Sacramento Transportation Programming Guide

Sacramento is updating its Transportation Programming Guide, and has sought public input on projects. A survey (deadline April 15) seeks input on specific improvements at specific locations, but it does not seek input on the overall approach of the guide. The 2010 guide is available for review. Since the survey did not allow me to comment on the overall plan, I submitted some comments, below. I could have said a lot more about each of these, but only have time for this at the moment.

  • Roadway widening is not needed anywhere in Sacramento. Widening generally induces more traffic, and when it does not, is a waste of limited resources. We need a fix-it-first policy, and roadway widening is not part of that.

  1. Interchange construction is usually not needed. These projects add capacity to intersections, often by adding left and right turn lanes, but the widening of the intersection greatly reduces safety and comfort for pedestrians, and often for bicyclists.
  2. The project ranking criteria used in 2010 must be significantly changed. Congestion should be lowered from 20 points to 5 points, or eliminated. Efforts to reduce congestion lead to induced traffic, leading to more congestion. It is impossible to build our way out of congestion, and we should not try. A lack of congestion is generally a sign that a roadway is overbuilt or that an area is economically depressed. Congestion leads to lower traffic speeds which leads to increased safety for pedestrians and bicyclists. At the same time, the point values for safety, economic development, and bicycle+pedestrian+transit should be increased.
  3. Six lane roadways are never an appropriate solution to mobility, and should never be constructed. They serve only to induce long distance commuting and travel, and have no benefit to safety or access. A six lane roadway can never be a complete street because no matter what improvements are made to support multi-modal travel along the corridor, travel across the corridor is always handicapped, for all modes but most particularly for pedestrians. All existing six lane roadways should be reduced to four lanes.
  4. I support gap closing projects that serve to establish or re-establish a grid street system. However, closing gaps should not serve as an excuse to create overly wide streets, as it seems to do in many of the 2010 projects.
  5. There is far too much emphasis, and project cost, in the 2010 guide on freeway interchanges. Where freeway interchanges are unsafe, they should be improved or reconstructed, but they should not be improved to increase capacity, as that will induce traffic congestion both on the arterial/collector and on the freeway. New interchanges may be appropriate where a gap is being closed, but should be questioned for the same reasons.
  6. The phrase “Includes bike and pedestrian improvements consistent with the City Pedestrian Safety Guidelines.” is admirable, however, in most cases these project should be considered without the widening of the roadway. Right-sizing roadways would in many cases add pedestrian and bicyclist accommodation without increasing motor vehicle capacity, which is good. In fact, many of the widening projects will decrease pedestrian and bicyclist safety by increasing traffic speeds.
  7. Auxiliary lanes should not be added to freeway onramps and offramps. It is dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists to cross one lane onramps and offramps, particularly with primitive, outmoded high-speed design, but even better designed onramps and offramps create safety hazards for pedestrians and bicyclists which are simply not acceptable.
  8. In the 2010 guide, there is far too much emphasis on the outlying areas of the city and not enough on the core. The core is where most economic activity is taking place, and should be the focus of the city transportation budget. Trying to solve mobility problems in the outlying areas while issues remain in the core is not an appropriate use of limited funding.
  9. The street maintenance program should receive full funding, even if it means removing or deferring other projects. Street reconstruction should be accelerated. Again, fix-it-first is the only appropriate policy.
  10. Both street maintenance and street reconstruction offer the opportunity to right-size roadways, converting from four to three lanes, or from three to two lanes, returning one-way streets to two-way configuration, adding bike lanes to arterial and collector streets which do not have them, and adding shared lane markings in appropriate situations.
  11. Where right of way exists or can reasonably be acquired, roundabouts are always preferable to traffic signals. Traffic signals should be a solution of last resort. Traffic signals create congestion without any significant contribution to safety.
  12. The bike safety for children element of the Bicycle Program should be amplified. This should be a top priority, and cannot be if it is poorly addressed.
  13. The Bicycle Program should emphasize creation of a network of low traffic volume routes parallel to arterials and collectors, which can be comfortably used by all types of bicyclists. It should consider elimination of stop signs at many intersections along these corridors.
  14. A Transit Program should be added to the TPG. This element would include transit-only lanes in a few circumstances where light rail tracks do not have dedicated lanes, and conflict with motor vehicle traffic slows the trains. It should also consider projects for transit-only lanes for sections of the highest use bus routes which also have high ADT counts and where traffic congestion slows these critical buses. I am not suggesting, at this time, BRT routes, though some of these transit-only lanes might constitute the beginning of an eventual BRT system.

I did not have the time to go through the 2010 guide in greater detail or to the end, however, I imagine my comments on all other sections would be similar. I can summarize by saying:

  • do not increase capacity for motor vehicles, as this will just induce more traffic and waste scarce resources
  • a roadway cannot be a complete street unless travel ACROSS as well as along the corridor safely and comfortably accommodates all users, and this is not possible on wide (more than four lane) roadways
  • the emphasis throughout should be on maintaining the system we already have, not on creating additional capacity, and I say this even when it means that projects to add bike lanes would be removed or deferred
  • the rankings used need to de-emphasize level-of-service and emphasize right-sizing and livability

Author: Dan Allison

Dan Allison is a Safe Routes to School Coordinator in the Sacramento area. Dan dances and backpacks, as much as possible.

2 thoughts on “Sacramento Transportation Programming Guide”

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