Two-way tolling on the Golden Gate could ease traffic in Marin

Rising from the pages of Marin’s Greenbrae Corridor studies is an accusatory finger, pointing east. It is not Marin traffic causing the massive backups on Highway 101 in the evening, nor is it really our antiquated freeway design. No, it’s East Bay-San Francisco commuters cutting through our fair county. Fix that, perhaps, and we fix our corridor.

There are two reasons for these commuters to cut through Marin: it’s faster than 880, and it’s free. We can’t really help 880’s congestion, but perhaps we can address the whole “free” part. If people want to cut through our county, maybe we can at least make them pay for the privilege.

We can do this by charging the Bridge toll in both directions. To keep things even, charge half the current toll both ways, so $2.50 heading south and $2.50 heading north. Now that the Bridge District has gone all-electronic, the impact on traffic would be nominal, and the cost of implementation would certainly be less than a new 101-580 interchange.

This, at least, is the base package. Perhaps bridge tolls could go up (slightly) thanks to the heavier northbound traffic, perhaps $2 south and $3 north, to reduce cut-through traffic a little more. Just a few percentage points off could do wonders.

But there are a few extras that could make the system work a little better.

The first: do the same thing for the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. While it would cost a bit to switch its toll collection to all-electronic tolling, that would save MTC money in the long run, just as it has for the Golden Gate Bridge District.

The second: charge variable toll rates based on traffic congestion, a structure typically called congestion pricing. Perhaps free-flow pricing would be a better term, because what it really does is ease traffic congestion. It gives people a disincentive to drive during the peak time, when the tolls are high and road space is at a premium, and (in Marin’s case) a disincentive to cut through the county. A quick primer is embedded below. Streetfilms has a quick primer here.

Whatever you call it, with two-way tolling the tolls would rise and fall based on morning and evening traffic conditions, rather than just for morning conditions as the current system would allow today. If tolls rise to, say, $6 round trip, they could also be adjusted asymmetrically: $2 in the morning and $4 in the evening. To sweeten the deal, any new funding might go to congestion mitigation, like that 101-580 interchange, better bus service, etc.

While a 101-580 interchange is necessary if Larkspur Landing is ever to become a walkable neighorhood, for the time being we should regulate our traffic congestion using prices, either fixed or variable based on traffic. In doing so, we would give everyone on the road a smoother trip.

Mid-Week Links: Two Steps Back

Marin County

Image copyright 2012, The Pacific Sun

  • San Rafael, planning as it is for a revitalized Station Area, thought it a good idea to eliminate the crosswalk at Third and Cijos, calling it a danger to pedestrians.  Rather than pedestrians being the ones complaining, it was the motorists.  There has not been a single accident at the Cijos crossing, and the one-way traffic was controlled from the nearby Lincoln intersection.  In place of the crosswalk, there’s now a pedestrian barrier.  At least there are crosswalks nearby.  (Pacific Sun)
  • Seventy units of affordable housing have been announced for Marinwood at the Marin Market site.  Although near bus pads, the affordable housing site is far from amenities.  Hopefully the developer will be required to improve the crossing over the freeway to the northbound pad. (IJ)
  • SMART should buy the Whistlestop building, as the train project will render it useless to the seniors nonprofit. (IJ)
  • San Anselmo is considering how to improve its Safe Routes to School Program at a community meeting tonight, and as of press time no decision had been made. Among the proposals are adding sidewalks and crosswalks, adjusting signal timing, and a pedestrian barrier along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. (Patch)
  • The Greenbae Interchange Project and the Wincup development will both proceed roughly as planned, as MacFarlane Developers and TAM have reached an agreement on how to accomodate both projects. (IJ)

