After applying for a state grant nine months ago, the Oakland Tribune reported on Sunday that the city has received the grant and will begin the Alternatives Analysis soon (likely early next year). Alternatives Analyses are required for every major transportation project to evaluate various options based on cost-effectiveness, environmental impact, economic impact, engineering constraints, and other criteria. Depending on the speed and prioritization of the AA within Oakland city government, the study will likely be completed sometime during 2013. For a comparison, Los Angeles is currently wrapping up the AA for their downtown streetcar, a process which took about a year to complete. It will be exciting when the study kicks off early next year; stay tuned for more information.
As expected, last night the Oakland City Council voted unanimously to approve the grant application for the "Broadway Alternatives Analysis Transit Study." This vote is great news and represents the first step toward a streetcar. Unlike the 2005 Jack London BART Feasibility Study, this study will carry real weight in the planning process (Alternative Analyses are required for all major transportation projects; Feasibility Studies are a more general first step). The Alternatives Analysis will likely focus on three main options: the status quo of existing AC Transit service; expanded transit service with the Broadway Shuttle; and a streetcar line. It will also refine alignments and other choices. Like the Jack London BART Feasibility Study, I have every reason to believe that a streetcar wind up the preferred alternative given the economic benefits of streetcars (similar analyses across the country have arrived at the same conclusion—streetcars will generally win as long as 1) there is significant economic development potential (definitely yes), and 2) there is no significant obstacle to construction (while Oakland has some constraints, they are all workable).
Moving forward, Oakland has to obviously receive the grant, and we must continue to increase awareness about the project. Just because councilmembers voted for the study does not mean the project is even on their radar, and it's important to note that to even get this study complete Oakland will need to come up with an additional $700,000 from grants and the private sector. This vote is just one small piece of the puzzle. Nevertheless, a victory is a victory--every project has to start somewhere--so tell your neighbors, friends, and councilmembers that you support the Oakland Streetcar!
UPDATE 3/15: Check out the East Bay Express and Oakland Local for two short posts on tonight's city council meeting.
On Tuesday, March 15th at 5:30pm, the Oakland City Council will vote on a resolution to begin the formal streetcar planning process by applying for an Alternatives Analysis grant. After a unanimous decision, Oakland's Community and Economic Development Committee placed the item on the consent calendar, which more or less means that the resolution is guaranteed to pass. So, we've already won! The bittersweet outcome of this victory, however, is that the resolution will not have a debate or public comment period. As much as I'd like to bring together everyone who has supported this project, I've been told that it is unnecessary and not very appropriate given the circumstances and the numerous other important items that the council must address on Tuesday. A bit anticlimactic, I know.
I will still speak at the City Council meeting along with a few business and neighborhood leaders during the public comment for all the consent items. I encourage anyone passionate about the project to come and speak (two minutes per speaker card), but in general I'll say that watching this vote at home is just as respectable as making the trip to City Hall.
The City Council meeting will be held at the Oakland City Hall at 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza (right outside the 12th St. BART Station at 14th and Broadway). Speakers should arrive at around 5:15pm to fill out a speaker card. The City Council meeting can also be streamed live here (click on “Windows Media Format” if you have a PC, or “Microsoft Silverlight Users” if you have a Mac). Tune in from 5:30 to around 6:15 to see the action.
The train has left the station!
If you live or work in Alameda County, consider filling out this survey for the Alameda Countywide Transportation Plan Update. The ACTP is a very important document which feeds into the Bay Area Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) and opens the door to billions in federal, state, and regional funds. Getting the Oakland Streetcar project in the next RTP would be an important step forward.
After each question, as well as in question 10, you can name specific projects that you'd like to see included in the plan. Some suggestions:
-International Blvd. TOD-Streetscape Plan
-BART station TOD projects (MacArthur, West Oakland, Coliseum, Lake Merritt)
-Infill BART Station in Oakland's San Antonio district
-MacArthur Blvd. Bus Rapid Transit
The survey takes less than 5 minutes and is open until March 15th.
An unofficial rendering of the City of Oakland's streetcar proposal.
