Fact-Checking the "PRT Boondoggle" Blog
A project of the PRT NewsCenter

Friday, September 19, 2008

Against it before he was for it

Now he's an urban planner.

The city of Alameda (Kenwood claims he lives there) is working with the developer SunCal to redevelop Alameda Point, the site of the former Alameda Naval Air Station. Good idea? That's for the community to decide.

The Point is a sprawling 770 acre brownfield at the west end of Alameda's island.

One version of SunCal's proposal, option "B," was designed by reknowned planner Peter Calthorpe. The concept calls for 6,000 homes on 700 acres of the Point. This translates to 13,056 people on just over 1 square mile, nearly the density of San Francisco (16,634). Alameda's current density is on the order of 2500-ish per sq mi.

Calthorpe has designed it to have a PRT network, and SunCal wants to connect it to BART in Oakland. Therefore, Kenmore hates the "B" plan.

Kennel Ration says PRT is being put forward to get around environmental regulations that limit density, instead of offering "real solutions" for transit:

Is PRT also an Environmental Regulation-Busting Tool?[*]
. . .
PRT is being used to bamboozle citizens in Alameda into scrapping Measure A, a ballot initiative aimed to regulate development...

...The 1972 ballot initiative regulates lot size and forbids construction of housing units that would accommodate more than two families. The developer has put forward two potential options, both of which would require a ballot initiative, likely in 2009, that would waive Measure A at least at Alameda Point.
Instead of offering a real solution to the transportation needs of the people who move into those additional 2,000 units, Suncal offers an imaginary, snake-oil solution - PRT... CLEVER!!! Source

In other words, he is complaining the Point "B" plan ought to be using light rail. Here's his contradictory logic: with light rail, plan "B" would still be 13,056 people per sq mi. Hold on -- is that density "regulation-busting," or isn't it? Note also that Lubridor misrepresented Measure A's purpose -- it is not primarily to protect the environment, but to keep density low (no more than 2 families per lot). The slogan of the Keep Measure A campaign is "No Overcrowding."

But if the regulations aren't busted, that low density is not cost effective for light rail. And if you don't have density, the alternative is sprawl somewhere else. Humidor is either supporting Measure A against Smart Growth and higher densities that help any mass transit work better, or is fine with busting regulations if it is light rail doing the busting.

He's against Smart Growth before he was for it! He was a NIMBY until he wasn't!

Thermidor always thinks light rail is the solution and ignores the urban planning context. Now, I'm not an urban planner either. But I've looked at enough MUPs to notice some realities at Alameda that would render conventional, large-vehicle transit problematic, although not impossible.

It has to do with distance and cost. The most direct route for a light rail connection to BART is to go north about 1200 yards, to the West Oakland BART station.

Except there's something in the way: the Oakland Inner Harbor. This is a 300 yard wide navigable waterway. An expensive high bridge would be needed to cross it, in order to allow ocean-going freighters and the San Francisco ferries to pass beneath.

The alternative would be to run the light rail line east through the built-up area of Alameda. Not only would this create a beneficial transit connection to and for the rest of the city, but it would also allow light rail to cross the Inner Harbor channel at its narrowest point in the Fruitvale Bridge area, and then on to the Fruitvale BART station. These would be good results.

The problem is that it's about 4.8 miles to Fruitvale Bridge, and through the heart of town. Do you think Alameda or SunCal have $250 millionish for such a disruptive project? Light rail in this situation would be a non-starter politically. No redevelopment, no "busting" of regulations -- no Smart Growth. "CLEVER!!!"

* Notice his longtime and frequent use of the question mark. It's a classic cheat used by ignoramuses and propagandists -- a question mark turns a smear into a question. They don't really answer the question, they just present distortions, so to the casual reader it appears the smear is the answer to the question. Plus, if fact-checkers catch them lying, propagandists can use the excuse 'I was only asking a question.'

Someone's knockin' on my Ken Avidor, somebody's ringin' the bell


eflink said...

I have been posting on the Alameda Point project & will have the opportunity to make a drive-thru in the near future.

They have some unique challenges for routing a PRT system across a water barrier. Calthorpe must have something in mind to solve this, but I dont know what it might be.

Mr_Grant said...

A PRT suspension bridge would be cheaper than one for LRT, but I wouldn't want a ship hitting it in the fog. So if it were me, I'd run the guideway into downtown Alameda, make a loop with 4-5 stations to unify the town transit-wise, then cross to Oakland with a PRT suspension bridge next to one of the drawbridges.

But that's just me.


eflink said...

Maybe that is the idea - apparently there is a significant height requirement for running a bridge north of Govt Island. However, that doesn't seem to be the plan as it was described at the townhall meeting - the 12th St BART station was mentioned and the route thru downtown was redlined - indicating future expansion.

I've written a letter to Calthorpe asking for more detail - hope to get a response next week -we'll see.