I often wonder if governments really focus on the issues rather than responding to incidents. In the case of pedestrians and the City of Sacramento, is the city really placing its attention, and its dollars, where they need to be to enhance the safety of pedestrians? I’ve created some maps to show where the problems lie (see note at bottom about data sources and how these were created).
The collisions mapped are:
Date: 01-01-2004 to 12-31-2012
Location: City of Sacramento only (no, I can’t explain why some are outside the city)
The first map, a point map of the entire city, shows:
the greatest density of collisions is in downtown/midtown, but there are certainly plenty in other areas
almost all collisions happen at intersections, not mid-block
almost all collisions are associated with major streets, called arterials and collectors, which are wide and high speed, intended to move motor vehicle traffic at speed rather than provide for multi-modal transportation
My views on parking are all based on two concepts:
There is no such thing as free parking. If parking is free, it is being subsidized by someone. The seminal thinking on this issue is The High Cost of Free Parking, by Donald Shoup, as well as writings by others. The objective of managed parking pricing should be to ensure some free parking on every block so that people do not circle looking for parking, and that some of the parking fee income be returned to the neighborhood for improving the right-of-way, including sidewalks and pedestrian amenities.
On-street parking is not, as some people think, a bad thing. It slows traffic by generating “friction.” On street parking might be removed when there is clearly a higher use for road right-of-way, such as bike lanes or sidewalks, however, in almost all cases, removal of a travel lane is better for everyone than removal of on-street parking. I don’t support on-street parking because I want to see more space devoted to motor vehicles, but because of the traffic calming effect and because I think on-street parking creates a more livable environment than do parking garages, which I consider to be the lowest use (or mis-use) of urban land, only exceeded by off-street surface parking lots. Our streets would in fact be safer if there were more on-street parking on weekends and evenings, when most of the extremely dangerous and egregious speeding occurs.
Dropping pins on a map, however, doesn’t allow some more general comments that I think are very important, and perhaps just as important as any of the corridor improvements shown. For me, these points are:
All signals and pedestrian signals in the grid should be set on automatic recall by default. That means that pedestrians get a walk signal on every cycle without having to find and press the beg button (many of which can’t be accessed by disabled people). If the city thinks that a particular crossing should require a button, they should have to do a traffic study to justify it, which includes both the requirements that 1) the level of pedestrian use if very low (unlikely in the grid, but possible), and 2) that there is a demonstrable delay in traffic due to automatic recall. This does not mean that pedestrian buttons will not be present, as there may be valid ADA benefits to having them, including the specific announcements now being included, but they should never be required.
In heavy pedestrian use area, if pedestrian buttons are present, pressing the button should actually shorten the signal cycle to provide for pedestrian crossing on demand, rather than just changing the pedestrian signal head when the signal goes through its regular slow cycle. No regular cycle should be longer than 90 seconds because long cycles unnecessarily delay pedestrian (and bicyclist) travel in favor of motor vehicle traffic.
All three-lane one-way roads should be reduced to two lanes. This will make street crossings safer (by about 1/3 – what other improvement could make such a difference!) and more comfortable. There is no excuse in a walkable urban environment for there to be three-lane one-way streets.
All no-pedestrian-crossing locations should be removed and replaced with regular high visibility crosswalks. Though these prohibitions are often justified by safety concerns, they are really just for the convenience of motor vehicle drivers, so that they don’t have to slow down or wait as long at signals. If a crosswalk is not safe, it means the roadway design is unsafe, and the correct solution is to change the roadway design, not to prohibit crossing.
The ability to safely and comfortably cross streets is just as important to people walking as the ability to walk along streets. I don’t know that this is the case here, but transportation agencies often get so focused on travel along corridors that they forget about the need to cross corridors. The grid pattern in midtown/downtown eases this problem, and is in fact one of the major benefits to a grid, but nevertheless, significant attention must be paid to crossing.
I live within the influence/taxation zone for the proposed Sacramento Streetcar, Sacramento Measure B, so I received a voter information pamphlet, and presumably will receive a ballot within a few days. Let me say right up front that I am voting yes. I support the streetcar for its economic and transportation benefits. However, I’d like to address some of the anti arguments.
The pro side is well represented at http://gosacstreetcar.com, and the other websites linked from there. I have not found a website for the anti side, but their arguments are in the information packet and on the sign above.
Here are the anti arguments, from the pamphlet, with my comments in green:
The City of Sacramento is soliciting input on changes to be made on the Broadway Corridor to accommodate pedestrian and bicyclist use.
