Sacramento transportation decision time

The City of Sacramento is holding a city council workshop on Tuesday, February 8, 5:00PM. The purpose of the workshop is to gather input to help the city realign its transportation policies and project with its climate change objectives (they are far, far from in alignment now).

Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates (SABA) with partners has created a petition you can sign to support a more effective and equitable transportation system. The petition and background information are at https://sites.google.com/sacbike.org/cleansac/home.

In its final report, the Mayors’ Commission on Climate Change recommended that to achieve its climate goals, Sacramento must prioritize the use of active transportation, public transit, and shared mobility services, and then electrify remaining vehicles. Reducing vehicle miles traveled by prioritizing walking, biking, rolling, and transit is the most effective way to reduce emissions in Sacramento.

We are asking the Sacramento City Council to:

1. Build a Comprehensive Active Transportation Network.
Commit to and take action to build a seamless, low-stress network of active transportation corridors, for the central city and connections into and out of the city. An infrastructure that supports safe walking, biking and rolling should include the following elements: separated bikeways, secure bicycle parking, adequate lighting, widened sidewalks, traffic calming, and other speed reduction measures.

2. Commit Funding.
Prioritize and set aside funding within the city budget for an active transportation program. Set aside the necessary matching funds to qualify for the federal and state infrastructure programs this year and in future years. Deliberately seek additional funding and financing through grants, state and federal programs, and other revenue sources.

3. Adopt Policy Guidance to Reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled.
All land use decisions should require consideration of reducing vehicle miles traveled when new projects and modifications to existing projects are evaluated by staff and reviewed and approved by City Commissions and Council.

4. Focus on Equity.
Prioritize a consistent focus on equity for project timing and funding.

5. Engage the Community.
Engage the community and regional experts in developing an active transportation program that works for everyone.

6. Ensure Adequate Staffing.
Ensure adequate staffing and resources to develop and administer the program, including the funding/financing aspect.

I’ll comment first on the petition. It is good, but does not go far enough in my opinion. Two improvements I would make:

1. Build a Comprehensive Active Transportation Network. Add short-term bicycle parking everywhere, and secure long-term bicycle parking at all retail and job centers. Recognize bike share as an integral part of the transportation system, including funding it in low-income neighborhoods.

2. Commit Funding. The city should pursue grants and other funding sources, but must also invest significant budget resources to transportation. The city provides the required match for grants, but almost no other funding. The result is that city funds are spent as a match on large projects, and small projects that could otherwise use the funding and have an immediate impact on safety and equity, are neglected. It is rare for cities to rely almost entirely on grant funding, as the Sacramento does for it active transportation and complete streets projects. Sacramento is an outlier.

The city’s page is at http://www.cityofsacramento.org/Public-Works/Transportation/Planning-Projects/Climate-and-Transportation. The major graphic is below, though note that the workshop date has been changed to February 8, 5:00pm.

One of the major programs being proposed to council is a network of bikeway superhighways, shown on the map below. The concept of bicycle superhighways comes recently from Milan, though other European cities have long had such facilities.

The bikeway superhighways part of the proposal seems to be the flagship of the program, so I’ll make a few comments on that.

In the north, the Niños Parkway must be extended over Interstate 80 into the commercial centers to the north. Otherwise, it fails to connect residents to jobs, and falls short at mitigating the major barrier to travel represented by the freeway.

In the south, the 24th St and MLK corridors must be extended south at least to Florin Rd, if not further. Otherwise the residential areas north and south of Florin Rd are isolated from the job opportunities to the north.

Within the bikeways superhighways portion of the city page, there is a statement: 6. Complete the existing bikeway network within 4 miles of the Central City by closing gaps in the network and calming traffic. I do not deny that this might have the greatest impact in reducing VMT (vehicle miles traveled), and since I live in the central city, I’d be a beneficiary. However, this conflicts with the equity goals stated on this page, and throughout city policy. This is the area that has always received the greatest city investment, in infrastructure and in maintenance. The rest of the city to the north and south has largely been neglected. In my view, it is time to turn this on its head. Only projects and investments in low-income areas, or which demonstrably serve to connect low-income neighborhoods to jobs and regional amenities, should be funded. Period. We have a century of disinvestment in low-income areas, greatly accelerated by the urban renewal fiasco of the 1950-1970s. Now is the time to start undoing that damage.

The term ‘congestion relief’ should be removed from the city page, and city documents. Congestion relief is always taken to mean making it easier to drive. Congestion in fact is always a natural check on overuse of motor vehicles, and by reducing traffic speeds, makes it safer for bicyclists. And probably walkers as well, but the research on that is not as clear.

I hope you’ll get involved. SacMoves, the coalition of transportation and air quality advocacy groups, will be discussing the city proposal in depth, and there may be more information to share before the city workshop.

Author: Dan Allison

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

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