Friday, January 27, 2006

Cutting Off the Nose to Spite the Face (Again)

This is off-topic (but not completely) but as a long time Marin resident, someone who has seen Marin's decisions and had to live with them for decades, this really gets my dander up: There has been talk in the Marin IJ (via letters to the editor) about whether Marin should again consider building BART stations so as to ease the horrendous traffic congestion that we have to live with here in Marin.

This letter, written by Ellen Laferty of San Anselmo, argues that most of the traffic in Marin is due to people driving through Marin on their way to San Francisco from Sonoma and Napa counties and other more northerly locales. (That is true. But we Marin residents still have to suffer it.) So her "solution" is that Marin shouldn't build BART stations. Rather, pass the buck and require the Port of Sonoma to build a ferry station. That's a good idea too. In fact, both should be done in my opinion.

But what really chaps my hide is that typical Marin inward looking, selfish, narcissistic, not-in-my-backyard BS. I'm sorry, but if BART stations had been built in Marin way back when we were first contemplating the issue decades ago, we would not be in the mess that we find ourselves in today or at least it wouldn't be as bad.

Here is my theory regarding the real reason why Marin refuses to build commuter trains (and why this post is not totally off-topic): it's because by doing so south Marin property values would drop -- why pay the premium to live in south Marin to avoid the grid-lock between the Hwys 101/37 merge and the I-580 interchange when you can ride a BART train to the city instead?

Do you agree with that theory or am I full of shister? Post your thoughts.

19 Comments:

Blogger LA Story said...

I grew up in Marin, first Lucas Valley, then Ross. The reason BART wouldn't come to Marin then, and won't now, is less about property values and more about that persistent Marin ego: Marinites like to think of themselves as better than the little, lesser beings in other counties. Building a subway in Marin would be, literally and figuatively, "beneath them".

Jan 27, 2006, 11:20:00 AM  
Blogger Rob Dawg said...

How about a little more respect for personal property rights in this discussion? People have had decades with which to chose to live in an area served by BART but apparently chose Marin for the character they prefer. You are asking them to spend money to change the character of their neighborhoods to accomodate more people who want to change those neighborhoods even more. BART consumes wealth. Giving governement the option of BART also means that other congestion solutions will languish. THere just plain old isn't enough money to accomodate BART and traffic solutions for the other 99.2% of users. Give the "locals" a little slack considering the size of the sacrafice you are asking of them.

Jan 27, 2006, 11:25:00 AM  
Blogger marin_explorer said...

Personally, I find Marin's feudalistic outlook a bit ironic. Despite traffic from Sonoma, Marin's traffic problem is also about local infrastructure. Does anyone's commute include driving down Sir Francis Drake? These are Marin commuters. Marin complains about traffic, but they're slow to respond to their own growth.

Secondly, way back when...Marin had a narrow-gauge aka "light rail" system, some of which has now been adapted to pedestrian and bike use. If Marin could get out of its developmental rut--"now shall forever be"--they might find a way to reduce traffic with a new "light rail" that fits Marin's present character. Who knows...a light rail might catch on as a cool way to commute through Marin. Of course, the retirees might fight this to the end.

While I'm sure Sonoma commuters wouldn't mind bypassing Marin entirely, the idea of a ferry service from Sonoma leaves me skeptical. As it stands, Larkspur's ferry service is barely squeaking by, so I wonder how Sonoma's would be any different? Does anyone know the full development costs/break even for that proposal? It seems to me that both Marin and Sonoma need to proactively plan for growth (and budget for it), rather than getting flustered when it inevitably happens.

Then again, showing some leadership and problem-solving might really screw up our legendary property values ;)

Jan 27, 2006, 11:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suspect why the Marin ferrys are "barely squeaking" by, why so few use them, is they are all south of the grid-lock on the 101. Might as well drive to SFO since the traffic is reasonable. Why fight the grid-lock just to get to the nearest ferry? Might as well keep on going.

