Measure A, Not OK

A committee of transportation and equity advocates have come together to oppose the Sacramento County Measure A transportation sales tax measure. Measure A, Not OK!

The new website is The home page identifies the measure proponents, which are greenfield developers (greenfields are former agricultural and open space lands which these developers want to convert to low density housing) and representatives of large construction companies who will profit from the unnecessary large infrastructure projects the measure proposes. It also addresses six of the worst aspects of the measure. A list of organizations and individuals against the measure is also available, 25 and growing.

The new Twitter handle is @MeasureANotOK. No tweets yet, but there will be soon.

If you want to catch up on all the reasons to vote NO on Measure A in November, please take a look at the posts here:
and (for more transit-specific information).

Both of these blogs will provide additional information. If you have issues you would like addressed, questions about the details of the measure including the Transportation Expenditure Plan, or proponent arguments you’ve heard, please reply.

real transportation solutions

Measure A 2022, which will be on the ballot this November, is a bundle of old ideas and a commitment to doing things the old way, the way that has dominated our transportation system since World War II. It does not address current transportation challenges. It proposes building more freeways, more interchanges, and widening roadways. It proposes to continue and increase the motor vehicle dominance of our transportation system. Sure, there is a weak commitment to fix-it-first, for the first five years of the 40 years. Sure, there are some complete streets, but that won’t make a dent in the pedestrian and bicyclist-hostile roadways that traffic engineers have built for us.

When Measure A fails, we have a chance in Sacramento County to identify and implement progressive and effective transportation projects and systems. What would a better transportation system look like?

  • One not so dependent on sales taxes. Sales taxes are regressive – low income people spend a much higher percentage of income on sales tax than do higher income people. Property taxes and congestion charges are a much fairer way to fund transportation. We have been too dependent on sales tax, for not just transportation, but many government functions.
  • One that recognizes and works to overcome the disinvestment that low income and high minority communities have suffered. Our transportation system is largely designed to ease the commutes and travel of high income individuals, not of society as a whole. The light rail system was designed with the needs of suburban, largely white commuters. So too were our freeways. At least 70% of transportation expenditures should be in and for the benefit of disinvested communities.
  • We have all the lane miles and pavement we will ever need. It is time to stop adding lanes miles and stop adding pavement. Not just because of the climate implications, but because these are low-return investments. Instead, transportation expenditures should support walking, bicycling and transit.
  • Big transportation projects such as freeways and interchanges claim big job benefits, but they are in fact much less efficient at generating high paying jobs than many other types of infrastructure investments. New construction spends most of its funds on materials, not on labor. The construction companies make large profits on large projects, but little of that filters down to workers. Small to moderate projects would employ many more people.
  • A transportation system dependent on motor vehicles, whether they are fossil fueled or electric, has strongly negative impacts on our places: direct air pollution, tire dust pollution, noise, traffic violence, loss of land to parking and roadways rather than productive development, and probably most important, it intimidates people out of walking and bicycling. A transportation system based on walking, bicycling, and transit eliminates most of these negatives.
  • A car dominated transportation system pushes everything further apart, jobs and housing and shopping and medical far away from each other. Cars not only encourage but largely demand low density development, so that there is space reserved for cars, all the parking and roadways that take up a large portion of our cities. It requires a car to participate in society, and thereby requires low income people to expend an unsustainable percentage of their income on transportation. A transportation system that relies much more on walking and bicycling allows things to be closer together, so that cars are not necessary for most daily travel.
  • Transportation investment should depend much less on state and federal funding, and much more on local funding. Large portions of the Measure A funds are intended to be matches for grants. But grants cause planners to focus on what the state and the federal government want, not on what the county or cities need. When the income from taxes or fees is close to the people, the solutions are much more likely to be what is desired by the people.
  • Private vehicle travel does little to contribute to making our places and our lives better. A innovative transportation system would focus on access to services, and make those services available nearby. It would reduce vehicle miles traveled, both by changing our development pattern and by actively working to reduce motor vehicle travel.
  • Our current transportation system has destroyed a lot of natural and agricultural lands, paving it over with roadways and low density housing. The best way of preserving nature and agriculture is to focus our attention and our funding on already higher density areas, which means infill.
  • None of the projects in Measure A are designed to support infill development. A progressive transportation system would focus nearly all investment on infill areas. It would cost much less money, and be much more productive.
  • Measure A calls out and essentially requires completion of the Green Line light rail to the airport. But who will use it? Unless service hours are 24 hours a day, it won’t be usable for many of the airport workers, who work before and after peak travel times. Instead, it may become yet another very expensive service for high-income travelers, just like our freeways system. Instead, we need to rethink our transit system to determine what citizens want and will use, and build a more efficient system around that. We know that frequency is freedom, so we must shift spending towards that, even while maintaining a reasonable level of areal coverage.

