Last night I attended the San Jose General Plan Task Force 2040 meeting. The topic for discussion was transportation but specifically mode share and VMT. Mode share describes how we get around; wheter by bike, walking, car, carpool, or any form of transit (public or private). VMT, or vehicle miles traveled, is a semi-wonky term that refers to how many miles each person drives each year. On average Californians drive 15,000 miles a year.
During the meeting, the staff of San Jose's Department of Transportation (DOT) proposed different scenarios for reducing VMT, from road diets to parking maximums (the maximum amount of parking allowed on a commercial or retail project). Reductions of 20% and 40% were proposed. These are very ambitious goals even for such a forward thinking DOT. On my way to a meeting this morning I was wondering - how do you convince Silicon Valley citizens that these goals are not only achievable, not only necessary, but also desirable? In other words, how do you convince motorists to try other modes?
As I was crossing 280 my answer was right below me. While I happily sailed across the overpass I was witnessed a major freeway back up in process. As I pulled out my camera to take these photos I heard the frightening sound of tires squealing on the concrete pavement echoed by the bridge I was on. The tires squealed for what seemed like 10 seconds and the car spun around and rested in the opposite direction. Then I heard the sounds of cars braking to avoid the helpless car stuck in the number 2 lane. At 65 miles an hour it is almost impossible for the average car to avoid a stationary object on a busy freeway.
I think this morning's incident highlights the need to reduce our dependence (addiction) on solo motor vehicle travel. Traffic backed up for miles this morning. If the freeway system is at capacity during times of 10%+ unemployment during this Great Recession, imagine what our freeways will be like when job growth and population growth rebounds.
After some quick photos and a few moments later, I was back on my bike witness to an everyday example why we need consider DOT's VMT goals.