Vote Bay Smart: transportation investments we need

004 (800x533)
Since 2000, the population of the Bay Area has grown by 870,000. Just 500,000 of that growth has occurred in the last six years.

We Need Investment in Our Transportation Infrastructure: Our Bay Depends On It. 

We all know that the Bay Area is an incomparable place to live. There are world-class cities, rich history and culture, a thriving economy, and ample recreational opportunities, featuring majestic expanses of nearby open space. At the heart of it all is our region’s greatest natural treasure: San Francisco Bay.

Unfortunately, we all also know that Bay Area traffic is incomparable. If you’ve spent any time traveling at rush hour, whether on the roads or public transit, you know the frustration this causes firsthand.

Since 2000, the population of the Bay Area has grown by 870,000. Just 500,000 of that growth has occurred in the last six years.

A boom in population growth has outpaced the expansion and upgrading of our transportation infrastructure.

Between 2010 and 2040, our population is expected to grow 30 percent. This growth has outpaced the expansion and upgrading of our transportation infrastructure, putting enormous strain on the entire system. It is also a major driver of our region’s skyrocketing housing costs that are forcing many residents to move farther away from their jobs and take on longer commutes.

This time lapse video shows a map of central Bay Area traffic throughout the course of a typical weekday, illustrating the gridlock that drivers face on virtually every major freeway. And the congestion isn’t limited to the morning or evening commutes. In fact, the “evening” commute begins at 2:30 p.m. By 5 p.m., there is a sea of red surrounding the Bay that doesn’t clear up fully until well past 9 p.m.

This map of course doesn’t show ridership on buses or BART, which get extremely crowded and inaccessible at pressure points during the day, leading to delays and increasingly frequent breakdowns.

All of this causes serious negative impacts on the quality of our air and the health of our Bay. When people spend more time in traffic, they emit more greenhouse gases that pollute our air and contribute to global warming, and more toxic airborne particulates that wind up in Baywater. They also leave behind more trash and PCBs on our roadways to contaminate stormwater runoff that flows into the Bay.

As our over-stressed public transit systems become less reliable and accessible, and the region continues to grow, more and more commuters take to their cars, exacerbating these problems.

Our transportation infrastructure throughout the region needs significant expansion and upgrades to accommodate growth and relieve congestion. Fortunately, we have a chance to make real progress this November.

415 (800x533)
More time in traffic causes serious negative impacts on the quality of our air and the health of our Bay.

There are three key ballot measures that will make particularly critical improvements to our transportation system, helping to reduce road congestion and encouraging expanded use of public transit: BART District Measure RR, AC Transit District Measure C1, and Santa Clara County Measure B.

You can get detailed information on each of these measures at our Bay Smart Ballot Measure page.

Real benefits for the Bay from these ballot measures will include: fewer cars on the road, less particulate matter to pollute our air and water, and less trash and toxins on our roadways to wash into the Bay with every storm.

As our region continues to grow in the coming years, we have a responsibility to protect the health of the Bay – and the health of all Bay Area residents – as much as possible. Improving our transportation infrastructure is one of the most effective ways we can do that, so let’s vote Bay Smart on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Paid for by Save The Bay.

Earth Day Cleanup For a #ButtFreeBay

Earth Day Cigarette Butt Cleanup
Volunteers collected 7,873 cigarette butts our Earth Day Cleanup in El Cerrito.

Thank you so much to everyone who came out to participate in our Earth Day Cigarette Butt Cleanup in El Cerrito last month! The event was a huge success, and the city was so grateful for the help you all provided. We had over 30 people join us on April 18, including EarthTeam, an organization of local students that has been tracking and working to reduce litter in the Bay Area as well. Check out their interactive Zero Litter map here!

With our volunteers, we were able to clean and survey four main areas of the city to analyze where cigarette debris is accumulating. The city of El Cerrito adopted an outdoor smoking ordinance at the beginning of this year, and we were interested in surveying the downtown area of El Cerrito to help the city monitor its progress in reducing cigarette litter and reducing exposure to second hand smoke. In under 3 hours, our volunteers were able to collect a total of 7,873 cigarettes, and the city as a whole collected a total of 12,236 cigarettes!

Some of the areas we found with the greatest number of cigarettes included the BART station area on nearby sidewalks and the Ohlone Greenway, as well as bus stops near shopping centers, bars on San Pablo avenue, and a Police and Fire station. We found almost 900 cigarettes at the BART station alone.

El Cerrito’s outdoor smoking ordinance is a huge step toward reducing the city’s cigarette litter and keeping local waterways clean of this toxic trash, but the ordinance requires a stronger approach to compliance and enforcement. Although the ordinance is relatively new, as it went into effect in January,  the city has made some efforts to inform the public about the new legislation. Mailers have been sent to citizens and signs were posted on San Pablo Avenue, but the amount of cigarette litter present suggests that many people are unaware of the new ordinance.

In order for the ordinance to have the intended effects of reducing toxic litter and protecting the public from the detrimental effects of secondhand smoke, stronger compliance and enforcement methods need to be implemented, especially in hot spot areas for cigarette butts. Visible signage in polluted areas is a good first step – we did not see any “no smoking” signs at bus stops along San Pablo Ave., nor anywhere along the Ohlone Greenway. The BART station was another striking hot spot – the City of El Cerrito should work with BART to drastically reduce the flow of cigarette butts from the BART station and parking lot into local waterways and storm drains. Working with businesses is also necessary, to help them understand the new restrictions and to explore ways that they can be partners in establishing smoke free commercial areas.

El Cerrito’s ordinance has the potential to create a healthier community and protect local waterways, but the amount of cigarette litter we collected shows that outdoor smoking is continuing at an alarming rate, threatening the health of El Cerrito residents and the Bay. We urge the city to prioritize the outreach and enforcement strategies necessary to ensure the successful implementation of this ordinance.