wrap-up of changing downtown/midtown

Nine posts (linked below) have outlined my thoughts about how to create a livable, walkable, bikeable and safe downtown/midtown Sacramento. These have been nearly all from a transportation perspective, how we change the way people get around. Though I will continue to post on these topics, I want to wrap up for the moment. I need to pay attention to some other things, and I need to finish my taxes!

Livability is not created merely by transportation changes – it takes a lot more than that. But it does provide fertile ground for the changes that are needed. I am pleased to know of and be a small part of efforts to transform downtown/midtown. I attended CivicMeet Sacramento on Wednesday, where the participant selected topics were save the bikes (bike theft), rooftop utilization, fresh fruit and veggies downtown, and human capital clearinghouse. I attended the Turn Downtown Around open forum two weeks ago. Good energy from (mostly) young people, directed towards creative solutions to making downtown/midtown a vibrant place. I’m sure there are many others working towards the same ends (many ends). It is sad that the city government is trailing, slowly, rather than leading, but it also an opportunity for creatives to step in and fill the gap.

Let me acknowledge that transportation is only a small part of the big picture, but I write about it because it is my small part.

and the freeways

I-5 separating Old Town from downtown Sacramento
I-5 separating Old Town from downtown Sacramento

Sometimes I catch a ride from a friend or take an Amtrak bus, and am on freeways in the Sacramento area, which most of the time I never see. I wonder why there are so many lanes for so few cars, so much expanse of empty concrete and expensive bridges. Of course I know the answer, the freeways have been built for two rush hours, morning and afternoon, on five days a week, perhaps 13 hours per week out of 168 hours in the week. Oh, and the Friday up to the snow or Tahoe and Sunday back home, that weekly migration of bay area people. The rest of the time they are largely empty.

Yet freeways take up a huge amount of space, have a huge carbon footprint for construction and maintenance even before fuel consumption comes into play, spew pollution into neighborhoods, and suck up the largest portion of our transportation funds. As an example of cost, the nine miles of the six-lane Capitol City Freeway (Business I-80) from Interstate 80 to Highway 50 is 54 lane-miles. Though the cost to construct a lane-mile varies widely, from $2M to $80 million, lets take a very conservative number of $5M and say that this section of freeway cost a quarter of a billion dollars. And this is not even an expensive highway, with its simple interchanges. Pretty amazing, huh? What else could we have done with that money?

Continue reading “and the freeways”

more on conversion to two-way streets

A friend suggested that my streets change ideas were hardly new, and that is quite true. Some streets were converted in the past, some were identified for conversion but not completed, and many more have been suggested but not adopted by the city. Here are some additional references.

Some news articles about past and planned conversions in Sacramento:

References on past and planned conversions in Sacramento:

Articles and references on the one-way to two-conversion concept:

Note: There are a number of contrarian views available from the cars-first crowd. You can search for the Internet for “two-way conversion” if you want to find them.

street changes

The maps I posted the last two days were preliminary to this post. I would like to see two significant changes to the streets in downtown/midtown Sacramento that will make these areas more livable, more walkable, more bikeable, and safer. I am proposing the complete elimination of traffic sewers from downtown/midtown Sacramento. What is a traffic sewer? It is a street designed to move large volumes of vehicles at high speed in and out of work areas during morning and afternoon commute times. In Sacramento, the main work area is the state buildings downtown, though there are certainly other employers and other areas, including midtown.

3 to 2 conversion, 10th Street northbound
3 to 2 conversion, 10th Street northbound

1. Convert all three-lane streets into two-lane streets. The map showing these streets in the downtown/midtown area is linked from my Sac 3-lane Streets post.

These three-lane streets are, of course, also one-way streets. In many cases the lane removed would be used to provide bike lanes or protected bikeways, but in some cases the space might be best used to create wider sidewalks or diagonal parking where additional parking is needed. Though in some cities the three-lane to two-lane conversion is used to create a turning lane, I don’t believe that these are necessary in downtown/midtown, nor do I feel that this is a good investment of right-of-way.

This conversion would remove some traffic capacity, though unfortunately, not as much as one might wish. Studies show only a slight reduction in capacity from this treatment, which is sometimes referred to as a road diet, though I like the term rightsizing. Continue reading “street changes”

1-way streets in downtown/midtown Sacramento

1-way streets in downtown/midtown
1-way streets in downtown/midtown

At right is the second map of downtown/midtown Sacramento, showing the 1-way streets. This map was created using Google maps and memory, and has not yet been field checked.

These streets total about 32.6 miles.

The map graphic links to the map data in Google Maps, from which you can zoom in on areas and turn on or off satellite view. The reason that this is not a map view graphic is that the online browser version of Google Maps starts paging after about 18 entries, so it is not possible to view all of the segments at the same time. This image is instead from Google Earth, via KML export and import.

The map provides background for an upcoming post about transforming transportation and livability in downtown/midtown.