I’m sure you can think of many other things that an innovative, equitable transportation system would accomplish. Please suggest!

Measure A fix-it-first for only five years

From the Measure A 2022 transportation sales tax measure, Implementation Guidelines, paragraph F: ““Fix It First” Investment Priority for Years 1-5. With the exception of Caltrans and the Capital Southeast Connector Joint Powers Authority, Authority allocations for the first five years following implementation of this Measure shall prioritize “Fix It First” road, transit, safety, bicycle, and pedestrian investments.”

For the first five years of the measure, if it passes, the county and cities will be obligated to prioritize (that word is not defined) fix-it-first, which most people think of as fix-my-potholed street. What about the other 35 years of the measure? The agencies can then go back to what they have been doing all along, which is de-prioritizing maintenance in favor of building new stuff. Potholes in your street? Broken sidewalks? Sorry, we are going to spend the bulk of your tax dollars on building new stuff.

A measure that really cared about the quality of our transportation network would prioritize a state of good repair, not just for five years, but always. Of course traffic engineers know that is not possible. We have already built more than we can possibly maintain. But rather than being honest about that, the county and cities have adopted a policy of full-speed-ahead with new stuff – more freeways, more interchanges, more pavement.

Note also that Caltrans projects and the Capital Southeast Connector are exempted from even that meek requirement.

SACOG pathways

SACOG is in the process of developing the 2024 MTP/SCS, now referred to as the Blueprint in acknowledgement of the innovative and leading 2004 Blueprint. As part of the process, they have defined three pathways or scenarios, shown below. Pathway one is the vision of more greenfield development, more roadways and expanded roadways, ineffective transit, and neglect of already developed areas. Pathway three is close to the vision of advocates for an effective and equitable transportation system. Pathway two is basically continuing what we are doing, some good things along with many bad things.

Where does the 2022 Measure A transportation sales tax measure, which will lock in a vision of transportation for 40 years while costing taxpayers $8.5 billion, is as close to pathway one as possible. It is a mistake for land use planning, for transportation, for equity, and for climate. Please vote against Measure A in November.

This pathway builds on the land use trends over the last two decades and expands the footprint of the region outwards through significant lower density growth in developing communities and rural residential areas. It will provide the most large lot single-family and rural residential housing and the least amount of infill growth. The Outward Expansion pathway will provide more emphasis on adding roadway capacity to meet mobility needs. Due to this pathway’s more dispersed land use pattern, transit services will focus on geographic coverage rather than frequency of service, and bicycle and pedestrian facilities will focus more on connecting developing communities to existing networks.

This pathway will use the key land use metrics from the 2020 MTP/SCS to create a land use forecast and will be updated with current conditions. In the 2020 MTP/SCS, roughly 65 percent of new housing and 85 percent of new jobs were in infill areas and roughly 73 percent of new homes were either small lot single-family or attached products. This pathway will maintain the transportation project list from the 2020 MTP/SCS but will include updates based on completed or modified projects in capital improvement programs or planning efforts. New roadways or transportation investments will be included where the growth pattern has shifted. Transit service in this pathway will focus on increasing vehicle service hours for bus and rail projects.

This pathway will explore a future in which most of the future growth occurs in infill areas such as centers and corridors and established communities. This pathway is intended to explore the performance implications of a future that significantly departs from today’s land use trends. This pathway provides the most new small lot and attached housing and growth in infill areas would consist of already approved projects, vacant lots, and significant redevelopment of underutilized commercial corridors oriented around the transportation investments. In this pathway investments in capacity projects will only be used to address extreme bottle necks and congestion. To meet the region’s mobility needs, this pathway will focus on transit service in corridors with sufficient density and mix of uses needed to generate sufficient ridership to justify higher frequency transit, and fully connect existing communities through an integrated bike and trail network to reach essential destinations within communities.

housing plus transportation affordable

I have mentioned the concept of H+T, housing plus transportation, in previous posts, but not focused on it. H+T is a concept developed by Congress for a New Urbanism’s Center for Neighborhood Technology. The Affordability Index concept is explained as:

“The H+T® Index provides a more complete measure of affordability.

