San Mateo County Considers Impact of Regional Planning on Local Transportation Infrastructure

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By Jacob Bourne

The City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County has embarked on a long-range planning process for the future of transportation infrastructure within the County’s 741 square miles of land and water. What sets the San Mateo Countywide Transportation Plan 2040 apart from other agendas geared towards mobility is that it integrates all modes of transportation and involves all associated agencies. Unlike a BART or other agency-specific planning process, which would focus primarily on a potential project as it relates to the overall BART system, this Countywide Plan examines intermodal productivity as well as the collective goals of participating agencies.  Furthermore, the Plan looks more broadly at the many regional transportation planning initiatives underway to better understand how the macro changes will impact mobility and connectivity at the local level.

[contextly_sidebar id=”Hr0Cq5hX028VlaFbAkBDplwwMwlX3anv”]“The Plan is mostly about putting information together about a variety of elements like transit, roadways, pedestrian ways, bike paths, et cetera,” said John Hoang, manager of transportation programs and projects, San Mateo County. “We have models for population based on land use forecasts, so we’re not only looking at population growth but are studying how future projects will impact the overall transportation network.”

In September, three public workshops were held in South San Francisco, Pacifica and Menlo Park to explain the scope of the Plan and give County residents an opportunity to provide comments. Numerous other meetings have been held with agencies such as San Mateo County Transportation Authority, SamTrans, Caltrain, Caltrans, BART, MTC and Commute.org. The comprehensive nature of the Plan required that the full breadth of topics be discussed at these meetings including land use, roadway systems, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, public transit, transportation system management, transportation demand management, parking, modal connectivity, the movement of goods, and finance.

Hoang commented that a great deal of feedback has already been gathered as a result of the meetings, both from the agencies involved and members of the public. Planners are now compiling comments and addressing any issues that arise from them regarding the contents of the current draft of the Plan. The fine tuning of the document is expected to continue throughout December.

“We received a lot of comments about transit,” Hoang offered. “People want to make sure that the Plan includes information about work being on the Dumbarton Rail Corridor Project and rail crossings. This is a 25-year plan, so we want to make sure that we include all future projects. For example, the new Bay crossing could be a rail line or bridge; it hasn’t been decided yet and will be determined through a separate process, but it’s something that we need to address in the Plan. We also want to look at how other transportation projects going on in the region will impact San Mateo County.”

The central goal of the Plan is to create an economically and environmentally sustainable transportation system that provides users with workable options for everyday life and enhances public health through a fully integrated system. The context of this planning process is in light of some tangible challenges the County will face in coming years. San Mateo’s current low unemployment rate compared to other California counties puts pressure on local transportation systems. In 2015, 60-percent of work related trips were to destinations outside of the County, however forecasts show that a 24-percent increase in these trips will occur by 2040. Merely expanding roadways will further negatively impact the right-of-way of businesses and residences. The progressively aging population will likely depend more on public transit and accessible infrastructure. In 2019, Statewide regulations will require an increased emphasis on reducing VMT.

Incorporating technology into existing systems is one of the Plan’s approaches to reap the added benefits of public safety and reduced emissions. Investing in advanced electronics and communications technologies will help make the best use of roadways and decrease congestion. Other approaches include bolstering transit service and connectivity, focusing on employer-based trip reduction programs, and encouraging biking and walking through added safety measures.

According to Hoang, the Plan should be complete by February 2017 and will go before the City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County Board for final adoption in March.

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