Jan 27, 2006, 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger fredtobik said...

I thought Marin voted down BART originally?

I think with or without it, the property values will be fine. I am all for no cars and lazy commutes, maybe this recent housing turnover replaced some retirees that didnt want it, with workers who would be in support.

Jan 27, 2006, 12:38:00 PM  
Blogger marin_explorer said...

I suspect why the Marin ferrys are "barely squeaking" by, why so few use them, is they are all south of the grid-lock on the 101.

Actually, morning Larkspur ferries are at capacity, often standing-room-only if you're late. Parking lot usually full, sometimes closed. Usage picked up a bit after gas prices spiked.

Jan 27, 2006, 12:40:00 PM  
Blogger fredtobik said...

A frend of mine uses the Ferry almost everyday, the reason to use it is not only to avoid traffic but to reduce cost, parking/fuel.

Jan 27, 2006, 12:41:00 PM  
Blogger sf jack said...

This is dreaming. To get BART to Marin would be unbelieveably costly.

For starters, tunneling/working under the Gate (because of the depth) would be in the billions upon billions. Further, the last time anybody proposed building a second deck (underneath the present one) to carry trains on the GGB, all the preservationists went bananas. And that wouldn't be inexpensive, either. Among other things, imagine the lawsuits.

If Marin and Sonoma were as populous as other Bay Area counties, perhaps it would see the light of day. But at any level above local (federal, state), the purse strings won't be released for such a project. BART can't even get an extension to San Jose, where the traffic is worse, the demand greater and the pull for state and federal money, much greater (though that thought doesn't fully weight the DiFeinstein and Babs Boxer factors should the discussion move forward seriously during their political careers).

And let's not forget an extension would require several more miles and stations inside SF City, as well. Would North Beach or Marina or the Presidio accept a BART line and stations? How about a line out under Geary? It could take decades. Again, imagine the legal wrangling and such.

So my guess is that BART is never coming to Marin. At least not in my lifetime.

Fast ferries from the north (Sonoma), light rail inside Marin - each probably have some kind of chance.

Jan 27, 2006, 1:19:00 PM  
Blogger Marinite said...

Ok, I retract my theory.

Jan 27, 2006, 1:21:00 PM  
Blogger sf jack said...

marinite -

I'm ignoring your retraction for a moment here in part because my earlier comment was addressing none of the idea of an "opposition" in your theory, just the chances of it ever getting done for the most obvious of financial reasons.

I could see southern Mariners acting just that way you describe, but not because of the commuting pattern changes (as you said, one could live farther north near a station and get to the City with "ease" on BART), but more of the NIMBY-ist kind of thing.

Since I'm not sure it could be built all underground, could you imagine getting approval for a BART line traveling above ground anywhere near Sausalito, Mill Valley, Tiburon, etc.? It's loud, it sits on big concrete towers, etc. Perhaps in the 101 freeway median on flatter stretches, but they'd have to widen the freeway "footprint" significantly, another costly and environmental "no-no" (in that case it might then go undeground from the GGB, under the Waldo and come out in/near Marin City - but it could not climb any hills).

Further, I think another aspect of NIMBY-ism would be in the "we don't want that kind (of people) around here." In the sense that those who live in/north of Novato (or in other parts of the Bay Area who never get to Marin by car) are not really wanted around those other towns I mentioned above (BART appears to provide access "to all"), though perhaps that would change if all the retail stores in southern Marin can't find anyone to work at them.

Southern Marin residents may not say it like that (NIMBY-ist on who will come to their County), but that's what they could be thinking.

Jan 27, 2006, 1:54:00 PM  
Blogger sf jack said...

I wrote:

"Southern Marin residents may not say it like that (NIMBY-ist on who will come to their County), but that's what they could be thinking."

********

Not surprising, really, but I have heard it said the the Metro in DC never reached/went into Georgetown (a specific neighborhood) for these very reasons.

Jan 27, 2006, 2:09:00 PM  
Anonymous caddis said...

