Green Line to the Airport

Greenline-MAP
click for pdf map

I attended the open house meeting hosted by SacRT and it’s consultants this evening at the Sacramento Central Library, as did about 60 others. I’ve written before about the green line extension (the green line currently ends at Township 9 on Richardson), so I’ll just add a few comments now, on the bridge, multi-modal transit trips, the airport, and the EIR.

Bridge: The bridge over the American River, between Township 9 and Truxel Blvd, is a key issue. Will it be multi-modal, for light rail, pedestrians and bicyclists, or will it be all-modes, including private motor vehicles? There are good arguments for both. A multi-modal bridge would send a message that we value these transport modes more highly than motor vehicles, and it would be a great deal less expensive. On the other hand, Sacramento is somewhat isolated by the paucity of bridges over both rivers, and this might be a chance to disperse traffic to a new route. However, more lanes generally induce more traffic, and become congested, and lead to higher GHG emissions that both work against climate mitigation and undo the other good things we are doing. The planning does not seem to be far enough along to have any cost estimates for the bridge alternatives. The consultant at the bridge display was a fill-in, not the bridge engineer, so it wasn’t possible tonight to get any more detailed information. The recently completed rail-ped-bicycle bridge over the Willamette River in Oregon did not include motor vehicle traffic in part because it would have greatly increased the cost of the bridge. I suspect that both the city and SacRT will claim that the all-modes bridge is not significantly more expensive, but this claim needs to be watched closely and perhaps challenged.

Multi-modal transit trips and bicycles: SacRT just does not seem to get that almost all transit trips are multi-modal, as they include walking and bicycling at one or both ends of the trip. There was no mention at any of the displays of providing on-demand bicycle storage at stations, and discussions with several SacRT staff indicated that it wasn’t something they were even thinking of. The center platforms (boarding in the middle, tracks on the outside) to be used in several locations won’t even allow space for bike storage of any sort. I believe the only thing that will get North Natomas commuters out of their cars is if they can ride their bike to and from the station (there are some great paths, and some of the arterials are not horrible), leaving it there for the day because they don’t need it at the downtown or Folsom end where they work. The failure of SacRT to provide on-demand, secure bicycle storage has been raised by myself and many others for years, but still nothing has happened. The on-demand BikeLink lockers and station on the Folsom line were purchased and are managed by the City of Folsom, not by SacRT. I will suggest that a light rail line to North Natomas will fail if on-demand bicycle storage is not provided. SacRT only needs to visit the bay area systems to see that no one is any longer building or revising stations, or providing or updating rail cars, without serious provision for bicyclists.

Airport: Why does light rail need to go to the airport? I’m not sure that anyone has a financially sound reason for it. The line would go through miles of empty farm and ranch land. Will this land eventually be developed? Perhaps, but not likely. The GHG implications of this type of sprawl development will at some point stop it in its tracks, and at least some of the agricultural land will remain as such. Sure, cities like to be able to say they have transit to the airport, but in two places I visit where light rail does go to the airport, Portland and Seattle (both high-transit use locations), most people still drive to and from the airport. Both lines have large numbers of intermediate stations that serve many users beside airport customers, but the green line would not. In a less transit-oriented place like Sacramento, how many people will use the airport extension? And at what cost per passenger? If we had unlimited funds, I’d be all for an airport extension, but we don’t have unlimited funds, and an extension to the airport greatly delays, or perhaps kills, extensions to ARC, Roseville, Elk Grove and Davis.

EIR: The environmental impact report will have to cover the entire extension to the airport, because projects cannot be considered piecemeal, but there is a danger that ONLY the entire project will be analyzed, and that the segments will not also be analyzed separately. As I’ve said before, I think there is a clear justification for the extension to South Natomas (stopping south of I-80), there may be justification for segment to North Natomas, if the system can be designed in such a way that it will actually be used by the car-centric residents of North Natomas, and there is little justification for the segment to the airport. If the segments are analyzed separately in addition to as-a-whole, then people will be able to better judge the impacts and benefits of the extension.

SacRT issues and solutions

Another list of ideas for improving SacRT. This was developed as part of my work with 350Sac Transportation Committee, but again, the ideas are mine and not the committee’s.

SacRT issues

  • funding
    • SacRT is the most poorly funded transit system of its size in California; the limited amount provided by Sacramento Measure A (through the Sacramento Transportation Authority) is insufficient to operate a transit system
    • dependence on federal funds from most system enhancements and extensions means that the system has not kept up with either population growth or increased demand
  • leadership
    • the board, composed of only elected officials, provides poor oversight and leadership
    • management is weak, unwilling to explore innovative solutions and accepting of current limitations as permanent
  • light rail
    • has a poor reputation among many commuters
    • no evening service to Folsom
    • no service to American River College
    • high-floor rail cars are inaccessible to many people
  • bus network
    • buses are too infrequent to provide effective service, with no routes meeting the definition of high frequency and only four routes meeting the definition of medium frequency
    • routes deviate into neighborhoods in an attempt to maximize coverage, but the result is a loss of functionality and timeliness
  • land use
    • SacRT is ineffective in large part becuase land use decisions have resulted in an urban/suburban/exurban pattern that cannot effectively be served by a transit system
    • SacRT has little to no input into land use decisions
  • fare card system (ConnectCard)
    • the fare card system has been delayed for more than a year
    • there is no evidence that the fare card system will address equity issues such as low-income users without bank accounts and credit cards being able to purchase cards and passes
  • bike parking
    • the lack of secure bike parking at light rail stations and major bus stops reduces transit use and usability
    • SacRT has refused to provide on-demand bike lockers at stations, though Folsom has provided them at stations within the city

