News

Federal grant aims to boost Valley's traffic-reduction efforts

Palo Alto and Joint Venture Silicon Valley get $1 million for development of mobility solutions

An effort by Palo Alto and neighboring cities to get drivers to instead use trains, buses and other modes of transportation just got a lift from the federal government -- a $1 million grant aimed at accelerating the switch.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has approved the grant to fund what's known as the Bay Area Fair Value Commuting Demonstration project, which aims to reduce Bay Area's rate of solo drivers from about 75 percent to about 50 percent. The two-year grant, which was announced on Oct. 13, is part of the federal department's "Mobility on Demand" initiative, which is designed to help cities use the latest technology to solve transportation challenges.

The money would specifically be used to pursue a program known as "Fair Value Commuting," which relies on new mobile apps, expanded transit services and fees to shift people away from cars and toward other modes of transportation. One component of the program is developing software that "automates employers' commute programs and provides a real-time commute dashboard to integrate with public transit," according to an announcement from the city.

Another component of the project is a mobile app for planning trips that integrates the many services available in the area, including transit, bikeshare programs and services such as Scoop, Lyft, Zipcar and Uber.

The program also includes new fees that solo drivers would be charged; revenue from these fees would fund programs that support other types of commuting. There would be solutions to the "first- and last-mile" problems (getting people from their starting points to public transit or from public transit to their final destinations) by creating new connections between transit hubs, homes and workplaces. Another aim, according to the city's announcement, is to alleviate systemic obstacles by enabling better public transit routes across county borders, modernizing transit payment and creating shared mobility-software systems.

The grant application was spearheaded by the City of Palo Alto and Joint Venture Silicon Valley, a nonprofit that works with businesses and municipal governments to research and address regional challenges. They were representing a 23-member consortium that includes a number of area cities, companies and agencies, among them Mountain View, Redwood City, Microsoft, Google, Samtrans. the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

The project summary submitted by Joint Venture and Palo Alto notes that Fair Value Commuting program is about 40 percent of the way to becoming a "robust, scalable solution."

"Our project aspires to fully mature the solution within 24 months," the summary states.

Palo Alto City Manager James Keene, who chairs Joint Venture's Climate Prosperity Program, is one of several city leaders who have been involved in the effort. Bay Area cities, he said in a statement, "can only solve our transportation challenges through a regional approach that expands mobility options using smart technology that is integrated into our existing public transit infrastructure."

"This grant allows us to continue to make progress on commute alternatives for the future," Keene said.

Russ Hancock, CEO of Joint Venture, called the $1 million grant a "great win" for the Managers' Mobility Partnership -- a working group of Joint Venture staff along with officials from Palo Alto, Mountain View, Menlo Park, Redwood City and Stanford University.

"We are all working together to transform mobility in Silicon Valley," Hancock said in a statement.

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Comments

15 people like this
Posted by Not the only place
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 29, 2016 at 9:22 pm

After this last election, and the news stories about communities all across center America looking for investment, workers, jobs - could we stop the bubble-think for awhile and consider what we can so to increase the desirability of some of the places where an influx of people and jobs would create instant affordable housing and economic vitality? Create a plethora of desirable places and make more pies, don't argue over million-dollar crumbs.


12 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 29, 2016 at 10:47 pm

So if there is an Uber driver in the car and one passenger, the goal of less solo drivers is met!

I suppose there is some logic in this argument, but I fail to see it as a solution.

The way I would spend this money is by integrating the various transport agencies into one and reduce the costs at the top meaning administration so that there is more money to spend on actual service. How SC Valley in the northern Mountain View and Palo Alto areas can expect to have less solo drivers when we are losing the VTA routes that get kids to school and people to hospital services is an F grade and a step backwards in practical terms.


14 people like this
Posted by Steve Raney
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 30, 2016 at 9:42 am

FYI: I'm the Principal Investigator on the project.