"How about a little more respect for personal property rights in this discussion? People have had decades with which to chose to live in an area served by BART but apparently chose Marin for the character they prefer."

-This is a rediculous statement. You have to recognize change and must accept it. Do you honestly believe that you would not be better off without it? Just think what 20 more years of growth will do. Do you expect it to stay the same? I don't and I believe we have to make changes that will benefit our long term preservation rather than "choose" to live in a community that doesn't recognize change.

I read in a AAA magazine that Marin was the last county in the bay area to accept cars.

I say build it!

Jan 27, 2006, 3:34:00 PM  
Blogger marin_explorer said...

"Just think what 20 more years of growth will do. Do you expect it to stay the same? I don't and I believe we have to make changes that will benefit our long term preservation rather than "choose" to live in a community that doesn't recognize change."

Exactly. We need more pro-active planning, accounting for eventual growth, before things get really messy. If Marin wants to consider itself a "quality" place to live and grow (that means people with jobs and families), it needs to get itself better prepared for the future. If we make decisions for all based on the desires of retirees, this county will slowly crumble into sleepy, decrepit towns.

Jan 27, 2006, 4:07:00 PM  
Anonymous rejunkie said...

This topic is near and dear to my heart -- my father was a civil engineer working for Bechtel on the BART project during the 60s and In 1989, I did a paper on Marin transportation in an Engineering class when I was at Davis. I spent a lot of time going through the archives at the Civic Center to do my research (long before the internet, alas).

The reason Marin does not have BART was twofold:

1. The cost to tunnel the bay to reach here was prohibitive, and that was based on tunneling to the Tiburon peninsula from the Financial District, NOT under the Golden Gate as that option was not even possible at any price at that time. Bear in mind that the current transbay tube serves a population of roughly 2m east bay residents; a tunnel to Marin/Sonoma would serve only 600k or so. Rail relies on high population densities to make it cost-effective.
2. Marin refused to assess itself a 1/2 cent sales tax to be part of the BART transit district, hence our historically lower sales taxes. I believe this stemmed from a perception at the time that BART would spur massive overdevelopment of Marin county, at a time long before the GGNRA, the MCOSD and various other open space preserves had been created.

Once Marin canned BART, Golden Gate transit was born to provide public transportation in Marin.

My research paper from the late 80s (and subsequent studies done on this topic) show the majority of traffic either entirely within Marin or between Sonoma and Marin -- more cars cross the county line than the GG bridge during commute hours. As I have observed from being a long time commuter from Novato to the city (God help me), the traffic virtually disappears south of the 580 split. So getting people from Marin to the city is not the issue, it is getting people between northern and central Marin that is the problem (and Fairfax/SA to 101).

The most cost-effective solution I discovered in 1989 was creating a dedicated busway along the old railroad right-of-way -- the same one being proposed for the SMART light rail today. The busway was essentially the same concept as rail, only with buses -- a dedicated, gated, two-lane road open only to GG transit buses, with grade separation as required to minimize interference between the busway and surface streets. It was cheap, it used infrastructure we already had (buses) and it was more flexible than rail, since the buses could also use surface streets. It accomplished the task of rewarding commuters with a quick ride no matter the time of day, since the buses were not entangled with the morning and evening crush.

I have no idea why that option has not surfaced in the current discussions. Perhaps because buses are not sexy enough.

Since I wrote that paper, a lane was added to 101 between Puerto Suello hill and Novato. Easier to do the same ol', same ol',I guess.

Jan 27, 2006, 4:15:00 PM  
Anonymous rejunkie said...

Further, I think another aspect of NIMBY-ism would be in the "we don't want that kind (of people) around here." In the sense that those who live in/north of Novato (or in other parts of the Bay Area who never get to Marin by car) are not really wanted around those other towns I mentioned

No wonder everyone in southern Marin looks at me sideways -- it is my sloping forehead and buck teeth that distinguish me as being a resident of Novato. ;-)

Jan 27, 2006, 4:22:00 PM  
Blogger Marinite said...

