News

Editorial: No on Regional Measure 3

Ballot measure to increase bridge tolls by $3 over next six years is too much

When Bay Area cities, especially San Francisco and those on the Peninsula, approve massive additional office development without housing to accommodate all the new workers, the natural result is longer commutes and unbearable traffic.

That is why Bay Area corporate leaders, state legislators and regional and local officials keep turning to voters for money to add highway lanes, extend BART to downtown San Jose, extend Caltrain to downtown San Francisco, improve bus service, and implement other measures to address transportation problems.

Santa Clara County voters have been especially responsive. In 2016, they approved a half-cent increase in the county sales tax for transportation projects that will generate an estimated $6.5 billion over the next 30 years. Along with previous sales tax hikes that are still in effect, county consumers are currently paying 9.25 percent in sales tax, with 1.625 percent dedicated to transportation improvement projects in Santa Clara County (the bulk of which is dedicated to extending BART to San Jose.)

At the same time these sales taxes are collecting billions of dollars, a statewide 12 cent-per-gallon increase in the gas tax was implemented by the state Legislature last November for transportation projects. That tax will increase by another 5.6 cents next year and will be indexed to the Consumer Price Index starting in 2020.

Now along comes Regional Measure 3, which asks voters in nine Bay Area counties to approve three successive $1 increases in bridge tolls on all Bay Area bridges except the Golden Gate Bridge. The new tolls will increase tolls from the current $5 to $8 by 2025 and will thereafter be increased with the rise of the Consumer Price Index. The new tolls are expected to generate about $4.5 billion for transportation capital projects throughout the Bay Area. To pass, a majority of voters in each county must vote to approve the measure.

Supporters, who include major business groups and most Bay Area elected officials, consider toll increases to be a way other than tax increases to generate more funding for the 35 identified transportation improvements located in each of the nine counties.

The projects identified that could most directly impact the Midpeninsula are for improvements to the Dumbarton Bridge "corridor," which would receive $130 million. These could include improved bus service, bus-only lanes on the Bayfront Expressway in Menlo Park and new connecting bus service with Amtrak and BART in the East Bay. It would not fund improvements to the bridge itself.

We join with Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian in opposing Regional Measure 3.

Bridge tolls are a regressive tax that inappropriately target lower-paid service workers who can't afford housing on the Peninsula (or in San Francisco) but commute here to jobs at restaurants, retail stores, schools, nursing homes and other non-tech small businesses. These commuters, who must pay for their gas and bridge tolls in after-tax dollars, will face the need to make an extra $1,000 a year to pay, after taxes, just for the increase in bridge tolls.

Funding important regional transportation infrastructure projects should ideally come through state tax revenues, which are progressive in their distribution of the tax burden. That is exactly what was achieved with the passage of SB1 last year by the California Legislature, which will fund more than $50 billion in transit improvements.

RM3's toll increases, along with the implementation of inflation escalators, ask for too much and attempt to leverage the public's frustration over bad traffic to disproportionately penalize bridge commuters, a small fraction of voters and therefore an easy target.

Bay Area business leaders and their advocacy organizations such as Silicon Valley Leadership Group need to work more on the root cause of our transportation problems — the continued approvals of new commercial development on the Peninsula without the housing needed to accommodate the employees. Until that becomes their priority, taxpayers will continue to be pressured to pay for transportation improvements that seek the impossible: the accommodation of the ever-increasing number of workers commuting long distances from affordable housing.

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Comments

9 people like this
Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on May 15, 2018 at 11:42 am

This paragraph made me think that there isn't sufficient benefits for the added bridge "tax" burden. I would like to read an opposing opinion, so that I can understand both sides better.

"The projects identified that could most directly impact the Midpeninsula are for improvements to the Dumbarton Bridge 'corridor,' which would receive $130 million. These could include improved bus service, bus-only lanes on the Bayfront Expressway in Menlo Park and new connecting bus service with Amtrak and BART in the East Bay. It would not fund improvements to the bridge itself."


15 people like this
Posted by Regional realist
a resident of Midtown
on May 15, 2018 at 12:08 pm

RM3 is one more important way in which the Bay Area is addressing tour traffic conditions without waiting for other sources that may never arrive. On the peninsula and in the south Bay, Measure 3 will fund
Eastridge to BART Regional Connector — $130M
San Jose Diridon Station — $100M
Dumbarton Corridor Improvements — $130M
Highway 101/State Route 92 Interchange — $50M

There are also regional benefits, including expanded Ferry service bay-wide, including in Redwood City, expansion of express lanes, bus transit improvements, BART fleet replacement, and Bay Trail funding.

This measure is part of a regional self-help strategy and I encourage us all to vote "Yes"


22 people like this
Posted by Progress
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2018 at 12:12 pm

Everywhere we look we see the bitter fruit of the Bay Area's historical resistance to investing in growth and prosperity with coordinated, forward-looking, regional transportation infrastructure and systems: a decrepit Caltrain system, the absence of BART, overcrowded freeways.

