Stockton Blvd needs trees

This is a follow-on the the Stockton Blvd Corridor Study post.

Trees

Following the online virtual open house, I realized I could not picture the situation on some segments of Stockton. Though I’ve traveled Stockton many times, I had not in a while, so I went back. I had commented during the open house, as well as after, that I didn’t think the cross-sections presented gave enough information on or weight to trees, so that was part of my agenda, to see the tree situation better. The day I went, last Sunday, was one of the cooler days in a while, high of 80 degrees Fahrenheit, but on the street the lack of shade and heat was noticeable. Add 20 degrees, and it would be intolerable for walking and unpleasant for bicycling.

The tree situation is not good. There are some sections with healthy trees, and some places where trees on commercial properties are healthy and shade the sidewalks, but on the whole, trees are lacking. The first photo below, taken looking south, to the south of Broadway, shows a long section with no trees at all, no buffer, no shade. The sidewalk is wide enough, but who would want to walk here?

Stockton Blvd south of Broadway

The next photo is of the section adjacent to UC Davis Medical Center where trees are present in a slightly too narrow buffer. The trees are relatively young, but when mature, will provide necessary shade and probably also crowd the buffer.

Stockton Blvd near UC Davis Medical Center

The next photo is of a very narrow strip where trees were present but were all cut down, and the following photo, a Google streetview capture of the trees. The trees were obviously planted in a strip far too narrow for them, and some of them were unhealthy as a result, so I’m not presenting this as a model, but as a warning that commercial properties cannot be relied upon to provide trees. Even the small trees in this narrow strip provided some shade and feeling of place to the street. In addition to this instance, there are many commercial properties and some residential properties along Stockton where the trees are dying, dead, or have been removed. And conversely, some where the trees on commercial properties are in good condition, so thank you to these properties. Trees, if they are to serve as a long-term amenity, as I believe they should, must be provided in the public right of way and maintained by the city.

Stockton Blvd, removed trees, near Jansen
Stockton Blvd, trees before removal, near Jansen

A small archive of photos from Stockton Blvd are available in the Flickr album at the end of this post, and those who live along or do business along can provide more detail.

So what is the solution? The first part of the solution is that the city must modify its cross-section renderings and pages so that it highlights the tree situation. Will there be a sidewalk buffer? How wide? What numbers and kinds of trees? To what degree will the project rely on trees on private property, versus trees in the public right-of-way? I find the options presented as unacceptable because they don’t really address this issue. On a few of the pages, trees are mentioned, but never in enough detail.

I would propose for community along Stockton Blvd that there should be continuous sidewalk buffers planted with trees, all the way from Alhambra to 47th Ave/Elder Creek Rd. Where buffers are present with trees, great, make sure they are preserved and cared for. Where buffers are present but the trees are absent or unhealthy, plant new trees and care for them. Where there are no buffers, create them, and plant trees and care for them. Where there is a healthy tree line on private property, this can serve for now, but the buffer should still be provided for the protection of walkers and as a bulwark against possible abandonment of the private trees. I envision Stockton Blvd being a tree-lined community asset, where walking is a pleasure and traffic speeds and volumes are low.

For new buffers, the minimum width of the buffer should be eight feet, as anything narrower does not allow for full development of the trees, and leads to excessive root heaving of the sidewalk. The heaving is to some degree an inevitable consequence of having trees, but wider buffers and correct watering regimes reduce the problem considerably. Where the existing buffers are at least six feet and the trees are healthy, the buffer can be widened or left as is, depending on the situation. Where the buffer is narrower than six feet, the buffer must be expanded.

Where commercial businesses are present and buildings meet the sidewalk, the trees should still be present, but the spacing and species can be adjusted in consultation with the property or business owners so that they don’t block off visibility of local businesses. In most cases the buffer would be paved, with tree wells for the trees, and street furniture or other amenities in the buffer, but the buffer would still be a minimum of eight feet.

