Central City Mobility: 5th St conversion

One of the elements of the Central City Mobility Project is the conversion of 5th Street from a one-way, two-lane street, to a two-way, one-lane each direction street. Some work is underway: wiring and signal bases have been installed for the signals necessary for two way traffic at the existing signal locations. Looking at the bases, photo below, I’m guessing that there will be new signal poles and mast arms, not re-use of the existing signals equipment. That seems like a waste of money to me, but the city loves to spend money on new signals, and signal controllers.

I am not sure that many of the current signal locations are even needed. After the conversion, 5th Street will be a lower speed and probably lower volume street. Four-way stops at some major cross streets (such as T Street) might work just fine. Again, the city loves to spend money on signals, and already has unneeded signals at a number of locations (too many traffic signals?).

5th St and T St new signal base
5th St and T St new signal base

The Central City Mobility Project map shows the 5th Street conversion as extending from Broadway to I Street. The block between Broadway and X Street is already two-way, as are the two blocks between L Street and J Street (the DOCO underpass). It is also two-way north of I Street.

I wonder what, if anything, will be done for the block between X Street and W Street, under the Hwy 50 freeway. This is a very complex block, with a freeway onramp west of 5th Street and a freeway offramp west of 5th Street. The onramp and off-ramp have separate signal phases from X Street and W Street. Traffic westbound onto the ramp, if it makes the green light, is already traveling at freeway speeds, about 65 mph as it crosses 5th Street. Similarly, but not as egregious, the off-ramp traffic, if it makes the green light, is traveling a bit below freeway speeds. I am really not sure how this complex situation can be made safe for bicyclists. Northbound bicyclists only have to deal with drivers running the red light at 5th Street from W Street, but southbound bicyclists would have to deal with multiple turning vehicle movements. In general, the only way to make complex situations like this safe is to have exclusive bicycle phases in which only bicyclists and walkers are moving, no vehicle movement or turns are permitted. But the city is very unlikely to select that safe alternative because it would lengthen the signal cycles and therefore slow motor vehicle traffic to some degree. The city doesn’t want to slow motor vehicle traffic.

The diagram below, from Google Maps, indicates the complexity of this block, but the reality on the ground is even worse.

Google Maps of 5th St and Hwy 50 intersection
Google Maps of 5th St and Hwy 50 intersection

the importance of I Street

I have written before about the two one-block sections of I Street where the bike lane is replaced by sparrows. I won’t repeat here, but please read why are bike lane gaps so important?, Sacramento’s worst possible place for sharrows, Sac kill those sharrows on I St.

So the neglect of the Central City Mobility Project for fixing these two blocks of I Street is disturbing. Of the people riding on I Street anywhere west of 16 Street, probably 50% are going to Sacramento Valley Station. But if you spend time on I Street looking for bicyclists, you won’t see many. The average bicyclist won’t ride on I Street. They are uncomfortable with the volume and speed of motor vehicle traffic, but more importantly, they are scared to death of these two one-block sections with only sharrows. So they drive to, or have someone drop them off at, the station. Sacramento Valley Station is the most important transit hub in the city, in the county, and in Northern California outside of the Bay Area, yet the city has neglected access to the station.

The TIRCP grant for improvements at Sacramento Valley Station may improve access from the station on H Street, but again, that is not a near term project, and it is not clear how effective it will be. Probably 80% of the riders on H Street are coming from the station. (Sac kill those sharrows on H St, H St bicycle fixes)

My observation of bicyclist numbers and destinations is based on observation and talking to some riders. It would be nice if the data were available, but I don’t have it, and apparently the city doesn’t have it, or at least has never shared it publicly. I know that the city purchased cell phone data several years ago that would have allowed them to see bicyclist patterns, but so far as I know, they only used it for motor vehicle drivers patterns.

I St shadows between 10th St and 9th St, Sacramento
I St shadows between 10th St and 9th St, Sacramento

please comment on the posts

As stated earlier, I have stopped using Twitter. When I had my blog linked to Twitter, each post I made automatically generated a tweet, and that is what drove most of my views and readers to the blog. Without that, I am getting far less traffic to my blog. I’m not regretting the decision, but since I post to educate and harangue (and for my own amusement, to be honest), fewer readers means less education and harangue.

So, in order to generate more views and readers, I ask you to comment on the posts. You may of course use your real name and email address, but if you don’t want to do so for personal or work-related reasons, feel free to make up a name – ‘Joe Reader’, and email address – ‘joe@blogreader.com’. So long as the post is constructive and on topic, I will approve it (and not one of the very few prohibited subjects; helmet wars are the only one I can think of at the moment). You can say something simple, like ‘interesting’. You can present contrary points of view, or things I neglected to think of. You can of course agree. And you may provide links to other resources that people would want to know. Keep it constructive, and I welcome it!

Yes, I have thought about using another platform such as Mastodon, but just have not had the time to research that option.

more Central City Mobility Project

The City of Sacramento’s Central City Mobility Project is underway, and projected to finish by next May. The map below shows the major components of the project: new parking protected separated bikeways on 19th Street and 21st Street between W Street and I Street, extended parking protected separated bikeways on P Street and Q Street from 15th Street to 21st Street, a separated bikeway (not parking protected?) on I Street from 21st Street to 12th Street, and conversion of 5th Street from a one-way street to two-way from Broadway to I Street (the two-block section from L Street to J Street is already two-way). The project also includes upgrades of corner ramps to ADA compliance along 21St, 19th, P, Q and I streets. I notice that ramp upgrades are also occurring at some locations other than these streets, whether under this project or a separate initiative, I’m not sure.

Central City Mobility Project map
Central City Mobility Project map

As far as it goes, this project looks to be great. The city is making an effort to create a grid of higher quality bicycle facilities in the central city, of a mile spacing, or less. But a bicycle network is only as good as it’s weakest spot, and this project leaves several weak spots in the grid. The map below highlights some of these, shown in cyan color:

  • P Street and Q Street parking protected separated bikeways should be extended west to 5th Street, which would include a reduction of lanes on those streets. Stopping the bikeways at 9th and 10th Street reduces access to Sacramento Valley Station, as well as many other destinations in this area, including using the Tower Bridge to access West Sacramento.
  • 9th Street parking protected separated bikeways should be extended from Q Street south to Broadway, to provide access to the higher quality bikeway along Broadway, and points south of Broadway.
  • I Street separated bikeway should be extended from 12th Street west to 5th Street, created a complete bikeway from 21st Street to Sacramento Valley Station.
  • J Street parking protected separated bikeway should be extended east from 5th Street to 19th Street, to proved a complete bikeway from 5th Street to 28th Street.
  • A separated bikeway should be constructed on 28th Street to provide a high quality bike route parallel to the unsafe 29th Street one-way southbound traffic sewer and 30th Street one-way northbound traffic sewer.
  • Regular bike lanes, at a minimum, should be installed on 13th Street between P Street and Capitol Park. 13th Street is one of the most heavily bicycled north-south routes in the entire central city, but this two block gap makes that trip less safe.

It is also possible that the P Street and Q Street bikeways should be extended east at least to 28th Street, or beyond, but I haven’t looked closely at that yet.

Central City Mobility Project map with recommended additions
Central City Mobility Project map with recommended additions

Speed Limits

The project page does not mention speed limits. This is typical for city projects. The city believes that speed limits should never be lowered, except in school zones, so it is no surprise that speed limits on these sections of bikeway was not mentioned. The speed map below (pdf) shows posted speed limits on central city streets. Keep in mind that every street has a higher design speed, so except in congested conditions, actual speeds almost always exceed, or greatly exceed, the posted speed limit. Speed limits should be reduced to 25 mph or less on the separated bikeway streets. This means:

  • 19th Street: reduce speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph, from H Street to Broadway
  • P Street: reduce speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph, from 21st Street to 10th Street
  • Q Street: reduce speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph, from 10th Street to 21st Street
  • 9th Street: reduce speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph, from N Street to Broadway
  • 10th Street: reduce speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph, from Broadway to N Street
  • 5th Street: reduce speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph, from Broadway to H Street
  • 21st Street is already OK, posted 25 mph
  • of course the additions recommend above should receive the same treatment

Actually, all streets in the central city should have posted speed limits of no more than 25 mph, and if the street is residential or mixed use, then 20 mph. There is no place in a central city for speed limits above 25 mph. The desires of suburban drivers to speed through the central city along traffic sewers are never more important than the desires of central city residents for safety and livability. Over time these streets can be reallocated (dieted) so that design speed matches posted speed, but in the meanwhile, lower posted speed limits are entirely in order.

