The recent relocation of bus service from L Street to the Capitol Mall for demolition of the mall and later construction of the arena has resulting in an interesting change: the first dedicated bus lane (that I’m aware of) in the Sacramento region. There are some dedicated light rail lanes.
True, the bus lane is only one block long, between 8th Street and 7th Street (this photo is taken from 8th Street looking westbound).
Prior to the bus stops being moved, asphalt was replaced with concrete, which is the only material that can stand up well to frequent bus traffic.
So why am I excited about a one-block long dedicated bus lane? Because it is a local example of something that is happening in many cities, but you don’t have to travel to see it. It also represents a reallocation of street space that increases the utility of bus systems and better balances different modes of transportation. Buses spend much of their time at critical times of the day waiting on motor vehicle traffic congestion. Dedicated bus lanes remove some of this conflict and create, for the first time, the possibility of buses being a faster mode of transport than private cars.
This one-block location show a good balance of modes. There is a wide sidewalk for pedestrians, a dedicated bus lane, a dedicated bicycle lane, and a travel lane for motor vehicles. Many more of our streets should look like this. Any street that carries bus traffic at a frequency of once every ten minutes or better (whether from a high-frequency single route or from multiple routes), at any time of day, should have dedicated bus lanes.
There are six SacRT routes that ran on L Street and are temporarily running on Capitol Mall. In addition, four Yolobus routes and several from other transit providers run along these streets.
So what are we going to do when the arena is finished and some or all of the bus traffic moves back to L Street? I think that L Street should have a dedicated bus lane from 15th Street, where it becomes three lanes westbound (and four lanes at 6th Street), all the way to 3rd St. SABA has suggested a protected bike lane on the south side for the portion between 7th Street and 3rd Street, and I think that is a good idea as well. I am not sure if SacRT has proposed anything. Wide sidewalks, dedicated bus lanes, protected bike lanes, and a somewhat reduced capacity for private motor vehicles would make for a more welcoming and efficient street. The arena developers and city have resisted making any transformative changes to circulation downtown, but significant public pressure could bring the improvements.
The NACTO Urban Street Design Guide has diagrams and details about dedicated bus lanes.