I’m bought into the above though – this has car mpg of 27.25mpg for 2031.

            Then on removing traffic from highway 101 I make you’re removing just 505 cars which is not even 1% – it’s 0.27%.

          • Richard Hall says:

            I then make the cost per car removed from 101 as $2.2m.

            For the same money you could simply pay an existing commuter $65,000 a year for 30 years with 1% annual increases to not work, work from home or carpool, I figure a few people might be enticed…


            I reckon *many* people could be enticed to carpool for a few hundred dollars a year.

            Are my figures making you rethink how absurdly ineffective the train is at achieving the stated goals:
            – reducing emissions
            – taking cars off 101

            Perhaps some assumptions are incorrect. But here I’m going out of my way to be generous by reducing car mpg to an amount way below what I think is right, and ridership way above what’s reasonable.

          • Richard Hall says:

            But then this is way too generous as we need to be realistic about SMART ridership. Let’s compare SMART to the San Diego Coaster and pro-rate to arrive at a realistic figure, even then I’ll be kind and pretend SMART goes direct to a major employment center like the Coaster (which it doesn’t).

            SMART serves 700,000 residents of Marin and Sonoma with indirect connections to major employment centers

            The San Diego Coaster serves 3.1m residents of San Diego county, that’s over 4x as many AND it connects directly to the major employment center of downtown San Diego.

            The coaster gets average ridership of 36.2 per carriage, so with 2 carriages this would be 72.4.

            Then if we pro rate that ridership using the ratio of San Diego county population to Marin and Sonoma (omitting that the Coaster goes direct to a major employment center) then SMART should get an average ridership of just 16 riders per train.

            Now we’re talking even with the really pessimistic car figures that the impact of the train on the stated goals is:
            – $6.5m per car taken off the road
            – $1.6m per ton of CO2 emissions reduced (instead of $50.00 per ton)

            I reckon for $6.5m / person we could coax a few people out of commuting.

          • Richard Hall says:

            I also ran the addition to work out the population of cities along the tracks (as one can’t truly say either train serves an entire county).

            Given Wikipedia’s populations for towns along the tracks the catchment areas are:

            Coaster: 1.6m residents
            SMART: 394,000

            Again the Coaster serves over 4x as many potential riders.

          • Richard Hall says:

            I was again being too kind on the train. Reviewers on the other side of the argument pointed out that “deadhead” miles need to be accounted for where trains need to travel to a pre-ordained start point.

            This issue will be especially acute for SMART as there is little or no storage for trains at the southern end of the line in San Rafael or Larkspur as far as I know. Getting trains into position at the beginning/end of commutes will be a major challenge on SMARTs single track line.

            Let’s not forget that trains may have a high ridership southbound in the morning, but they need to get back the other way so one can easily overlook that there will be trains going the reverse commute direction.

            To this end I’ve added a “deadhead” factor of an additional 25% (again being generous). With 16 riders (pro-rating the Coaster’s population served) the numbers still look absurd and unjustified.

          • Franz Listen says:

            Richard – This conversation began with my contention that the train would not be a huge Ghg reducer, but that it was likely on the positive side of the line and that your figures needed some work. This was motivated less by SMART and more by what I saw as excessive optimism about your auto side of the equation. You can use whatever technique you want to guess what ridership on the train will be – scaling San Diego County is OK. I’ll just note that based on Google images, Coaster appears to be running 4-5 car trains, so you may want to adjust your math accordingly.

            As for McKinsey, if the train were a device to stick onto a power plant to abate carbon then it would be a clear waste of money. However abating carbon is not the only or even main purpose of transit. Like all transportation projects, it’s primary benefit is mobility. I am not aware of any transportation project that abates carbon at under $50 per ton. Do you know of any?

            Just read a 2009 McKinsey report that said several times that the outlook for the transportation section was “troubled”. Says that “achieving meaningful reductions in passenger vehicle emissions will be a mammoth challenge”, on page 16. It also talks about how transportation is a huge outlier – given the enormous investment required to make small moves in CO2. It point blank on page 28 says that policy makers should consider things like eco-driving and transit. This will be my last post on this PDA thread. Good discussion.


          • Richard Hall says:

            Yes. This has been a good discussion.

            – on ridership, that’s good insight on the Coaster having 4 coaches instead of 2. I’ll also probe Sprinter ridership as that doesn’t go downtown but I believe that serves several college campuses in the San Diego area which skews things (I would expect college students to be more pre-disposed to using transit).

            – even using pessimistic assumptions you suggest, Coaster having 4 carriarges, I come out with SMART increasing greenhouse gases by a factor of 3.5 over cars achieving an actual 27.5mpg with 1.13 occupants. So if the train was based on the climate change argument alone we should immediately shut it down.

            – good point on mobility. How do you measure this? What kind of mobility could we be getting for $1.1bn that does not more than triple carbon emissions? I believe there are likely to be much better alternatives to the train.(Separate but interesting discussion).

            Interesting that Mckinsey states that “achieving meaningful reductions in passenger vehicle emissions will be a mammoth challenge”and transportation is a huge outlier – requiring enormous investment required to make small moves in CO2. (Although now it is evident that SMART moves the needle the WRONG way).

            You state “It point blank on page 28 says that policy makers should consider things like eco-driving and transit”; however clearly the train based on this analysis is not the right transit fit for Marin.

