Stockton Blvd Corridor Plan review

I have finally gotten to reviewing the Stockton Blvd Corridor Plan, following my post noticing the draft plan: Stockton Blvd draft available.

Overall, the plan is great, and when someday implemented, will result in a much safer and livable Stockton Blvd. The plan addresses major concerns raised by the community, including safer and more frequent crossings, better lighting, more trees, more effective transit service, and others. However…

  • The plan is still too oriented to the throughput of motor vehicle traffic. Better, but not as good as it could be. Maintaining the five lane configuration for significant parts of the corridor is unnecessary.
  • The plan does not even mention speed limits. When any street is reconfigured/reallocated, it removes any obligation to the unsafe and outmoded 85% rule, so the city should have considered speed limit changes for the corridor.
  • The plan recommends two-way cycle tracks in some locations. These are great for traveling along, but the problem comes in transitioning into and out of them at the beginning and end. Unless very clear guidance and priority is provided, these transitions can be very unsafe, particularly for less experienced bicyclists. In most cases, a bicycle signal head with exclusive bicyclist phase is required at beginning and end.
  • The plan acknowledges the challenging intersection of Stockton Blvd/34th Street/R Street as a “unique challenge” (page 13), but doesn’t even suggest solutions. I believe that the only way to make this intersection safe is to either restrict R Street or 34th Street, or to construct a flyover for light rail, similar to that for 19th Street, Watt Ave, and Sunrise Blvd. Yes, the expense of any of these might be beyond the scope of this plan, but eliminating this issue from the plan makes it difficult to compare the relative cost and benefit of other solutions.
  • On page 36, a diagram shows a bike lane eastbound on T Street to the right of a dedicated right hand turn lane. Bike lanes should never be to the right of dedicated turn lanes unless there is a bicycle signal head to create an exclusive bicyclist phase, which the plan does not propose. This must be fixed.
  • Shared bus and bike lanes will be a new concept for the city, and region. I support the implementation of these, and have used them in several other cities where transit frequency is not high. But they should be considered a pilot. If they don’t work out for bicyclists, and bus drivers, in this region, how do we fix it?
  • The flared intersection at Stockton Blvd and Fruitridge Road is preserved in the plan, but this is completely inappropriate. Flared intersections are always more dangerous for people crossing the street. The roadway width at the intersection, shown on page 41, is 90 feet. Crossings of this length cannot be safe, no matter what the length of the pedestrian cycle, without a pedestrian refuge median (with push buttons unless the pedestrian crossing is already on auto-recall). Double left hand turn lanes are dangerous for drivers and everyone else, as driver attention is focused on the vehicle beside, and not the roadway ahead, so these should be reduced to single left turn lanes. The right hand turns lanes should probably be eliminated, unless a traffic study shows conclusively that traffic would not clear during a signal cycle without them. The upshot is that this intersection should be completely reconfigured, not just tinkered with.
  • The plan does not indicate which intersection signals and signalized pedestrian crossings will be on auto-recall, or not. There is probably no justification for pedestrians activation buttons at any location on the corridor (pedestrian crossings should have auto-detection), but if there is, these should be called out clearly in the plan.
  • The plan shows most intersections as having skipped (dotted) green bike lanes striped through the intersection, but a few do not. They should be used everywhere. For the protected legs of partially protected intersections, the striping should be continuous rather than skipped (dotted). MUTCD frowns on this, but it has been installed many places with positive safety outcomes.
  • Added item: No right turn on red prohibitions should never be used without leading pedestrian intervals (LPI). Otherwise, drivers turning will immediately come into conflict with walkers in the crosswalk. I don’t think this is being proposed in this plan, but just want to make sure.

The City of Sacramento Active Transportation Commission will consider the plan this evening (2021-03-18). I apologize for not posting this in time for you to consider my suggestions, and relay them to the commission, if you agree.