By taking into account the cost of housing as well as the cost of transportation, H+T provides a more comprehensive understanding of the affordability of place.

Dividing these costs by the representative income illustrates the cost burden of housing and transportation expenses placed on a typical household.

While housing alone is traditionally deemed affordable when consuming no more than 30% of income, the H+T Index incorporates transportation costs—usually a household’s second-largest expense—to show that location-efficient places can be more livable and affordable.”

The traditional way of finding ‘affordable’ housing, for those able to, is to ‘drive until you qualify’. The further away from the core city, the less expensive housing becomes, because the cost of land is lower, and the level of subsidy for development is higher. Of course there are exceptions – think Granite Bay, the most expensive and highest income area in the region. But with lower housing costs come higher transportation costs. In fact, it is almost an inverse relationship. The longer travel distances and the lack of choice of modes – driving becomes the only choice – eat up savings from less expensive housing.

For Sacramento County, the map of H+T is below. The fact sheet for Sacramento County is here. In general, the affordable areas (light color) are downtown, Stockton Blvd (with SacRT bus route 51), Interstate 80 east (with SacRT light rail Blue Line and bus route 1). Overall for the county, 52% of income is spent on housing plus transportation, with 29% being housing and 23% being transportation. That is a remarkably high transportation component. Why? Because Sacramento County is so spread our, vast areas of low density housing, and undeveloped land (that used to be agricultural land) that has been leapfrogged over by developers seeking even less expensive land to develop. If time allows, I will use the H+T data to overlay with the transit system and pin down better the relationship between transit and transportation costs. But for now, you can clearly see there is a relationship.

Why is H+T so important, at this point in time? Because the proposed transportation sales tax for Sacramento County, Measure A, focuses mostly on the old model of transportation, where freeways and arterials provide fast travel to far flung developments. The banner project in the measure is the Capital Southeast Connector, which comes nowhere close to the capital, in fact avoids the city of Sacramento and will provide no benefit to the city. See all the high transportation cost areas, the darker blue? The measure envisions more and more of those, places where the housing might be relatively affordable, but transportation costs are back-breaking. The measure wants to build more freeways and interchanges, expand freeways, widen roadways, and ease travel along major arterials. It is not interested in sidewalks and bicycle facilities that would support more housing in the already transportation affordable areas. The complete streets are all along major arterials, the dangerous, busy, noisy, pollution generating roadways that are not where affordable housing should be.

The measure provides some funding for transit, but significantly less than the existing Measure A, less than the 2016 Measure B which failed at the ballot box, less than the draft 2020 Measure which was withdrawn in part due to the pandemic. It also sees the function of transit as mitigating motor vehicle capacity expansion projects, not as a valid mode of travel.

Infill housing can be affordable, if priced correctly. Yes, under current housing cost inflation, almost nothing anywhere is affordable, but in concept infill can be affordable. Greenfield development can never be affordable because the transportation component of H+T will always be too high in greenfield areas.

Sacramento County and the cities in the county are obligated by state law, under the RHNA (regional housing needs assessment) process, to zone sufficient areas for housing at many income levels (very low, low, moderate, above moderate). The proposed measure, because it sucks up nearly all transportation funding into areas of moderate and above moderate housing, pretty much ensures that the governments will not be able to meet their very low and low obligations.

Measure 2022: SacTA buys in

The Sacramento County Transportation Maintenance, Safety, and Congestion Relief Act of 2022—Retail Transactions and Use Tax (Measure 2022) by the Committee for a Better Sacramento came before the Sacramento Transportation Authority (SacTA) last week, 2022-07-27.

Agenda item 6 was to have the authority accept responsibility for implementing the measure if it passes in November. This item did not generate much discussion, and passed unanimously. I will note that the measure sets up a gotcha that will be very difficult for the authority to work through – it basically says that if a project sponsor claims that a project meets air quality criteria, they do not have to prove that it does, and may proceed to spend tax funds on it, no matter what anyone else says. Not only will this likely make it impossible for the SACOG region to meet the greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction target of 19% set by the state, but likely make it imperative that other projects both in Sacramento county and the other five counties in the SACOG region make up for (mitigate) the GHGs generated by the project. This is largely about the Capital Southeast Connector, but applies to every capacity expansion project in the measure.