Intersections

Another issues that the city diagrams and information do not address is intersections and crossings. The existing conditions report acknowledges that there are long distances between safe crossings on the south end, but doesn’t provide much detail about intersections.

The intersections as they exist actively discourage pedestrian activity. The midblock crossings, of which there are a few, do not have any additional protection. At a minimum, these locations need user-activated RRFBs (Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons). At many of the signalized intersections with minor streets, there is a pedestrian prohibition on either the north or south leg. These prohibitions exist solely to speed the signal cycle and encourage traffic flow; they do not exist for safety reasons. They must be removed. The photos below shows just one of the many such prohibitions. A person walking on the south side of Jansen, wanting to go south on Stockton, would have to use two crosswalks, waiting for the signal, and then walk through an overly wide commercial driveway. There is no reason for this.

Stockton Blvd at Jansen Dr, pedestrian prohibition

At the major intersections, where crosswalks are present on all legs, the crossing distances are long. Though not as bad as many other locations in Sacramento, intersections are often flared out to add turn lanes, both left and, often, right turn lanes. This increases crossing distance. This issue can be solved in two ways: removing the unnecessary turn lanes, or adding pedestrian refuge islands in the middle, so that slower walkers can make the crossing in two stages. The medians must be six feet wide, to meet standards, and must have a pedestrian button so that people don’t become stranded. (Note: I’m not in favor of pedestrian buttons at all, except when they: 1) trigger audible information, or 2) lengthen the crossing time; however, this is one situation in which they make sense)

The project information does not really address intersections at all. City staff said that these details would be worked out later, but I find this unacceptable. Intersection design must be part of the options presented. Intersections are where most conflicts occur between pedestrians and vehicle drivers, and bicyclists and drivers as well, so they are a critical element of any effort to improve Stockton.

Driveways

Some of the sections of Stockton are littered with driveways. Each commercial property has one to several. Part of improving Stockton must be to reduce the number of driveways. Each commercial property should have one driveway, or less. One of (the only) advantages of the parking moats that front the street (what I mean by parking moat is that the commercial buildings are set back away from the street, and parking lots face the street; these parking moats contribute significantly to the feeling of Stockton Blvd being a car-dominated place). In several cases, these parking moats can be combined for several properties in order to reduce the frequency of driveways. The issue with driveways is that they not only make a place feel busy and unwelcoming to walkers and bicyclists, but they are safety hazards for walkers and bicyclists very nearly as bad as the hazard of an intersection.

Stockton Blvd, north of Elder Creek, excessive driveways

Built Form

There is a section of ‘old’ Stockton Blvd where the buildings come to the sidewalk, and parking, if any is to the side or back. This traditional pattern (traditional before suburban sprawl) is the best built environment, the one that feels most welcoming to people outside cars. It increases customers, it makes the street feel smaller and the sidewalk feel larger.

The ‘new’ sections of Stockton Blvd where buildings are set back behind a moat of parking have exactly the opposite effect, producing an environment that feels unwelcoming to walkers, makes the sidewalk feel like a part of the street rather than a part of the neighborhood. This built form is a widely recognized mistake, but the correction will take many, many years as these commercial properties evolve. But what can happen, now, is that all new commercial buildings can be required to front the sidewalk. There are a lot of empty or abandoned parcels on Stockton, which everyone hopes will see new development. That development should be the traditional pattern that gives the street a neighborhood feel rather than a traffic sewer feel.

Stockton Blvd, buildings fronting the sidewalk

Speed Limits

Another issue that the study pays scant attention to is speed limits. Whether or not the street design option work depends on design speed and posted speed. The default assumption in transportation planning is that speed limits cannot be lowered, due to California ‘law’. First, it is not a law, it is case law, established by judges, not the legislature, that says traffic tickets won’t be enforced unless speed limits are set to the level at which only 15% of drivers exceed. This will of course be changed, but the process is long, with powerful opponents, most specifically CHP whose lip service to safety is legend. But more important to this study is that streets that are reconfigured, with a change to lane width or number of lanes or mix of modes, can be set to any speed limit the city wishes. The road is new, and the past speed limit doesn’t apply.

So, in accordance with my desire to see a tree-lined neighborhood boulevard, I think that the speed limit for this entire length should be 30 mph. And of course the street must be designed to enforce that posted speed limit.

Highway 50 Interchange

The Hwy 50 and Stockton Blvd interchange is problematic for both walkers and bicyclists. There are no bike lanes through this section, at all, and walkers on the east side of Stockton face long crossing distances in a design that strongly favors high speed motor vehicle drivers. In the photo below, look at the long crossing distance on the north side of the freeway, of the exit and entrance ramps. It’s about 120 feet, with no protection from drivers, at all. I have both used and observed this crosswalk, and can confirm that very few drivers yield to walkers in the crosswalk. It is a guaranteed death trap for walkers.

The roadway striping does not delineate areas for motor vehicles and bicyclists, nor does it indicate where riders or drivers should be merging to reach their destination. It is just a wide-open area, and as with all wide-open areas, drivers will assume they have complete right-of-way. You can see by the tire tracks that the turns on and off the freeways are being taken at high speed.

Stockton Blvd – Hwy 50 interchange

This interchange must be completely reconfigured for the safety of walkers and bicyclists, and drivers for that matter. The entry and exit ramps must connect with the street at 90 degree angles, requiring drivers to make low speed turns. Bicycle lanes with green conflict markings must be installed throughout the interchange. Sidewalks must be improved and crossing distances shortened to no more than 22 feet.

It is disappointing that such a critical safety hazard was not addressed in the study.

Mode Share

The study, online survey, and open house never address the key issue for the entire corridor, which is: what should be the priority of travel modes in design of the street? Some of the options imply a higher priority for some modes than others, but the critical question is never asked of the public. I had said in my previous post that my priorities would be transit first, then walking, then bicycling, then private motor vehicle travel. However, having spent more time looking at and thinking about the corridor, I’m going to change that. The priorities should be walking first, strongly supported by the tree-lined boulevard configuration I’ve outlined and justified, then transit, then bicycling, then private motor vehicles.

What is is important here, though, it not my preference, but that the public, and in particular the residents and customers along the corridor were never asked this question.

What Now?

I’ve laid out what I consider some major flaws in the study. I am not against the particular options that were presented, and from that limited perspective, the study has done a good job. But the number of things NOT considered is glaring. I know the city hopes to address these issues later, but I don’t find later to be acceptable. The public needs a full set in information now, so that it can comment on the study from a perspective of understanding how the street will feel after the changes, not just design diagrams, but how each traveler will get along and across the corridor, and whether it supports their desires for mobility and livability.

I think the city should pause the study process and add in the elements not addressed, then go back out to key stakeholders, and re-do the engagement process including the survey and open house.

Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72157714923753216

Stockton Blvd Corridor Study

The City of Sacramento is undertaking a Stockton Blvd Corridor Study, covering the section between Alhambra Blvd and 47th Ave / Elder Creek Rd, but focused on the two high injury segments around Broadway to 14th Ave and north of Lemon Hill Ave to south of 47th Ave / Elder Creek Rd. Map below.

Tomorrow, Thursday June 25, there will be a virtual open house at 6:00 pm. There is also a survey which is open through Tuesday, June 30. The survey offers existing conditions information for each of several segments, and then presents two options are asks the user to select one of the other, and make comments if they wish. The options were developed as a result of a community engagement process which was partially led by Jackie Cole of VG Consulting. I attended one of the meetings in February, which had more actual community members than most such meetings, but was only moderately attended. I did not attend any of the other events.

I would encourage anyone who travels on Stockton Blvd, and particularly people who live on or do business on the corridor to take the survey and attend the virtual open house. Please use the comment boxes to tell stories of your personal experiences and concerns using the corridor, as they make a huge difference in the design ultimately selected (we hope).

The nature and width of Stockton (both the street and the right of way) varies considerably over the length of the section, so there is not a single roadway design that can be used throughout.

The survey and background documents do not address the number of driveways along several sections of the road. In some places there are more driveways than not driveways, with each commercial property having one or more driveways. The density of driveways mean that most measures taken to make the street safer for walkers and bicyclists, and faster for transit, will fail. The city must reduce the number of driveways, whereever consolidation is possible. A key question which the survey never asks is what should be the priority of the different travel modes along the corridor. I would argue for:

  1. transit
  2. walking
  3. bicycling
    …..
  4. private motor vehicles

But your priorities may be different. The reason I place transit at the top is that SacRT Route 51, when highest ridership route in the entire system, runs on Stockton from Broadway to 47th Ave and beyond. This is the sort of ridership that would justify bus rapid transit (BRT) in most cities, and some of the options do ease bus travel but fall short of BRT. And of course people must either walk or bicycle to the bus, and so these two modes must come next. High quality sidewalks and bike facilities can ease these ‘first mile’ trips, and make it possible to reduce somewhat the frequency of bus stops, further speeding the bus.

Stockton Blvd at Hwy 50, wide and ugly

bike share before re-opening

JUMP unceremoniously pulled out of Sacramento (the Sacramento region program that included West Sacramento and Davis) in the very early days of the pandemic. The bike and scooters disappeared, except for those few that are still out there, abandoned and never picked up. Though the company claimed that the devices weren’t being used, that is not true. Despite people not commuting to work (the stay at home was not yet clearly defined), they were still getting used, at perhaps half the rate as before. I’ve suspected that Uber/JUMP was already planning a pull-out, and saw the pandemic as a convenient excuse. Sacramento had been the most successful JUMP system in the US, in terms of rides per bike per day. Some argue that means they would not have pulled out unless they had to. But I see exactly the opposite reason, that they pulled the bikes and scooters because they were so successfully competing with what Uber considers (and has now demonstrated) to be its core business, ride hailing.

Lime also had scooters here for a while, but they disappeared as well. Spin had a program based on the campus of Sacramento State, and I saw a few of the scooters off campus, but they were never widespread. I’ve heard rumors of other scooter companies, but never saw any of the scooters. There were also some short-lived or planned but not implemented bike and scooter share programs in other cities around the region.

JUMP is now out of the bike and scooter business altogether. They sold the business, and apparently some of the bikes, to Lime. There are stories on the Internet from locations all around the US about Uber recycling the batteries and scrapping the bikes, so this is apparently widespread, and either already has or will shortly erase most of the bike fleet from existence.

Lime had an electric bike share bike for a while, though never in Sacramento. I saw them but never rode one, as the places they were available had alternative vendors that I was already using. The reviews I read said they were much better than the pedal bikes Lime was famous/infamous for, but nowhere near as good as JUMP bikes.

Apparently Lime is restarting bike share in the Denver area, using the JUMP bike model, starting this Friday. I have not heard any rumors of a restart any place else.

So, what does this have to do with re-opening from the pandemic? I have not heard anything from any of the agencies involved in the bike share program about how bike share can be brought back. SACOG (Sacramento Area Council of Governments), the original sponsor of the Tower Bridge pilot program (remember the white SoBi bikes?), SMAQMD (Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District), which provided some of the start-up funds, the City of Sacramento, the City of West Sacramento, and the City of Davis. Not a peep. There may be discussions going on, just not public, or there may not be.

This region, not just the area covered by the JUMP program, must have a bike share program. I am less certain that scooters must be part of the program, but I’m sure many feel they should. As people who were using transit but are not willing to right now, for an unknown but hopefully not too long period of time, search for alternatives, the choice to drive, and often to purchase a vehicle in order to drive, would be disastrous for the region. Our air quality has been wonderful for three months, but has already returned to the ‘unhealthy for sensitive individuals’ level even with only a fraction of the pre-pandemic traffic levels. If 80% of those who were using transit now drive, air quality will likely be in the ‘unhealthy’ for all category for much of the summer, and jump into the ‘very unhealthy’ category from time to time. We can’t let this happen. We must provide alternatives for people who cannot and will not drive, and that must include bike share. Of course the impact of motor vehicles, more than 40% of carbon emissions in the state, go far beyond current air quality to civilization-changing climate change, but my biggest concern right now is the short term impact on air quality.

Beyond air quality and climate, there are equity concerns about how we re-open. Yes, I know the JUMP system was not perfect. Even after expansion, it covered only part of the low income communities in Sacramento. JUMP had a low income uer discount program, but it was almost a state secret, and they never solved the issue for unbanked people.

We know that most transit users right now are essential workers and people who have no other way of getting to essential destinations. Those who can have been driving, but many can’t. They are not of a driving age (too old or too young), the have valid reasons they are unable to drive, and they simply do not want to be a part of the planet-destroying car obsession. What are we doing to do for these people? Are we going to put all our transportation eggs (funding and projects) into the cars-first basket, as we have done for too long, or are we going to change our futile ways and provide real alternatives? Are we going to commit low income people to a descending spiral of debt as they try to keep old cars running, or buy cars that barely run, just so they can get where they need to go?

The solution is bike share. Here is what I think needs to happen:

  • Equity concerns must be predominant in rolling out the new bike share system. Who really needs this option? How can we make sure it works for them? As one of my favorite people, Tamika Butler (and many others) has said, we don’t want to return to normal, because normal was never acceptable. High income state office workers are not the people the new system should be designed for, though certainly it should work for them too.
  • We must discard the idea that a privately owned and operated system can work to meet the transportation needs of the region. It could be a public system, or it could be a public/private system, but it cannot ever again be solely private.
  • Bike share is identified as a critical transportation service, and as a logical part of the transit system. This does not mean that it is operated by transit agencies, though it could be, but that transit agencies are a core partner in the program.
  • Major traffic attractors will not reopen until a bike share system is in place to handle the additional car traffic that might otherwise be generated. This most definitely includes shopping malls, and probably includes government offices in downtown Sacramento. Universities and colleges are not an issue, for now, as they will be online and not the trip generators they usually are.
  • Funding for bike share infrastructure (bikes and bike racks) will be diverted from road building projects. If the emergency powers of the state and county have any meaning at all, this is well within their power to do. When transportation agencies talk about the ‘color of money’, what they generally mean is that they don’t want to make the effort to justify different uses, and they are happy with the current mode share. Time to end that malfeasance.

restaurant space

Sacramento has implemented changes to the streets along 18th Street and along Capitol Avenue and L Street near the intersection of the three. There may be other locations in Sacramento, but I’m not aware of them.

L St at 18th St restaurant space

The first example, along L Street at 18th Street, is for Aïoli | Bodega Española. The sidewalk has been closed and an alternate sidewalk provided in what was the parking lane on the south side of the street. There are a few widely spaced tables.

18th St at Capitol Ave, restaurant space

The second example, along 18th Street just north of Capitol Avenue, is for Zocalo Restaurant. It could also be used for the adjacent business, but doesn’t seem to be. The sidewalk was retained (more or less, there is a slight narrowing), and the angled parking on the east side of the street was converted into seating area.

The ADA ramps which go around the sidewalk closures look sketchy to me, but I don’t have expertise in that aspect of ADA, so I’ll leave that to others who do.

I think this is a great use of street space to help restaurants meet the challenge of physical spacing while reopening. I prefer the situation where the outdoor seating in in the parking space, rather than the sidewalk being diverted to the parking space, but each situation is unique, and it should work for the business and the walking public.

Of course with any of the ‘temporary’ COVID-19 measures, the question is, should this be a permanent solution? I think this needs to be a negotiation between the city, the business owners, and the public, but I do think in many cases, the answer is yes.

Redlining trees

A take-off on the article on CapRadio, Summer Days Often Feel Much Hotter If You Live In One Of California’s Historically Redlined Neighborhoods, published/broadcast May 26.

image from @RandolWhite tweet

The lower temperatures along the river corridor are of course expected. And so is the pattern, almost universally seen here, that lower income locations have higher temperatures. One could speculate that these areas never had as many trees, but I don’t think that is the explanation. It has to do with sidewalks, and city neglect.

I walk a lot, and to the degree possible, walk throughout the city. What I see in the lower income neighborhoods is a decline in trees. Many have been removed, and many of the ones remaining are declining in health. I do not think it is because people who live there don’t care about trees, quite the opposite. It is because there are more renters in lower income neighborhoods, with landlords who do not care much about trees, or other things. For those who do own their homes, it is a struggle to pay the bills and take care of trees.

When these neighborhoods were built, they probably had just as many trees as any of the leafy neighborhoods in midtown or east Sacramento or Arden Park. But these neighborhoods are old enough that many of the trees are dying out (maybe for lack of care, more probably because they were not the right tree for the context), and not being replaced. The homeowners or renters don’t have the money to replace them, and the landlords don’t care.

So why are there still trees other places? Because the design of streets in many higher income neighborhoods feature detached sidewalks, with a buffer in between the street and the sidewalk. This is the standard design for livability in all but intensive retail areas, and adds significant safety and comfort for walkers. But in the second ring and beyond suburbs, most streets are either without sidewalks or have attached sidewalks, with no buffers. So the trees were in people’s yards, not in the buffer. When they die or are taken out, the city has no responsibility. When there are buffers, the city replaces the trees. Yes, they are incredible slow about doing so, but it does eventually happen. And it happens for the most obvious of reasons, that richer (white) people get what they ask for in this city.

The city also repairs sidewalks when the buffer tree roots systems begin to crack and heave the sidewalk (many buffers were too small for the trees planted in them). Not with alacrity, but they do it. When a yard tree cracks and heaves a sidewalk, the city sends the owner a notice to repair.

tree in sidewalk buffer, with city repair
a typical lower income neighborhood, no buffer, no city maintenance
no buffer, rolled curb, no yard trees (though there were at one time)

A person posted in reply to the CapRadio article that the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District did a Urban Heat Island Project to assess the issue and solutions. Good for the air district, and good for the study, but what about action? What about the city? What is the city doing, proactively, to get trees back into low income neighborhoods?

Tree redling also relates to the issue of sidewalk responsibility. Sidewalks are a part of the city’s transportation system, and are legally and morally the responsibility of the city to maintain. The idea that we provide for cars and car drivers, while leaving walkers to the vagaries of private property owners is an idea whose time has passed. In fact, I think that the city should establish a program of repairing and installing sidewalks before ANY road repairs are done. It will take many years to undo the damage of our cars-first transportation system and funding, but the time to start is now. Where sufficient public right of way exists, and sidewalks are in need of significant repair, existing sidewalks should be replaced by detached sidewalks, with buffers and street trees.

Temporary Traffic Control (TTC) references

The City of Sacramento is not taking the failures of its construction zone signing and maintenance seriously. I have forwarded a number of issues to the city, both via email and via the 311 service. Nothing seems to have come of any of this. I have not seen a single location corrected. The 311 requests are being closed without being corrected. It is not clear to me whether the city staff are incompetent, or simply don’t care, but I’m going to list some resources I’ve found useful. These may be useful to readers, so that you can recognize failures and report them as well.

The Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) addresses construction zones in Part 6: Temporary Traffic Control Devices. California has its own version, similar but not identical, the CA-MUTCD Part 6. Don’t misunderstand me, the MUTCD/CA-MUTCD is very weak on pedestrian and bicyclist accommodation. If you randomly threw a dart at the manual, 999 times out of 1000, you would see text or signs or diagrams that assume that pedestrians and bicyclists don’t exist. Nevertheless, the manual has the force of law, for any agency that uses federal funding, and it is what most agencies use as the gospel.

pedestrian barricade, with detectable edge (National Work Zone Safety Info Clearinghouse)

Note that the MUTCD prohibits the use of tape, rope, or plastic chain strung between devices because they are not detectable and do not comply with the design standards in the ADAAG; therefore, they may not be used as a control for pedestrian movements (MUTCD 6D.01).

National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse

I-5/Richards Interchange

The City of Sacramento is soliciting comments on its Interstate 5 / Richards Boulevard Interchange Project. Please take a look and comment.

My comments are summarized as:

  • The safety justification doesn’t hold water. The interchange itself has no fatal collisions and no severe injuries during the period of time analyzed (safety starts at about 9:56 in the video). The severe injury collisions are all outside the project area. The city is definitely trying to gaslight people on the safety issue. If the city were actually concerned about safety, they would be doing projects at the severe injury locations. But they are not. In fact, unnecessary projects like this one gobble up the funds that could be used to solve real safety issues. It is worth pointing out that this area is not a high priority in the city’s Vision Zero program. There are many, many areas in the city with far higher collision rates.
  • The information on bicycle and pedestrian improvements is very fuzzy. Nothing is indicated that to me makes is seem safer for either. More traffic means less safety, unless the safety improvements are substantial, and I just do not see that here. See DDI comment below.
  • The project points out rightly there there will be increased demand for travel as a result of residential, commercial, and public development in the Railyards and River District areas. But it makes no mention of other ways of solving the issue. Demand management? Never heard of it. The project simply accepts that traffic congestion will get worse if no infrastructure is built, so infrastructure must be built. Of course the EIR has to consider the no-build alternative to be legal, but the city is certainly not presenting that option to the public.
  • The project uses traffic delay through the interchange (on the interstate) to justify the project. The current traffic delay is due to the fact that commuter traffic has been encouraged by the provision of additional capacity on Interstate 5 to the south of the city, and on Interstate 80 east and west of the city. Of course things will get worse at this location, as more people commute and travel on this increased capacity. This is called induced travel, and is to be expected. Induced travel is increased by capacity expansion projects.
  • The city wants to spend $46 to $100 million of your tax money to ‘solve’ this problem. If we let them do that, they will be back in a few years with another project to ‘solve’ the problem at some other nearby pinch point, and the new project will be even more expensive because they have induced more travel by ‘solving’ the perceived congestion problem here.

It is time for us to demand that highways engineers be cut off from building new capacity. They see the taxpayer pockets as their piggy bank. Fix what we have, and invest the remaining transportation funds in supporting walking, bicycling, and transit.

The projects proposes making the interchange into a diverging diamond interchange (DDI), where the travel lanes switch sides under the freeway so as to reduce the number of intersections, and to ease common vehicle movements. Some people hate DDIs. Traffic and highway engineers love them. I’m pretty indifferent. I have spent a lot of time observing DDIs, before and after. They do offer some improvement in traffic flow, and they do offer minor improvement in safety for drivers. They are not any better or worse for bicyclist and pedestrian comfort and safety, IF they are designed properly (I’ve seen some very poor installations, some of which won awards from AASHTO, the highway lobby entity, that never saw an expensive project it did not love). It does take a period of a year or two for people to adjust to the different feeling of a DDI, but that is not necessarily bad. So my opposition to this project is not due to the DDI, but other issues. Others may feel differently.

city’s 311 app broken

The City of Sacramento recently release a new 311 app. I have been using this app (iOS version), mostly to report issues with construction signing. The app is broken!

What are the issues?

  • If you switch away from the app to some other app, the app logs you out, and you have to log in again.
  • Once you’ve logged in again, it asks you to confirm your contact details. Even though it asked you to do that moments ago – it doesn’t keep track.
  • It will not allow you to upload photos. Usually it give an error message, photo could not be uploaded, but sometimes it hangs the entire app. If you are wondering, it makes no difference whether you take the photo then or try to use an existing photo, nor what size you attempt to upload.
  • The app (and the website) is happy to show you requests you’ve made, but the only information on the request is the cross streets or address that you reported. It doesn’t show what the request was, so if you’ve made more than one request on the same location, or simply don’t remember what the request was, you won’t get any help from the app (or the website).