Stockton Blvd & Fruitridge Road intersection

Added info: There was a discussion about the prioritization of different travel modes during the SacATC meeting this evening. It reminded me of one of my favorite graphics about transportation modes, from Chicago Department of Transportation. I think this is the right answer for Stockton Blvd, and for nearly every other roadway.

city’s 311 app broken

The City of Sacramento recently release a new 311 app. I have been using this app (iOS version), mostly to report issues with construction signing. The app is broken!

What are the issues?

  • If you switch away from the app to some other app, the app logs you out, and you have to log in again.
  • Once you’ve logged in again, it asks you to confirm your contact details. Even though it asked you to do that moments ago – it doesn’t keep track.
  • It will not allow you to upload photos. Usually it give an error message, photo could not be uploaded, but sometimes it hangs the entire app. If you are wondering, it makes no difference whether you take the photo then or try to use an existing photo, nor what size you attempt to upload.
  • The app (and the website) is happy to show you requests you’ve made, but the only information on the request is the cross streets or address that you reported. It doesn’t show what the request was, so if you’ve made more than one request on the same location, or simply don’t remember what the request was, you won’t get any help from the app (or the website).

An ongoing problem, not specific to the app, is that the city closes requests without saying whether they did anything or not. The only way for you to know whether they did anything is to go back to the same location, and look to see. That’s if you remember what your request was.

a day in the life… of bike share

I saw a cool graphic of the flow of JUMP bike share bikes in San Francisco, and thought is would be interesting to do the same for Sacramento. The effect is not so dramatic, but it is interesting. I have zeroed in on the central city, which of course only tells part of the story, but this is the level at which bike and hub icons show, whereas the next zoom out only shows them as dots. I’d like to do this for a weekday as well, but probably won’t have the chance for several weeks, as I’m out of town.

The first one is Saturday, at a few points in time, the second one is Sunday, at three hour intervals. Maybe like watching paint dry, maybe better.

JUMP_Sac-map_2018-06-09

 

Bike share in Santa Monica

Breeze maintenance shed
The Breeze Bike Share in Santa Monica uses the same Social Bicycles (SoBi) bikes that the Tower Bridge Preview in Sacramento does. On a recent four day visit to Santa Monica, I used the system quite a bit, both for transportation and to compare systems. Here is my take:

  • Breeze Bike Share is operated by a separate company, CycleHop, rather than directly by SoBi as is the Sacramento system. The company also operates systems in West Hollywood/Beverly Hills, Long Beach, San Mateo, and other cities outside California. CycleHop has a major maintenance and storage facility, which I stumbled across, shown in the photo above. They tried rebalancing with bikes for a while but have gone to using vans as they are more efficient. 
  • Breeze bikes are green, and the major corporate sponsor is Hulu. As far as I know, Sacramento is still in search of a major corporate sponsor. 
  • The cost per hour for Breeze is $7, whereas Tower Bridge is $4. This makes a difference! Though I only used up $5 of my initial investment (it costs a minimum of $7 to join), this is only because I spent time every day returning bikes to,hubs in order to gain return credits. 
  • Return to hub credit is $1 in the Breeze system, $1.50 in Tower Bridge. It makes a difference!
  • Outside-hub fees are $2, and outside boundary (geofenced) is $20, the same as Tower Bridge. 
  • I saw people riding Breeze bikes all over town, at all times of day. I often saw the hub racks fill up and empty out over a short period of time, so I know that bikes in the busiest areas were getting many trips per day, though I don’t have any data. It is rare to see Tower Bridge bikes on the road, and though I think they get used one or two times a day, use per bike is much lower.
  • Downtown Santa Monica has a high density of hubs, about every two blocks, but the hubs are much sparser in the more suburban parts of town. The downtown hubs are quite large, up to 16 racks spaces. The advertisement says 500 bikes, 80 stations. 
  • Several of the hubs are sponsored, which is indicated by a different icon for the hub, but I was unable to find out more about these sponsored stations, and it was not obvious who was sponsoring them. Tower Bridge does not have any sponsored stations at this time. 
  • Hubs were located close to each light rail station (Metro Expo Line), and at many major bus stops. Tower Bridge hubs are not. 
  • Breeze has the same problems of geo-location that Tower Bridge has, sometimes bikes shown as in hub were not, sometimes bikes shown as out-of-hub were at a hub, and sometimes the bikes were nowhere to be found at the indicated location. More of an irritant than a major issue, since the next hub or bike is not far away. 
  • Breeze has a low-income program, but details are only available on request, not on the website. 
  • Breeze allows users to unlock bikes with a registered TAP card (similar to Connect Card), but charges are to the Breeze account and not the TAP account. I’m using my Connect Card in Sacramento, and also used it in Santa Monica. Using a card is a slight convenience over entering a six digit number. 
  • Santa Monica has flat areas, and gently inclined areas, similar to Sacramento and West Sacramento, but the rise from beach level to downtown level, and out of the Rustic Creek canyon, is comparable to American River up to Fair Oaks. A lot of bikes get left down by the pier and beach , so I imagine part of the re-balancing effort is getting these bikes back up the hill. 