Agenda item 7 (presentation), to direct the SacTA Executive Director to negotiate an memorandum of understanding (MOU) with SACOG that would set us criteria for having SACOG review the GHG impact of the entire measure, using SacTA funds (presumably Measure A funds, since tax collection would not start until January 1 if the measure passes). A review would also be done by a third party, not specified in the MOU, but likely a consultant more amenable to discounting the GHG contribution of roadway expansion projects. SacTA or the third party may challenge the SACOG analysis, but the MOU doesn’t make clear what happens then. It is worth noting the several SACOG board members, particularly David Sander of Rancho Cordova, who is also, conveniently, on the board of the Capital Southeast Connector JPA, said the the SACOG analysis of the impact of the connector on GHG and the likely failure to meet the target, was so flawed that it should be discarded. Several board members accused SACOG staff of lying. I assume that the new review of the Transportation Expenditure Plan will be challenged in the same way, by the same people. It is likely that the measure, and the MOU, and the signing agencies will end up in court.

There was considerably more discussion on item 7. It passed, but with three no votes and one abstention (of the sixteen votes on the board, some of whom were absent).

The MOU is only between SacTA and SACOG. It does not include the Capital Southeast Connector JPA, nor the tax measure proponents (the greenfield developers), nor the county, nor any of the cities, nor the other five counties. So it is not legally binding on anyone beyond SacTA and SACOG. That means that the connector JPA can do what it wants to do, which is to avoid responsibility for GHG emissions.

There was an earlier promise that there would be ballot language in the pro argument that explained the MOU and what it would accomplish, but it is not clear that this is any longer on the table. The MOU itself is far longer than could be included, so if there is anything there at all, it would be a summary, and would be written by the measure proponents, hardly an unbiased source.

I will repeat that it was the specific intention of the measure proponents to bully SACOG and SacTA into supporting the measure and specifically excepting GHG-inducing roadway capacity expansion projects from air quality review. The intentional removal of the GHG language from the 2020 version of the measure (which was withdrawn before going on the ballot) makes this absolutely clear. The claim by many politicians that the measure proponents think that the MOU clarifies that the intent was not to violate GHG goals is laughable. They intended to bully, and they succeeded.

For more on the measure, see Measure 2022 posts. The use of this name and category is not meant to confuse. A lot of people are referring to this as Measure A, but the measure letters are assigned by county elections after they have qualified, so this is in no sense Measure A at this time. Sacramento County Elections has verified signatures for the measure, but has not assigned a measure letter.

TIRCP grants for Sac region

TIRCP (Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program) grants for 2022 have been announced, with two in the Sacramento region. One is a joint application from Capitol Corridor JPA, City of Sacramento, SACOG, SacRT, and Downtown Railyard Ventures, for work related to Sacramento Valley Station realignment of light rail and buses. The second is for SacRT to purchase eight more modern low floor rail cars.

4. Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA), with the City of Sacramento, Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG), Sacramento Regional Transit District (SacRT), and Downtown Railyards Venture, LLC (DRV)

Project: Sacramento Valley Station (SVS) Transit Center: Priority Projects
Award: $49,865,000
Total Budget: $95,050,000
Estimated TIRCP GHG Reductions: 156,000 MTCO2 e

This project delivers a set of interrelated projects to introduce better connectivity between modes at the Sacramento Valley Station, as well as redesigned commuter and intercity bus service to the SVS and Downtown Sacramento, that will increase ridership on both trains and buses. Project elements include design of a new bus mobility center to facilitate convenient transfers between modes, realignment of existing light rail tracks and construction of a new platform, construction of a new cycle track on H Street to improve access to the station, and construction of a new pick-up and drop-off loop.

The light rail tracks will be realigned into a loop with a new north-south oriented platform just south of the Steve Cohn Passageway entrance (about 450 feet closer to the rail tracks than currently, and only 100 feet from the future Bus Mobility Center), as well as a new double track alignment from the new platform to the intersection of F Street and 6 th Street. The construction of the new pick up and drop off loop at the station will allow more efficient transfers. The project includes installation of a new storm drain trunk line which will enable new transit-oriented development on key parcels next to SVS.

A new regional bus layover facility will be built in a 2-block portion of X Street between 6th and 8 th Street. The proposed facility will allow buses to layover in Sacramento between runs, improving bus efficiency and reducing vehicle miles traveled, as well as fossil fuel consumption. Initial users of the facility are expected to include El Dorado Transit, Galt-Sacramento SCT Link, Placer Transit, Roseville Transit, San Joaquin RTD, and Yuba-Sutter Transit.

