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Executive Director's Report

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR STEVE HEMINGER’S REPORT TO THE
COMMISSION MEETING OF MARCH 25, 2015

SUMMARY OF EVENTS:

Field Poll on Transportation
February 27, San Francisco

The most recent statewide Field Poll probed voter attitudes on transportation problems and solutions. In particular, it asked voters whether the state should be spending more on road maintenance and, if so, how we should go about paying for it. As is typical of such surveys, 71% of voters wanted government to spend more on road maintenance, but there was no consensus on how to pay for it. For example, among statewide voters, 49% favored raising the gas tax by 10 cents per gallon to improve local roads and state highways while 48% opposed that funding solution.

Buried in the cross tabs, however, was some very encouraging news for our region. The answer to that same question among Bay Area voters was 68% support and 29% oppose – above the 2/3 constitutional threshold for passage of a special tax. MTC has long possessed the authority to ask Bay Area voters to consider imposing a regional gas tax for transportation purposes, but we have never taken the plunge because the polling results were always so lousy. In my opinion, these new results from the Field Poll should cause us to reconsider. Perhaps a “Pennies for Potholes” ballot measure is in our near term future.

Supreme Court to Hear SANDAG Case
March 11, San Francisco

The California Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) in the litigation invalidating its environmental impact report (EIR) for the first Sustainable Communities Strategy adopted under SB 375. Specifically, the high court has asked for briefs on the following question: Must the EIR for a regional transportation plan include an analysis of the plan’s consistency with the greenhouse gas reduction goals reflected in Governor Schwarzenegger’s 2005 Executive Order?

Congressional Advocacy Visits
March 16-18, Washington DC

Chair Cortese led an MTC delegation on our 36th annual trip to the nation’s capital to brief our Bay Area representatives and other key congressional leaders on our policy priorities for reauthorization of the federal surface transportation program. The current statute – MAP 21 coauthored by Senator Barbara Boxer – expired in September 2014 and its first extension expires in May 2015. Based on what we heard in Washington last week, I wouldn’t bet against a second extension before new authorizing legislation is enacted later this year.

LAO Report on Housing
March 17, Sacramento

The California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) has published an excellent report on the causes and consequences of the state’s extraordinarily high housing costs which can be found at the following link: www.lao.ca.gov/Publications/Detail/3214. The LAO report recommends that the Legislature consider a far-reaching set of policy options to combat the problem, ranging from revision of the state/local financial relationship to CEQA reform.

Brookings Report on Income Inequality
March 17, Washington DC

The Brookings Institution created a Metropolitan Policy Program several years ago that conducts research on the economic importance of the nation’s metro areas to the overall U.S. economy. In its latest look at the 50 largest U.S. metro areas, Brookings finds that large cities remain more unequal by income than the nation overall. In terms of Bay Area results at both the high and low ends of the income scale, our top incomes (above the 95th percentile) far exceed those in the other 50 cities. In an encouraging development at the other end of the scale (below the 20th percentile), low-income households in the San Francisco metro area recorded the 2nd highest annual income growth from 2012 to 2013 at slightly more than 15%. The Brookings report can be found here: www.brookings.edu/research/reports2/2015/03/city-inequality-berube-holmes.

Bay Bridge Demolition Contract Awarded
March 19, Sacramento

Caltrans has awarded the next contract to demolish the remaining superstructure of the old east span from the nearly vanished cantilever section to the Oakland shore. In good news for the toll bridge retrofit program’s beleaguered budget, the winning low bid of $69 million was 25% below the engineer’s estimate of $93 million to do the job. One reason the bid was so low is that the contractor is proposing to sever and lower entire sections of the remaining superstructure onto barges for removal, instead of cutting it into pieces and trucking them away.

Bay Area Council Executive Committee
March 19, San Francisco

I briefed the leading CEO members of the business-sponsored Bay Area Council on recent transportation accomplishments and MTC’s future plans for improving the region’s road and transit networks. [Presentation]

Joint Policy Committee
March 20, Oakland

At its meeting last week, the Joint Policy Committee voted to rename itself the Bay Area Regional Collaborative (BARC) to better reflect the interagency work among the four regional agencies at both the board and staff levels. At its meeting before last, the committee had voted to concentrate its work plan on climate change mitigation and adaptation. So, a new name and a new mission. Allison Brooks will remain as the “top dog” of BARC and deserves great credit for leading this successful strategic planning effort.

Map of the Month

Between 2005-2009 and 2009-2013, homeownership rates in the 9-county Bay Area decreased by about 3% overall as shown on this map. But the rates vary significantly across the region. The region’s lower income neighborhoods and its outer suburbs were most affected by the foreclosure crisis and therefore experienced the sharpest drop in homeownership rates. On average, in 2013, the Bay Area had fewer homeowners than in 2005. These households will likely not benefit as much from the recent recovery compared to households that were able to retain ownership of their homes during the Great Recession.

MTC Operational Statistics

The monthly report on the performance of MTC’s operating programs:


Upcoming Events

March 31 — Commonwealth Club Panel on Transit Governance, San Francisco
April 3 — Parking Pricing Workshop, Oakland