TransitRenewal and Route 1

Sacramento Regional Transit (SacRT) is working on a project that they call TransitRenewal. It is an effort to rebuild the transit system that existed prior to 2010 when it was decimated by cuts. People who live in the downtown/mid-town/EastSac area mostly notice that the system stops running very early in the evening, but people who live in the more outlying area of the regional suffer from the full extent of the decimation. Signs that say “temporarily no bus service” are found along arterial streets everywhere, as many the routes simply don’t exist anymore. SacRT wants to bring back the most useful of these routes, as well as to extend the schedule by about two hours, ending soon after 11 instead of soon after 8.

The next event in the TransitRenewal process is a hearing on Monday, March 26, starting at 6:00PM, at the RT Auditorium at 1400 29th St, Sacramento. I encourage you to take a look at the website, pick one or a few routes of importance to you, and then go to the hearing and speak about these routes. SacRT hearings are often lightly attended, so your voice has a impact than you’d think. If you can’t attend the hearing, you can comment online, by phone, or at some less formal outreach opportunities.

SacRT was also involved in an effort by Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) to document Unmet Transit Needs. As part of both these processes, I investigated the current situation and possible improvement of several routes that I am concerned about. I recently posted about how to improve bicycle access on light rail, and below are my thoughts about Route 1, which runs from McClelland to Sunrise Mall in the northeast suburbs of Sacramento county. Continue reading “TransitRenewal and Route 1”

Car free

my Volkswagen Golf, under snow - I biked this day

I’ve been car free since August 2011, when I finalized my move from Carson City to Sacramento. I have been trimming down use of my car, driving less each year. This was not an insignificant accomplishment, given that in the not too distant past I regularly drove 25,000 mile per year, but the final year it was down to about 3,500. I never brought my car over from Carson City, instead loaning it to a friend who used it sometimes, and I used it sometimes when I was in Carson City and needed to transport things for work, or to the Goodwill as I was also gradually getting rid of many of my possessions. And I eventually gave it to her. I think fondly of my car, as it was cute and reliable and got me where I needed to go, but I don’t miss driving it.

I had been thinking about becoming car free for a long time, and wondering what it would be like. The questions, the raised eyebrows, of my friends and acquaintances made me think it might be a big deal, but in the end it turned out to be pretty much a non-event. All it took was a commitment to planning out my life better and not using the car as a crutch for lack of planning or forethought. It just isn’t part of my life anymore, and unless people ask me about it or I write a blog post on it, I don’t think about it.

Continue reading “Car free”

Blogs I read

I read one transportation blog religiously: StreetsBlog. The four sub-blogs, for New York, where it originated, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Capitol Hill, generate their own blog posts, but also serve as an aggregator for transportation blog over North America, and to a small degree the world. The news is of very local issues, as specific as neighborhoods and streets, city, state, regional, and national issues. Some are serious, some irreverent. Some are offered by advocacy organizations, some by professional planners, some with academic expertise, and some by interested individuals.

Among the blogs linked from StreetsBlog that I often click through to are Kaid Benfeld on NRDC’s Switchboard, The Transport Politic, Grist, and How We Drive. Kaid, as well as some other bloggers on Switchboard, cover the political, environmental, and livability aspects of transportation, and the Transport Politic covers similar ground but is written by a planner, Yonah Freemark. Grist addresses environmental issues through several bloggers, including a former editor at StreetsBlog, Ellie Blue. How We Drive is by Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), probably the best book I’ve read on the culture of driving. I’m sure you’ll find something interesting on StreetsBlog.

And while you are there, click on over to StreetFilms, a wonderful collection of short and entertaining spots on improving transportation system and livability.

Let me know what blogs interest you!

Climate Change

20120318-102104.jpgThe Sacramento News & Review this week included an insert from the City of Sacramento entitled Climate Change in Your Hands. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it. I’m not sure if it was also in the Sacramento Bee, since I don’t read the Bee regularly. The insert is remarkably strong in its support of climate change, without any of the tea party denialism that shows up in so much of the printed and broadcast media.

The graph at right shows the transportation element of greenhouse gas emissions for Sacramento, and it is the largest, at 48%. The city’s Climate Action Plan (at http://sacgp.org/cap.html) has a goal of reducing vehicles miles traveled (VMT) by 7% by 2012 and 16% by 2025. Both seem to me rather weak goals, but are nevertheless imperative as at least a starting point.