The project will also support the consolidation of downtown regional bus routes, building on the study SACOG completed with 2020 TIRCP funding. Construction of shared stops between SVS and the future Midtown Amtrak San Joaquin and Altamont Corridor Express station will be completed, including the reuse of seventeen bus shelters from the Temporary Transbay Terminal in San Francisco. This component will also complete an unfinished portion of 5 th Street between Railyards Boulevard and North B Street as the most efficient connector for all north area buses to access the freeway to SVS and serve the new state office complex on Richards Blvd. That will provide the connectivity to implement 10 additional bus stops (5 northbound and 5 southbound) north of H Street. Commuter buses operated by Amador Transit, Butte Regional Transit, El Dorado Transit, Soltrans, Galt-Sacramento SCT Link, Placer Transit, Roseville Transit, San Joaquin RTD, Yolobus and Yuba-Sutter Transit will be routed along new shared northbound and southbound routes. This work will complement SacRT’s TIRCP-funded network integration to better integrate its service with intercity rail at both SVS and the future Midtown station.

The project will also purchase and install contactless EMV readers coordinated with the California Integrated Travel Project on rail and bus vehicles to allow fares to be collected through contactless bank cards and mobile wallets.

Ridership at Sacramento Valley Station is also expected to be positively impacted by the city’s housing policies, confirmed with a Pro-Housing designation by HCD, the first city to receive such a designation in the state. A significant amount of housing is expected to be added in the Railyards District, adjacent to the station area.

These plans will be developed in cooperation with many transit partners and agencies throughout the Sacramento region, and with additional technical assistance provided by the California Department of Transportation, in order to ensure integration of regional and interregional capital improvements and service.

Project is expected to be completed by 2025.

Key Project Ratings: Medium-High
Cost per GHG Ton Reduced: Medium-High
Increased Ridership: High
Service Integration: Medium-High
Improves Safety: Medium
Project Readiness: Medium
Funding Leverage:High
Multi-Agency Coordination/Integration: Priority Population Benefits: Medium-High
Housing Co-Benefits: High

15. Sacramento Regional Transit District (SacRT)

Project: Fleet Modernization
Project Award: $23,600,000
Total Budget: $47,200,000
Estimated TIRCP GHG Reductions: 44,000 MTCO2 e

Purchases 8 new low-floor light rail vehicles (LRVs) to further expand low-floor fleet operations on the light rail system. Over one-third of SacRT’s light rail fleet has reached the end of its useful life, and this investment leverages past TIRCP grants, as well strong local match, to help modernize the fleet.

Low-floor LRVs will produce operational efficiencies by speeding up train times and optimizing boarding convenience and safety along with increased capacity. They also will increase fleet reliability and reduce the number of shorter than planned trains need to be operated on the system. These are significant benefits to persons with disabilities, seniors, parents with strollers, and bicyclists, who will have more boarding options and increased boarding and alighting safety. These improvements are expected to support retaining and attracting new light rail riders, including residents of disadvantaged communities, who make up 30% of the population within SacRT’s service boundary.

The project also supports sustainable housing and land use development while providing meaningful benefits to priority populations by improving mobility and access to transit options. The project complements several TOD/joint development projects underway along the light rail corridors, including a surplus SacRT property near a station that was sold to an affordable housing developer who has entitlements and plans to begin construction on 128 units.

Ridership on SacRT is also expected to be positively impacted by further rollout of integrated contactless payment throughout the light rail and bus system, as well as by the city’s housing policies, confirmed with a Pro-Housing designation by HCD, the first city to receive such a designation in the state.