Here is FTA's two-page PDF project brief, with more info: Web Link

"The proposed solutions seek to reduce Bay Area single occupancy vehicle (SOV) commute share from 75% to 50% through a Fair Value Commuting (FVC) solution. Stanford University’s commute program provides the conceptual FVC starting point. Stanford reduced SOV from 75% to 50% (with transit share increasing from 8.0% to 31.1%), eliminating the need for $107M in new parking structures."

@Resident:

1. As far as the Uber/Lyft space:

Agreed that most one-occupant Uber X trips do not reduce traffic congestion. Our five-component solution has the ability to dis-incentivize such trips.

Scoop and Waze Carpool are exciting developments, but Lyft Carpool has been "paused."

20%+ of one-passenger Lyft/Uber trips are first/last mile to transit. In these instances, traffic is reduced.

UberPool and Lyft Line are also great SOV (single occupant vehicle) alternatives.

2. The project agrees with your point about integrating transit agencies to create a better customer experience. This falls under one of the project's five components, entitled "systemic obstacles."

3. In terms of well-spent money. At Bay Area scale, the FVC solution creates $670M/year in new transit, biking, carpool, and smartphone mobility funding out of thin air (equivalent to a half-cent sales tax). A strength of Fair Value Commuting is its self-funding business model.


31 people like this
Posted by Yeah, Right
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 30, 2016 at 10:43 am

Try taking children to doctor/dental appointments, sports practice, tutor appointments, etc in public transit!

The kids will be squirmy on the long trips, and without seat belts/ car seats will be difficult to control.

It's pretty rare to get anywhere on time using public transit, which can cause the loss of medical and tutor appointments ( and/ or being charged anyway).

When I worked in So SF, my train and then my bus were late SO often I was put on final warning. I simply HAD to go back to driving-- in fact, I was basically ORDERED to do so.

The situation became so untenable that I took a position for a company in North SJ instead. Southbound trains are not late as often as northbound ones, for some reason.


14 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 30, 2016 at 1:00 pm

@Steve, my biases against reducing our driving freedoms, and/or increasing the public transit bureaucracy will color these questions - just putting that up front.

Regarding your component #3 - is the vision that my employer will charge me a fee to park my solo vehicle at work, and transfer that money to co-workers taking public transit? Is that how your $3m seed creates $670m out of thin air? If not, what portion is that?

Regarding your component #5 - if having 24 transit agencies in the area is a systemic obstacle, is software optimizing routes really the answer?

I have little visibility into the potential structural inefficiencies of CalTrans, the VTA and the other 23 transit agencies - do you have a plan to combat bureaucracy and other political interests? I feel few citizens understand if our tax dollars are currently being well spent (hence my surprise that voters continue to pass multi-billion dollar sales tax increases and/or bonds without much accountability for how the money is spent). If your team could distill the financial information into a 1 or 2 page infographic that would be most appreciated.

I hold out some hope for autonomous driving and thus flexible car sharing, but otherwise I am skeptical that Uber + VTA can come anywhere near my current 16 minutes commute to Santa Clara. Google Maps transit information shows $2 and 35 minutes on light rail even without the "last mile" Uber connections. And that's not factoring in the side trips I frequently make on the way home...


1 person likes this
Posted by Steve Raney
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 30, 2016 at 1:58 pm

@Mark
1. re: biases against reducing our driving freedoms, and/or increasing the public transit bureaucracy

Evidence-based solutions don’t always win popularity contests, yet Bay Area traffic congestion is now #2 in the nation, so there is political will to develop some options and pick the best one. FVC could be in that mix.

Free parking at work is a counterproductive $7/day subsidy for SOV commuting. See calculations for surface parking at: Web Link. The subsidy increases GHG and traffic congestion, both being negative externalities. Spaces in parking structures are 3X more expensive.
- That’s all well and good, but 95% of the 130M US commuters are provided with free parking.

2. re Regarding your component #3 - is the vision that my employer will charge me a fee to park my solo vehicle at work, and transfer that money to co-workers taking public transit?

