Roseville is a car-centric hell

Due to a miscommunication with a person who gave me a ride from the end of my backpack trip in Foresthill, I ended up in the Galleria part of Roseville yesterday instead of old downtown, which was what I intended. What a hellscape!

Roseville Transit does not run on Sunday, or course not, why would a transit system serve people on Sunday? So there is no way to get from the Galleria area to any place else in Roseville, or to any place else in the world.

Being stubborn, I decided I needed to walk to the closest transit, which is the Louis/Orlando Transit Center just off Auburn Blvd/Riverside Drive in Citrus Heights. On my three mile walk between the Galleria area and old downtown Roseville, I saw two bicyclists and one walker. And thousands of cars, most of them high end SUVs (pedestrian killers). Galleria Blvd has sidewalks in some places, but rarely on both sides, so you have to cross back and forth. No warning ahead, no crosswalks, just cross when you come to the end.

If you wonder what people were doing on the Memorial Day weekend, they were shopping. And shopping. And shopping. Though there is a Roseville Transit line that serves the main mall area, Monday-Saturday, it is almost not possible to walk to or from there. Sidewalks come and go, and with all the freeway onramps and off-ramps surrounding, it does not feel safe to walk. Once on the mall property, there are no sidewalks, just the ones around the buildings.

If you want to see how bad the Galleria part of Roseville is, take a look at Google: Follow a piece of sidewalk to see how far it goes, whether it actually connects to anything. Remember that the mall area itself is much more pedestrian friendly that any of the surrounding shopping areas.

I thought, well at least things will be better when I get to old downtown Roseville. In some ways, yes. It is not a place designed for the exclusive needs of cars. There are actual locally owned businesses instead of national chains. There are places to eat, drink, shop. But… it was late Sunday afternoon and the sidewalks had been rolled up. It is hard for local business to compete with the huge subsidies that the national chains and malls get. All that car infrastructure that supports the mall, the six to ten lane roadways, the freeways and interchanges, that all was paid for by you, not by the developers, and that is money out of not just your pocket, but the the pockets of local business owners trying to compete.

On to the transit center, at least some of the walk through quiet OLD residential neighborhoods, the original part of Roseville. Thankfully, SacRT saved the day, bus and then light rail, to home. Of course service is less frequent on Sunday, and other than light rail, it doesn’t run late, but it runs! It is a lifeline for people who can’t drive, who don’t want to drive, who don’t want to be a part of car-centric hell places like Roseville.

I was walking, not bicycling, but of course was also looking at bicycle facilities. There are bike lanes on most of the stroads in Roseville. And what welcoming bike lanes they are! The photo below is of the dashed bike lane on Galleria Blvd northbound, approaching Hwy 65. It runs for 900 feet! Between high speed traffic on the left and high speed traffic on the right (40 mph posted means the minimum speed, not the maximum, most drivers are going about 55). The right hand lane is the freeway access lane, so drivers are accelerating towards the entry, hoping to catch a green light and squeal tires onto the onramp. Yes, this is the behavior I observed. Roseville seems to be of the impression that painting lines on the roadway for bicyclists is all it takes, that and nothing more.

Galleria Blvd bike lane, northbound to Hwy 65

The one good thing about being in Roseville is that it reminds me of how lucky, and how privileged, I am to live in Sacramento central city.

value capture for transit funding

Common Ground California has produced a white paper Transit Value Capture for California, by Derek Sagehorn and Joshua Hawn. In my previous posts about funding transit and transportation (how to fund transit in Sac county, transportation funding ideas, no Measure A in 2020, Against Measure A, etc.), I had not really looked at this option because I didn’t understand it very well. But the white paper and additional research has given me a better understanding.

“Regressive consumption taxes instituted by local and state governments to fund public transit investment are approaching legal and political limits.”

Transit Value Capture for California, December 2020, Derek Sagehorn & Joshua Hawn, Common Ground California

The first of the tax options is a Land Gain Tax, basically a capital gains tax on sales of property, applied through the capital gains section of California’s personal income tax. The paper presents some models, based on the distance from rail stations and major bus hubs, with Transit Value Capture Districts, and the type of property (commercial or owner-occupied). This tax would be implemented at the state rather than local level, because it is an income tax which counties and cities in California are not permitted to levy, so the funds would be redistributed to the transit agencies. This option would require some legislation, but not anything on the level of a constitutional amendment.

