In August and September, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) will hold workshops and hearings for public input on the 1998 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). The RTP is the blueprint that will determine how Federal and State transportation funds are allocated to projects in the nine counties of the San Francisco Bay Area served by the MTC.
Two coalitions of environmental-social justice-transit advocacy organizations are determined to see that alternatives to the private automobile get a better share of what funds are available. The Transportation Choices Forum and Urban Habitat Program have raised questions about the inadequacy of the RTP where access for minority and low-income citizens who can’t afford automobiles are concerned. The lack of performance goals is being questions as well Ð after years and years of attempting to meet air quality goals and reduce traffic congestion, there’s no improvement in either.
There is also a great need to direct MTC’s attention to another worthy goal. The oldest adverse environmental impact of motor vehicles are accidental deaths and injuries. In a June 29 article, the Examiner cited an International Federation of Red Cross/Red Crescent 1998 World Disasters Report which predicted that by the year 2020, traffic accidents will take third place in the world for death and disability, ahead of respiratory infections, tuberculosis, war and HIV.
As an excuse to give preference to highway expansion projects, the MTC likes to remind us of how many millions of productive hours are lost by commuters sitting in congested traffic. But they never tell us what portion of these lost hours are the result of traffic accidents. We must keep reminding our planners that most congestion is caused by accidents that have killed four times as many Americans as were killed in all our nation’s wars from the Revolution until the present day. We can reduce this tragic toll not by increasing our highway capacity, but by providing safe alternatives to the automobile: more public transit and safer conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists.
For additional information on meeting dates, times and locations regarding the RTP, contact the MTC, 101 8th Street, Oakland (across from the Lake Merritt BART station) at 510-464-7700.
Art Weber is Transportation Chair of the Berkeley Gray Panthers:. 548-9696.