Broadway, as currently designed, is definitely a motor vehicle world, where pedestrians cross at considerable risk and bicyclists riding in traffic are routinely honked at (or worse). Some years ago an attempt was made to calm traffic by installing bulb-outs or curb extensions at some pedestrian crossings. But these did little to slow traffic and much to make bicycling more difficult. As one of the main business streets of Sacramento, and one that is considerably more diverse than many, the corridor, and the businesses along it, and the people who use it, deserve better. Please be a part of making that change happen.
“Broadway has many exciting destinations, but as an auto dominated arterial it is an unfriendly place to walk or ride a bike,” explained Sparky Harris, City of Sacramento Project Manager. “The goal of this project is to better connect sidewalks and bike lanes, enhance pedestrian crossings, and make the corridor an inviting destination for anyone attempting to travel without a car.” (from City Express)
Tomorrow, Wednesday, April 19 there are several mobile workshops along the corridor where people can find out more about the proposals and provide input. Check the City Express post City looking at improvements for Broadway Corridor for times and locations.
I’m glad to see the idea of converting one-way streets to two-way streets to improve livability and safety is back in the news: More than one way (Sacramento News & Review 2014-11-27).
The reasons given, by Chris Morfas, William Burg, Jim Brown, Dave Saalsaa, and Emily Baime Michaels are all good, strong reasons for conversion.
The comments by Sparky Harris are a little disingenuous. The city already has a plan to convert one-way to two-way, documented in the 2006 Central City Two-Way Conversion Study Final Environmental Impact Statement (no long available on the city’s website, but I have a copy of this large document if you want it). It is interesting that it is not longer on the website. Eight years ago the changes in driving and living habit were starting to become obvious, and even at that time, it was clear that there were considerable benefits from conversion. Except for a very few streets that were converted when they were resurfaced, nothing has been done. Now another study? I’d rather see more action and less study. Yes, some conversions will not have benefits that are as strong, and some will be controversial, but converting many of the streets is “low-hanging” fruit, something that should already be underway and not awaiting more study.
The City of Sacramento is soliciting input on the North 12th Street Complete Street Project, the most significant portion of which would install a two-way cycletrack on the west side of 12th Street between the Hwy 160 bridge over the American River near Richards Blvd, and as far south as F Street.
The project should be compatible with and benefit from the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative Twin Rivers project which would revitalize the Twin Rivers Community Housing and the surrounding area. The January 2014 Final Transformation Plan is available from SHRA. Though the plan does not go into great detail on streets and transportation, page 78 does provide a good overview of the changes and the relationship to 12th Street and other efforts in the River District and Railyards. In particular:
Richards Blvd would be realigned and extended east of 12th St
several streets intersecting 12th St would be reconfigured, particularly Bannon St
a potential SacRT light rail station near the redevelopment and Richards Blvd
There is also a City of Sacramento project to add sidewalks to the east side of 12th St between B St and Richards Blvd.
SACOG in the 2013 funding round allocated $9M to the Riverfront Reconnection project in the City of Sacramento. This phase extends 2nd Street from Old Sacramento to Capitol Mall, providing an easier access to Old Sacramento, and also adds sidewalks to O Street and improves sidewalks and bike lanes on Capitol Mall between 3rd Street and the Tower Bridge. The overall purpose is to create or restore connections between downtown Sacramento and Old Sacramento which were severed by Interstate 5.
The City of Sacramento and CADA held a community meeting on November 23 on the R Street Phase III Streetscape project, presenting design alternatives for the section of R Street between 13th and 16th streets. Phase I is the already completed portion between 10th and 13th, and Phase II is the upcoming portion between 16th and 18th. Three alternatives were presented for each of the three blocks, basically representing three different levels of traffic calming and devotion of right-of-way width to pedestrians rather than vehicles. Alternative three for each block includes curb extensions or bulb-outs at most corners. All the alternatives include wider sidewalks.
I am glad to see the city moving forward on these improvements, with the already completed Phase I making a huge difference to the usability and appearance of the street. Though the most economically vibrant portion of the street currently is this section from 13th to 16th, it will unfortunately be the last to be completed.
This is the current list of Public Works transportation projects in the City of Sacramento. I know about a few of these projects, but many of them I don’t know anything about. It would be worth exploring all of them to see what the implications are for walkability and bikeability, but where would I find the time? Some projects have their own document or page on the city website, but most of them don’t, at least that I’ve been able to find, so I presume these would require getting in touch with the city to get the documents.