  3. Stephen Nestel says:

    Dave, PDA funds are NOT guaranteed. You get to compete for them. It is not quid pro quo. Only the “most worthy” PDAs receive the lion’s share of the funding as ABAG sees fit. It is a shell game that they have been playing. see this clip: http://www.savemarinwood.org/2013/09/tv-interview-of-abag-officials-on-abc.html

    at around 02:00 he explains that the funding will go primarily to the urban growth areas. Counties like Marin will receive very little. We are not just selling off Marin for a cheap $3.8 million, we may be selling it for much less. The cost to educate the estimated 150 children in the Marinwood Village project alone is estimated to be 1.5 million dollars annually. No grants that ABAG or MTC “give us” (technically it belongs to the taxpayer now) will ever compensate for the community costs to provide a PDA. In fact, one of the unspoken objectives of Plan Bay Area is to shift costs of local governments from the cities to the suburbs. Our Board of Supervisors have sold us out.

    • OBAG money has already been allocated to TAM, but it cannot allocate those funds to projects that are no longer under a PDA.

      And what community costs? There is no mandate via the PDA designation to do anything. At worst there is an expectation, which, to quote Richard, creates a planning “twilight zone” where there may at some point be future zoning changes, which is all about expectation. Lifting the PDA in North San Rafael eliminated the “twilight zone” but didn’t change any existing zoning policy or zoning policy proposal. It also didn’t restore or remove any power of the council to change zoning as they see fit.

      If you’re referring to the affordable housing designation, the fact that Marinwood was designated for affordable housing without a PDA should demonstrate that there’s absolutely no legal connection between that and the PDA designation.

      What powers have been delegated from any local government to the region via the PDA mechanism? TAM no longer can spend regional funds wherever it chooses but rather half needs to go toward projects within PDAs. Rescinding the North San Rafael PDA tied TAM’s hands even more.

      • Richard Hall says:

        Dave the PDA was closely associated with the allocation of $528k to fund station area planning workshops. In the “twilight zone” of this PDA funded planning excercise housing had to be maximized by legal contract.

        The plan came back from the oversight committee / staff (away from public eyes) inflated to 1,414 units – nearly triple the capacity of the General Plan. Heights also went up over what was agreed to in public meetings. San Rafael Meadows got explicit assurances heights would not go over 3 storys in their area and guess what – the plans came back higher (outside of public view).

        This is all documented and a matter of public record:


  4. Franz Listen says:

    Signal upgrades seem like a very worthwhile use of the PDA funds for Downtown. It meets the Richard Hall test of being about cars. It meets the Nader Mansourian test. It helps all vehicles, including rail and bus transit.

    Andersen Drive would be another good use for the funds, although I’m not how we know this is a $6M problem if we don’t know the exact solution yet.

    Studying every little bike, ped and crosswalk improvement for its potential traffic impact in 2017 is a waste of money in my opinion. The powers that be either need to side with Public Works and forego these improvements OR make some of these improvements and accept the (likely very minor) consequences for LOS. If there is enough money, I say have Public Works pick a few things from the Station Area Plan list that it can live with and implement.

    My recent thoughts about Downtown….


    • Richard Hall says:

      I agree with Franz here. It’s unclear what the traffic impact will be of a train slowing into downtown San Rafael and sealing the city off 4 times an hour. I understand that light synchronization is already planned, no idea if it’s funded.

      There needs to be some realistic math used when allocating funds to achieve the greatest net benefit. When I see this going to bike paths I think, that’s nice, it may benefit a few hundred people a month. The money needs to be allocated based on current usage, perhaps with just a slight (minor) bump since we want to encourage bikes, maybe a 20% lift.

      – 101 is used by 188,000 drivers a day (or replace with use of road entrypoints into San Rafael used by cars – I don’t happen to have the figures)
      – the bike path is used by 188 cyclists a day (For instance example figures)
      – therefore 0.1% of transportaion funding should be allocated to cycling/cycle paths
      – we want to encourage cycling so give bike paths a 20% lift
      – result: 0.12% of funding should go to bikes

      I wonder what the real allocations look like with the PDA spending.

      • Franz Listen says:

        These OBAG grants are pretty tiny and the really big transportation money is not in bike paths. Plus, I think that there is a very good argument for spending priorities that don’t reflect current mode share. We spent decades building freeways and roads while serious bike path investments have been comparatively small and recent. As a result I think that there is a mismatch between the infrastructure that we have and the options that people actually want. If it were up to the public I think that bike paths would do quite well.

      • Plan Bay Area doesn’t have dedicated bicycle funding; it’s rolled into the general road spending with the hope that MTC’s and Complete Streets policy will make up the difference.

      • John Murphy says:

        It’s unclear what the traffic impact will be of a train slowing into downtown San Rafael and sealing the city off 4 times an hour.

        This currently happens to San Mateo, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Palo Alto, San Bruno, Burlingame, and Menlo Park TWELVE times an hour. Much more populous areas with much higher job levels. And it’s no big deal.

      • Not current usage but with goals in mind. That may look the same, may look different depending on what those goals are.

  5. kiki says:

    Dave, thanks for these preliminary suggestions. appreciate your insights.

  6. Wendi says:

    the Downtown transit center is currently in need of major improvements with our without the SMART train. It’s very difficult to access on foot or bike.

  7. Pingback: Today’s Headlines | Streetsblog San Francisco

  8. Stephen Nestel says:

    The TAM board allocated $4.2 million dollars for a report on the Highway 101 interchange. It would be nice if we actually got projects built with this amount of dollars we spend on consultants. Excuse me if I don’t care about the PDA funds.

    Also, when I speak of community costs, I refer to the ongoing maintenance and repair of this infrastructure and population increase due to non profit, taxpayer supported developments. We cannot afford the “free money”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: