more housing, less parking, part 2 central city SE

This is the second of the four quadrants of Sacramento central city, bounded by Capitol Ave on the north, Broadway on the south, 16th Street on the west, and Alhambra Blvd on the east.

Please see my previous post, more housing, less parking, for background information, and the southwest quadrant.

The graphic is below, but more useful will be the ArcGIS Online WebApp Sacramento parking & empty. Red is surface parking, orange is empty parcels.

The slideshow below shows many of the surface parking lots in this quadrant of the central city. It may include photos of parcels that contain a building but also have excess parking.

The next slideshow shows many of the empty lots in this quadrant of the central city.

It turns out that compiling the data, including parcels and photos, it quite time consuming, so the other two quadrants of the central city will be a while in coming, but I’ll be adding several posts about what I’ve learned, and the opportunities.

AB 550 allows speed cameras

AB 550, by Assemblyman David Chui, would allow the use of Automated Speed Enforcement (ASE, or speed cameras) in certain circumstances. I can’t point you to the language for specifics, since the legislative website has not been updated yet. You might call this a gut and amend bill, but since the original subject was ‘pedestrian safety’ it is really more of an amend.

The bill would establish a pilot program, which local transportation agencies could participate in. It would not start until July 2022, more than a year from now, in order for CalSTA (California State Transportation Agency) to develop an implementation plan. The program would rest with Caltrans and local transportation agencies, not with law enforcement agencies, which is a critical distinction to reduce the use of discriminatory pretext stops by law enforcement.

This legislation for ASE is a key component of the Vision Zero movement: “Managing speed to safe levels.”

It has long been my theory that most fatal crashes, whether the victim is a driver, passenger, walker or bicyclist, are caused by egregious speeders, drivers who travel more than 10 mph over the speed limit, the sort of people that CHP occasionally catches going 120 mph on the freeway, and is the same person driving 50 mph on a residential street. If that person is getting repeated automated speeding tickets, then they (he) can be targeted for more serious consequences like loss of freedom and loss of vehicle. Of course loss of vehicle probably requires other law changes, but this bill is at least a start.

When the bill language is available and hearing scheduled, I’ll post again. Keep an eye out here, or Streetsblog, or Twitter.

Streetsblog SF: Lawmaker Tries Again on Automated Speed Enforcement

from Streetsblog SF, original source unknown

9th St update

Things have changed again. The construction zone on the east side of 9th Street between K Street and L Street has changed again. The east parking lane and east travel lane are now dedicated to the construction project, the general purpose lane has been shifted right into the west parking lane, and the combined pedestrian/bicyclist bypass is now in what was the right hand general purpose lane.

One the plus side, detectable strips have been added to the left side of the bypass, which are required to provide protection from trip and crash hazards presented by the fence bases. Photo below.

detectable strips along bypass on 9th St

The entrance to the bypass is still awkward, too narrow and poorly signed. There are still corrections to be made.

entrance to pedestrian/bicyclist bypass on 9th St

Previous posts: 9th Street update, 9th St fixed, sort of, and 9th St blocked by construction.

curb ramps

While walking in the central city today, I saw this brand new curb ramp on the southwest corner of X Street and 24th Street.

new curb ramp, southwest corner of X Street & 24th Street

Why, why, why, did the city put in a diagonal curb ramp when they should have put in a two perpendicular ramps? Though I’ve searched in vain through city documents looking to see what the criteria is for a single ramp per corner versus two ramps per corner, I have heard it said by city staff that the single ramps are for residential neighborhoods and the two ramps are for urban neighborhoods. This is definitely an urban neighborhood setting, with both 24th Street and X Street being arterials. Yet the city put in a single ramp. They call this a ‘single flare curb ramp’. What should have been installed here is a ‘standard curb ramp’. The city diagrams do not show exactly this situation, where there is a sidewalk buffer (planter strip) on X Street, with an attached sidewalk on 24th Street, but the diagram below is the closest to the situation.

If the city development code does not specify that single, diagonal ramps should be used only in purely residential situations (if even there), it should be modified to be so.

2021-03-12: Adding a photo that better shows the context for this diagonal ramp. This is the southwest corner, X Street to the right and 24th Street to the left. There is space for perpendicular ramps. Of course this would have been a great location for a curb extension (bulb out) on both 24th Street and X Street, but yes, that would be significantly more expensive and might involve drainage issues.

curb ramp at southwest corner of 24th St & X St

2021-03-17: Adding a photo of a new curb ramp in the same area of town, at 22nd Street and W Street, showing the correct perpendicular curb ramps. It isn’t that the city doesn’t know how to do it right, it is that they chose not to at the intersection of X Street and 24th Street.

perpendicular curb ramps at 22nd Street & W Street

use Amazon? – support this!

This afternoon I was walking along P Street, not riding my bicycle, when I saw this Amazon delivery van parked in the separated bikeway (cycletrack) just past 13th Street.

When I asked the driver why he was in the bike lane, he said there was nowhere else to park. But in fact there is a cross-hatched, implied no-parking, area just behind the photo on 14th Street, not more than 30 feet from where the van is parked. I can’t show you an aerial of this because the parking has been reconfigured since the last historical Google Earth imagery without leaves on trees, but tomorrow I’ll take a ground photo and add it here. There were also several empty parking spots on 13th Street both north and south of P Street, but apparently this was too far for the driver to walk.

Once making several deliveries, the driver finally left, traveling down the separated bikeway all the way to 13th Street. I reported the parking violation to the city’s 311 app, but of course the van was gone before they could respond. However, I think it is important for everyone to report these violations, otherwise the city can claim it was not aware of the situation.

This is the Amazon attitude, that our deliveries are more important than public safety, and if we actually get caught, the ticket is a small price for our way of doing business, which is raking in the big bucks. So, please think about this photo the next time your order from Amazon. I am not saying Amazon is the only guilty party, other delivery services do similar things, though Amazon seems to be the most brazen. And it is partly the city’s fault. When they repaved and restriped P Street to create the separated bikeway, they could have created delivery spots on both the 15th-14th block and the 14th-13th block, but they did not.

2021-03-12: Adding photo better showing context for the illegal Amazon parking. On the right is the separated bikeway that was being blocked by the Amazon driver. On the left is the crosshatched area that sets off diagonal parking on 14th Street. This morning it was being used by an exempt vehicle, perhaps CADA, but when the Amazon van was there, this was empty and available for delivery.

the VZ solution we won’t talk about

The one thing that no one in the transportation advocacy community wants to talk about is speed-limiting vehicles. Speed-limiting means that vehicles cannot operate over the speed limit selected for a section of roadway. The technology for doing this is largely already in place on modern motor vehicles, as they already monitor their speed and already have available information about the speed limit on the street they are on. Older vehicles of course don’t, and would need to be retrofitted.

Why speed limiting? Because it is a simple solution that cuts through all the other discussion and contortions and expense of other solutions. Some people think education is the solution, as though all the education to date has done any good. Some people don’t want any traffic laws enforced, because ‘freedom’, meaning of course the freedom to operate a vehicle recklessly and kill people. Some people think that the solution is to redesign roads so as to prevent speeding. I’m not against that solution, but our mis-designed transportation system has a value of trillions of dollars, and fixing it will require trillions of dollars. We could spend our money that way, but why when we have so many other good causes to spend on. Vision Zero efforts are admirable, at least when they don’t have the involvement of law enforcement, but there has been very slow progress or regression in the United States because the engineering profession and law enforcement really don’t believe in the idea, giving it lip service while trying to subvert it.

Speed kills. It increase the severity of crashes, making severe injury and fatality more likely. It also increase the frequency of crashes, because drivers have less time to react and avoid, or slow before impact. You have all seen a version of the graph below, and it is important to remember that at every speed, speed is a contributing factor.

Speed limited does not mean changing posting speed limits, though it turns out that reducing speed limits does indeed reduce traffic speeds and reduce crashes and injury severity. However, speed limits are not set to the design speed of the road, but lower than than. As a result, drivers are encouraged by road design to speed, while fingers are wagged and tickets are written. But the problem is not solved. Crashes and severe injuries and death continue apace, or increase in the case of this last year.

With speed-limiting, no vehicle goes faster than the speed limit. If there are no crashes, maybe it gets increased a bit. If there are crashes with severe injury or fatality, then it gets reduced. We don’t need to change speed limit signs, we just change the permissible speed which vehicles respond to and follow.

