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A Smarter Growth Plan for California's Bay Area

San Francisco's iconic Golden Gate Bridge.

San Francisco's iconic Golden Gate Bridge. The current Plan Bay Area will result in more time on the roads and increased greenhouse gas emissions.


Case Overview

Earthjustice, Communities for a Better Environment, and the Sierra Club have filed a lawsuit challenging the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments’ most recent regional transportation plan in Alameda County Superior Court.

Plan Bay Area is supposed to serve as a multi-decade regional plan to improve the reliability, accessibility, and affordability of public transportation in the Bay Area and reduce greenhouse gas emissions while overseeing smart growth to meet the demands of the area’s growing population.

The Plan falls short of these goals. The Plan does not spend enough on public transportation, and instead invests in building new highways. The current Plan will result in more time on the roads and increased greenhouse gas emissions. The Plan also fails to protect West Oakland and other vulnerable communities from the health effects of cars, trucks, ships and rail that pass through their communities. The Plan will also displace low-income and residents of color from their communities.

The lawsuit challenges the environmental review of the agencies’ Plan Bay Area under the California Environmental Quality Act.

The legal challenge cites the following problems with Plan Bay Area:

  • Under the current Plan, people will be spending more time in their cars and more time on the roads. Through 2040 (the life-span of the current plan), the number of daily vehicle trips is expected to increase by 22%, and the number of miles travelled during peak travel times is expected to increase by 51%.
  • The Plan does not spend enough on shoring up inadequate public transportation systems, and in fact, invests valuable resources in building more highway lanes. Only seven percent of the Plan’s total budget is dedicated to expanding public transportation.
  • The Plan proposes housing developments without committing to investments in the public transportation serving those communities.
  • The Plan fails to protect the communities closest to major transportation hubs, highways, and ports from increased toxic air pollution, as the region increases freight movement around them. Instead it defers these issues for future study. Without smart planning, low-income communities and communities of color located near these hubs, like West Oakland, will suffer.
  • The Plan fails to address the population growth and rising housing costs of the San Francisco Bay Area, which are causing more people to move to areas with inadequate public transportation. It will drive more people to rely on cars for their daily commutes, worsening air pollution, quality of life, and traffic.

Case ID


Case Updates

June 25, 2014 | Blog Post

Building a Healthy Living Plan for a Growing Bay Area

Irene's commute provides a snapshot of the economic and demographic changes affecting all the neighborhoods around the Bay Area. Can public transportation keep pace with residents' needs? Will people continue to find affordable housing near their workplaces? How will these changes shape the identities of our neighborhoods?

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