Transportation Futures Committee
The Transportation Futures Committee’s mission is to promote alternative transportation systems in Santa Barbara County, protect funding for alternative transportation projects and their operation, and integrate land use and transportation planning for sustainable, high quality living conditions in Santa Barbara County.
Transportation Futures Committee (TFC) achieves its mission by:
- Serving as watchdog of agencies and their decisions
- Preparing reports and disseminating information concerning transportation issues
- Organizing public engagement in transportation planning issues
- Acting as advocate for the public’s interest and the implementation of its mission
TFC’s current projects include: monitoring the implementation of Measure A, in particular, commitments to alternative transportation; advancing the quality of public transportation in the North County; halting the diversion of state public transportation funds for use on roads; and ensuring full disclosure of the environmental impacts, consideration of alternatives and implementation of mitigation measures that are associated with Caltrans’ flawed approval of the Highway 101 Widening Project.
Defective EIR: TFC has led the charge questioning whether Caltrans has provided a fair and complete explanation of the impacts of widening 101, considered alternatives and included mitigation measures to avoid or lessen those impacts. TFC filed a lawsuit in September 2014 asking a judge to review Caltrans' compliance with the law. In December 2015, the judge ruled that Caltrans abdicated its responsibility under the law and, rather than recognizing the project's impacts to the community, "Caltrans simply erased them from existence."
Click here to see the December 2015 ruling against the 101 Widening Project.
As a result of the lawsuit, Caltrans had to re-examine the impacts of the 101 widening on local intersections and assess the cumulative traffic impacts of the project.
New Draft EIR:
In November 2016, Caltrans released a revised Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that adopted a new and untested methodology for identifying the project's impacts. Comments are due on the revised EIR by January 31. You can submit a comment directly to Caltrans from TFC's Send a Comment to Caltrans page.
Facts about the 101 Widening Project:
What is it? The 101 Widening Project entails widening the last two lane sections of 101 between Carpinteria and Montecito. This Caltrans Project has SBCAG’s support.
Cost: The 101 Widening Project is estimated to cost $450M, of which $140M is designated in Measure A. SBCAG committed 30 years of gas tax funds to the Project, an extraordinary commitment of flexible funds that would otherwise be used as matching funds for a wide variety of transportation projects, including alternative transportation projects (transit, bicycle and pedestrian projects) and roadway maintenance. Even with these unusual local commitments, the Project remains largely unfunded.
Impacts: The initial EIR (August 2014) observed that the project or its cumulative traffic impacts would cause 18 intersections to degrade below Level of service C, representing significant impacts under CEQA that must be avoided or mitigated. Caltrans simply declared these impacts are not significant and so did not need to be mitigated. The cost of the mitigation of the intersections alone is estimated at $110M. the logical consequence of the 101 widening project will be the need to widen the 101 to four lanes from Santa Barbara towards Goleta.
Effectiveness: Even with the project, traffic along the project section of the 101 (Carpinteria to Montecito) will be far worse in 2040 (with 3 lanes) than it is today (with 2 lanes). As soon as the third lane opens, congestion will shift northerly and reappear elsewhere, particularly between Milpas and Las Positas (northbound in mornings) and between Goleta and Santa Barbara (southbound in afternoons). While long distance commuters will benefit from slightly less congestion, local residents will encounter increased congestion on trips that are currently congestion-free. In addition, the increased freeway volumes will increase congestion, and in some cases overwhelm local streets and intersections near the freeway interchanges, causing new
Long Term Consequences: It has been observed repeatedly and documented in academic studies that adding freeway capacity causes more people to drive, and the net effect of freeway widening is rarely reduced congestion over the long term. One seminal report concluded that "the welfare gains for drivers of building more highways are well below the costs of building these highways." Communities throughout California are recognizing that simply widening freeways does not provide long-term congestion relief or benefits that justify the cost. In many cases, expanded freeways change the nature of the community, dividing neighborhoods and making bicycling and walking less safe.
How did we get here? After prior widening efforts proposed in the 1980s and 1990s were defeated by community opposition, SBCAG undertook a multi-year review of options for addressing the need for increased transportation capacity in the 101 corridor through the South Coast. The 2006 "101 In Motion" process concluded that we needed both a new lane on 101 AND a Commuter Train Service making multiple trips each day to address congestion on the 101 corridor. While SBCAG has aggressively advanced the 101 Widening project, commuter rail service was supposed to start in 2010, and reach full service in 2016, but today remains on the back burner. The 101 In Motion Report directed implementation of a $866M series of projects, including various operational improvements, enhanced public transit systems, carpooling programs and demand management in addition to the “lane and a train.”. While lane widening has become SBCAG's number one priority while alternative transportation measures including the Train have lagged.
What about Commuter Rail? The 101 In Motion Report detailed an “early start up” pilot commuter rail service with two round-trips per day, and the use of either commuter train cars, or self-powered vehicles. SBCAG is more than five years behind schedule, and to date there is no commuter rail service, other than Amtrak’s regular service. SBCAG’s current plan calls to
adjust the timing on one Amtrak train in the morning and one in evening to make them more suited to commuter use. While this is a positive step, it is woefully inadequate to address the demand of 22,000 Ventura-based commuters each day. SBCAG must implement the commuter rail service as it is the only sustainable way to address current congestion and future travel demand in the 101 corridor.
Without Commuter Rail Services, the 101 is projected to be even worse in 2040 than it is today, even with the added lanes. Commuter rail is the only sustainable and effective way to provide the transportation capacity needed in the 101 corridor, but local officials have been unable or unwilling to make the investments and commitments necessary to make it happen.
Read TFC’s March 2015 letter to SBCAG on Commuter Rail here.
Other Transportation Issues
North County Transit Services: The TFC is actively engaged in County Transit issues. Currently, North County transit services are operated by separate city Public Works Departments, leading to disjointed schedules and inferior services that experience low ridership. Economically disadvantaged communities suffer the brunt of these failures. A unified public transportation agency is needed to integrate the North County’s many small transit programs into an effective public transportation system. Unfortunately, in 2016 SBCAG declined to approve a unified North County Transit network, bowing to the demands of nc
Diversion of State Transit Funds to Roadway Maintenance: Each year, California gives about $13M to Santa Barbara County and its cities to subsidize public transit. A loophole allows jurisdictions to claim they have No Unmet Transit Needs, and to then divert these funds for roadway uses. Currently, the City of Lompoc and Santa Barbara County annually divert over $1,000,000 in state funds that are supposed to be used for public transportation. TFC has collaborated with many community groups, including COAST, CAUSE, SBCAN, CEC and others, to ensure precious dedicated public transportation funds are used to meet the needs of our communities most dependent on public transportation. See our letter to SBCAG here.
Santa Barbara County, the cities of Santa Barbara and Goleta and SBCAG have each prepared updates to their Bike Plans. Concern for the safety of bicycling amongst cars and trucks is the greatest barrier to expanded bike use in our region, which is well-suited for bicycling and should serve as a model for bicycling tourism. TFC believes every community should adopt an aggressive bike facilities and infrastructure plan that identifies corridors for class 1 (separated) bike lanes, expands bike facilities, addresses known and potential safety issues, and provides incentives and opportunities for expanded bike use in our community.
HOW TO HELP:
1. Donate funds. CLAWS is applying for tax-exempt status, and needs funds to help advance its work to aggressively promote alternative transportation in Santa Barbara County
2. Sign up to be an advocate. Receive TFC’s Action Alerts when important hearings, public demonstrations and issues pertaining to alternative transportation need your voice.
3. Submit a comment to Caltrans.