A “revenue-neutral workplace parking feebate” charges a fee for SOV commutes, collects that revenue, and rebates that revenue to non-SOV commutes. Interpreting the Stanford campus commute program, parking permits translate to about a $3.60 per SOV fee. If you scale up a $3 per day SOV fee to the entire pay area, then that generates $670M/year.

In our FTA demonstration project, will use deploy a variety of carrot/stick combinations, likely beginning with more carrot than stick.


3 people like this
Posted by Steve Raney
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 30, 2016 at 2:01 pm

@Mark
3. re 24 transit agencies in the area is a systemic obstacle & combat bureaucracy and other political interests.

There are many systemic issues that should be addressed holistically. See SPUR’s Seamless Transit Report, Web Link

4. re public transit doesn’t work for my commute

Past evidence from UCLA’s Don Shoup and others has shown that, when public transit alternatives are few, carpooling fills the gap. New services like Scoop and Waze Carpool enhance carpooling. For 6-10 mile commutes, Google and Stanford have experimented with electric bikes and our FTA project will do the same. There is also a notion of combining carpooling with e-scooter first/last mile.

5. re are our tax dollars being well spent on public transit? Is it wise to pass transit sales tax increases?

One societal objective is to improve public transit "fare box recovery."
See infographic: Web Link

6. re what about side trips I frequently make on the way home

These make SOV options really tough. Schlepping kids to/from school & child care is also difficult. Fair Value Commuting aspires to shift significant commute mode, not is not trying to eliminate all SOV commuting.


10 people like this
Posted by Cheryl Lilienstein
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 30, 2016 at 2:21 pm

Part of me says, oh heck, a million here a million there for bright ideas that don't work, it's all part of the churn. Yet, I have to ask these questions and hope you can give me serious answers:
The Federal Government granted Bay Area Fair Value Commuting Demonstration a million dollars, on the basis of these (and other) assertions:
The program will make $670 million "out of thin air" and reduce car trips by 1 million car trips per day.

Please help me understand the magic: How does one make $670M a year "out of thin air"
With $1M you are going to reduce 1M car trips per day?
and...How measured? Especially considering the planned increase in population simultaneous with the program implementation?
Who are the 11 employers benefitting?
Who is the consortium?
How would this benefit
1. A family with three kids, ages 3, 7, and 12?
2. Someone who lives in, say, Boulder Creek or Los Gatos, and commutes to Stanford?
3. Someone who lives in Fremont and works in Cupertino?

Thank you.
Here is what your doc states:

ANTICIPATED OUTCOMES, BENEFITS, IMPACTS

Capstone deliverables: 1) a real-time commute mode dashboard aggregated from 11 employers using two

different ECTR apps and 2) a consortium-wide conclusion about far along FVC has progressed from 40% ready

towards 100% ready to become a regional-scale solution.

Potential Bay Area-wide Benefits / Impacts include:

 Creating $670M/year new transit, biking, carpool, and mobility service funding out of thin air

 Benefits lower income workers more than higher income workers

 Reducing 1M car trips/day, 1.3M tons/GHG/year, 3.4B VMT/year at a “negative cost” of -$558/ton GHG

reduction

 Creating a large new pro-transit voting constituency.


3 people like this
Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 30, 2016 at 3:08 pm

I really, really hope that better time tables, platform locations and electronic signage could be placed at the San Jose station. It's totally confusing which platform has what train coming. Also the ticket machines for Cal Train, BART and Muni are also confusing. I wish there was a genteral information staff on hand at Dierdon Station at all times.


1 person likes this
Posted by Steve Raney
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 30, 2016 at 3:26 pm

@Cheryl Lilienstein

Of the 78 applications for the FTA Mobility on Demand grant, 11 were awarded. Of those 11 awardees, our project and one other were honored with an invitation to present at the upcoming Transportation Research Board Conference. Our grant proposal answered some very challenging questions with strong evidence. In our back yard, Stanford campus provides compelling evidence.