19 Project completion is expected by 2027.

Key Project Ratings: Medium-High
Cost per GHG Ton Reduced: Medium
Increased Ridership: Medium-High
Service Integration: Medium-High
Improves Safety: High
Project Readiness: High
Funding Leverage: Medium-High
Multi-Agency Coordination/Integration: Priority Population Benefits: High
Housing Co-Benefits: High

ATP6 applications in SACOG region

Applications made for Active Transportation Program cycle 6 from counties and cities within the SACOG Region. So far as I know, no other details about these projects are available yet. The application period for the state-level program just closed. pdf version

See also Streetsblog California: Active Transportation Plan Update: $3.2 Billion in Requests

NoCountyApplication NumberImplementing Agency NameProject Name
260El Dorado3-El Dorado County-1El Dorado CountyPonderosa Road Bicycle and Pedestrian Improvements
294El Dorado3-El Dorado County-2El Dorado CountyEl Dorado Trail / Missouri Flat Road Bicycle/Pedestrian Overcrossing
254El Dorado3-El Dorado County-3El Dorado CountySouth Tahoe Greenway-Upper Truckee River Bridge at Johnson Meadow
253El Dorado3-El Dorado County-4El Dorado CountyMeyers Bikeway Connector – Pioneer Trail to Elks Club Project
303El Dorado3-El Dorado County-5El Dorado CountyFallen Leaf Road Recreational Access Project
290El Dorado3-Placerville, City of-1Placerville, City ofPlacerville Drive Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities Phase 1
226Placer3-Placer County Nonurbanized Area-3Placer County Nonurbanized AreaNorth Tahoe Regional Multi-Use Trail – Segment 1
38Placer3-Placer County-1Placer CountySR 89 / Fanny Bridge Community Revitalization Project Complete Streets
56Placer3-Placer County-2Placer CountyKings Beach Western Approach Project
98Placer3-Rocklin, City of-1Rocklin, City ofRocklin Road Sierra College Corridor Multimodal Enhancements
40Placer3-Roseville, City of-1Roseville, City ofDry Creek Greenway East Multi-Use Trail, Phase 2
139Sacramento3-Sacramento County-1Sacramento CountyElkhorn Boulevard Complete Streets Project
265Sacramento3-Sacramento County-2Sacramento CountyBell Street Safe Routes to School
208Sacramento3-Sacramento County-3Sacramento CountyStockton Blvd Complete Streets Project
417Sacramento3-Sacramento, City of-1Sacramento, City ofFranklin Boulevard Complete Street – Phase 3
221Sacramento3-Sacramento, City of-2Sacramento, City ofEnvision Broadway in Oak Park
218Sacramento3-Citrus Heights, City of-1Citrus Heights, City ofOld Auburn Road Complete Streets – Phase 1
93Sacramento3-Citrus Heights, City of-2Citrus Heights, City ofCarriage/Lauppe Safe Routes to School Project
319Sacramento3-Elk Grove, City of-1Elk Grove, City ofLaguna Creek Inter-Regional Trail SR 99 Overcrossing and Gap Closure
295Sacramento3-Folsom, City of-3Folsom, City ofHistoric District Connectivity Project
413Sacramento3-Folsom, City of-1Folsom, City ofFolsom-Placerville Rail Trail Gap Closure Project
204Sacramento3-Rancho Cordova, City of-1Rancho Cordova, City ofZinfandel Drive Bicycle and Pedestrian Overcrossing
249Yolo3-Yolo County-1Yolo CountyCounty Road 98 Bike & Safety Improvement Project Phase II
219Yolo3-West Sacramento, City of-1West Sacramento, City ofI Street Bridge Deck Conversion for Active Transportation Project
26.Yolo3-Winters, City of-1Winters, City ofWinters/El Rio Villas Active Transportation Connection: SR-128/I-505 Over-cross
42.Yolo3-Woodland, City of-1Woodland, City ofWoodland Safe Routes to School & ATP Connectivity Project
195Yuba3-Yuba County-1Yuba CountyWest Linda Comprehensive Safe Routes to School Project
202Yuba3-Yuba County-2Yuba CountyOlivehurst Comprehensive Safe Routes to School Project
231Yuba3-Yuba County-3Yuba CountyEast Linda Comprehensive Safe Routes to School Project
150Yuba3-Yuba City, City of-1Yuba City, City ofYuba City Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Improvements
272Yuba3-Yuba City, City of-2Yuba City, City ofYuba City Abandoned Railroad Corridor Conversion Project

SACOG Board outcome

At the SACOG Board meeting this morning, the board passed the staff-recommended agreement that authorizes Executive Director James Corless to negotiate an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with the transportation sales tax measure proponents and SacTA (Sacramento Transportation Authority) to include elements of the agreement in the MOU and in the ballot measure statement of support.

