Hiring consultants can be helpful at times, but when an issue has been studied to death, it’s make-believe to think that anything is being accomplished.
Following the lead of Councilmember Tony Daysog, the city council recently voted 4-1 to spend up to $400,000 to hire a consultant to draft a city-wide transportation plan on how to reduce single occupancy vehicle trips. Mayor Trish Spencer voted no.
My question is whether the city will learn anything it doesn’t already know. It could take up to two years to receive a report, and the consultant will not implement anything.
Alameda already has a transportation element in the city’s general plan, which spells out the city’s goals, objectives and policies. The city also has a bicycle master plan, a pedestrian plan, a transit plan, a west-end shuttle plan, a transportation systems management ordinance, and a transportation capacity management program resolution. Added to this tool chest are transit strategies, transit demand management plans, and numerous parking studies.
The consultant the city plans to hire will produce “two inter-related documents” that will result in a city-wide transit demand management (TDM) plan and an updated transit plan, which “would allow the city to integrate the city’s private TDM plans being provided by individual development projects and service planning efforts being implemented by public transit agencies,” stated the staff report.
It’s unclear why the council didn’t turn first to its existing resources to address their concerns.
It’s the city’s transportation engineer’s job to plan and implement “a comprehensive city-wide traffic planning and control program,” according to the city’s website. The city’s transportation coordinator “collects and coordinates the collection of data” and prepares grant applications for transportation-related projects. Let them do the job they are paid to do.
In addition, Alameda’s Transportation Commission is tasked with advising the city council on city transportation policies and monitoring the implementation of approved plans. They are quite capable of suggesting updates to our transportation element, without the help of a consultant. The planning board, transit agencies and local transportation groups provide guidance too.
While council members all agree the city needs to implement and enforce the strategies that are currently on the books, and receive data on current travel choices, it’s hard to see how hiring a consultant is going to achieve this.
“You have to start somewhere,” said Councilmember Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft. “You have to have an awareness of what options there are.”
The city council would be better off asking the Transportation Commission to address specific issues, rather than spending $400,000 on yet another “plan.” Now that would be a good place to start.
Originally published in Alameda Sun