Here in Palo Alto, such resistance has been even more acute as city leaders competed to see who could kick the can further down the road: Alma Street operates as a 4-lane freeway designed for horse-and-buggy; the Embarcadero Road underpass is a choke point; the San Antonio corridor has a stranglehold come rush hour; grade separations like ours have been extinct for a half-century in most of the country.

Shame on the Weekly: After generations of neglect, Palo Altans should be enthusiastically supporting every fresh new opportunity to enhance and maintain our increasingly gridlocked home. The Weekly should be showing them the way.


22 people like this
Posted by Grouchy
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on May 15, 2018 at 12:46 pm

Nebulous promises! "A plan to reduce truck traffic" - how will that happen? Don't fall for this measure, we're already taxed out and congestion continues to get worse. We need to stop building offices or congestion will increase. I support the editorial.


13 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on May 15, 2018 at 4:42 pm

Instead of sitting in your $5 million house in Palo Alto, why don't you go out and ask the East Bay commuters if they would prefer convenient bus service to sitting in horrendous traffic jams and paying tolls (regardless of whether they are $5 or $10).

This type of know-nothing elitism is unconscionable.


8 people like this
Posted by Why not a gas tax?
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 15, 2018 at 5:18 pm

Why not a gas tax? is a registered user.

I think we need to continue to find ways to encourage people to use transit and get out of their cars. But a bridge toll seems to me like a weird way to do that. This isn't "know-nothing elitism", though it may be "know-nothing" :) It seems to me that a gas tax would be more proportional to the problem, and a tax on services like uber and lyft, which are exacerbating the problem and taking people out of mass transit, would also help.

I am voting against this because there are much better approaches to what is an important problem. Not because I'm a "know-nothing elite", though maybe I am that too. I don't see how calling people names, though, helps.


18 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 16, 2018 at 12:23 am

This constant increase in tolls is an outrage. Tolls hit the people who least need a
hike in their taxes ... it is the same as a steeply regressive tax. People who live
across the bay do not make enough to live in Palo Alto ... so what does this toll do
but tax them for not being rich enough to live here.

California needs to start to take its boot off the throats of the working people and
tax the people who are making windfall gains from investment, stocks and other
high-income sources that for some reason are given a preference in the tax system.

Tax people who benefit from the system and who can afford it ... start to put some
fairness and justice back in a tax system that has gotten more regressive and unfair
over the last 3-4 decades.


6 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 16, 2018 at 3:28 am

"The new tolls are expected to generate about $4.5 billion for transportation capital projects throughout the Bay Area."

And then after $4.5 billion, the tolls go back to previous values? In my dreams...

What's always missing is the time-frame. Left as an exercise for the voter. Caltrans data indicate average daily vehicle traffic summed over all seven bridges = 800,000. Call it 400,000 in the toll direction. Multiply by a $3 toll increase, is an extra $1.2M per day, or just over 10 years to collect the whole $4.5 billion promised for "capital projects." I guess after that, all the extra dollars start going into "operating budgets." We're still paying the extra dollar for Regional Measure 1, and also the extra dollar for Regional Measure 2. Around 2030 we'll be voting on Regional Measure 4.


10 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on May 16, 2018 at 7:53 am

From the Editorial:

"Bay Area business leaders and their advocacy organizations such as Silicon Valley Leadership Group need to work more on the root cause of our transportation problems — the continued approvals of new commercial development on the Peninsula..."

----------

Exactly. Those who created the problem should be responsible for funding any necessary mitigation.

Seattle, for example, just passed a new law that requires businesses grossing $20+ million to pay $275 per employee per year to help address the homelessness crisis driven by companies such as Amazon and Starbucks, etc. See Web Link


11 people like this
Posted by Trevor Gatlin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 16, 2018 at 8:37 am

Key reasons to vote No on RM3
1. Ignores Both the Causes and Solutions of Gridlock
2. Unfair & Regressive Funding Model
3. Doesn’t Address North County Issues
4. Doen’t Build Transit to Housing-Rich Areas
5. Encourages the Use of Single Occupancy Vehicles
6. Does Not Fund Alternative Transportation Options

Fund transportation solutions with gasoline taxes, and head taxes on major for-profit employers. Not with extremely regressive taxes and fees.

So glad that Lenny Siegel, mayor of Mountain View, had the guts to come out against RM-3 and to propose a head tax. Cupertino City Council also came out against RM-3.

In Palo Alto we only have two council members not owned by the entities promoting RM-3, Kou and Filseth. We'd never get a majority of the council to come out against this boondoggle.


