Blogging Bayport Alameda

July 18, 2013

“Truthiness”, traffic, and the Alameda way

Filed under: Alameda, Alameda Landing, Development — Lauren Do @ 6:08 am

“Truthiness” not to be confused with truthfulness, is, according to Stephen Colbert:

a quality characterizing a “truth” that a person making an argument or assertion claims to know intuitively “from the gut” or because it “feels right” without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts.

It comes up a lot in Alameda debates.  People “know” that something will cause something else.   Not because there is actual evidence that it’s going to happen or some study to back it up, because they just “know it.”   Like traffic and the proposal for Catellus’s remnant parcel.  This proposal, apparently, will cause the Tube to back up horribly or add an extra x number of minutes to someone’s commute home because people are jonesing for a Double Double at peak commute hours.

If there had not been a traffic study performed I might be inclined to say, “yeah, there might be a huge delay from detouring home commuters to pick up dinner after an exhausting day, that’s going to suck balls” but there has been a traffic study done and opponents who are pushing the OMGhorribletraffic scenario are either (a) ignoring it or (b) didn’t read it or (c) don’t care about data and stuff.

The fact is, yes, there will be additional traffic because when you have nothing somewhere that generates no traffic and then there is something, something will always produce more than nothing.   So there’s this whole traffic study that was produced that may have been dismissed because the conclusion reached is not the one that opponents wanted to see (eg. traffic is not going to be awful).  This is literally the first sentence in the Executive Summary:

We have found that the Project would not result in any significant impacts at nearby intersections, on nearby arterials, to transit service, to pedestrians, or to bicycles in the Existing, Existing Plus Project, and Cumulative scenarios.

I will add that Fehrs and Peers is not some fly by night operation, they are a well respected transportation consulting company.    But most opponents don’t really care about transit service impacts or pedestrian impacts or bicycle impacts, what they want to know is, what will happen when I’m trying to get home.   And by “home” I’m assuming Bayport since it appears that a fair share of my neighbors who use the turn at Webster and Stargell are concerned about the possible back up from the In-N-Out popularity into the site.

So the traffic study looked at the levels of service for the intersection at Webster and Stargell and Webster and Marine Square Loop.   Here’s what they found:

Screen Shot 2013-07-17 at 7.00.25 AM

According to the narrative the numbers for 2015 were from the Alameda Landing Supplemental EIR from 2006.   They used the numbers from the mitigated scenario from the LOS forecast since in the 2006 EIR the unmitigated scenario used numbers from the old Stargell alignment, which currently does not exist anymore.   So if you notice currently the LOS is at a B.   A is the best, but B is not bad.   It appears that those numbers are seconds not minutes.

For reference LOS A looks like this:


LOS B looks like this:


If there is no remnant parcel project in 2015 with the whatever buildout at Alameda Landing happens, the LOS service will stay at the same level, a “B”, for AM peak times and will rise to a “C” level for PM Peak for the Mariner Square Loop/Stargell intersection.   The Webster/Stargell intersection will degrade from an “A” to a “B” in the PM Peak.   The 2015 levels with the remnant parcel changes negligibly.

Another look is the arterial impact otherwise known as how fast am I going to be able to drive also known as how much slower am I going to have to drive because of this project.   Here’s how this data helps to judge the impact on arterial streets:

Arterial speed degradation is primarily a derivative of increased delay at intersections. If the Project causes minimal delay in the northbound-through (NBT) and southbound-through (SBT) directions along Webster Street the effect on arterial speed will likely be negligible.

The impacted arterial identified for study was, of course Stargell and Webster and this is the result.


So again negligible difference between a “no project” aka no In N Out scenario and with In N Out scenario.

Of course for those that simply want to believe that the traffic will be too much to handle and have pulled a random number of how long the delay will be for them, these numbers simply can be dismissed as the transportation consultants also pulling numbers out of their asses, of course the only difference is their numbers and analysis are a result of modeling and industry standards, but who can argue with gut feelings amirite?



  1. The 2006 study was made in a time before the real estate bust, when it was assumed that the former base would be jammed with cheek-to-jowl housing by 2015. Yes, when and if that happens, traffic will be worse.

    The 2013 study presumably doesn’t include that assumption for 2015. If true, then the 2006 study results are irrelevant for 2015…but will have to be added to those figures when trying to predict traffic in 2018 or 2028 or whenever Alameda Point finally gets bulldozed and filled with thousands of new little boxes — er, homes.

    So the bew study projecting traffic from this project alone implies a very measurable impact…and when added to the projections of new housing and other attractions at the far West End, as projected in the 2006 study, it will likely make traffic pretty miserable.