There was a lot of controversy over this issue, more than I have seen at any board meeting. Representatives of the other five counties (Yolo, Yuba, Sutter, Placer, El Dorado) and the cities within expressed great concerns about the agreement. Some voted no, some voted reluctantly yes, but there was no enthusiasm. The only really enthusiastic voice at all was from David Sander, representative of Rancho Cordova, who is also conveniently the board chair of the Capital Southeast Connector JPA. Even James Corless who supports the compromise expressed considerable discomfort that the agreement was even necessary to keep SACOG in the discussion.

The agreement implies that each new project (not in the current MTP/SCS) will have to completely mitigate all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the reduction. Left unanswered is how that can be accomplished. How can a project like the sprawl and VMT inducing Capital Southeast Connector be mitigated? Will the project fund all mitigation, or will the project proponents come back to SACOG or SacTA begging for funds for mitigation? Are all the other projects expected to pick up the slack in order to meet the required reduction in GHG? Will projects in the other five counties be expected to pick up the slack? Nothing in the agreement says the proponents of these capacity expansion projects will help to meet the regional target of 19% GHG reduction.

Don Saylor of Yolo County asked some very pointed and relevant questions of Corless and SACOG Counsel Kirk Trost. Trost confirmed that it is unlikely that any signatories to the MOU could be held legally accountable, that the MOU would be worthless if it continued the same vague language in the agreement, and that the whole thing was dependent on the good will of all the players. All players includes Sacramento County and each city in the county, and by implication, the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District. It is not at all clear whether they will all sign on, or that they will fulfill their agreement. The commitment to the 1970s model of transportation (the dark side), which the measure proposes to continue for 40 years, is very strong among many of the entities in the county, and it would not be surprising if some decided to back out on or just ignore the commitment to mitigating ALL GHG impacts of each project.

The original motion to adopt the agreement and delegate to Corless was modified to include a review (not approval) by the board chair and the chairs of the SACOG committees. A second motion to include formal representation on the review by the other five counties failed, but Corless promised to reach out to them.

Most board members just held their nose and voted yes.

My comments were directed at the mis-information that was being provided by signature gatherers, talking about fixing streets, support for bicycling, and “it’s all for transit”. There was never mention of freeways, interchanges, or capacity expansion, which is largely what the measure is really about. The measure proponents clearly intended to fool the public into signing by not telling the truth about the TEP (Transportation Expenditure Plan). Of course many ballot measures have the same dishonesty, but it is significant in this case because these are the people that Mayor Steinberg and Corless were negotiating with ‘in good faith’. There is no good faith with the proponents.

I think the transportation advocacy community can see a small victory here in that many people are now coming to understand how bad the proposed measure is and specifically how it will harm the region. And they saw today how the proponents intended to bully SACOG, in the measure language, and in this agreement. We lost on this particular vote, but board members can’t really deny anymore that the transportation future of the county and the region has been hijacked.

For more on the measure, see Measure 2022 posts. The use of this category is not meant to confuse. A lot of people are referring to this as Measure A, but the measure letters are assigned by county elections after they have qualified, so this is in no sense Measure A at this time.

backroom deals on sales tax

Imagine, if you will, a backroom filled with cigar smoke, burley guys with prominent gun bulges around the edges, the sounds of illegal gambling games coming from the adjacent room, and the clink of bootleg whiskey bottles. Around the table sit power players, working out deals. Someone asks about the public, and one of the burley guys says “We took care of them”.

This is the picture I have of the just-released proposed agreement on the transportation sales tax measure being developed. Read the agreement: Mitigation Agreement, and the SACOG 2022-06-16 Agenda Item 13 Staff Report that introduces it. It is important to realize that this agreement was developed by Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, SACOG Executive Director James Corless, and the proponents of the measure (called ‘The Campaign’ in the agreement). The proponents are named A Committee for a Better Sacramento, but their website tell the story: two mega-developers of greenfield (agricultural) lands, Cordova Hills Development Corporation and Angelo T. Tsakopoulos and Affiliated Entities, and the California Alliance for Jobs, an organization that supports large infrastructure projects on behalf of construction contractors (it is the contractors, not the workers who are represented). The proponents want the taxpayers to build them a freeway and interchanges to increase the value of their greenfield developments. The public was not involved. Actually, the SACOG Board of Directors was not really involved.