SacRT solutions

Continue reading “SacRT issues and solutions”

transit frequency in Houston and Sacramento

Houston has been in the news recently, and will certainly be today, opening day, for their revised transit system which created a network of high frequency (service every 15 minutes or better, 15 hours a day, 7 days a week) transit lines. The map below left shows this new system, only, and clicking goes to the high resolution image on the Houston METRO website. The map below right shows the entire system, with lines that don’t meet the high frequency definition. The system was redesigned with the help of Jarrett Walker, transit consultant and author of Human Transit, which I posted on yesterday and will be posting a lot more in the near future.

Houston METRO Frequent Network

Houston METRO System

So, what’s the story in Sacramento?

Continue reading “transit frequency in Houston and Sacramento”

Sacramento in the middle for transit loss

Note: I discovered yesterday, to my chagrin, that I had a number of draft posts dating back to early 2013, which I’d never finished. So I’m going to post them now, all in a flurry. Some of these issues I’ll get back to and do an in-depth and up-to-date post, and some of them I probably never will.

Original 2015-06-10: The recent CityLab article How Much Money U.S. Transit Systems Lose Per Trip, in 1 Chart shows Sacramento RT in the middle, a common place for Sacramento to be.

50807101b

SacRT issues and posts

A summary of SacRT issues and my blog posts (even more):

And issues on my list to blog about:

  • failure of the streetcar
  • more about light rail extensions
  • much more about bus rapid transit
  • funding (other options)
  • system map and frequency
  • equity
  • serving density
  • more about station amenities (signing, lighting, cleanliness, Watt elevator)
  • delay in ConnectCard implementation
  • need for a SacRT blog
  • transparency in the ad-hoc System Improvement process

improving SacRT

The condition and future of Sacramento Regional Transit (SacRT), particularly the light rail system, has been much in the news recently:

Everyone these days seems to want a better transit system. The problem is that no one wants to pay for a better transit system. The business leaders who suddenly want a modern, appealing, well-maintained light rail are the same ones that have worked over the years to suppress efforts at increasing the tax base for operation of the system.

Continue reading “improving SacRT”

Free holiday parking? Why not free transit?

The City of Sacramento has announced free holiday parking (on the Downtown Sacramento Partnership website), stretching from Old Sacramento through midtown, to attract shoppers. This is done in order to attract people who might otherwise shop at suburban big box stores and malls that offer acres of free parking, as this free parking in the suburbs puts downtown businesses at a disadvantage. (There is, of course, no such thing as free parking, someone has to pay, but that is another argument for another day.)

However, why no benefits for people who use transit to reach downtown, either by choice or necessity? I think there should be free transit tickets for people who shop downtown during the same times and places as the free parking is in effect. Businesses would give out a SacRT single ticket (normally $2.50) to each shopper for the trip back home. There might be a minimum purchase requirement, just to prevent someone from accumulating a large number of tickets by making small purchases at several businesses. However, since one free ticket doesn’t cover the trip to the business, nor trips requiring a transfer, nor family members, I think overall it would be more than fair to the city.

The free tickets would cost the city money, since they’d have to be purchased from SacRT. I’m sure a volume discount could be worked out, but there would still be real costs. The free parking offer means that the city is foregoing a considerable amount of parking revenue in order to support local business. Whether the increase in sales tax revenue from holiday shopping balances the lost parking revenue, I don’t know, but the city obviously considers it an overall benefit whether the balance sheet works or not. The same benefit could be obtained through free transit tickets.

Fare is fair! Let’s see free transit tickets!

SacRT updates strategic plan

SacRT Strategic Plan timeline
SacRT Strategic Plan timeline

SacRT has started into the process of updating its strategic plan, which was last updated in 2004. There are information booths at several locations on specific dates and time, and online comments are being accepted (see RT Updates Strategic Plan page). The online survey asked users to rank a variety of options in two areas, and offers an open-ended comment field.

Sacramento RT looking for new ways to serve future riders (Sacramento Business Journal 2014-02-14)

SacRT smoke free!

SacRT no smoking sign
SacRT no smoking sign

The SacRT system is going smoke free! The newly announced policy applies to all bus stops and light rail stations, though signing and enforcement is being phased in, with the busiest light rail stations (13th Street, 16th Street, 29th Street, Meadowview, Arden/Del Paso and Watt/I-80) already in effect. The fine for violation is $250.

I look forward to not having to wait for transit in a cloud of smoke and standing in a pile of butts. There are a lot of disgusting habits that adhere to the light rail stations, and this is one step towards eliminating these and making the system more user friendly and healthier. I suspect there will be less trash discarded on the ground around the stations, since trash generates trash, and butts are the trash that starts the cycle.

This new policy is the result of the work of The SOL Project, a local nonprofit that works to reduce exposure to second-hand smoke. Thank you!

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”