Of course we should redesign streets to make them friendlier and safer for walkers, bicyclists, transit users, and drivers for that matter. But in the meanwhile, I want no one to die or be seriously injured on the streets and roads we have. Speed-limiting is the solution.

It is worth pointing out that designers and manufacturers of autonomous vehicles don’t want this to happen. They are assuming they will be allowed to violate speed limits, because they know that their primary target driver audience, young aggressive males, won’t buy vehicles that go the speed limit. They are just hoping no one notices that they are going to bypass this, and probably will get away with it.

more housing, less parking

I have been gradually compiling data on two types of properties that could be developed into housing, or mixed use, removing unproductive uses such as surface parking and empty lots. The data at the moment is just the southwest portion of the Sacramento central city, bounded by Capitol Mall/Ave on the north, Broadway on the south, Sacramento River on the west, and 16th Street on the east.

I am not claiming high accuracy. The polygons are parcels from the Sacramento County parcel layer, selected using ArcGIS Imagery basemap, with consultations to Google Maps and Google Earth (the historical imagery allows selection of views without leaves on the trees, making it much easier to see what is on a parcel). I am sure I have missed some parcels, and included some that should not be. Nevertheless, I think the pattern is worth thinking about. Parcels that contain significant parking but also contain a building are not included, though obviously when counting parking, it is important. And, the map does not include street parking or structured parking. If those were included, the map would be a mass of red. There is a remarkable amount of structured parking (often called parking decks), both freestanding, and layered into other buildings.

I have not distinguished who owns these parcels. Probably about half the parking is owned by the state, and the rest by private parking companies. Of the empty parcels, it is less clear, but there is a mix of public (state and city) and private. It would take a great deal of time to determine ownership in order to code these differently. Maybe in the future, but I’m not sure this is a significant issue.

The graphic is below, but more useful will be the ArcGIS Online WebApp Sacramento parking & empty. This is my first experiment with presenting information through a WebApp map, but I realized that people would otherwise be ruining their eyes trying to parse out the polygons of surface parking and empty lots in the static map. Red is surface parking, orange is empty parcels.

So, why the data compilation. There are a significant number of empty parcels in the central city, all of which could be housing instead of empty. And every surface parking lot could be and should be developed into a more productive use. By productive, I mean something of direct use to humans instead of cars, and more productive of sales tax and property tax. Our property tax system values empty lots and parking lots are virtually zero, meaning they contribute little to our tax base needed to provide services. I’ll say more about this shortly.

The slideshow below shows many of the surface parking lots in the southwest quadrant of the central city. It may include photos of parcels that contain a building but also have excess parking.

The next slideshow shows many of the empty lots in the southwest quadrant of the central city.

I’m tired of the electric vehicle conversation

Warning: Grumpy old man mode.

I am really, really growing tired of the electric vehicle boosterism that pervades the environmental community. It is sucking all the air out of organizations and meetings, diverting attention away from solutions that would have a much greater impact on greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). The transportation sector is responsible for 41% of GHGs in California (2020), and that percentage will continue to climb as we work to reduce the other sectors. Except for this pandemic period, GHG emissions from vehicles have continued to climb every year, and they will probably go back to their rise when the pandemic is over, and that is already happening in some places.

Do electric vehicles have a lower emissions impact than fossil fuel vehicles? Yes, but the difference is not enough to justify the boosterism. Until our electricity supply is 100% renewable (with storage of course needed for peak periods), and we are not importing electricity from other states, the impact from electric vehicles will be unacceptably high.

And there is the other impact of vehicles. You’ve all seen the images, a take off on the old one showing the number of and space used by cars, buses, bicycles and walkers, showing congestion from electric vehicles being exactly the same as fossil fuel vehicles. But congestion is actually a friend to walkers and bicyclists, so mostly a concern to transit and drivers.

The biggest problem with cars is that they dominate our cities, and make compact, walkable development and neighborhoods impossible. I live in a place (downtown Sacramento) where nearly all of my needs are within walking distance, and the few that are not are within bicycling distance. I’m car free and have been for ten years (I had written care free instead of car free, but you know, it is much the same thing).

