Durable Growth

Taking the next step – Opportunities for public education and participation, week of May 29

Urban setting in London

Urban setting in London

I write about urbanism and enjoy doing so.  I hope I’ve opened some eyes to different ways to configure our North Bay communities, alternatives that will make us more resilient, sustainable, and financially solvent.

However, growing a cadre of enthusiastic, but closeted, urbanists doesn’t change the world.  Instead, those converts must take part in the decision-making processes.  Voting wisely in November is a good start, but attending meetings with urbanist angles and looking for the right moments to put a shoulder to the wheel is also important.

Thus, I present a weekly summary of meetings that urbanists, newly-minted or long-standing, might consider attending and at which they can look for the right time to add their thoughts.  I also note a few other opportunities for public involvement.

Upcoming Meetings

Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit, Wednesday, June 1, 1:30pm, 5401 Old Redwood Highway, Petaluma – The SMART Board is scheduled to meet, although the agenda isn’t yet posted.  (Update: The agenda has now been posted and will include the discussion of fares, a subject noted below under Other Involvement Opportunities.)

Sonoma County Transportation and Land-Use Coalition, Wednesday, June 1, 4:00pm, Environmental Center of Sonoma County, 55 Ridgway Avenue # A, Santa Rosa – SCTLC has been a long-time leader in forward thinking about more sustainable land-use options, including early advocacy for SMART.  Their next meeting will consider the next generation of land-use changes, including a discussion of rail options beyond SMART.

MTC/ABAG, Thursday, June 2, 11:00am, Finley Community Center, 2060 W. College Avenue, Santa Rosa – The Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments are kicking off their Bay Area 2040 plan to identify the best strategies for efficient investment of transportation resources.  This will be the scoping meeting to elicit public input on the environment impact study to be prepared for Bay Area 2040.  (Note: This meeting is strictly on the EIR and is different than the outreach meetings that will seek input to Bay Area 2040 and are noted below.)

Petaluma Transit Advisory Committee, Thursday, June 2, 4:00pm, Petaluma City Hall – MTC has delayed the due date for the Short Range Transit Plan, allowing more time for North Bay transit agencies to consider their interconnections with the coming SMART train, but the Transit Committee will still have SRTP decisions to ponder, including possible adjustments to evening service.  (Acknowledgment: I serve as chair of the committee.)

MTC/ABAG, Saturday, June 4, 8:30am, Corte Madera Community Center, 498 Tamalpais Drive, Corte Madera – This is one of a series of meeting at which input will be sought for the Bay Area 2040 plan on transportation funding strategies.  (Reminder: These are the meetings that were largely shut down by Agenda 21 disruptions during the last planning effort in 2012.  I was at the Sonoma County meeting back then and ruminated at length on the disturbances, here , here, and here.  I still agree with much of what I wrote four years ago.)

Petaluma Urban Chat , Wednesday, June 8, 7:00pm, Aqus Café, 2nd and H Streets, Petaluma –Urban Chat will discuss the Bay Area 2040 with the goal of enticing folks to attend the Sonoma County outreach meeting on June 13.  Those who attended the June 4 Marin County meeting will report on their impressions.  (Note: I normally facilitate Urban Chat, but will be away at an urbanist conference.  Bjorn Griepenburg will facilitate in my absence.)

MTC/ABAG, Monday, June 13, 6:00pm, Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa –This will be the Sonoma County outreach meeting for input to Bay Area 2040.

Other Involvement Opportunities

City of Petaluma – The City is seeking volunteers for openings on City Commissions and Committees.  In many years, some bodies, notably the Planning Commission and Pedestrian/Bicycle Advisory Committee, attract more applicants than openings, but other bodies struggle to maintain full complements.  Citizens willing to take an active role on these commissions and committees can be surprisingly capable of making community changes.

California Road Charge – Although the deadline is only days away, volunteers are still being sought to help conduct a pilot study on the use of vehicle mileage charges to replace the gas tax.  Although 7,400 volunteers have already signed up for 5,000 spaces in the study, the organizers are still trying to fill demographic groups they believe are underrepresented. (I’ve previously signed up.)

SMART – The SMART Board is still seeking your thoughts on a fare structure.  Since I first mentioned this poll a week ago, questioning its over-simplicity, the North Bay has largely agreed with me and gone much further.

A Petaluma architect wrote a pointed email to SMART management asking about connections between fares and whether employees would get living wages, whether the extension to Larkspur would be completed sooner, and whether the second Petaluma station would be build sooner.  To my knowledge, he didn’t get a response.

Perhaps even more importantly, many in the North Bay are greatly concerned by the fares, with the fear that ridership will be depressed if the fares don’t offer a sufficient incentive to overcome the advantages given to cars in our car-centric land-pattern.

I find the point reasonable.  My thought is that fares need to be set such that ridership approximates the initial estimates.  If we’re going to spend the money to build a game-changing rail system, we need to ensure that enough people ride for the game to be truly changed.

Meanwhile, folks interested in the role of SMART in the North Bay may want to mark June 15 on their calendars.  It seems likely that the SMART Board will continue their consideration of fares at that meeting.  (Update: The discussion will instead be on the June 1 agenda.)

Lots of opportunities to get involved.  Please grab at least one and hopefully more.

With the full-scale testing of the SMART train likely coming in June, my next post will offer some perspective on the immediate impacts to the communities to be served by the train.

As always, your questions or comments will be appreciated.  Please comment below or email me.  And thanks for reading. – Dave Alden (davealden53@comcast.net)

Written by Dave Alden

Dave Alden

Dave Alden is a Registered Civil Engineer. A University of California graduate, he has worked on energy and land-use projects in California, Oregon, and Washington. He was also the president of a minor league baseball team for two seasons. He lives on the west side of Petaluma with his wife and two dogs. The blog that he writes can be found at http://northbaydesignkit.blogspot.com.

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