A Four-Point Plan on Traffic and Transportation

Annie Oliva
for State Senate


California’s success was built on transportation infrastructure. From the transcontinental railroad to the National Highway System, from seaports to airports, the ability to efficiently move people and products has fueled California’s growth.

But California is falling behind. For too long, political infighting has stood in the way of the serious investment in transit infrastructure that we need. As our next State Senator, I’ll fight every day to break the traffic gridlock and move our transportation infrastructure into the 21st century

1. More Housing Near Transportation

2. Upgrading transportation in tandem with new housing

3. More Reliable Transportation

4. Cleaner Transportation

1. More Housing Near Transportation

As a longtime housing advocate, I know that our housing and transportation problems are closely linked. Too many California families are being forced out of their communities because they can’t afford to rent or own a home near where they work. Too many workers face hours-long “super-commutes” spent sitting in traffic instead of spending time with their family.

California currently has a shortage of about 3.5 million homes, yet housing construction has decreased. The only way that we can solve this crisis is to build more houses. We need to reform the laws and practices that delay construction and support new innovations in home construction.

Growth control policies and independent reviews raise housing costs by causing constructions delays. Take CEQA for example. While the law contains important environmental protections, litigation abuse has led to projects that are delayed for years. And many of these projects are in the very locations where we should be building. A 2015 study found that nearly 70 percent of the challenged housing units in the Los Angeles region were located near high-quality transit corridors. This is a clear sign that CEQA is being abused—to the detriment of environmental protection efforts. To mitigate these problems, I support streamlining project reviews and permitting processes.

The politicians in Sacramento don’t understand how to solve our problems. They try to impose top-down, one-size-fits-all solutions like SB50. And while those policies may be right for places like San Francisco and Los Angeles, they would destroy single-family neighborhoods like those on the Peninsula. Instead, we need to incentivize local governments to find the solutions that are right for their community.

That’s what we’ve done in Millbrae. As a member of the Millbrae City Council, I know that our community needed more housing near existing transit. That’s why I’ve championed smart development, including residential apartments that provide access to affordable housing and mixed-use spaces that help power our local economy.

2. Upgrading transportation
in tandem with new housing

The solutions to our housing and transportation crises must go hand in hand, so that we are not solving one problem while creating others. As we build new housing, we need to upgrade our transit dramatically so we don’t make our traffic gridlock worse.

I don’t think you should need an IPO to afford a home. And I don’t think it should take hours and hours stuck in traffic to get to work.

If all we do is build more housing near existing transit—it won’t work. Adding more people will only put extra strain on a system that is already over-burdened. Therefore, we need to ensure that we are upgrading our public transportation systems in conjunction with building more housing.

This is the problem with policies like SB50. Sacramento politicians like Scott Wiener not only want to destroy single-family neighborhoods, they would build more housing without making the necessary investments in our transportation system to handle the excess capacity. If we want to solve our housing and traffic problems, we need to do both, together.

As I’ve met with folks around the district, I’ve heard many great ideas about what people would like to see their next state senator get done in Sacramento. One of the best ideas I’ve heard is adding more east-to-west rapid transportation to the Peninsula.

When it comes to transportation, too much focus is placed on moving people north-to-south—shuttling people between the Peninsula and San Francisco or San Jose. It is vital we dramatically improve the North-South link of Caltrain and make the service faster, quieter and most of all more frequent. But this is just the beginning of the transit improvements we need.

For all the people who live elsewhere but work on the Peninsula at many of the extraordinary companies that call our district home I’ll support investing in public transit that doesn’t just move people north-south, but also east-west so commuters from all over can more easily get to their jobs on the Peninsula.

3. More Reliable Transportation

I often say that the best train is one where you don’t need a schedule. What I mean by that is that you don’t have to look at a schedule to ride the train; it doesn’t matter if you miss one train because the next one will come along just a few minutes later.

I don’t need to tell you that’s not how Caltrain works.

In order for public transportation to be a viable option for more people, it needs to be more reliable. Unless commuters have confidence they can get where they’re going on-time, it will be difficult to convince more people to rely on public transportation.

Our trains and buses on the Peninsula are too infrequent and too crowded. It’s already often impossible to find a seat on Caltrain; if we build more housing near existing transit, this problem will only get worse unless we upgrade our public transit as well.

I support adding more trains and more buses. Even in the middle of the day at a major transportation hub like Millbrae, the wait between trains can be more than an hour—this is unreasonable. We need to run trains more frequently and add more cars during rush hour.

I oppose raising new taxes at this time. Instead, the best way to raise the revenue we need for these investments is to grow our economy and to improve government accountability by conducting mandatory audits of government spending to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse.

Did you know that Clipper card is valid for 22 Bay Area regional transit systems?

On the one hand, it is good for commuters that they can travel across multiple transit systems with a single payment card or app. On the other hand, we need to do much more to integrate transportation options across the Bay Area.