An ongoing problem, not specific to the app, is that the city closes requests without saying whether they did anything or not. The only way for you to know whether they did anything is to go back to the same location, and look to see. That’s if you remember what your request was.

Sacramento redlining map

Thanks for the website Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal America, I have better copies of the Sacramento redlining map, which was produced in 1937 by the Federal Home Loan Bank Board and the Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC). These were government sanctioned zonings meant to guide banks to only loan to certain kinds of people in certain areas. Specifically, higher income white people.Though the official endorsement of the federal government eventually ended, the practice continued into the 1970s, and is with us still today. The best book on it is The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein, which I highly recommend.

I had seen this map before, most likely from the posts of Bill Burg, but had not seen a high quality version, and had never found the GIS data. In 1937, Sacramento was a pretty small city, not going south past Land Park or north past Del Paso Heights, so the maps only cover a tiny part of what is today Sacramento. But as the city grew into other areas, the same practice redlining continued.

The first map below is the ArcGIS version, the second a scan of the original 1937 map.

Sacramento HOLC redlining map 1937 (click for pdf)
redlining map scan
original map, scanned (click for high resolution)

watch Why We Cycle

The 2017 video, Why We Cycle, was offered for free streaming for one day, yesterday. Though the freebie is over, I highly recommend you watch the video; at $4.99 it is still a great deal. This video has brought joy to me in ways that I haven’t felt in a while, and I think it will do the same for you.

So if you can push the car out of the city grid, leave it at the edges, and go walking further, it’s an enormous advantage for health, for clear air, for interaction.

Sjoerd Soeters

Though the bicycling infrastructure in the Netherlands has received the greatest notice in the US, this video is only secondarily about the infrastructure, instead focusing on cultural capital and transformation.

My own commute is cycling, that’s because I live cycling distance from work, but that is not a coincidence, that is why I live there.

Erik Verhoef

The video demonstrates the long list of benefits to a cycling culture (note that the video unapologetically uses the term cycling, without the cultural baggage of spandex and Strava and high priced bikes that the term carries in the US):

  • convenience: the bike is often the quickest way to get somewhere
  • economics: the bike is far less expensive than private motor vehicles, and even than transit
  • health: an active life brings measurable and significant benefits to the individual and to society in health care costs
  • cognitive: because bicycling requires people to be aware and interact with a large amount of information, there are clear benefits to cognitive development and maintenance
  • creativity: bicycling increase creativity, while on the bike and in life
  • reduced absenteeism: work absenteeism is lower for people who bicycle, and presumably for school as well
  • freedom to move: people are much freer to go where they want to go, when they want to go, on a bike
  • diversity: bicycling exposes people to diversity that they would not be if driving, to meet the ‘other’, to actively negotiate the flow with others

It’s the story of living in a city that is human scaled, that allows me to engage with the social/spatial environment… the intangible effects…

Marco te Brommelstroet

Data on bicycling trips clearly pointed to the conclusion that choices were often governed much more by the senses than the coldly logical plans of traffic designers, even causing people to leave the safe but sometimes boring cycle-ways for more interesting routes.

I noticed in the video, and it was commented on by one interviewee, that some signals have all ways for bicyclists at the same time, a bicycle scramble, so to speak. Because bicyclists have so much experience with negotiating with each other, it just works!

… it relates to the culture of mutual shared respect, but also the culture of trust; instead of infrastructure, by the users of infrastructure

Fariya Sharmeen

The adolescent social area can be the whole city, not a limited area close to the home. It’s about fun, being together. The video highlighted schools where nearly every student walks or bicycles, such a huge contrast to the US.

Dutch children are the happiest children in the world, just because they can go farther and farther from their homes…

Cycling is a good metaphor for a good education.

… to put the priority in relationships between people, then we support the cycling, we support freedom for children. Priorities for children and for bikes are good priorities for a happy politics.

Leo Bormans

A better world is possible, and we can achieve it if we work together and insist that each decision we makes moves us towards that end, and away from the car supremacy under which we have suffered, and died.