A white paper (www.cities21.org/wp.pdf) accompanies the project. Additional details can be found there.


2 people like this
Posted by Steve Raney
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 30, 2016 at 5:58 pm

@Cheryl Lilienstein

I should expand on my last comment.

1. There is obviously public interest in government spending taxpayer money effectively. In this grant's instance, hopefully FTA staff come up with good scoring criteria and hence, hopefully our high-scoring proposal is truly a good use of taxpayer money.

2. FTA staff indicated that our proposal as an outlier because of the self-funding, self-sustaining business model. Most proposals to FTA require ongoing taxpayer subsidy.

3. USDOT is playing a commendable role in catalyzing innovation. The $40M Smart Cities Challenge is one example. The FTA Mobility on Demand program is part of the great USDOT effort to spur innovaion.


4 people like this
Posted by Rose
a resident of Mayfield
on Nov 30, 2016 at 6:23 pm

Hurray!!! Finally some serious talk about improving public transportation. That is the ONLY solution to our traffic and parking woes -- not to mention noise and air pollution.
We've got to start somewhere -- let the skeptics be gone:-(


5 people like this
Posted by Jane Fayar
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 30, 2016 at 8:08 pm

@steve raney

Why is your agency not working toward long term goals of providing subways and actually tunneling/undergrounding trains as a statewide effort?

Consolidate all your various transportation agencies so that taxpayer money is not wasted with all the duplication that leads nowhere.

Your agencies keep providing grants focused on two things; get people out of their cars and messing up our streets.

Coming up with a new name or brand does not change the program, it is the same old thing and IT IS NOT WORKING!!!


4 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2016 at 10:24 pm

How can we take anything serious that claims to create millions of dollars of funding "out of thin air". Please be straight with people and admit it would be millions of funding from NEW TAXES... call it fees, taxes, whatever ... the money is coming out of someone's pocket, not out of thin air.


Like this comment
Posted by Steve Raney
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 2, 2016 at 7:38 am

@Dan

Stanford's commute program reduced single occupancy vehicle (SOV) commuting from 75% to 50%. Stanford's program is self-funding and self-sustaining.

Our proposal builds on Stanford's success. FTA staff indicated that our proposal was an outlier because of the self-funding, self-sustaining business model. Most proposals to FTA require ongoing taxpayer subsidy.

A "revenue-neutral workplace parking feebate" charges a fee for SOV commutes, collects that revenue, and rebates that revenue to non-SOV commutes. Accounting is such that there is no cost to employers.


Like this comment
Posted by stanhutchings
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 2, 2016 at 10:45 am

stanhutchings is a registered user.

Before retiring, I lived 10 miles (Palo Alto to Sunnyvale) from work. My company gave me a free bus/VTA pass that I could use any time. Bus/VTA took over an hour (Google Maps says anywhere from :56 to 1:36 travel time, at :30 intervals. By auto it is just 18 minutes (but much longer during commute hours). Bicycling is 51 minutes. I found biking to be my preferred method except when it rained. I had flexibility to leave when I was finished, not when I had to catch the VTA. Waiting 10-30 minutes for a bus at the Castro station was another frustration - the schedules did not coincide. Biking did not incur any delay except at stop lights, and coming home on the Bay Trail, while 1 hour (still less than public transit!), was delightfully invigorating, fulfilled my exercise quota for the day (no gym fees!) and once on the trail, no stop lights.
My observation is, generally unless people live close enough to work to walk or bike, almost as fast as driving and cheaper, traffic will NOT be reduced.
The real solution is to build affordable high-rise rental/condo/retail, say 500 or so units (with possibly some retail on the bottom floors), to house most of the employees within 2-3 miles of where most jobs are, and/or provide commute shuttles to/from work sites. By charging a high fee for parking, auto ownership would be reduced, especially if the fee subsidized shuttles and bikes. This is particularly important for the concentrations of employers with many employees, such as schools, city hall, Stanford Shopping Center, Page Mill Road, Downtown, N.California, etc. If I were a city employee, I'd love to live on the 25th floor above City Hall, with a breathtaking view of the surroundings. I would hardly ever need a car, I'd commute to work by elevator and have walking access to all downtown. The view from a Page Mill high-rise would be equally beautiful, and if I worked for one of those companies I could easily walk to work. How about a high-rise at Page Mill at Foothill Expwy or El Camino Real? Take away the incentive to drive, and traffic will decrease.
Another very attractive option would be to work closely with Google, Ford and other developers of autonomous vehicles to develop door-to-door service at a reasonable price. This would be especially attractive to those of us unwilling or unable to drive.