Note that this map is only available in a static pdf version; speed limit data has not been posted on the city’s Open Data site. The map shows in cyan the streets which are posted 25 mph, but which one might assume would be faster based on the appearance of the street design. All other streets not colored are assumed to be 25 mph.

City of Sacramento speed limits map, central city, 2018
City of Sacramento speed limits map, central city, 2018

Parking fees by size and weight

As the perfect follow-on to my post yesterday about Parking reform for Sacramento, an post today on Streetsblog USA: Here’s a Big Idea: The Larger the Car, the More You Pay to Park the Damn Thing, about a neighborhood in Montreal charging for residential parking permits by the weight and and fuel source of the vehicles. The program is intended to not just get people into small vehicles, or cleaner vehicles, or no vehicles, but to get people to think about the impact on climate and safety of their choice of vehicle. So, I’ve added that idea to my list.

The graphic below actually does not really show the huge difference between older light trucks, or SUVs, but it is a good graphic to start with.

Source: Will Chase/Axios; https://www.axios.com/2023/01/23/pickup-trucks-f150-size-weight-safety

Central City Mobility update

The repaving of 21st Street between W Street and I Street is complete. The section has been marked with ‘temporary road marker tabs’ (these have various names). The marking is for parking lanes on both sides, of eight to ten feet, and ultra-wide general purpose travel lanes, of at least 16 feet. No bike lanes were marked, though the street previously had marked bike lanes. A typical move on the part of the city and its contractors, to take care of motor vehicle travel and parking, but forget about bicyclists. This is of course temporary, but state and federal law require accommodation of bicyclists in construction zones. No such accommodations was made.

21st St between J St and I St, ultra-wide travel lanes, parking lanes, NO bike lanes
21st St between J St and I St, ultra-wide travel lanes, parking lanes, NO bike lanes

There are temporary paint markings for the first several blocks north of W Street, showing what the paint configuration will be. The parking protected separated bikeway is, as was likely, on the left side because most of this stretch has bus service on the right. The bike area is about seven feet wide. The buffer strip of about three feet wide, and the parking lane is about eight feet wide. The buffer may or may have vertical delineators (soft hit posts) continuously or at conflict points. There is no indication at any location, so far, that there will be hard curbs to actually protect bicyclists when parked cars are not present. For information on why a seven foot bikeway is not sufficient, please see bike lane widths. NACTO recommends at least eight feet.

21st St temporary marking for separated bikeway
21st St temporary marking for separated bikeway

As I rode up 21st Street, I noticed that the bus stop is marked in the same way that the parking lane is. I hope this is just a temporary mistake, otherwise there will be parking in the bus stop despite the red curb. The city is still failing to do two things it can to better support transit: 1) install concrete bus pads so that the weight of the bus at the stops does not distort the pavement and cause potholes, and 2) paint the pavement red at each bus stop so as to make it clear that this is a place for buses only, and not private vehicles. And, yes, it would be nice if transit islands were installed so that the bus does not need to pull out of and then into traffic. The city keeps saying that it supports transit, but doesn’t actual do anything to support transit.

21st St bus stop, marked as though it were a parking lane
21st St bus stop, marked as though it were a parking lane

Lastly, in the category of ‘be careful what you wish for’… I had wondered why the city was not taking advantage of the ADA ramp project to put in curb extensions (bulb-outs) at some critical intersections for walker safety. This afternoon, I noticed that they are putting in curb extensions on the northeast and southeast corner of 19th Street and O Street. Yay? Nay? The problem is that the location of the extensions would extend into the separated bikeway on the left side of 19th Street southbound. The photo below, looking north along 19th Street at O Street, shows the extension under construction. There is supposed to be a curb-adjacent, parking protected separated bikeway here. I assume that bus stops for SacRT Route 62 southbound will be on the right hand side of the street, and the separated bikeway on the left hand side. Is there anyone paying attention? Anyone? Ferris? Anyone?

Parking reform for Sacramento

Note: Added item to Parking fees below, in italic, based on an idea from an article in Streetsblog USA.

Following on to the discussion group topic this week of Walkable City this week, Part 3: Get the Parking Right, here is a list of my thoughts about parking reform in the City of Sacramento. Almost all applies to parking anywhere. I think nearly every one of these has been mentioned in previous posts, but I’ve not brought them together in a single place.