The second option is a Regional Real Estate Transfer Tax, a tax on the transactions like a county or city level tax, but intended to fund large infrastructure projects of regional significance. For the Sacramento region, that might be enhancements to Capitol Corridor and San Joaquins train service, and bringing high speed rail to Sacramento. This option would also require some legislation.

…windfall gains due to increased development potential to affected landowners.

Transit Value Capture for California, December 2020, Derek Sagehorn & Joshua Hawn, Common Ground California

Several other options are mentioned in the paper. Regular real estate transfer tax (RETT), implemented at the county or city level in some but not all locations (City of Sacramento is one), though the percentages are generally low except in a few cases. But counties can set their levels, and could allocate the increase to transit. It is not clear to me whether any transit agencies have the authority to levy this tax, but of course funds could still be used for transit. The state documentary transfer tax is an insignificant source of income, and it appears to go into the general fund.

2020 Proposition 15 would have removed the Proposition 13 property tax reductions for commercial property, resulting in $billions of dollars in state income, much of which would have gone to education but some to other uses such as transit. It did not pass, but it will be back on the ballot in the future.

Mello Roos community facilities taxation districts can be established around specific projects, as was attempted for the Sacramento Riverfront Streetcar. I don’t know enough about these to say whether they are useful or appropriate.

The other major mechanism the paper presents is development value capture, where the transit agency is directly involved in development, the profits of which can go to transit capital and operations. Since in the Sacramento region almost all transit agency owned property is associated with SacRT’s light rail system, the use of existing properties would be limited to those properties that are excess or are currently used for underutilized parking lots. SacRT has preferred to sell off properties, which has a one-time income impact, but can’t lead to ongoing income. They have been encouraged to become involved as leads or partners in development, but have so far resisted. The transit agency most involved in development in California has been BART in the bay area. Legislation has allowed them more flexibility and types of involvement than most transit agencies have, though even they have some unfortunate restrictions. To be effective, additional legislation would be required.

Of these options, the one over which people at the local level have significant control is the Real Estate Transfer Tax. But having transit agencies, cities and counties getting behind legislation necessary to ease or implement the other value capture ideas would be very worthwhile.

As with all my posts on transit and transportation funding, I am not presenting myself as an expert. If you have corrections to fact or implication, please let me know.

Parking and transit, and ride sharing

Streetsblog posted today information from a City Observatory project that compares the cost of parking to the level of transit use, and the cost of parking to the number of ride-hailing (Uber, Lyft) users: What the Price of Parking Shows Us About Cities.

pking_v_transitSacramento (highlighted dot, which is otherwise hard to find):

Perhaps transit supporters should be specifically advocating for increased parking fees, though the position of Sacramento on the graphs, above the trend line, indicates that there are additional factors in Sacramento that suppress transit use.

Myth?: transit takes longer

“But, what is more important is that only a small portion of jobs, and other destinations can be accessed through transit in any reasonable time and the travel time for transit is far higher than for driving.”

Well, this one is much more true that the myths I addressed (Myth: housing more expensive in dense areas, Myth: driving is supported by user fees). But it is worthwhile analyzing why this is so.

There are four employment centers in our region: downtown Sacramento, Rancho Cordova, Folsom, and Roseville. However, downtown is by far the most important. Check yesterday’s post (SacRT and employment) to see what a remarkable concentration of jobs there is, and how much of the county is essentially empty of jobs. Downtown is easily accessible by transit, the other three have much more limited options. So, how about time? Yes, there is a big time difference.

Three examples of morning commutes:

  • Greenback/Sunrise to downtown: 78 minutes by transit (bus route 21 and Gold Line) while Google reports driving is typically 35 minutes but can be 70 minutes. So on a bad traffic day, the two modes are comparable, but on a good traffic day driving is more than twice as fast.
  • Zinfandel/Sunrise to downtown: 61 minutes by transit (Gold Line and some walking) while Google reports driving as typically 22 minutes but can be 45 minutes. Again, driving is more than twice as fast.
  • Florin/Greenhaven to downtown: 30 minutes by transit (route 6), while Google reports driving as typically 10-16 minutes. Again, driving is more than twice as fast.