    You seem to be wanting all these shiny new projects and feel in your gut that these studies support your gut-think. I don’t think they do. Accusations of “truthiness” hurled right back at you.

    Comment by Jack Mingo — July 18, 2013 @ 7:00 am

  2. The 2013 study, if you read the study and my narrative, includes the numbers from the 2006 EIR which are forecasted based on the build out of Alameda Landing. If the 2006 study, as you say, assumed that the former base would be jammed with housing by 2015 then the numbers used would be extremely conservative (aka predicting much worse traffic).

    You can’t say that the numbers are super high for the 2006 EIR and predicts a huge amount of traffic because of full build out, but then say clearly that the 2013 study doesn’t have those numbers but even if they did have the numbers it would be irrelevant anyway, but you will need to add on those numbers anyway on top. Your logic simply doesn’t make sense since you are asking for those numbers to, essentially, be added twice since the narrative clearly states that the forecasted 2015 numbers come directly from the 2006 EIR. The only difference is the additional impact of the remnant project indicated through “plus project.” “No project” simply indicates no development at all at the remnant parcel.

    Comment by Lauren Do — July 18, 2013 @ 7:18 am

  3. Yes, truthiness is rampant “in Alameda debates.” Far too often when there is relevant “data and stuff” to be considered people who should know better “(a) ignor[e] it or (b) d[o]n’t read it or (c) don’t care about data and stuff.”

    The first two comments above demonstrate that using data and stuff fairly is not always simple or easy to do. But trying to do so in an honest way is still far better than simply ignoring it as so many do too much of the time.

    More generally, the type of analysis in this post is helpful and is the sort of thinking and discussion needed on other issues to combat the truthiness epidemic and so to reduce the the acrimony, incivility, mistrust and poor decisionmaking that truthiness-based decisionmaking leads to.

    In the future we should have similar reality-based, evidence-based consideration of the many other bigger issues we’re facing (bigger than the questions of what the incremental effects would be of one specific business going on one little parcel). For example, I hope those speaking up and those leading and deciding will always employ and share relevant “data and stuff” to analyzing the *cumulative* costs and benefits of building thousands of new housing units for people who would also have to jam into the tube (not just the marginal effect of one small piece here or there), the values and priorities reflected in Alameda’s budget allocations, the future of the schools, the hospital, etc.

    Comment by Loyal Opposition — July 18, 2013 @ 7:23 am

  4. Where is the traffic study addressing the impact of a signalized intersection for pedestrians at the corner of Webster and Stargell? In an earlier post on this website, in dismissing the concern that a pedestrian crosswalk would have any effect on traffic, you wrote: “If this can be managed for the Oakland side, I’m not sure why it would be a big deal on the Alameda side.” You may be right, but your statement is pure conjecture. Some might say it smacks of “truthiness.”

    I don’t know whether a signalized pedestrian crosswalk at Stargell and Webster would have an impact on traffic during peak traffic times. Neither do you. Neither does Fehr & Peers. Neither does city staff. Neither does the Planning Board. No one has studied the issue. I think it’s telling that Caltrans has been resistant to the notion of a pedestrian crossing at Stargell and Webster. In city staff’s June 24 report, staff noted: “Caltrans does not want cars slowing or stopping on Webster Street to access the site or to allow a pedestrian to cross Stargell Street at the Webster Street intersection.”

    At present, city staff urges approval of the requested permits without any assurance that there will be a pedestrian crosswalk at Stargell and Webster. City staff is “hopeful” they can work something out with Caltrans. It seems to me the board is faced with two options: (1) approve the requested permits without any assurance there will be a pedestrian crossing at Stargell and Webster–while fully cognizant of the rather obvious concern that some pedestrians will jaywalk across a hairpin turn on Stargell instead of taking a 1/3 mile diversion to Mariner Square Loop and back; or (2) approve the requested permits with the “hope” there will someday be a pedestrian crosswalk, without any formal study of the effects or feasibility of such a crosswalk, which may well see substantial foot traffic at times of the day that coincide with peak traffic hours. Perhaps I’m just a fool for truthiness, but I don’t think all of the kinks have been worked out just quite yet.

    Comment by Silent no more — July 18, 2013 @ 7:52 am

  5. Don’t confuse me with data. I know what I know. Here’s a question- if In N Out won’t add too much to degradation of traffic yet (because the Pointe isn’t built out yet) then who gets to do all the mitigating? Is it the last poor developer to come on board in the build out that’s stuck with the whopping task of mitigating all the increased traffic from all the previously built smaller projects?

