As we all know and experience nearly daily, traffic volumes are at an all-time high and the ensuing congestion a major frustration for everyone dependent on our local roads to get around. The increase in traffic is impacting our overall quality of life, the environment and challenging our mobility as a community. Traffic volume has grown significantly over the last several years with a robust bay area economy and ensuing job growth (both within Marin and regionally) being the primary drivers. Add to that a booming school age population, meaning more car trips to and from school as well as after-school activities.
And, yes, those of us without children at home are driving more too. The average Marin County household generates 10-12 trips per day now, versus six trips per day when I was growing up. In fact, that six trips per day per household number was used by traffic engineers and city planners to calculate roadway capacity needs going forward when many of our major roadways were expanded in the 60's and 70's.
Addressing today's traffic congestion will take a multi-prong approach including: maximizing the efficiency of existing roadways, reducing the number of cars on the road, and improvements in public transportation, including school bus programs, and programs encouraging biking, walking, carpooling and alternative commute modes.
The good news – there are currently several public agency efforts underway at addressing traffic woes.
See below for more information about these efforts:
The Sir Francis Drake Boulevard (SFDB) Rehabilitation Project consists of several physical modifications to the Sir Francis Drake Boulevard corridor between Highway 101 and Ross and repaving the entire roadway in the unincorporated area of Marin County and the City of Larkspur. The funding source for the project, Measure A (Marin County Transportation) Road Rehabilitation funds, are dedicated to repaving the entire roadway segment and constructing associated, mandated improvements such as ADA improvements. A detailed planning process facilitated the consideration of additional improvements in the corridor. Opportunities analysis by Department of Public Works and the consultant team, along with extensive public outreach, resulted in identification of several potential corridor improvements to address the community’s concerns regarding traffic congestion, safety and the movement of vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists along and across the congested corridor.
The additional improvements include modification to the configuration and geometry of several intersections, replacement of traffic signal controls with modern equipment, widening sidewalks and improving roadway crossings for pedestrians, and installation of additional conduits to enable future adaptive signal technology and other fiber optic communications. A separately-funded pipeline replacement project by Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) has also been incorporated into the project as construction of the two projects together is more cost-efficient, less disruptive, and less environmentally impactful than being constructed separately.
The Board of Supervisors certified the project’s Environmental Impact Report and approved a final project for design and construction on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. The project is currently in the final design stage. Construction is anticipated to begin Spring 2020 and is expected to take 2 years to complete. Visit the project website for further information and to sign up for updates.
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission awarded a Program for Arterial System Synchronization (PASS) grant to Caltrans, Larkspur, and County of Marin for a signal synchronization project on Sir Francis Drake (SFD) in Larkspur, Greenbrae, and Kentfield. Project area included the SFD improvement project area (101 to town of Ross) plus 2 lights on East SFD by Larkspur Landing. The Program updated current signal timing to reflect current traffic counts and patterns. The new timing schedule also provides a baseline for development of the ultimate timing for the modern traffic signals being installed with the SFD Improvement project.
The Project studied and synchronized 11 traffic signals, 9 in County and 2 in Larkspur. Caltrans reviewed the study, which analyzed 2 of its signals located near 101 access ramps. The grant was roughly $84,000 to help fund coordination of 3 agencies to improve traffic signal timing. It covered 85% of retiming work and half of related GPS clock infrastructure improvements in the estimated $98,000 project. Local funding (approx. $15,000) was split by County and Larkspur in proportion to number of signals under its jurisdiction (roughly $12,500 and $2,800).
The project has been completed. Click here to read the press release.
The eastbound third land on the Richmond- San Rafael bridge is now open! The added lane is available from 2 to 7 p.m. every day of the week, allowing Caltrans to retain a shoulder for maintenance work during other times of the day. Twenty overhead signs on the span show a green arrow or red “X” to indicate whether the lane is open and a yellow “X” and arrow during the transition. Cameras to watch traffic on the span also have been added. Drivers should not be in the lane during off hours and face citations from the California Highway Patrol if there’s a violation. Traffic congestion has significantly lessened since the lane opened on April 2018.