2 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2016 at 2:34 pm

Steve,

"A "revenue-neutral workplace parking feebate" charges a fee for SOV commutes, collects that revenue...".
"Accounting is such that there is no cost to employers." ==> so this means the money just appears "out of thin air" ?

Exactly how is this different than a tax, say a gas tax? i.e. an ongoing tax-payer subsidy. You call it revenue ... fine, but it is TAX revenue just collected in a different mechanism coming out of my pocket to try to force me into a far less efficient commute (~20 minute drive becomes > 1 hour trip one-way... with extra cost of transit fares that I don't currently have to pay. You might rebate transit fares, but who cares given the extra wasted time). Good news is , if my employer were to start charging for parking, unless the whole Bay Area institutes RPP, I would just find free street parking in front of someone's home or business in the area, walk a few blocks to work and the tax would be successfully avoided without doubling or tripling my commute time (and I'd get a little extra daily exercise + a few minutes less productive work time daily). I know ... answer is to charge money for street parking too...

By the way, I am painfully aware of Stanford's "success" ... buying parking permits now requires an organ donation to raise the necessary funds even for people who have to go there for work purposes.


Like this comment
Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 2, 2016 at 4:28 pm

No another app that sucks up more energy on a smartphone. How about distributing that 1 million dollars to improve the existing bus stops, train platforms. This sounds like a startup snaggle to me. I'd rather see a free bike share like Google does on their campus.


2 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 2, 2016 at 7:34 pm

Given the "other modes of transportation" that currently exist, or are likely to be created in the foreseeable future, it's hard to imagine large numbers of people leaving their cars.

Public transit that is truly "mass" has the several characteristics:

- It picks you up and drops you off very near to your points of origin and destination.

- It runs frequently and has coordinated connections so you don't waste time waiting.

- It moves quickly so you get from here to there in reasonable time.

- It is considerably less expensive than driving.

There's no point to continue. Current systems do not meet even these requirements. Since they can't readily be modified to do so, why should we believe apps and fees will make a significant difference?





Like this comment
Posted by Steve Raney
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 3, 2016 at 11:39 am

@Dan
A workplace parking feebate is a direct user fee that internalizes negative externalities. Hence the feebate is differentiated from a general taxpayer obligation like gas tax or sales tax. But nothing is perfect.

If the Bay Area could shift commuting from 75% single occupancy vehicle (SOV) to 50%, then that would create 465,000 new non-SOV commuters. This would provide scale to improve non-SOV options and make them more competitive. The aspiration is not to force people from a 20-minute SOV commute that they enjoy into a 60-minute non-SOV commute that they hate.

As far as parking a few blocks from your office, the highly-accurate automated commute mode detection software that is envisioned would still classify that commute as SOV, even though you don’t park on-site.

Stanford’s A-Lot parking permits translate into roughly $3.60/day, so costs less than a grande no foam latte.

SVLG’s support letter makes these points:
* most Silicon Valley commuters drive alone and spend an average of 37 hours per year stuck in traffic. That’s a loss of $721 dollars on excess fuel consumption per commuter – more than $840 million in total every year. Long solo commutes and congestion on our roadways contribute to dramatic and rapid changes in the climate of our planet and decrease productivity and quality of life for our employees.
* (a feebate) increases the financial sustainability of transportation. Widespread implementation of the idea could create a dedicated new source of transportation funding and add revenues to local transit agencies, as new riders choose transit given the increased and more visible cost of driving.
* (the feebate) creates more dense development patterns in strategic locations that can be more effectively served by transit, shuttles, biking, walking and carpooling. Widespread implementation of the idea shows promise to free up approximately 345,000 Bay Area parking spaces (2,608 acres) for in-fill development and densification.