Yet car drivers through downtown, many but not all of them people who don’t live in downtown, challenge me for right-of-way every time a use a crosswalk. Crossing the street should not require either yielding my right of way to drivers, or trying to intimidate them into stopping (which most walkers are too afraid to do, rightly so). When I’m bicycling, drivers running red lights and not coming close to stopping at stop signs are a constant danger, meaning I have to be on high alert rather than enjoying my place and my ride. The nature of the majority of drivers is that they willingly intimidate walkers and bicyclists. People driving electric vehicles are not any better. Tesla drivers are giving BMW drivers a run for their money in competition for the worst drivers on the road.

Because of the space taken up by cars, the roadway, on-street parking, off-street parking, everything is further away. Downtown and midtown, things are still within a reasonable distance, but that is not true anywhere else in the region except downtown Davis, old town Folsom, and old town Roseville. The amount of land devoted to cars is truly amazing, and sad, and criminal. Six lane or more arterials, with parking lanes and turn lanes. Six lane or more freeways, with the ever present threat to widen them. Katy Freeway (26 lanes in Houston area), coming to your community, courtesy of Caltrans!

I suspect a lot of the energy behind electric cars is just people who really don’t want to give up their car, at all, ever. They are the same people who bought Prius cars because they were more environmental, and continued driving the same or more, and then bought Tesla cars because they are even more green, and continued driving the same or more.

Car drivers kill more than 40,000 people every year in the US, and it looks like 2020 is going to be 43,000 when the official data is in. Motor vehicle fatalities are usually a bit above gun-related deaths. Cars are the leading cause of death for children and young people. Many people tolerate this as just part of the way things are, but it is not the way things are. It is the result of our American car addiction, and the design of our roadways (engineers are morally and legally responsible for this), and the choices of drivers.

Here is my suggestion. We remove one-half of all cars from service, by whatever means necessary, with whatever funding it takes. There should be criteria that prioritizes: 1) the most polluting cars; and 2) cars owned by drivers who drive a lot, 3) cars that are not used but still take up space on the street. I realize that there are homeless people living in vehicles, and I’m not talking about those, but the ones just gathering dust and leaves and cobwebs. I am not suggesting that the government pay going prices for these vehicles, but something quite a bit less. If necessary to induce the change, we can simply refuse to renew registration on vehicles in these categories.

Then, and only then, we start subsidizing replacement of the remaining internal combustion cars with electric, starting with the lowest income people. If we devote X amount of dollars to this, and X amount only gets us up to 40% of the median income, that is just fine with me. As many studies have shown, it is high income people that are receiving almost all the benefits from electric vehicle incentives. That is classist and racist, and must stop. We might eventually get to higher income levels, but only after replacement in the lower income levels has been achieved. That means we need to immediately end the programs as they exist and revise them to be equitable. If you are an electric car booster and and not working to achieve equity, you are just being an entitled jerk.

Please, let me not hear anything about electric vehicles the next time I go to a meeting or jump on Twitter. Please.

Stockton Blvd draft available

The Stockton Blvd Corridor Study draft is now available for review. It and some display boards reflecting the report can be downloaded at https://www.cityofsacramento.org/Public-Works/Transportation/Planning-Projects/Stockton-Blvd-Corridor-Study. The city is asking for feedback through email rather than another round of workshops.

I have not reviewed the report, but if I have comments to share, I’ll post them on the blog. My take on the earlier ideas are here: Stockton Blvd Corridor Study and Stockton Blvd needs trees.

MUTCD revision comments

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is revising the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) and is seeking public comment. You can view the revised document at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/12/14/2020-26789/national-standards-for-traffic-control-devices-the-manual-on-uniform-traffic-control-devices-for (scroll down until you see Supporting/Related Materials in the green box, and you may make comments on this same page (Submit a Formal Comment is a big green button).

The MUTCD is an incredibly complex document, with cross-references everywhere that require you to jump around through the document, terms used but never defined (though 287 terms are defined), incredible detail on some topics while pretty much ignoring other topics (like bicyclists and walkers). The document is intended to cover signs and markings (the paint on roadways) but does not address roadway design except in a very minor way. That is deferred to private organizations such as Association Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). Many people have suggested that the main reason FHWA is updating MUTCD is to add the section on automated vehicles, and the other changes are an afterthought.

One could devote their life to reading and understanding the MUTCD, and probably would not, in fact I’m not sure that anyone in FHWA has ever read the entire document. The reason it is so important, however, is that it is the document to which transportation engineers constantly refer to as the reason they can’t do the right thing, or must do the wrong thing.