    Comment by Not A Alamedan — July 18, 2013 @ 9:20 am

  6. 5: Every development is assessed fees to help mitigate its calculated share of traffic congestion, based on the kinds of studies featured in Lauren’s post today. The fees can pay for transit and shuttle subsidies, carpooling campaigns, transit passes for residents and workers in new developments, bike parking facilities and bike-to-work incentives, among other things. The Marina Village business park, for instance, has contributed funds to the Estuary Crossing Shuttle’s operation. (The shuttle is a very successful mitigation program, BTW. it keeps up to 200 cars out of the tube each day that it operates.)

    Comment by Jon Spangler — July 18, 2013 @ 10:12 am

  7. “Every development is assessed fees to help mitigate its calculated share of traffic congestion.”

    Since there does not yet seem any realistic, low-cost way to mitigate the likely crippling cumulative traffic effects of the *many thousands* of additional cars (that would come with the many thousands of new residential housing units the city leaderships seems determined to build at Alameda Point and elsewhere in west and central Alameda) that would all be trying to jam through the bottleneck of the tunnel, will the developers of Alameda Point be paying fees to build a new southern crossing bridge across the Bay, a new bridge from Alameda Point around the Port of Oakland, a new tunnel under the estuary, a BART extension under the estuary from 12th street, a high-capacity tram, or something similar that would have to move many, many more than 200 cars a day? Under the current plans for Alameda Point we are going to have many thousands more cars, probably lighter, cleaner, smarter cars but still cars cars cars. It doesn’t seem likely a private developer is going to be assessed fees on that scale.

    Comment by Loyal Opposition — July 18, 2013 @ 10:45 am

  8. 6, 7: The Estuary Crossing Shuttle is now averaging over 320 boardings per day, according to Gail Payne of the Public Works Department.
    It is Wind River, not the Marina Village Business Park, that is contributing to the shuttle’s operation since many of its employees use it.

    Loyal Opposition and others blame “the many thousands of new residential housing units the city leadership seems determined to build at Alameda Point and elsewhere in west and central Alameda) that would all be trying to jam through the bottleneck of the tunnel…”

    Have you looked in the (rear-view) mirror lately? OUR use of automobiles as single-occupancy vehicles is “the problem.” And traffic will continue to get worse until we collectively and individually get out of our cars–or at least stop driving two blocks to the local store for a six-pack of beer or a quart of milk–or to the In-n-Out Burger at Alameda Landing, for that matter. We cannot simply pull up the drawbridges and solve our problem by eliminating “those people” (whoever they are) from driving into our little enclave: WE have to leave our cars parked (or sell them and buy bikes and transit passes) if we want to eliminate the traffic congestion that we complain about.

    Now that I’ve said my piece, I’m off to Peet’s for a cup of coffee–by bike….

    Comment by Jon Spangler — July 18, 2013 @ 11:19 am

  9. Well, when you put it that way it is all so clear. The only choice it to build out the Point with thousands of additional housing units and sanctimoniously lecture people about how selfish they are to think cars are efficient. Then people won’t drive to their jobs, medical appointments or other rush hour business off the island. Let’s also imply, as Spangler just did, that everyone worried about traffic is actually being dishonest about their traffic concerns because they secretly want to keep “those people” out.

    If we do what Spangler suggests, there’s no reason to think about slowing down or pausing at the Point to take a very long term view about that great asset, lowering the number of housing units planned and/or tilting towards business/commercial development that would be more reverse commute oriented, as Frank Materesse suggested earlier this year when he proposed: “To address traffic and to acknowledge the reality of no significant improvement to the sole Estuary crossing, Posey and Webster tubes, the 1,425 unit cap described on the staff report should be reduced.”

    Based on Spangler’s comment, it sounds like we should also ignore the fact that the best research happening on the future of transportation is on lighter, cleaner, smarter, um, cars.

    Some of us care deeply about the future of Alameda and the region, are not racists, act responsibly in our daily lives including transportation choices and, yes, disagree with you and with the direction the city insiders all seem convinced is the one and only way to proceed at Alameda Point. Why do you assume we are all selfish racist idiots? Look in the mirror yourself.

