Measure 2022: transit congestion improvement???


A group calling themselves A Committee for a Better Sacramento is sponsoring a citizen-initiated ballot measure for the November election, titled “Sacramento County Transportation Maintenance, Safety, and Congestion Relief Act of 2022—Retail Transactions and Use Tax”. (Note: Some people are referring to this as Measure A, but measure letters are assigned by county elections, not by the sponsors. I’ll continue to refer to it as Measure 2022, for now.)

One of the categories in the Exhibit A: Transportation Expenditure Plan is Congestion Relief Improvements (page A-16), and the subcategory Transit and Rail Congestion Relief Improvement Projects, which is allocated 10.85% of the measure, or about $890M over the 40 years. Projects listed are (they are not numbered in the document, but are here for reference):

  1. LRT peak service trains
  2. LRT extensions, Green Line to the airport, Blue Line to Elk Grove and Citrus Heights, Gold Line to Folsom
  3. High capacity bus corridor network throughout Sacramento County, including but not limited to Stockton Blvd, Watt Ave, Sunrise Blvd, Florin Rd, and Arden Way
  4. BRT to Citrus Heights, Stockton Blvd, and Sunrise in Rancho Cordova
  5. In coordination with the Capital Southeast Connector Joint Powers Authority, design, plan and construct a transit component, such as a bus rapid transit service, along the Capital Southeast Connector corridor to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and meet air quality targets. SacRT will match $40 million in revenues generated by this Measure with $80 million in state and federal funds for a total of $120 million in resources toward this goal. The project would consist of providing signaling and a bypass at critical connector sections to improve service, lower travel time, and reduce GHG impacts

The document does say that funding is ‘intended to be flexible’, which is good since the types of projects that might be constructed over 40 years will likely have little to do with this list. None of this funding is available for operations, which is in a different category, Sacramento Regional Transit District (SacRT) Maintenance, Operations, and Transformative System Improvements. More about that soon.

Light rail extensions and improvements for more frequent peak service (not for operating more frequent peak service, just for the infrastructure) sound appealing (items 1 and 2). Currently SacRT has unofficially prioritized Green Line to the airport, even though that would do almost nothing to reduce congestion. Infrastructure for Gold Line to Folsom is already funded, so it is strange to see it here. On the other hand, Blue Line to Citrus Heights is here, even though SacRT has removed it from consideration for the foreseeable future.

The terms ‘high capacity bus corridor network’ and ‘BRT’ (items 3 and 4) are not defined in the document, so the public really has little idea what is intended. SacRT has not been very clear about this either. Projects in other places have revealed that the quality of the improvements to a corridor, and the restraints placed on private vehicle travel, make all the difference in whether bus corridor enhancements are valuable or pointless.

The $40M for the Capital Southeast Connector (item 5) is small in comparison to the size of the allocation, but it points out how poorly thought out the entire measure is. Who would even use transit on this corridor? The connector is designed to serve commercial traffic between Folsom (really El Dorado County) and Elk Grove, and to promote greenfield development along the connector. Greenfield developments are not designed to appeal low income workers, they are designed to appeal to high income white collar workers, who might be commuting to Folsom, Rancho Cordova, and Elk Grove. But those are not the sort of people who use transit unless it is clearly superior to drive-alone, and transit on this soon-to-be-congested corridor will not make the grade.

All of these projects are premised on the idea that the other projects in the measure will maintain or increase congestion, so it is necessary to improve transit to mitigate for that other congestion. Sadly, the SACOG MTP/SCS makes the same assumption, that transit projects will counteract the increased VMT and GHG emissions from other projects and poor land use.

Transit should not be a mitigation; it should have standing in its own right as a superior mode of travel. It should not be an attempt to make up for bad decisions made elsewhere. The question should be: what can we do to better serve existing riders, and what can we do to induce new riders?

This section of the Transportation Expenditure Plan is so-so. Not bad, not good, but mostly not well thought out and not clear what the benefits and trade-offs will be.

Search for category Measure 2022 to see posts as they are added.

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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