So, back to why. The nature of buses is that they have frequent stops, and spend a significant portion of their time in dwell, not moving. Light rail has fewer stops, so spends less time in dwell. There are express buses, of which SacRT has a few that run very limited schedules. It is also possible to create Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) routes with few stops, and travel times close to light rail. The commuter buses operated into downtown by Placer County, El Dorado County, Elk Grove, Roseville and others have only a few stops at each end, with long runs in between, and so have travel times as good as or better than light rail and BRT. However, these commuter buses serve a much smaller number of riders than any of the other options, and are also quite a bit more expensive than SacRT fares.

A second big difference it that you don’t have to wait for the next bus or light rail. You jump in your car and go. Of course there is time parking at the destination (an urban area typically sees about one-third of traffic is circling for parking, and my observation says Sacramento is similar. I live very near the CDPH buildings, and when I’m home during the day, I see a lot of employees walking to their cars to pay more or move them. More time time lost to the driving habit.

Perhaps the biggest difference is the amount of money we spend on driving, both individually and as a society. A transit pass costs $120 per month. Commuting can cost many times that much (before you say but… realize that almost all drivers underestimate what their vehicle really costs them). As a society, we spend incredible amounts of money on highways, far, far more than we spend on transit. One data point is the $133 million “80 Across the Top” project which is adding just a single travel lane in each direction for about 10 miles. $133 million for a lane. Wow! I have previously estimated the cost of the freeway system in Sacramento county as about $1 trillion. I don’t have a cost estimate for the light rail system, but it is a tiny fraction of this. What if we had spent the money on transit instead of privately owned vehicles? How would travel times compare then? We have created a transportation system whose primary purpose is to move a lot of cars at high speed. We have not created a transit system move a lot of people at a reasonable speed.

SacRT and employment

I earlier produced maps showing how SacRT routes related to population density and income (SacRT with income and population). I also wanted to present a map on employment or jobs – where people are going to on the transit system. It took much longer to track down that data, and I needed help from SACOG’s GIS staff. The employment data is from the Census Bureau’s Longitudinal Employment-Household Dynamics (LEHD). The data is normalized over area. The map is below, with the SacRT_employment pdf also available.

Continue reading “SacRT and employment”

transit and rail grants to Sacramento region

  California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) announced the recipients of its Transit and Intercity Capital Program (TIRCP) grants. Sacramento benefits from two projects:

  • $9M to Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority for expanded service to Roseville and related rail improvements
  • $30M to Sacramento Regional Transit District for a new streetcar

These grants of course are only a fraction of the cost of the projects, but every bit helps, and it is likely that these projects will now move forward though both were formerly stalled or moving very slowly.

From Streetsblog California, some more detail:


2. Increased Rail Service to Roseville and Rail Improvements
$8,999,000 to Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority

The project includes:

  • Extending rail service to Roseville, building eight miles of a third track, a new bridge, station improvements, and more.
  • Creating a service optimization plan to connect with Altamont Corridor Express and Amtrak San Joaquin passenger rail services.
  • Adding standby electric train power to enable more trains to utilize grid electricity at the Oakland Maintenance Facility.

Capitol Corridor’s website News & Alerts page has more detail.
10. Sacramento Streetcar

$30,000,000 to Sacramento Regional Transit District

Funds go to the planned Downtown/Riverfront Sacramento-West Sacramento Streetcar (pending the project’s federal full-funding grant agreement expected by early 2017) including nineteen stations and six streetcars.

Sacramento Transit Advocates and Riders (STAR)

A new organization is forming here in the Sacramento region specifically to address issues of public transit. This group was seeded and led by 350 Sacramento, and while 350 Sacramento is still one of the coalition members, there is now a core group of active citizens leading the organization. The organization is a combination of individual members (about 50) and a coalition of other organizations (about 25). Though I am pleased to be a member and one of the core leadership, this post does not speak for the organization, but is just a report on it.

The Sacramento region has great organizations for walking advocacy, WALKSacramento, and for bicycle advocacy, SABA (Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates), but it has never had a strong regional group focused on transit. STAR intends to fill that gap. Given the origin in 350Sac, a focus of the group is on reducing greenhouse gas emissions by getting people out of their cars and on to transit.