Actually, the IJ letters were referring to SMART, not BART. My mistake. But I'm glad this post has generated some discussion and glad to know we have an expert here.

Jan 27, 2006, 4:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The SMART train is a bad idea. It's going to cost a ton of money and taxes, and have little or no affect on traffic. It would be far cheaper and more effective to pave the railroad tracks. During weekdays, this new road could be used by buses, carpools, and and no-emissions vehicles. The new "commute" road would be far more flexible than rail road tracks and carry far more people. The road could be closed to traffice on weekends and used for recreational biking, rollerskating, jogging, and the like. All in all, a much better solution than SMART.

Jan 28, 2006, 12:29:00 PM  
Blogger David said...

This is a classic case of perception overcoming reality. I think one of the contributing reasons that BART was not built was not built in Marin was simply due to high costs. Think back to when BART was being planned in the 50's and then built in the 1960's. Marin county was not as wealthy then as it is now. When San Mateo county pulled its money out of the BART planning commision in the 60's, then Marin probably had no choice but to absorb some of those costs or pull out as well. You can get the facts here

http://www.bart.gov/about/history/history_2.asp


And I quote from the article:
With the District-wide tax base thus weakened by the withdrawal of San Mateo County, Marin County was forced to withdraw in early 1962 because its marginal tax base could not adequately absorb its share of BART's projected cost. Another important factor in Marin's withdrawal was an engineering controversy over the feasibility of carrying trains across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Mar 16, 2008, 11:21:00 PM  
OpenID mister-romantic said...

I'm 18 years old and I've grown up in Mill Valley. I never learned to drive and I don't plan to; thus, I've spent many an afternoon sitting in the Depot Plaza waiting for the Golden Gate Transit #17 that comes at the convenient frequency of once an hour. Our county NEEDS more efficient public transit!

The hypocrisy is what frustrates me the most in the BART / SMART / Measure Q debate.

Ever notice how people in Marin County are all about being "green" and "eco-friendly," but then refuse to allow funding for public transportation because it's "too costly"? Or because it will promote unwanted growth and change the character of our area?

Please. It's nothing but the typical entitled, spoiled, elitist Marin bullshit I've dealt with my whole life.

Know what really makes an area ugly? Sprawling suburban freeway culture. Gridlock. That's what's really altering the character of Marin, not public transportation.

People here, in my opinion, are so stuck-up that the idea of actually getting OUT of their luxury cars and INTO their communities is unfathomable; another aspect of Marin BART that they couldn't handle.

Well, if Marin County citizens want to actually walk the environmentally-friendly talk, they have to wake up and support effective, efficient regional transit.

This will be my first election (I was too young at the time of the primaries) and I am proud to be voting YES on Measure Q.

Oct 20, 2008, 11:51:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Terms of Use: The purpose of the Marin Real Estate Bubble weblog (located at URL http://marinrealestatebubble.blogspot.com/ and henceforth referred to as “MREB” or “this site”) is to present and discuss information relating to real estate and the real estate industry in general (locally, state-wide, nationally, and internationally) as it pertains to the thesis that recent real estate related activity is properly characterized as a “speculative mania” or a “bubble”. MREB is a non-profit, community site that depends on community participation and feedback. While MREB administrators do strive to confirm all information presented here and qualify all doubtful items, the information presented at MREB is neither definitive nor should it be construed as professional advice. All information published on MREB is provided “as is” without warranty of any kind and the administrators of this site shall not be liable for any direct or indirect damages arising out of use of this site. This site is moderated by MREB administrators and the MREB administrators reserve the right to edit, remove, or refuse postings that are off-topic, defamatory, libelous, offensive, or otherwise deemed inappropriate by MREB administrators. You should consult a finance professional before making any decisions based on information found on this site.

The contributors to this site may, from time to time, hold short (or long) positions in mentioned and related companies.