My comments so far are below.


The MUTCD should be separated into two documents, one for highways and another for streets. Local engineers continually refer to items that should only apply to highways in designing or refusing to design facilities for streets.

Section 1C.02
Definitions of Words and Phrases Used in this Manual

106. Intersection—intersection is defined as follows: (b) The junction of an alley, or driveway, or side roadway with a public roadway or highway shall not constitute an intersection, unless the public roadway or highway at said junction is controlled by a traffic control device.

The definition uses the term ‘side roadway’ but this term is not otherwise defined. If used, it must be defined.

2B.59 Traffic Signal Pedestrian and Bicycle Actuation Signs (R10-1 through R10-4, and R10-24 through R10-26)
Figure 2B-26. Pedestrian Signs and Plaques of the signs document

The activation signs in 2B-59 should be greatly simplified. There should be a sign for signal heads that count down, a sign for symbols only, a sign to activate audible message, and a sign to extend crossing time. Having 18 signs does not help pedestrians in any way. Signs reflecting old pedestrian signal heads should be phased out in five years, along with changing all pedestrian signal heads to reflect the current standard.

4I.05 Pedestrian Detectors
Push button pedestrian detectors which are not required (the signal is on auto-recall) SHALL be removed, or converted to accessible pedestrian detectors, within five years of the date of publication. Accessible push button detectors will have associated signing which clearly indicates the purpose of the button, and that a button press is not required to cross. The existence of push buttons which serve no purpose is confusing to pedestrians and indicates a bias against people who walk.

Figure 4I-4 
Pedestrian Intervals In the Relationship to associated vehicular phase intervals: diagram, the third option (Part of Yellow Change Interval + Red Clearance Interval = Buffer Interval) and the fourth option (Red Clearance Interval = Buffer Interval) should be removed. These two options may significantly reduce safety for pedestrians while having only minor impact on traffic throughput. These types of signal setups discourage people from crossing streets.

Part 6: Temporary Traffic Control

The entire Part 6 Temporary Traffic Control is extremely weak in the accommodation and protection of pedestrians and bicyclists.

Bicycles

Figure 6P-48. Bicycle Lane Closure with on-Road Detour (TA-48)
Whenever construction signs are placed in a bike lane, as they often are, the ‘bike lane closed ahead’ sign should precede the ‘road work ahead’ sign, since bicyclists will be forced into the roadway by the sign and motor vehicle drivers need the warning of bicyclists before they need the warning of road work.

W11-1/W16-1P assembly is shown on the figure, but the sign is not in associated sign document. The ‘bike lane closed ahead’ sign is not in the associated sign document, nor does it seem to exist anywhere in the current MUTCD.

The ‘bikes may use full lane’ (R4-11) and the ‘share the road’ assembly are shown as optional. They should not be optional, since the detour roadway does not have a bike lane, whereas the construction roadway did.

Figure 6P-47. Bicycle Lane Closure without Detour (TA-47)
Again makes the ‘bikes may use full lane’ and ‘share the road’ assembly optional. It should not be. Signing in this situation must communicate to both the bicyclist and the motor vehicle driver. The ‘bikes merge’ sign is not in the TTC signs document, nor anywhere else in the MUTCD.

There is no diagram that shows signing and marking for a temporary separated bicycle pathway placed in the roadway. There must be a diagram for this situation.

Pedestrians

Almost nowhere in the TTC sign diagrams are sidewalks shown nor the appropriate treatment of temporary closures, whether through detour or added pathways. The implication is that pedestrians don’t exist and need not be accommodated.

Figure 6K-2. Pedestrian Channelizing Device shows how a channelization should be constructed, but says nothing about where that channelization might occur.

Figure 6P-29. Crosswalk Closures and Pedestrian Detours (TA-29) shows sidewalk closures, with a mid block temporary crosswalk, but it does not show the barriers themselves, nor are these sidewalk barriers shown anywhere in the MUTCD so far as I can determine. Transportation agencies routinely use inconsistent signing and barriers for sidewalk closures, which is just as much of a hazard as inconsistent roadway signing, so this must be addressed in the MUTCD.

A diagram should be added that shows a pedestrian channelization placed in the roadway to provide safe and direct travel for pedestrians, in addition to the detour situation.