“Cruising the green lane” on John “Bucky” Perez talks about his shift to biking rather than driving the five miles to work. He talks about the money savings, the health benefits, and that biking gets him energized in the morning and unwound at the end of the day.

The “What can I do” sidebar list seven individual actions, including checking your Walk Score (which I posted about yesterday). The others are: 1) support sustainable land use initiatives; 2) think about moving; 4) try finding a job closer to home; 5) telecommute; 6) shift daily trips to walking, and 7) drive more efficiently. Each of these is worth exploring in more detail.

These may seem like pretty big changes, particularly where you work and live, but think about that fact that most people these days change jobs a number of times and residences several times. Each of these changes is an opportunity to make a decision for sustainability.

Walk Score

Walk Score offers an assessment of the walkability of any location. It is available in any browser at http://walkscore.org/, and is also available as a free app for the iPhone and Android, and in any browser at https://www.walkscore.com. Walk Score is based on the distance to the places people want to go, such as grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops, bars, movie theaters, schools, parks, libraries, bookstores, fitness locations, drug stores, hardware stores, and clothing & music.

I live at O St and 16 St in mid-town Sacramento P and 12th in downtown Sacramento, which has a WalkScore of 85, very walkable, shown at right. The R St and 16th St corridors, which have higher scores, are easy walking distance. The Neighborhood section of the app offers Walk Score, Transit Score, and Bike Score, but for the entire neighborhood of downtown, not for specific address.

The browser interface offers more information, for both specific addresses and general areas such as Sacramento. The graphic below is only part of the web page. Note that the results from the app and the web site are not the same, and I don’t know why, but they are similar enough that it should not make a big difference.

The exact algorithm that weights these amenities is not public, but you can get an idea by selecting the Street Smarts Walk Score option. Having six grocery stores within 0.6 miles, eight restaurants within 0.2 miles, and eight coffee shops within 0.3 miles supports my score. One critical item not on the list is farmers’ markets, which I would weight very highly, though the seasonal nature of most farmers’ markets might be a challenge. The closest one to me is two blocks away, but it only runs May through September. It is only 1.4 miles to the year-round farmers’ market at 8th St and W St. Some performance theatres show up in the movie theaters category, but some of them do not, so I’d make that a separate category since plays are such an important part of my life.

Continue reading “Walk Score”

Bikes on RT Light Rail

Bikes and light rail are a natural complement to each other. Light rail covers the longer distances quickly, while bikes get you from your origin and to your destination, directly or via connecting bus service. I’ll post about buses later.

Bikes can be taken on all Sacramento RT Light Rail trains, without time restrictions. However, there is insufficient capacity on light rail for bicyclists, for two reasons:
1. The restriction on the number of bicycles per car of four does not reflect the current demand for bicycle space. This is a relict of a time when few bicyclists used light rail, and must be modified.
2. Passengers without bicycles occupy the end spots of the cars, seemingly in preference, precluding use by bicyclists. These bicyclists then cram their bikes into other spaces and inconvenience other passengers.

Continue reading “Bikes on RT Light Rail”

Getting started

As I ride my bike and use transit, and even to some degree as I walk, I think about our transportation system. In part this is my job, as a Safe Routes to School Coordinator, to observe, document, and reflect on the patterns of traffic and human behavior. But is is also just part of how I relate to the world. I believe that the two most important activities we do in our lives, for their impact on the earth, are eating and getting around. Eating is something I very much enjoy, but don’t spend a lot of time thinking about. Getting around is.

I’ve been living in Sacramento since April 2011, but there was a long period of transition as I left Carson City. There was also a long period of transition in becoming car-free. I’ll have more to say about being car-free in the future, but it has already faded into the background for me. I spend much more time thinking about how I get around than on the fact that I have no car and rarely drive.

This blog will collect my thoughts about how our transportation system works in Sacramento, both for me and for other people. Just so you know, I don’t think the system works very well. A system designed to give priority to the personal motor vehicle doesn’t work. It doesn’t work for us personally, it doesn’t work for us as a society, and it most certainly does not work for our relationship with the earth. We are killing the earth for our own convenience, and I feel strongly that we must stop.

I have a personal blog (link at right) on which I’ve posted a bit about transportation issues, and I’ll link back to those posts here and sometimes cross-post, but most of what will show up here is transportation ideas I’ve had rattling around for some time, and reactions to the day-to-day joy and challenge of getting around.