A four year pilot for a multi-use path for bike and pedestrians with a movable concrete barrier (like the moveable median barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge) has begun on the upper deck - the bicycle pedestrian path from Point Richmond to San Rafael was completed/opened November 2019. Usage will be monitored. A "zipper truck" will be used to move the barrier when necessary, typically to allow Bay Area Transit Authority (BATA) and Caltrans to conduct bridge maintenance work during short closures of the bike/ped path. Most of these closures will occur at night. Marin County Board of Supervisors is asking for consideration of shared use for vehicles, carpools and transit in the third lane westbound during morning commute hours.
Visit the project page on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission website for more information.
SB 1 & ACA 5 – Transportation Funding, Reform and Protection Plan
In spring 2017, the State Senate and Assembly passed SB 1 (Beall), the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017. The $5.2 billion generated annually for California’s state and local transportation system ensures that Californians have safe and reliable streets, roads and bridges and a solid transportation network. Both houses also passed ACA 5, which ensures that revenues generated by SB 1 are spent only on their intended purpose. This action provides significant public benefit for transportation in every county across California, Marin included.
Statewide, cities and counties evenly share an average of $1.5 billion/year in new local road funding from SB 1. The funds are non-competitive and will come to the County in monthly disbursements from the State Controller. There is no sunset, and funding grows with inflation. Marin’s average annual share of new funding from SB 1 is $5,300,000 over the next decade.
Counties can access grant funding from active transportation, congested corridors, and goods movement programs funded by the bill, which also includes significant ongoing funding for transit services and state highway maintenance.
The revenues will be phased-in over a multi-year period:
- Gas and diesel excise taxes and diesel sales tax began in November 2017
- Transportation improvement fee began in Spring 2018
- The price-based excise tax was reset to 17.3 cents in July 2019
- New Zero Emissions Vehicles will begin to pay an additional registration fee for road maintenance in 2020.
ACA 5 ensures that all of these revenue sources are constitutionally-protected and cannot be diverted to non-transportation purposes.
Reducing School Related Traffic Congestion
School related traffic comprises anywhere from 20-40% of a.m. traffic within various communities throughout Marin. It is an obvious target for efforts geared towards reducing local surface street traffic - hence Safe Routes to Schools, Transportation Authority of Marin's crossing guards program and other efforts addressing school related traffic. These programs have been successful, significantly increasing the numbers of students carpooling, biking, walking and riding transit to school, but as school populations have increased, so too traffic, and thus efforts to do more. Here's the latest on two projects I have advocated for and are now being implemented by Marin Transit and partners.
- Express Bus Service between San Rafael Transit Center to College of Marin. This route (route 122) has more frequent service during student commute hours and also eliminates several stops along the way, shaving about 10 minutes off run time. The express bus came on line in 2015, the same time as newly instituted student bus passes were made available to all COM students. Marin Transit and the College continue to work together to make transit an attractive option for students and reducing traffic in SFD corridor. All COM students get unlimited access to local Marin Transit buses, including an express route to the Kentfield campus, with their validated COM Card.
- Yellow School Bus Service.Marin Transit's Yellow School Bus program, in partnership with the City of San Anselmo, the Town of Fairfax, and the County of Marin, provides students at White Hill Middle School, Hidden Valley Elementary School, and Ross Valley Charter School the opportunity to ride to and from school on a bus that’s been specifically designed for student transportation operated by drivers trained to service this population. The program is in its fourth year and approximately 63% of White Hill students have a bus pass, literally removing close to 2000 car trips a day off crowded Sir Francis Drake.
On January 1, 2019, the Ross Valley Yellow Bus Transportation Services Joint Exercise of Powers Agreement (JEPA) went into effect. The members of the JEPA form a joint committee including the Town of San Anselmo, Town of Fairfax, County of Marin, and Ross Valley School District. The purpose of the joint committee is to provide enhanced public oversight and transparency for the yellow bus program operated by Marin Transit and serving public schools in the Ross Valley. The joint committee will provide policy guidance and advice to Marin Transit. Learn more about the joint committee and view presentations and meeting materials.
Marin Transit and County are also working with Kentfield School District in hopes to launch a yellow bus program for that community as well in the near future
Looking forward, Marin Transit is closely monitoring the yellow bus pilot as part of the 2015 countywide student transportation study by Marin Transit in coordination with the Transportation Authority of Marin, the Marin County Office of Education, and the Safe Routes to School program. The study is aimed at increasing "best fit/green trip" transportation solutions for public schools throughout the county. Yellow Bus Service being one tool of many that will play a role in reducing school-related traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions, and getting kids to school safely, happily, and on time.