City of Sac blind adherence to ADT

Another post on the Freeport Blvd Transportation Plan. See the category Freeport Blvd for other posts.

“We are designing for the traffic we have, not for the traffic we want.”

Ali Doerr Westbrook, Chair of Sacramento Active Transportation Commission

I could stop at that, but perhaps you’d like some more detail. This comment was made during the Sacramento Active Transportation Commission (SacATC) meeting on January 18, 2023. The context was the admission by the two city planners, Leslie Mancebo and Jennifer Donlon Wyant, that the city eliminated the possibility of a road diet (roadway reallocation) before even starting planning for Freeport Blvd. The reason expressed is that the ADT (Average Daily Traffic count) is above 20,000 for Freeport, and that requires more than two lanes (one each direction). Interestingly, ADT counts for various locations along Freeport are nowhere to be found in the plan or appendices. In a different location on the City of Sacramento website, Traffic Counts, the ADT for various locations along Freeport Blvd, rarely exceed 20,000, and have not exceeded 20,000 since 2011. There is no indication that the city even did new traffic counts in preparation for this planning effort. So far as can be determined, they just decided to not consider a road diet from four lanes to two lanes, or two+one lanes, 3/2 configuration) because they wanted to prioritize motor vehicle traffic over all other uses of the roadway.

The city planners also acknowledged that a road diet was a prominent request of the community during the planning process. But, community input be damned, the city is going to serve car drivers before anyone else.

A reduction of lanes from four to two is the single most important traffic calming effort that can be made on a roadway. That does not mean it is the appropriate solution for Freeport Blvd, or for all of Freeport Blvd in the planning area. What is does mean is the that city should have considered it in the planning process.

Back to Ali’s comment. The city is planning for a roadway configuration that should have already been in place years ago, before the city over-widened the roadway, and in several cases narrowed sidewalks to accommodate the widening. They are not planning for a roadway which would reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) or increase safety and access for those outside cars. The city’s responsibility, under the Mayors Commission on Climate Change report, is to reduce VMT in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), not to maintain VMT at current levels. But this Freeport plan is a plan to guarantee current VMT for at least 30 years in the future, which is about the length of time before the city will be able to reconstruct the roadway again, and correct the mistakes they made this time around.

The intent of the city in this plan is made very clear in the common design principles: “10. Maintained necessary travel lanes, turn lanes, and parking: Maintaining travel lanes and turn lanes ensures that drivers traveling along the corridor will not be compromised, and preserving parking spaces where 5 the utilization is higher so it serves better adjoining businesses.” Though this is the last item in the list of ten, it is clear that this is the highest priority for the city.

The refusal to consider a road diet/lane reduction/roadway reallocation is a fatal flaw in this plan. The effort should be sent back to staff to re-do. It should not be adopted by city council. If the city council does not reject this kind of flawed planning, city staff will continue to make the same mistake, again and again and again.

I’ll post on some of the other flaws in the plan, but this is the most important, not just because it misses the best opportunity for traffic calming, but because it retains roadway width for the exclusive use of motor vehicles that could be better used for walking, bicycling, trees, and even parking for businesses.

Added graphic below, which I had not noticed in the plan, that documents vehicular counts on sections of Freeport Blvd. Is it suspicious that half of the plan area is ‘just’ over the city’s criteria of 20,000 ADT? Remember, the plan itself and the city’s traffic counts website do not indicate this level of ADT.

SacATC meeting Jan 19 with report, Northgate, Freeport

Update: The letter on the status of walking/biking was deferred to the next meeting, where a modified letter will be considered and hopefully passed. The Freeport and Northgate Transportation Plans were forwarded to council. I spoke in favor of Northgate and against Freeport, for reasons I will detail in the near future. The applications for planning grants were supported.

The Sacramento Active Transportation Commission (SacATC) is meeting online Thursday, January 18, 2023, 6:00PM to about 8:00PM, via Zoom. See http://sacramento.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=21 for agenda and eComment.

The three main topics are:

A read of the subcommittee report, formatted as a letter to the mayor since the commission is advisory to the council, is good and should be supported. I particularly like the emphasis on completing the construction detour policy, since city staff otherwise do not care about the safety of walkers and bicyclists in navigating construction projects that close or change sidewalks and bikeways. Two items missing are bike/scooter share, and Vision Zero. These two items may or may not fall under the purview of SacATC, however, the city is not making information available to the public on these efforts, so it seems to fall to SacATC to do so.

In general, the Northgate and Freeport plans are an immense improvement over existing conditions, so meet needs of the moment, but it is less clear they are going to meet the needs of the future, which will be much less private motor vehicle driving, and more walking, bicycling and transit. If time is available to look at the plans more closely, I’ll add posts.

Reset for SacATC

The City of Sacramento Active Transportation Commission (SacATC) was established in 2018 as a replacement for the city/county Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC). This was good, as the county’s unwillingness to consider innovative solutions, even when they were in the city, meant that very little ever happened there. There was a lot of hope in the bicycling and walking advocacy community that SacATC would turn a new page and accelerate necessary changes in the city. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. The commission has been reactive, not proactive. A number of people have resigned from the commission when they discovered that not much of importance was happening there.

Nothing here is meant to demean the contributions of city staff to seeking grant funding for critical projects. The city is paying much more attention to active transportation than it used to, but I and many other advocates believe that it is still paying too little attention, and certainly too little funding.

So, I believe it is time for a reset.

  1. SacATC is advisory to the city council. It should therefore be communicating with council on a fairly regular basis. That does not mean that it does not collaborate with staff, but it does not take direction from them.
  2. The primary job of the commission should be to review and to create policy. Reviewing projects is a secondary focus. That means at least half of every meeting should be spent talking about policy, not about projects.
  3. SacATC should be setting its own agenda, not letting staff set it. If staff wants to bring something to the commission, they would contact the commission chair to request that it be on the agenda. The chair should solicit agenda ideas from commissioners at the end of each meeting, and again, in advance of the next meeting to meet whatever deadline the city sets for its agenda posting.
  4. The purview of SacATC should be all city activities, when they may affect active transportation, not just Public Works. This would include, for example, construction traffic control plan permitting, city utility work in the streets, waste collection (trash cans in bike lanes), repaving plans, law enforcement, and parking enforcement.
  5. SacATC supported sidewalks where they are part of complete streets projects, but has not addressed sidewalk infill, closing gaps in this critical transportation infrastructure. I believe this should be a major focus of the commission this year, developing policy to recommend to the council that makes consistent and rapid progress towards a continuous sidewalk network, properly designed ADA ramps at every corner, and frequent safe crossings.

The next meeting of SacATC is Thursday, February 18. The agenda and eComment link will be available a few days beforehand at http://sacramento.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=21.

The commission is established under city code: http://www.qcode.us/codes/sacramento/view.php?topic=2-2_100&showAll=1&frames=on.