9 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 16, 2018 at 9:23 am

My mailman delivered an 8 1/2 x 11 full-color 2-sided card promoting Yes on RM3.
"Paid for by Yes on Regional Measure 3 -- Keeping the Bay Area Moving."

Nowhere does it mention a toll increase. Or any funding at all.
Do they want voters to think we will get all these benefits for free?


6 people like this
Posted by @Abitarian
a resident of another community
on May 16, 2018 at 10:00 am

"Exactly. Those who created the problem should be responsible for funding any necessary mitigation."

Agreed, we need to raise property taxes on Peninsula homeowners who have fought against new housing for decades, causing people to move further away from their jobs and commute in over these bridges.


19 people like this
Posted by Hugh Jardonn
a resident of another community
on May 16, 2018 at 12:36 pm

I'll be voting "no" on this one. Recall how MTC wasted toll money to build a new Taj Mahal headquarters in San Francisco when the one they had in Oakland was perfectly good. Why reward this behavior with more of our hard-earned cash?


6 people like this
Posted by thinking no on RM3
a resident of Midtown
on May 16, 2018 at 2:33 pm

Two seconds of thought comes to the realization that the only way to make a bus only lane in the Dumbarton corridor is to take one of the existing lanes. And it doesn't do anything for the bridge itself. Yeah, that'll reduce congestion for sure.


10 people like this
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on May 16, 2018 at 4:51 pm

RM3 is a great idea. Cook up a great way to tax folks over a Billion $ for something they can't even vote on. It is a blank check for the transportation lords to spend/waste money on anything that has the word transportation in it. Sure the folks that live and vote on the peninsula should vote for it because we mostly won't have to pay for it. The people really paying for it can't vote. With BART and VTA spending the money we will not get much out of it either. Notice how BART, light rail, and the buses have relieved the traffic on the Peninsula. Now you want to give them more money? Just think about it next time you see one of those empty VTA buses go by. And hey I bet they can even funnel some of the money into high speed rail.


13 people like this
Posted by Paly Grad
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 16, 2018 at 6:05 pm

Unfortunately there is a lack of credibility in what is promised and what actually happens after bridge tolls are raised. In 2O04 Regional Measure 2 (RM2) was passed and $135 million was promised to reopen rail traffic over the Dumbarton Bridge. It never happened!

Web Link

I can see why many voters would be skeptical of the promises offered in Regional Measure 2 (RM2)!


16 people like this
Posted by Paly Grad
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 16, 2018 at 6:07 pm

I can see why many voters would be skeptical of the promises offered in Regional Measure 3 (RM3)!


33 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of another community
on May 16, 2018 at 7:34 pm

"I can see why many voters would be skeptical of the promises offered in Regional Measure 3 (RM3)!"

This is exactly right.

RM2 listed Dumbarton Rail as a priority project. How much of RM2 went to Dumbarton Rail? ZERO. The MTC has zero credibility on the peninsula when it comes to funding the projects it says they'll fund.

If the MTC had a track record for investing in Cross-Bay transportation, I'd vote for it (especially since I won't be paying for it since I rarely use any of the bridges). But given their track record, it's a stone-cold certainty that not 1 cent will make it to the peninsula. Even in the unlikely event 130 million makes it to the roads leading to the dumbarton bridge, 130M is a pittance compared to what's needed. That number is so low, it's insulting.

Let's be honest: the MTC just doesn't give a darn about the peninsula. The MTC is completely controlled by SF, SJ and especially BART.

This Measure should be called what it really is: "BART-only Measure 3". Or "Middle finger to the peninsula Measure 3". Either name would be more accurate.


12 people like this
Posted by m2grs
a resident of Midtown
on May 18, 2018 at 12:26 pm

Apple earning is $13 Billions a quarter. Earnings of Apple + Google + Facebook + Cisco + Ebay + Paypal + Salesforce + Oracle, etc., is probably way over $20 Billions *per quarter*.

RM3 is talking about collecting $6B revenue in 30 years. What a joke!

Bay Area governments should squeeze these giant employers at least $1B per year to fund public transportation instead of taxing the poor people.

RM3 is insane and immoral.


16 people like this
Posted by Just a Thought
a resident of Midtown
on May 18, 2018 at 12:45 pm

Instead of exacerbating the problem by allow more office space to be created on the Peninsula, we could encourage tech companies to try moving out to Oakland and San Jose which do not have quite as many physical limitations and offer much more diversity in terms of living options (i.e. Single Family out in Antioch/Brentwood/Gilroy or downtown living in Oakland/SJ).

Yes some VCs and execs might have to drive a bit more, but their employees will be all that much more productive.


15 people like this
Posted by Just a Thought
a resident of Midtown
on May 18, 2018 at 12:53 pm

Just to add some additional perspective, imagine if Facebook expanded their HQs on the other side of the the Dumbarton in Fremont instead of Menlo Park. The 1,000's of new employees would not have to even cross the Dumbarton bridge. And they could even use the existing BART stations that have already been built and paid for to commute in from Oakland and beyond.