The City of Oakland's staff report on the Broadway Streetcar Alternatives Analysis Transit Study has been released (see above). The staff report is what councilmembers will read before the likely city council vote on Tuesday, March 15th. The report hits all of the major points to justify the streetcar project--the success of the Broadway Shuttle, the economic advantages of a streetcar, etc. The report outlines an approximately 3.5 mile alignment from MacArthur BART to the proposed A's baseball stadium at Jack London Square, which is a bit different from what was put forward in the Oakland Streetcar Plan (see map), but these differences are minor:
Next month, the Oakland City Council will likely vote on applying for a $300,000 planning grant to conduct an Alternatives Analysis for a streetcar. This is the first major step toward implementing the project: we're no longer talking about the streetcar's feasibility; we are initiating the environmental review process to envision where it will go, how it will be designed, and what its effects will be. While this vote does not mean the city is signing off on building a streetcar, and the grant will likely not cover the full cost of the Alternatives Analysis (anticipated at $1 million), passing this vote is crucial to get the project off the ground.
Mark your calendars for the City Council meeting the night of Tuesday, March 15th. This will be our chance to demonstrate the broad support base which has come together over the past eight months and show city leaders that Oakland residents, businesses, developers, and property owners are serious about attracting new investment and jobs with a streetcar like other cities across the nation. Remember, political will goes a long way: Seattle's streetcar went from concept to reality in just three and a half years. Let's get this resolution passed!
Stay tuned for updates on attending the council meeting and writing letters to councilmembers.
Today the LA Streetcar released the findings from its economic impact report, and the results are excellent. The study by AECOM projects the 4.75 mile streetcar loop will induce $1.1 billion in economic development to Downtown LA by 2035, including 2,100 permanent jobs, 2,600 new housing units, $24.5 million in annual spending, $1.9 million in annual city revenue, and 7,200 construction jobs (versus a baseline growth alternative). The results are no surprise, judging by the tremendous economic benefits in Portland and Seattle. What's most interesting about this study, however, is that it separates and directly quantifies the additional benefits that a streetcar will bring to Downtown LA—something that the Oakland Streetcar Plan could not do. I highly recommend looking through the resources that the LA Streetcar has put together; they are the best out there.
To say that 2010 was an eventful year for the Oakland Streetcar Plan would be an understatement. While I began work on the project in September 2009, 2010 was where all the grunt work took place. After drafts and drafts of number crunching, drawing, writing, and designing, I somehow produced a 140 page plan by the end of my spring quarter in June. Though I felt like someone had replaced my brain with a big tub of pudding, I was proud to have fulfilled my original vision: to create a comprehensive plan that would be both accessible and insightful for a wide audience, and hopefully lead to positive change for Oakland.
What I didn't anticipate was the response that the plan would receive. My media strategy was essentially send out as many emails to as many writers as I could think of, and hope somebody would write back. Well, they wrote back. I remember how crazy it was to wake up the morning that Chip Johnson's article ran in the Chronicle to see that my website had received over 3,000 views before I had set up a Facebook or Twitter account or even eaten breakfast. In total, there were eight separate articles written and published in 12 major newspapers, magazines, and blogs, generating nearly 35,000 website views and 500 comments. I had no idea the plan would get so many people excited, including Oakland residents, businessmen, property owners, the Chamber of Commerce, two candidates for mayor (Rebecca Kaplan and Joe Tuman), oil company-backed libertarian Randal O'Toole, and even some Germans who read the Financial Times Germany article and contacted me saying the plan was "wirklich genial" (really awesome).
These days, things have calmed down for the most part. I'm back to being a regular student again, though I still occasionally post updates and write blog posts on the exciting world of streetcars (in case you've missed it, over a dozen projects are now moving forward in cities ranging from Atlanta to Cincinnati to Los Angeles to Washington D.C.). I am excited to see Jean Quan become Oakland's new mayor and am always available for lunch (*hint hint*) should she ever want to discuss streetcars. There is cause to be very optimistic about the future of the Oakland Streetcar, given the success of the Broadway Shuttle and the continued backing by councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, CEDA's Zach Seal, and other city leaders.
Thank you all for your support this year, and let's hope that 2011 is an even better year for the Oakland Streetcar!
Light rail in Phoenix
NPR has an good article today about the transformative economic impacts that light rail is having across the nation, even in bad times. The article focuses on major redevelopment efforts in Denver around its light rail system, as well as the redevelopment potential around the D.C. Streetcar. While this blog tends to focus on streetcar development, this article demonstrates that similar economic trends can be seen across the nation in larger light rail systems as well, whether its in Denver, Phoenix, San Diego, or Minneapolis.
13 streetcar projects across America are partially or fully funded, while 11 other projects are in planning.
The always insightful Transport Politic has an excellent article on the current state and future outlook of streetcars in America. This article further demonstrates the ever-increasing interest in streetcars as a means of economic development by cities across the nation, suggesting the 2010s could be the decade of streetcars in America. Read more here.