Campus, San Francisco receive $11M for proposed traffic congestion management

Katherine Chen/Staff

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The city of San Francisco and UC Berkeley have been awarded roughly $11 million in grant funding Thursday from the U.S. Department of Transportation, or DOT, for its proposed traffic congestion management and technology deployment initiative.

The campus and the city were encouraged to apply to two different grants from the DOT in addition to the nationwide Smart City Challenge. Even though the campus and the city did not receive funding from the Smart City Challenge, they secured funding from one of the additional grants.

The money will fund six projects such as new high-occupancy vehicle lanes for public transit and carpooling, intelligent traffic signal systems and Treasure Island programs involving electric autonomous shuttles and a congestion toll system.

“It goes back to the basic goals we have as a city … which is the movement to and from San Francisco (prioritizing transport) other than automobiles,” said Darton Ito, deputy director of innovation and program delivery for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, or SFMTA.

The city will work with UC Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center, or TSRC, the SFMTA, and the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, or SFCTA, with additional help coming from SUPERPUBLIC, a convener of public and private sector partnerships. Potential local and private contributors, such as Ford and BMW, were listed in the grant application.

In addition to the $11 million from the DOT, Ito said there will be about $21 million from private sector contributions for the project budget. Approximately $16 million will go toward the SFMTA, $12 million to the SFCTA, and $4 million to campus’s TSRC.

The SFMTA is heading the carpooling and advanced traffic signal components of the project, according to Ito. The agency is focusing on potential physical changes, such as establishing additional carpool facilities and implementing smart traffic signals that would improve pedestrian and cyclist safety.

Meanwhile, the SFCTA will lead the projects on Treasure Island. According to Rachel Hiatt, principal planner with the SFCTA and Treasure Island Mobility Management Agency, the congestion toll system is intended to encourage ridesharing and driving during off-peak hours. Additionally, the electronic autonomous shuttles would provide safer and cost-effective services to people who do not drive.

UC Berkeley’s TSRC will assess the impact of the projects and understand how implementation of these programs meet the goals that were outlined in the grant proposal, according to Susan Shaheen, UC Berkeley professor and co-director of the TSRC. She added that the center will also be working on data visualization and the creation of a data dashboard to help provide metrics for policy decision makers to assess the improvements associated with the projects.

“What’s exciting for us at UC Berkeley is the opportunity to work with the city and work with these private sectors on real world solutions and to give our students this opportunity to contribute this project as part of their research and educational programs,” Shaheen said.

Contact Fionce Siow at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @fioncesiow.