The City of Sacramento has a Parking Services website. Parking Services is part of Public Works.

  • Parking management:
    • Parking must be managed under a city-wide parking management plan, and the plan must be consistent with city and state policy for reducing motor vehicle use and vehicle miles traveled (VMT). The city does not have a parking management plan, so far as is known.
    • Parking mandates must be removed city-wide, not just for the central city and transit oriented locations.
    • The city should foreswear any new structure parking (parking garages or parking decks). Though the city does not have any active plans for new parking, it has had recently, and they may come back.
    • Require all new housing or mixed use developments to unbundle parking, meaning that no free parking is provided for residents, and all parking is available to any person who wants to rent the space. Unbundling should be phased in over five years for all existing parking.
    • Prohibit commercial parking lots adjacent to sidewalks, meaning the buildings must face sidewalks and not parking lots.
    • Property assessment of surface parking lots will be at the same value as the productive land use that existed there before, to discourage building removal and and to keeping of land in less productive or unproductive uses; this requires cooperation from the county
  • Parking fees:
    • A base rate for all parking will be set such that it covers installation, maintenance, and management of all public parking; this rate might vary by whether parking is metered or not, or might be uniform throughout the city.
    • Charge at least the base rate for all street parking, everywhere in the city, via meters or permits, that recovers base rate; NO FREE PARKING!
    • Set variable rates for residential parking permits based on the size, weight, and fuel source of the vehicle
    • Formally implement variable pricing of street and structured parking to achieve Shoup’s 85% utilization
    • Charge for handicapped spaces (this eliminates the motivation for non-handicapped drivers to illegally use handicapped spots)
    • Eliminate all holiday or promotional free parking; research indicates that free parking actually reduces business customers by reducing parking turnover
    • Pilot ideas for charging for delivery use of street parking
  • Parking revenue:
    • Parking revenue will not go into the general fund or to pay off bonds not related to parking, but be used for specific purposes related to parking and neighborhood improvement
    • 50% of parking revenue (above base rate) will be spent on neighborhood improvements on the same streets or within parking districts
    • 50% of revenue (above base rate) will be allocated to transit operations and transit amenities
  • Parking conversion to higher uses:
    • Add trees in the parking lane on all streets without sidewalk buffers; many of the lower income neighborhoods in the city lack sidewalk buffers and private trees, making walking unpleasant and hazardous
    • Do not charge for conversion of street parking to dining space, and minimize permit costs for street dining
    • Provide one or more short-term (20 minutes or less) parking spaces on every block with retail
    • Provide one or more delivery spaces per block with any retail, and enforce against double-parking for delivery where delivery spaces are available
    • Replace parallel parking with diagonal parking on overly wide streets, to slow traffic; most streets in the city are overly wide
    • Where sidewalk or sidewalk buffer space is not available for micro-mobility (bike share, scooter share) parking, street parking will be converted in sufficient quantity
    • Modify development standards to allow only one-side parking in new residential developments
    • Allow conversion of parking to bike facilities where a reduction of travel lanes is not practical (on streets 30 mph or higher)

I strongly believe that the single city action most responsible for the renewal of midtown Sacramento, all the infill development and successful business, is the removal of parking minimums (mandates) from the central city in 2012. Since that time, the city has removed parking mandates from land near major transit stops, and in 2022, the state prohibited cities from establishing mandates near major transit stops (the definition of a major transit stop is fuzzy, however).

The city has proposed, in its draft 2040 General Plan, to remove parking mandates city-wide. It remains to be seen whether pressure from politicians and suburban protectors of ‘their’ street parking spot will subvert this recommendation. 2040 General Plan draft, Chapter 8 Mobility, Goals and Policies M-2.17 Parking Management Strategy, page 8-18.

Other resources:

Walkable City Book Club

A local transportation advocate Tom has started a discussion group/book club for the book by Jeff Speck, Walkable City: how downtown can save America, one step at a time. The third meeting of the group will be this Wednesday, May 17, 6:00PM at Lefty’s Taproom, 5610 Elvas Ave, Sacramento, CA 95819. The meetings will likely be on the second Wednesday of the month, same time and location, but his meeting will be the third Wednesday. You may just show up, and you may also send me your email address (to allisondan52@gmail.com) and I will get you added to the announcement list. Lefty’s has beer, wine, and food, but you are not obligated to buy anything. We meet outside.