Before going into what is wrong with the agreement, a review of what happened at the last SACOG Board Meeting on May 19. Almost every representative from Sacramento county and cities badmouthed the SACOG study that revealed that the Capital Southeast Connector would likely cause the region to not meet its 19% greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction target, and therefore likely lose a significant amount of state and federal funding for transportation and housing. Several of them even questioned the honesty of the staff that wrote the study. It was a pretty horrible display of politicians saying they know more than professional staff. On the other hand, almost every representative of counties and cities in the region that are not in Sacramento County expressed concern about losing transportation and housing funding if the measure passes. James Corless listened to this, and decided an agreement that helps some select developers and some select projects, while harming the region, is the way to go.

So, the agreement. What is wrong with it?

  1. The agreement accepts that project proponents (cities and the counties, not measure proponents) can make a determination about whether their project meets air quality requirements. It encourages both projects and the overall program to meet SACOG requirements and inclusion in the MTP/SCS, but accepts that they may not. This will establish a precedent that will be used by project hosts and tax measure proponents from now on, to claim they don’t need to follow SACOG.
  2. The agreement proposes that SACOG undertake a study of the proposed measure to determine GHG/VMT impacts. This will be expensive, and the funds will come out of the Sacramento Transportation Authority (SacTA) Measure A funds, meaning less money for other projects. This study would probably be a good idea, but it should have been done before the measure was written, not after. If this measure fails, as it should, advocates should demand that climate impact studies be done before the Transportation Expenditure Plan is completed, not after.
  3. The agreement also proposes a third party study, because, basically, the measure proponents don’t trust SACOG to kowtow to the party line. Who will this third party be? The agreement doesn’t say. Handpicked by the proponents? Handpicked by SacTA (current SacTA Executive Director Kevin Bewsey was formerly the Principal Civil Engineer for Sacramento County, hardly an unbiased role)? The agreement says, if the two studies don’t agree, we’ll talk about it. Hmm. More smokey back rooms.
  4. The agreement depends upon an ‘extra’ $510M in additional sales tax revenue for mitigation. What if sales tax remains flat, or decreases? What if construction and management cost go up at the same rate as the sales tax receipts, thereby eating up the excess? No mitigation, then? That is the implication.
  5. The agreement relies on the good will of the transportation agencies in the county (pretty please) to spend their extra sales tax revenue on mitigation: “…recipient agencies can pledge that the use of these additional funds be used first for GHG Mitigation.” Notice it doesn’t say must or will, just can. Citrus Heights, for example, which is much more likely to propose multi-modal transportation projects than other entities, will be asked to sacrifice sales tax revenue to mitigate the Connector and other capacity expansion projects, even though they won’t benefit from those. The same for the City of Sacramento, which makes it doubly disappointing to me that Mayor Steinberg is a party to this agreement.
  6. The agreement implies that the GHG/VMT generating projects can be mitigated sometime later: “Therein, there should be no net increase to regional GHG emissions after mitigation measures are complete.” It doesn’t say the mitigation needs to happen first, or at the same time as the project, just sometime within the 40 years. Ouch!
  7. An MOU is just a statement of intent, laying out what each party intends to do. It is not a contract, and is not legally binding. If one of the parties is unhappy with what the other parties have done, or not done, they can bring a civil suit, but they may not allege breach of contract, because it is not a contract.
  8. The agenda staff report says it is likely that the SACOG Blueprint will have to be delayed in order for staff to be shifted to the study. This is SACOG’s flagship product. Why in the world would it be delayed just to meet the needs of the transportation sales tax measure proponents? This is crazy.
  9. $100M out of City of Sacramento’s share of sales tax revenues would be added for the Mobility Center. Why? What does this have to do with the Capital Southeast Connector and other roadway capacity expansion projects? Are we going to mitigate all the bad things in the measure with a small investment in electric vehicles?

    The measure proponents are bullying SACOG. This was their intention, else why would they have removed the GHG/VMT climate protection language that was in the deferred 2020 measure? It is as though the school bully said “hand over your lunch money” and the victim counter-proposes an agreement to only give half of the lunch money, and agrees not to report the bully to the Principal (the Principal, in this case, being the public).

Please take a look at the SACOG Board page to see who your representatives are, and contact them about this agreement.

The SACOG Board Meeting is this Thursday, June 16, starting at 9:30AM, and this is agenda item 13. You can view the meeting at You can comment via Zoom, or by email or online or phone, or even in person. This is apparently the first in-person meeting of the board. See the agenda for details.

For more on the measure, see Measure 2022 posts. The use of this category is not meant to confuse. A lot of people are referring to this as Measure A, but the measure letters are assigned by county elections after they have qualified, so this is in no sense Measure A at this time.