The organization has formed three committees to look in detail at issues in public transit in the region. The committees are policy, structure, and outreach. The committees have met about once a month, and there has been a general meeting of the members about once a month. A calendar of public events and STAR meetings is available.

Though the organization will have a regional breadth of the six counties that are part of SACOG (Sacramento Area Council of Governments), the focus to date has been on SacRT (Sacramento Regional Transit) and Sacramento county.

The first major public issue for STAR was the SacRT fare increase proposal, which was presented by SacRT staff in January, modified slightly based on feedback from the board of SacRT, presented again in March, modified further by board action, and adopted at the March 14 board meeting. STAR developed a position paper on the fare increase. Though the STAR proposal was not adopted, this voice for more reasonable fare increases, and the voices from many other people and organizations, particularly the disability community, against any fare increase, did influence the fare increase motion made by Steve Hanson and generated board opposition that resulted in the fare increase passing by only 67%. Most board votes are 100%. Most significantly, the board indicated that it would not consider additional increases until after the November election, and had no stomach for the steep second year increase proposed by staff. The board and staff said that it would be necessary to eliminate or significantly modify up to four bus routes in order to balance the budget in fiscal year 2016-2017, even with the fare increase.

The next major issue up for the organization is a response to the likely half-cent sales tax measure to be offered by SacTA (Sacramento Transportation Authority – better recognized as Sacramento GO) on the November ballot. This measure would increase funding from a half cent under the existing Measure A to a full cent. However, marketing by SacTA indicates that a significant part of the funding will go to the SouthEast Connector and widening of the Capitol City Freeway. These type of sprawl-inducing motor vehicle projects not only take funding from transit, but actually harm transit by subsidizing privately owned vehicles at the expense of public transportation.

STAR does not yet have a web presence on Facebook, the Internet, or Twitter, but it will soon. In the meanwhile, if you’d like to get on the email list, please email Delphine Cathcart.

Green Line to the airport?

SacRT, and many local politicians, want the Green Line to the Airport to be the next big transit project in the region. I have doubts, and have written about them before (Green Line to the AirportOpen houses on Green Line to the Airportlinking the colleges?SacRT light rail extensions). Jarrett Walker, my favorite writer on transit, has posted Keys to Great Airport Transit, a great analysis of rail and bus transit to airports.

  1. Total travel time matters, not just in-vehicle time: Not sure how the Green Line measures up, but it is indicative that the Green Line to Township 9 (the current destination) runs on an infrequent schedule (60 minutes) during a small part of the day, because it is beyond the area where most people travel. The airport would also be beyond where most people travel, so is likely to have infrequent and short hours service.
  2. Combine air travelers and airport employees on the same train/bus: The Green Line might do OK on this, though light rail already suffers from the perception of higher income people (which is mostly who flies rather than takes the bus or train) that light rail is only for poor people.
  3. Connect the airport to lots of places, not just downtown, by providing a total network: Since the SacRT network fails pretty badly on connectivity already, it is likely that the Green Line will suffer from the same issue.
  4. Don’t interfere with the growth of other services: The Green Line is definitely a negative on this issue. The Green Line to the Airport would gobble up all the construction funds for years, as well as a large slice of operating funds. Fare recovery on the network is 23%, somewhat below average, but the extension would likely reduce this significantly. If distance-based fares (which SacRT has talked about but done no real planning towards) are implemented on the light rail system, the operating subsidy might be less, but it will still compare poorly with the rest of the system.
  5. If you can afford it, go via the airport instead of terminating there: Not applicable to the Green Line because there is nothing beyond the airport except agricultural fields, and a bit further out, sprawling suburbs that would never generate ridership.

I think the right solution for airport access is frequent bus service (15 minute frequency) from downtown to the airport, from 5:00AM to 12:00 midnight, for travelers and airport employees, and less frequent service from midnight to 5:00AM, for employees. The current Yolobus 42A/42B provides infrequent (60 minute) service from 5:30AM (6:30AM on weekends) to 10:00PM. In addition, there would need to be service from eastern Sacramento/Roseville, but I’ve thought less about how that would work.

Save our infrastructure funds for more productive routes!

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”