The Greater Marin

  • If you missed a One Bay Area planning meeting, now’s your chance to at least get your opinion in.  The Plan is soliciting online comments, and I encourage you to take the time to make your voice heard. (Sacramento Bee)
  • The Golden Gate Bridge has installed speed signs for cyclists on the western sidewalk, although there isn’t a speed limit on the bridge for bicyclists. (SF Examiner)
  • Doyle Drive’s second phase may be delayed because some state and federal funds haven’t materialized as expected. (IJ)
  • A Santa Rosa school may not open for want of a sidewalk.  The sidewalk was to be built with redevelopment money. (Press Democrat)
  • Cotati’s ambitious downtown roundabout plan, which stirred up so much controversy, is also in doubt thanks to issues stemming from redevelopment funds. (Press Democrat)
  • Sonoma County’s roads are absolutely terrible, at least according to a map prepared by the county’s Transportation and Public Works Department. Road maintenance is severely underfunded in Sonoma, and some activists are pushing hard for change. In that light, a proposed road maintenance property tax could do the trick. (Press Democrat, Petaluma360)
  • Level of Service, or LOS, is an absolutely terrible way to measure how well a city street performs its many duties, as it focuses solely on moving cars – not people – swiftly along. (Streetsblog)

Mid-Week Links: The Right Kind of Parking

So people sometimes think I’m a geek; I bore them to death with talk about LOS and bike lanes and units per acre, but when so much can be done with just bike parking I can hardly shut up.  Marin, despite its cycling culture, has very little bicycle parking in its downtown cores.  Replacing one car space every other block with bike parking in downtown San Rafael, for example, would add 50 bicycle parking spaces for only 5 car spaces.  As well, putting the bikes where drivers need good sight lines would make the program even better.

The North Bay

SMART construction has officially begun!  For the moment it’s just survey teams and a sign, but the $103 million contract has sparked the first construction work of the project.  Construction will be from Santa Rosa’s Jenning’s Road station, added back in during contract negotiations and now relocated to Guerneville Road, to the Civic Center.  Meanwhile, RepealSMART is turning to paid signature-gatherers to qualify for what they claim is the qualifying target: 14,902. They’ve acknowledged they wouldn’t be able to meet either of the two higher proposed numbers: 30,000 or 39,000. (Press Democrat, IJ, Business Journal, Watch Sonoma County)

  • Tea party protesters interrupted a One Bay Area public planning meeting in Santa Rosa.  I hope Marin’s meeting will be more civil. (Press Democrat)
  • There is a problem with the Wincup development in Corte Madera.  Apparently the parking garage is going where a new freeway ramp – part of the Greenbae Interchange Project – is supposed to go, and TAM isn’t happy. (Pacific Sun)
  • Larkspur has a pedestrian bridge design. (Patch)
  • BioMarin is expanding to the San Rafael Corporate Center, lowering the city’s office vacancy rate from 40% to 12%. While office employees only support 4 square feet of retail, it is a chance to build more street life in eastern downtown. (Patch)
  • The Novato pot club has done what the Fairfax club could not: survive. Although neighbors and city and federal officials want to shut down the club, owners are soldiering on after winning an eviction suit from their landlord, who complained there was marijuana smoking on the premises. (IJ)
  • The driver of an Aston Martin caused a four-car crash on Highway 101 after losing control of his vehicle and clipping another driver’s car.  The highway closed for 30 minutes. (IJ)
  • Larkspur Landing could get parking fees on 160 of its “prime” parking spots for only $65 per month.  GGT is mulling the move to help close the Bridge District’s 5-year, $87 million deficit, although the program would only amount to $625,000 over that time frame. (IJ)
  • A cyclist severely injured himself on Alexander Avenue on Wednesday when he lost control of his bike and crashed into a guardrail.  Sausalito wants to redesign Alexander Avenue to make it safer for the many cyclists who use it to get to and from the Golden Gate Bridge. (IJ)
  • Terrapin Crossroads lives, and it’s heading to the Canal to take over the site of Seafood Peddler. The approval process is expected to be handled administratively, as Seafood Peddler already had most of the appropriate permits. (Pacific Sun, IJ)
  • Design and zoning issues could become a political issue in San Anselmo now that Councilman Jeff Kroot is involved in a spat with a neighbor over a planned expansion of Kroot’s home. (IJ)
  • High-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes are not financially viable on Highway 101 through Marin, according to a TAM study, without upping the carpool requirement to 3 passengers. It’s just as well, as HOT lanes would cripple any casual carpooling initiative in the county. (IJ, The Greater Marin)
  • Healdsburg wants to fix an old bridge for $12 million, but don’t have the money to do it.  Federal officials are skeptical of the plan and appear to prefer replacing the bridge for $25 million. (Press-Democrat)
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