The group has been going through the book part by part, and this meeting will focus on Part 3: Get the Parking Right. If you can read ahead of time, great, but you can also just show up. The group is a variable number of people and a variety of backgrounds and interests, so you will fit in.

This second edition, ten years after the first, has additional information since that time. Sometimes Jeff amplifies what he said before, or brings things up to date with what has happened in the last ten years. He makes up for his prior lack of emphasis on equity. And if a few cases, he simply say – I was wrong! If you have a choice, get the second edition, which contains all of the first, plus new info. But if you have the old, don’t worry, because we won’t get to the new for a while.

If you don’t have a copy of the book, Sacramento Public Library has three copies. The original edition, 2012, is on the shelf at Central and Carmichael branches. The second edition, 2022, is checked out as of today (probably a book club member!). For the discussion of the parts, which are little changed from the first edition, either will serve you. You can order a copy from your local bookstore ($20). My local bookstore, Capital Books, does not have it in stock but can get it in two days. Amazon has a Kindle edition, if you prefer digital over a physical book ($12.99). But you don’t have to have your own copy, nor even have read the part to be discussed. Your presence is welcome in any case.

Walkable City is a seminal work in transportation urbanism. This book, and his Walkable City Rules, are must-reads for anyone who cares about their city, and livability, safety, and fiscal responsibility. Even if you can’t make the book club meetings, I highly recommend you read it!

Meetings week of May 15

Note: This will not be a regular feature, but occasional, to share meetings you might be interested in. Some are organizations, some are agencies.


  • SACOG Bikeshare Policy Committee: 2:00PM, in person (1301 L St) or Zoom; the agenda is Overview of the Regional Bike Share Program (Nicole Zhi Ling Porter) and Update on Bike Share Technical Expert Agreement (Nicole Zhi Ling Porter). The presentations are not available ahead of time.


  • Walkable City Book Club: an informal group meets to discuss Walkable City, by Jeff Speck, on occasion of the 10th Anniversary Edition; this week the group is discussing Part 3: Getting the Parking Right (page 117). The group meets 6:00PM at Lefty’s Taproom, 5610 Elvas Ave, Sacramento, CA 95819. Usually second Wednesday, but for May third Wednesday. If you want to be added to the email list, please email me (allisondan52@gmail.com) and I’l get you added.
  • Sacramento Climate Coalition: meets 6:30PM once a month via Zoom to discuss climate action at the regional and state level; email info@sacclimate.org to get added to the email announcement list


  • ECOS Climate Committee: meets 6:00PM once a month via Zoom to discuss local climate concerns and actions; this month the topic is the recently released City of Sacramento Climate Action and Adaptation Plan.
  • City of Sacramento Active Transportation Commission (SacATC): meets 6:00PM monthly in person (city council chambers) or via Zoom; agenda on the Upcoming Meetings page; this month the main agenda items are 21st Ave Beautification Project, Pocket Greenhaven Neighborhood Transportation Plan Final Draft, and Streets For People: Sacramento Active Transportation Plan Phase I Outreach.


  • SacMoves Coalition: meets 10:00AM on third Fridays via Zoom; the coalition is primarily a gathering of organizations working in transportation, environment, and housing, but individuals may participate in meetings; to get added to the announcement list, please email Mia Machado, MMachado@sacbreathe.org.

Sacramento Transit Advocates and Riders (STAR) maintains a calendar of transit and transportation meetings on groups.io. You may subscribe to that calendar at https://groups.io/ics/1509831/783555437945795328/feed.ics. The calendar is not intended to be exhaustive, but is useful.

Sac 2040 General Plan draft released

The City of Sacramento has released the draft 2040 General Plan. There are three ways to find out more:

  1. Self Guided Workshop
  2. Three orientation webinars (scroll down the page above to the webinar signups)
  3. The plan itself, available as a pdf on the General Plan page. The Climate Action and Adaptation Plan is also available there.

A number of organizations. and individuals, will be reviewing the plan, and providing information to their members. Dive in if you have the time, or wait for some guidance from others.

The General Plan is probably the most important document that the city will put out, since it will address zoning changes to allow more housing, and more affordable housing, which helps every other aspect of livability in the city.