Like this comment
Posted by Steve Raney
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 3, 2016 at 11:50 am

@Arbitrarian

Stanford reduced SOV from 75% to 50% (with transit share increasing from 8.0% to 31.1%), eliminating the need for $107M in new parking structures. The white paper’s Appendix H provides a survey of US evidence showing that pricing shifts commute away from SOV.

Past evidence from UCLA’s Don Shoup and others has shown that, when public transit alternatives are few, carpooling fills the gap. New services like Scoop and Waze Carpool enhance carpooling. For 6-10 mile commutes, Google and Stanford have experimented with electric bikes and our FTA project will do the same.

The hourly operating cost of a 50-passenger public transit bus is in the range of $135. For private transit with lower labor cost, that cost drops to about $80. Public transit requires taxpayer subsidy, whereas private transit has to generate far higher farebox revenue in order to make a profit. New commuter motorcoaches cost $500,000. Currently the economics are challenging for both suburban public and private bus transit.

Within the field of suburban transportation the following are exceptionally cost-effective (from a taxpayer standpoint): carpooling/ridesharing, biking, walking, telework, filling empty seats in existing public transit, private sector mobility services, parking price increases and driving price increases. Public transit expansion projects are sometimes cost-effective but sometimes not.


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 3, 2016 at 12:10 pm

"Less solo drivers" is such a disgusting, communist "goal" to have. I want Steve Raney to ride trains and buses for the rest of his life.

Federal funding, huh?

I hope Trump takes away all the federal funding and ends the regressive liberal War on Cars once and for all!


Like this comment
Posted by Steve Raney
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 3, 2016 at 12:43 pm

@Resident

Bay Area traffic congestion is the second worst in the nation (after LA). Such disgusting congestion has many deleterious impacts to our economy. Our project aspires to mature a solution to reduce congestion. Reducing congestion is a very Capitalistic thing to do because it helps the economy.

Fair Value Commuting addresses inefficient transportation pricing, creating a more efficient transportation system (market).

SVLG’s support letter makes this Capitalistic point:
* most Silicon Valley commuters drive alone and spend an average of 37 hours per year stuck in traffic. That’s a loss of $721 dollars on excess fuel consumption per commuter – more than $840 million in total every year. Long solo commutes and congestion on our roadways contribute to dramatic and rapid changes in the climate of our planet and decrease productivity and quality of life for our employees.


4 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 3, 2016 at 1:29 pm

How about using the money to provide school bus service? That way you reduce very predictable traffic that's jamming our roads twice a day?

How about using the money to oppose ABAG's all-development all-the-time targets? I'm so tired of hearing how Stanford or other areas cut their commute traffic by X% while having a 5-fold increase in total commute traffic and thus is a net gain!

Read the other current articles about Stanford's growth. Do have any idea how many polls we get that tell us that Stanford's ever-growing traffic and never-ending growth won't have the slightest effect on Palo Alto traffic? Riiiight. And I've got a nice bridge to sell you.


Like this comment
Posted by History Buff
a resident of another community
on Dec 5, 2016 at 5:29 pm

How can I trust a comment like this: "A workplace parking feebate is a direct user fee that internalizes negative externalities."

Nothing but burueaucraspeak.

As to the joys of public transit, see Web Link
BART plans to ease overcrowding by removing some seats

BART officials are proposing removing seven seats on one side of each of 380 selected railcars, leaving a row of single seats — and extra room to stand. ... The idea is to make more room for passengers during crowded commute periods, when trains are so packed that many riders can’t even squeeze onto a train. Each seat that’s removed from a train car makes room for three standing passengers,


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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