Zuckerberg and high level managers might need to do the 20 minute reverse commute on the Dumbarton a few times per week, but that is really just a handful of Facebook execs.


6 people like this
Posted by Steve Dabrowski
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 18, 2018 at 5:11 pm

Lets do a real effective tax that will be really disruptive (the description most loved by tech companies). Tax them at a rate of 100% of each employee's salary. That will bring in enough to solve all our problems and maybe get rid of Palantir to boot.


1 person likes this
Posted by Mark Brodsky
a resident of another community
on May 20, 2018 at 8:09 pm

There is a way to construct 3.5 million homes in California in 10 years.
The plan will also get freeways flowing while reducing congestion in suburbia.
It will create thousands of new high tech and entry level jobs for decades.
And it can be done with a minimal amount of funding from the government!

Long time past I introduced myself to you as the mayor of the smallest city in Silicon Valley. I was too star stuck then to continue my elevator pitch that, “The congestion of the cities can only be solved by fixing traffic flows in the suburbs.”

Changes in Silicon Valley now provide the opportunity to make this feasible.

The proposal to address the jobs, housing, transportation imbalance is called Transnet. It networks access to all distinct modes of transit be it Heavy Rail, BART, LRT, Transit Oriented Development, Uber and automobiles.

Transnet focuses on building the interfaces between people on every form of transportation modes creating hubs which by design decongest the freeways and keep traffic off suburban streets.

It creates an integrated network of “transit palaces” to interconnect people where they do not congest off ramps and local streets. 6 acres sites, are strategically located and each hub host a half million square feet of prime development property built above the freeway. The people\vehicle transfers are in airspace accessed by the HOV lanes at a station beneath the grand plaza.

Consider the longer range access from the central valley when circulation and distribution hubs at Apple, Tesla, Netflix, Google and others work centers are networked. Transnet hubs also become focuses of development that prevent sprawl across farmland. Intelligent Development.

Civilizations are remembered for their grand public spaces and architecture. In 3 years the first hub can be demonstrated, in 5 years a network can be functional and in 7 years developers will have the template to grow California’s supply of housing without congestion and sprawl (or government funding).

The plan is detailed in the attached dropbox sub directory which was emailed to this address-


4 people like this
Posted by Geneff
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 24, 2018 at 10:14 am

What a rip off! We need progressive ideas and solution rather than regressive taxes on workers who must show up to work and spend the good part of the day working to pay for transportation and other taxes. This is exactly why so many good jobs are going to places when workers can afford to live.


2 people like this
Posted by Geneff
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 24, 2018 at 10:34 am

If Regional Measure 3 is to designed help relieve congestion on the Dumbarton; build bus lanes to Menlo Park; bring BART to San Jose; and CalTrain to San Francisco, why not require taxpayers and developers in those cities to fund those projects through gas, housing and development fees? This is not a regional issue!


4 people like this
Posted by Mike Forster
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 29, 2018 at 11:41 pm

Measure 3 is unfair. It would enable the millions of citizen voters to impose a tax only on the 400,000 vehicles that must cross bridges each workday. Many of those are low income workers or small businesses that can least afford the additional cost. And this measure will deliver minimal benefits to those toll-payers. The rest of us should not impose a tax on only a minority of our friends and neighbors. Vote on June 5, and vote no on Regional Measure 3.


Like this comment
Posted by prt
a resident of Stanford
on May 31, 2018 at 7:37 pm

Basically, the measure asks a small minority of bridge commuters to pay for transportation improvements benefiting everyone else but the bridge commuters. I am not sure how this patently unjust, corrupt measure can ever make it to the ballot. I am sure the majority likes stiffing a minority with the bill, better yet in this case the poor to subsidizing the rich. What a concept. And corrupt politicians are lining up to support it.


1 person likes this
Posted by Edward
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jun 4, 2018 at 12:20 am

Definitely NO on RM3. This is the most unjust tax, making the people who can least afford it, the Eastbayers, to pay for the burden that should be shared by everyone in the Bay Area. This is totally outrageous Reverse Robin Hood, essentially a tax on the poor.


1 person likes this
Posted by No on RM3
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 4, 2018 at 8:17 am

So now they want to raise the tolls another $3. They are out of their minds. Where does it stop? I could have sworn BART already paid for their new BART cars. I could have sworn BART was going to go to San Jose already before this. Pump money into the Ferry service? Seriously. Expand toll lanes?(that you need to pay to use anyways). I have already put the word out to all my friends and co-workers to vote NO on this. Enough is enough. This is just another tax. I don't know about you, but I am tired of them taking money out of our pockets for nonsense like this. This won't reduce any traffic.


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

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