    Comment by Loyal Opposition — July 18, 2013 @ 11:50 am

  10. #4 you make a good point about the pedestrian walkway previously mentioned. if the planning board outlines a risk takes no action and then someone does get hurt? doesn’t take a lawyer to see that their could be a liability there

    Comment by Ted — July 18, 2013 @ 12:27 pm

  11. someone give me a few billion dollars, I’ll solve many problems at once… build an arena for the warriors, stadia for the Raiders and A’s on the base. Additionally, I will build a new access to alameda, DIRECTLY from the freeway. take a long exit off the curve by the post office on 80, it takes you OVER the port and lands you right in the middle of this new development. I will add multiple ferry points of access from both Jack London as well as SF side. there will be light rail installed from Oakland West BART Station running parallel with the aforementioned freeway exit

    BEST OF ALL, I will utilize the old gates at the base to restrict traffic flow INTO alameda proper from this location. Additionally, I will allocate money specifically for a police substation with a holding facility and 24 hour court to process the ne’er-do-wells that tread into this new development.

    there will also be multiple shops, a movie theater, luxury condos, etc. within this area. expect about 5000 more residents, countless jobs, etc.

    so if anyone has a few billion they want to give me for this, please let me know. Also if you give me enough money I will be able to bribe my way past the EIR, bribe the port unions, buy off Alameda City council, and hell, maybe even buy these 3 teams.

    Comment by E — July 18, 2013 @ 12:40 pm

  12. oh I’ll also bribe that whole bullshit about the Least Tern or whatever off the endangered species list so the whole thing can be built out.

    Comment by E — July 18, 2013 @ 12:40 pm

  13. Almost perfect, E. But Environmentalists cannot be bought. Alternatively, you could shoot all the terns, making them completely extinct.

    Comment by vigi — July 18, 2013 @ 12:48 pm

  14. Hey, Vigi nice letter in the Sun today. I’m with you.

    Comment by John P. (L) — July 18, 2013 @ 1:02 pm


    I know the decisions around Alameda Landing and the use of the related small parcel are locally relevant to every one, but today happens to be the day that a fairly big decision is made related to the adoption of “Plan Bay Area” and how to make room for 2,000,000 more people by the year 2040.

    Comment by Doug Waite — July 18, 2013 @ 3:17 pm

  16. 13. Well you are sort of right Vigi, but Environmentalists can be rendered ineffective via Senators who will not let an EPA director be confirmed and through Congresspeople who will not allocate funds for EPA enforcement.

    Comment by Kevis Brownson — July 18, 2013 @ 7:17 pm

  17. I’ll shoot all those goddam terns myself if a mysterious billionaire backs my plan

    Comment by E — July 18, 2013 @ 9:07 pm

  18. guilty, guilty, guilty! Without really caring to spend the time to locate and read the studies, we know that they have been done and generally I do trust that despite what we might feel intuitively that the road conditions will hold up better than expected, but this study is more or less generic. It’s hard not to respond with a gut reaction to this weird little appendage with only ONE entry point being a potential problem.

    I’ve been to Target at Buchanan on Albany frontage and there is in fact a hair pin turn from the off ramp down to the frontage which leads into the Target lot though it’s a much longer distance. The one time I went there the problem was not street traffic but the incredibly cramped parking lot with people driving in circles to park close to the store. I’ve never assumed anything different about this mall at the landing, but with this tiny auto lagoon with one entrance, only two exists ( one feeding back into the incoming flow out of the tube) and three venues, one wonders if all that has really been accounted for in the study for load at the traffic light. I guess it has, but why should I care anyway since I won’t be patronizing any of the retail or trying to navigate through there to get home.

    The Target at South Shore was also supposedly mitigated or vindicated by traffic study, but if it had come it would have required double level parking and a stop light at the current driveway by the Safeway gas station. Without renting all the retail which is built now that lot is just the edge of nasty. It flows, but sometimes barely. I was over by Pagano’s and tried to back up slowly to allow somebody to back out and coincidentally somebody in a space right behind me backed out at the exact same moment. We were both blind to each other but going slow enough to sense something was wrong when our cars met. Accidents happen daily and that was just one, which certainly proves little other than convincing me to walk there at every opportunity.

    The automobile is slowly leading to the end of civilization and the environment as we’ve known them.

    Comment by M.I. — July 19, 2013 @ 2:20 pm

  19. 7-18: If we are going to survive here in the Bay Area we will have to find other means than cars–even efficient, cleaner ones–for our transportation needs. Luckily, we
    already have three good options that do not even need more research and development to make them substantially cleaner and cheaper per passenger mile than autos: bicycling, walking, and public transit.

    And we can save lots of cash in our own family budgets by using those three. Here is just one citation for your consideration…

    Comment by Jon Spangler — July 22, 2013 @ 5:43 pm

  20. I caught snippets of KQED Forum program with various proponents and detractors of the Bay Area Plan I was driving and working and had a hard time sorting out who I was listening to and don’t know the players well enough to help with a deeper level of understanding, but there were affordable housing developers against this plan and other people who appeared ostensibly progressive, etc. who were making critical statements about projections and assumptions behind this. I’m far too busy to do deep research, but the debate rages on.

    Comment by M.I. — July 24, 2013 @ 10:54 am

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