Adding lanes doesn’t reduce congestion in the long run

Read about a lawsuit to stop yet another Caltrans project based on the fallacy that adding lanes will reduce congestion.

According to the article –

In its lawsuit, the Cleveland National Forest Foundation, a Descanso-based nonprofit with a history of challenging regional transportation plans, said those lanes will lead to “an enormous surge in greenhouse gas emissions,” counter to what Caltrans’ final environmental report concludes.

Jack Shu, president of the Cleveland National Forest Foundation, said he expected the suit would be “a long, drawn-out process, unfortunately.”

He added that SANDAG and Caltrans should focus on building San Diego County’s rail and bus networks first. Adding more freeway lanes should take a back seat given state laws that mandate reducing greenhouse gas emissions, he said.

“Adding a (freeway) lane is only good for two to four years before it’s clogged up again,” Shu said. “We know adding new lanes doesn’t reduce congestion.”

City Councilmember Sue Digre calls for public forum on the Caltrans widening proposal

At the Pacifica City Council meeting Monday, February 11, Sue Digre asked the Council to put on their agenda holding public forums to discuss traffic congestion management ideas for Highway 1.  Sue referred to the two scoping meetings that were held by Caltrans in Pacifica and said that the issue is still controversial.  She indicated that there are technical solutions for congestion management.  She also referred to a study which indicates that adding new traffic lanes is costly and ultimately counterproductive.

You can watch the Council meeting at

Councilmember Digre’s discussion begins about 7 minutes 40 seconds into the meeting and ends at about 9 minutes 30 seconds

More Caltrans Deception About Alternatives

In the DEIR Caltrans discusses some alternatives, one of which is school bus service.  Considering school bus service could be a good thing, because everyone in Pacifica recognizes that parents driving their kids to and from school during commute time contributes to traffic congestion.  However, Caltrans’ analysis and discussion in the DEIR is misleading, and definitely not helpful.

Here’s what the DEIR says (underlining is mine) – – School Bus Service to Elementary School at Vallemar

This alternative would provide increased school bus service to the elementary school on Reina Del Mar Avenue. The anticipated traffic benefits for this alternative would primarily be in the AM peak hour. The existing bus service is well-used, but is not over capacity. Increased service would likely provide only a marginal improvement, and would likely be very expensive to operate. Finally, it is important to note that school-related traffic congestion primarily affects the AM peak commute period. The evening congestion in the area generally occurs well after school hours and would not benefit by this additional service. This alternative could provide a small benefit for a portion of the AM peak commute congestion (northbound) but not enough to significantly reduce backups through the corridor.

This alternative was primarily rejected because it would not provide considerable benefit for the AM or PM commute period (northbound or southbound).

Is this discussion confusing to you?  It sure is to me because Caltrans talks about “increased school bus service”, although in fact there is no school bus service at all to Vallemar School.

I asked Caltrans to give me all the documents they have to support their analysis and they recently provided me a pile of documents.  However, what they gave me does not even mention school buses serving students at Vallemar School, and in fact they gave me nothing about school buses at all.  (What they provided me discusses SamTrans service.) So it seems that unfortunately they have not really studied school buses as a possible alternative to relieve traffic congestion.

Love Widening? Don’t Hold Your Breath.

An article in the Fix Pacifica blog Saturday, September 8, 2012 reprinted an article by Mark Stechbart from the Half Moon Bay Review of September 7, 2011.  The article cheers for the Caltrans widening plan with the headline “Highway 1 widening in Pacifica will save us all time.”

However, the article is misleading at least.

It was originally written over a year ago and it mentions the fact that there has already been delay in implementing the plan.  Well, in fact the delay has been more than 10 years and the delay is not nearly over yet.

Let’s think about this.  The Caltrans widening plan may never happen.  It has not even made it through the environmental review process and it has not received the necessary funding.  Even if it makes it thorough all that, the Coastal Commission will probably deny the necessary permits.  And even if the Coastal Commission approves the project, construction would take years.  There are better options, and some of them could be implemented soon and at much less cost than the widening.  But Caltrans has not implemented any of them.

You can read about one alternative in my post titled “Caltrans Agrees to Improve Signal Timing Soon – Maybe”, and I discuss others in other posts.

Some of the City Council candidates are opposed to the widening project.  Please give them your support in the election.  Let’s stop waiting for widening and demand alternatives now – sooner, better, cheaper.

Widening Is Not a Safety Issue

The Pacifica Chamber of Commerce supports widening because they say  it is necessary for public safety, and a few City Council members have said the same thing.  They are wrong.

On October 18 the San Mateo Daily Journal published an article titled “PACIFICA RESIDENTS: DON’T WIDEN HIGHWAY 1.”  You can read the article at

Here’s what the article says about the safety issue – –

“North County Fire Authority spokesman Matt Lucett said he is not aware of Highway 1 congestion causing the failure of any emergency vehicles to meet 911 response time requirements . . .”

Inside Caltrans

Do you wonder what goes on inside Caltrans?  Here’s a digest Todd Bray prepared of closed door meetings of the Highway 1 Calera Parkway Widening Project Development Team from March, 2007 to May, 2012. The PDT consists of staff people from Caltrans, the San Mateo County Transportation Authority (SMCTA) and the City of Pacifica along with several private consultants.

The selected paragraphs in Todd’s digest appear in whole with no editing. 26 meetings in all were collected and forwarded to Todd by the SMCTA after a Public Records Act request for this information. Not all meetings are represented but they are presented in chronological order.

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