Breeze map below. Green dots are hubs with bikes, grey dots are hubs without bikes, blue dots are bikes parked out-of-hub. You can see the higher density downtown. 

parks and green space

Strong Towns had a post yesterday “Why greenspace is different from a park” that got me thinking about parks and green spaces in Sacramento. As a commenter said, it is the quality and use of the land, and the relationship to space around it, that is most important, not the park or greenspace binary. 

Two dead parks come immediately to mind, Winn Park in midtown (P & Q, 27th & 28th), and Crocker Park (N & O, 2nd & 3rd). How are they dead? Very few people ever use them, certainly not enough to make the space feel used and safe, as the blog post points out is so important. In Winn, there is finally a small playground, but overall it does not make the park feel any less abandoned. Crocker Park as nothing to do. Yes, both places have trees and grass, but those thing are not in short supply in Sacramento. Several other square block parks feel alive.

Roosevelt Park (P & Q, 9th & 10th) has sports and a nearly continuous pick-up basketball game going on. Fremont Park has a larger playground, a fountain in the summer, benches, and events such as Chalk It Up. Probably most importantly, it has both residences and business on adjacent streets. The park is not the only reason to go there. Cesar Chavez Park (I & J, 9th & 10th) is probably the busiest small park in the region. It is a homeless daytime retreat, has a lot of events, now has a cafe again, and is surrounded by business and government, particularly the library. Many reasons to go there. There are several other one-block parks in downtown and midtown that I’m less familiar with. 

Crocker Art Museum is working up plans to activate Crocker Park by integrating it better with the museum. I think they’ll do a good job, though funding may slow the solutions. The city is finally talking about activating Winn Park, but I don’t think there is a plan yet. I’m sure some people in the neighborhood would be horrified, but what Winn needs is not just a park with more things to do, but more facing retail business and higher density housing. There is a bit, such as Lou’s Sushi, but it needs more. More things to do not just in the park, but around the park. 

The Strong Towns post also talks about green spaces, those areas left to grass or sometimes more interesting vegetation, but not really serving any purpose. In Sacramento, there are green spaces along some of the freeways. This is dead land, and few people want to even be there, but as the commenter points out, it can be used to handle stormwater and to filter air pollution, if designed properly. In newer subdivisions, there is often green space along the main roads. How this is of benefit escapes me. Those people whose back fences face a busy street have and will alway have lower property values, and no amount of non-native plants is going to change that. Front yard greenspaces are a horror in the suburbs, perhaps the thing most responsible for making suburbs the low value communities they are. People retreating into a set back house with a moat of grass is the problem, not the solution, to livable and responsible communities. The inner ring, older suburbs have this issue to some degree, but the setbacks are much less, and the lack of snout houses (those showing their very best two, three, four cars garages to the street) makes it acceptable. Sacramento downtown and midtown of course have a lot of temporary green space, places where housing was torn down (some which could have been repurposed or rehabilitated, and some not) and the planned replacement never built. I suppose it is good to have some land “banked” in this way, but we have far too much. 