There are a number of proposals that would improve efficiency through greater coordination—including everything from fare reductions when transferring from one system to another to an integrated system map that makes it easier to navigate between systems.

There is no better example than high-speed rail to see how America is falling behind rival nations when it comes to investing in our infrastructure. But we should prioritize high-speed rail lines that will produce a positive return on investment.

I oppose California’s train to nowhere. High-speed rail does little good if it doesn’t connect major population centers. That’s why I’m against starting our high-speed rail plan between Bakersfield and Merced.

We need to link the Central Valley to Silicon Valley. Therefore, I think that our high-speed rail plan should start by connecting all the way to Diridon Station in San Jose. Extending high-speed rail to Silicon Valley makes it more likely that more riders will use it, and therefore more likely to be a success.

When we discuss public transportation, we often overlook the first and last mile – how people get from their home to a bus or train station and how they get from their stop to their final destination. While walking and taxi cabs are part of the solution, they won’t work for everyone, including low-income riders and the mobility impaired.

We need innovative first/last miles solutions. Among the many options: improved bus service with additional lines and better connections; expanded access to car-sharing services, including the availability of accessible vehicles; and micro-mobility transport such as bike shares and electric scooters.

And being that our region is the root of so much innovation for our country and the world, I believe that we can pursue new, innovative first/last mile solutions to find what’s best for each community.

4. Cleaner Transportation

California has set ambitious clean energy goals to rely on zero-emission renewable energy sources – but we are falling short of our targets.

This is in part because the transportation sector is responsible for 41 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in California. These emissions lead to climate change, poor air quality, and rising sea levels.

In order to combat climate change, we need to make significant progress in the transportation sector.

In addition to improving service and reliability and making trains quieter, Caltrain electrification will have a significant environmental impact on the Peninsula. This ongoing project will convert diesel-hauled trains to electric trains, reducing emissions and improving air quality in the Bay Area. With completion likely pushed back to 2022, we need increased accountability for Caltrain leadership to avoid further delays.

Improving Caltrain, including electrification, will promote public transportation and take thousands of cars off our roads, thus reducing traffic gridlock and cutting tailpipe emissions.

It’s not just trains that need to be converted to zero-emission vehicles. All state and local governments should immediately begin converting their vehicle fleets to battery-electric and hydrogen-fuel cell cars, trucks and buses. As government agencies purchase new vehicles or replace old ones, they should be required to purchase vehicles that produce no tailpipe pollutions. This way, we will further reduce the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the transportation sector.

Just as we need to encourage innovative new technologies in human transportation, we must invest in the development of cleaner transportation of goods throughout California. I support incentivizing the development of rail technologies that could help us lower the amount of goods moved by semi-trucks and other gas and diesel vehicles.

California’s goal is to have 5 million zero-emission vehicles on the roads by 2030. Here’s how we make that happen:

First, we must ensure that we have the infrastructure to support all these electric vehicles by building out our EV charging network. No matter where you go, there’s an assumption that you’ll be able to find a gas station when you need one. The same needs to be true for electric charging stations. That means we need to build tens—if not hundreds—of thousands more charging stations over the next decade in every corner of the state.

We also need to incentivize drivers to replace their gas-powered cars with clean cars. If only the wealthiest Californians can afford to drive electric cars, we won’t hit our clean energy targets—we need more than just Tesla drivers. We need to provide finance assistance for electric vehicles to help low-income families participate in our clean energy economy.

That is also why I strongly oppose new fees on electric vehicles, which are at odds with our renewable energy goals. We want to make electric vehicles a more affordable option and should not be adding new surcharges that make them more expensive for drivers.

Ultimately, we need to create a culture where we no longer rely on single-occupant, gas-powered cars for everywhere we need to go. We need to create bicycle and pedestrian friendly communities that make it easier for people to seek alternative transportation options.

Like with housing, this can’t be achieved by one-size-fits-all solutions from Sacramento. Instead, we need to incentive local governments to encourage residents to walk, ride a bike, and take public transportation—whatever solutions are right for their community. This can include sidewalks, designated bike lanes, well-lit streets, and other improvements needed to make it safer to get around without a car.


In the 20th century, smart investments in transportation helped California grow into one of the world’s largest economies and one of the most prosperous places on earth. But after years of neglect, our crumbling infrastructure is holding us back from 21st century success. Our transportation crisis is why super-commuters waste time sitting in traffic instead of spending time with their family. It contributes to our housing affordability crisis in which families forced to leave their community behind and move hours away. It’s accelerating our climate change crisis, responsible for nearly half the greenhouse gas emissions produced by our state. We need to solve these problems by building more housing near transportation and upgrading our transportation system in tandem with new housing. We need to make transportation cleaner and more reliable. My Four-Point Plan on Traffic and Transportation will help us solve this crisis.