I attended the Blue Line extension to Cosumnes River College (CRC) Grand Opening this morning at Meadowview station and then at CRC station. It was a lot of fun. There were more politicians in one place that I think I’ve seen, and they were justifiably proud of their part in supporting this extension, some having worked on it for years. [Photos on Flickr]
A number of speakers talked about linking the colleges, in this case Sacramento City College and Cosumnes River College. An increasing number of students apparently take classes at more than one campus in order to get the ones they need, so this extension is expected to help them, whether they don’t have a car or just choose to get around in a more convenient and more responsible way. Folsom Lake College’s Rancho Cordova Center is very close to the Mather/Mills light rail station. The Cosumnes River College’s Elk Grove Center will be on light rail if the Blue Line is extended to Elk Grove (Blue Line Phase 3). American River College’s Natomas Center will be on light rail if the Green Line is extended to Natomas. All of these connections are great, for students and for the community.
Unfortunately, American River College’s (ARC) main campus in North Highlands was barely mentioned. Brian King, Chancellor of Los Rios Community College District, said that ARC was served by a robust bus system. Unfortunately, that is not true. ARC is served by Route 1 (Greenback) on a 15 minutes frequency, and Route 82 (Howe-65th) on a 30 minute frequency, which is hardly robust service. Route 82 only runs until 9:30PM, missing students with later classes or who are staying to study, and who need to make connections to other buses or light rail to get back home.
I work in this area of Sacramento, often using Route 1 and occasionally Route 82. When ARC is in session, the Route 1 bus is packed with students, sometimes having to turn people away, and the Route 82 bus is often full. The situation was helped two years ago when SacRT changed Route 1 to 15 minute frequency, but that did not solve the problem. Even more noticeable than the buses is the traffic. When ARC is in session, traffic is congested in this part of town, reaching out one to three miles from the campus. Students have mentioned to me that they are often late for classes because the traffic is much worse that expected (though you’d think they’d come to expect it). When ARC is not in session, however, you could take a nap in the middle of the road and not be much disturbed, except on Auburn Blvd which stays somewhat busy. I don’t have data, but my estimate is that 60% of the traffic in the area is directly related to ARC. ARC opened a new parking garage last year, which I think sadly has just increased the rate of driving.
An extension of the Blue Line to ARC, Citrus Height, and possibly Roseville, was part of the early planning of the light rail system, the northeast extension. But everyone seems to have lost interest, from SacRT to politicians to the public. I hope that realization of how important linking colleges is, for students and for general public access, will bring the extension at least to ARC back onto the table. See the map at bottom which sketches the extension from the current terminus at Watt/I-80 to ARC.
Several people mentioned the possible Blue Line extension to Elk Grove, and many people mentioned the Green Line extension to the airport. And the opening has brought the idea of service to Davis back into public view. All of these are worthwhile to consider, but I hope that the “world class city” appeal of Green Line to the Airport (which is tagged DNA = downtown, Natomas, airport) doesn’t push the others aside. Though light rail to the airport was all the rage in cities around the country a few years ago, and many cities completed these lines, the cities now seem pretty indifferent, realizing that serving the airport does not generate enough ridership to pay its share of operations, nor does it lead to significant economic development. It is trophy service rather than practical service. I’m not saying the airport should not be served by transit, but an increased frequency for Yolobus 42A/42B, and an additional SacRT route from eastern Sacramento county would serve as well.
So, yes, let’s link the colleges, and let’s not forget American River College!