And then there is Capitol Mall. Vast grass in between tall buildings, and never used by anyone except for a few major events each year. I suppose that someone thought a grand entrance to Sacramento was needed, along the lines of a city of skyscrapers and parks envisioned by Le Curbusier. But it is pretty much useless. It is not a park in any sense of the word. There have been suggestions over the years of how to fix this, including Rob Turner in Sactown Magazine: Boulevard of Broken Dreams. But solutions will be expensive and contentious. 

Rain swales are another type of greenspace which I have apparently not written about, but will. There ar several close to where I live. 

Beware the SacBee

I have a subscription to the SacBee online, which is what I use to gather and post the news summary items. I just clicked on an article of interest, which opened up an advertisement for a game app. That in itself is not unusual, but the ad in turn opened the Apple App Store to the app page. The is a complete and total violation of my privacy right and the terms of my service agreement. This could well have exposed my device to malicious hacking. This is the end of my relationship with the SacBee. I don’t trust them, and I will never trust them again. They are sleeze balls, selling anything they can for any reason. This will be the end of News summary, and I hope that it is the beginning of the end for the SacBee 

News summary 2017-02-05

city failure on Capitol Mall bike lane

Sacramento has nearly completed a reconstructed bridge over I-5 between 3rd Street and Tower Bridge. This is part of a project to provide access from and to Old Sacramento, but that part is not complete yet. The pavement is fresh, with bright white lines and green carpet bike lanes. But, the bike lane design is a failure. The eastbound bike lane is OK. A little strange because it varies in width, but acceptable. The westbound bike lane, though, is a hazard to bicyclists.

Below is a photo of the first problem, a bike lane to the right of a place where a right turn is permitted. This is at the entrance to the Old Sacramento access.The straight-and-right arrow indicates that the city expects heavy right turning traffic at this location.

While this design is in compliance with the law, using a dashed line to indicate that traffic from the general purpose lane and the bike lane should safely merge, the use of green paint here is the wrong message. Though green paint has no legal meaning, the general meaning taken is that this is the place for bicycles. So an average bicyclist will stay in the bike lane, not realizing that the safe manesuver is to merge into the general purpose lane. The result is a right hook danger that has been created by the design.

IMG_0769
Stay to the right of right turning cars? NO!

There are a lot of ways to solve this issue, but this is the worst possible solution. Creating a separate signal phase for bicyclists and right turning traffic is one solution. Dropping the bike lane in favor of green-back sharrows in the general purpose lane is another.

However, this problem spot is minor in comparison to what happens just on the other side of the intersection. Here, the bike lane suddenly ends and becomes a right turn only lane. There is no signing for bicyclists or motor vehicle drivers, no pavement markings, no indication of what biyclists should do. I’m a vehicular bicyclist and would not be in this bike lane fragment to begin with, but for the average bicyclist, this green paint is a clear message, “this is where you belong.” Whoops. Sorry. Turns out we needed the road for a right turn lane, and just got rid of the bike lane. Hope you are still alive, but if not, well it wasn’t our fault. But the thing is, it is the city’s fault. This is a mis-design, and the city should be sued the first time someone is injured at this location. It is not as though this was an existing location where the city did the best if could to squeeze in bike facilities. This is a new construction where things should have been done right. They were not.

IMG_0771.JPG
Bike lane ends suddenly – good luck!

There are several good solutions for this location, and the NACTO Guide to Urban Bicycling has several, but even the standard MUTCD design is better than this. Though you can’t see the turn lane due to the parked FedEx van (it was there for more than 10 minutes, double-parked, and I couldn’t wait any longer for the photo), there are no bike markings in the right turn lane at all. There is no “bicyclists may use full lane” sign. Maybe bicyclists are meant to fly over this right turn lane and return to earth at the bridge. Or maybe they are meant to die.

As I always warn people in bicyclist education classes, don’t get sucked in by paint. Paint doesn’t keep you safe. And in this particular case, paint creates a danger for you that would not exist if not for the paint. Negligent design, for sure.