In preparation for some exploration of funding sources for roads, it helps to see what the situation is with the jurisdictions and types of roads, for mileage and VMT.

Jurisdiction means the level of government responsible for the road. This is not always clear from simply looking at a road. If there is a federal or state highway sign, it is pretty clear, but there are roads that are part of the state highway system that are not signed as such.

The types of roads, here, means functional classification, which is a federal designation of Interstate, Principal Arterial – Other Freeways and Expressways, Principal Arterial – Other, Minor Arterial, Major Collector, Minor Collector, and Local. Again, it is not always easy to distinguish classification, but as a generality, freeways fall into the first two, major roads such as Folsom Blvd and Watt Ave fall into the third, busy wide streets are the next three, and residential streets are the last. Another useful classification is that the first six categories are roads, meant to move motor vehicle traffic, and the last is a street, meant to provide access to residences and small businesses. Unfortunately, we build far too many of the road variety and then put business on them so they no longer function well to move cars. See Strong Towns for a more detailed explanation of roads, streets, and stroads.

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In 2014, voters in Alameda county passed a sales tax, Measure BB, by 70%. This measure is seen as a model for progressive use of sales tax in a county, and the Alameda County Transportation Commission simultaneously achieved recognition as a progressive transportation agency. The measure continued an existing half cent sales tax and added […]

Another list of ideas for improving SacRT. This was developed as part of my work with 350Sac Transportation Committee, but again, the ideas are mine and not the committee’s.

SacRT issues

  • funding
    • SacRT is the most poorly funded transit system of its size in California; the limited amount provided by Sacramento Measure A (through the Sacramento Transportation Authority) is insufficient to operate a transit system
    • dependence on federal funds from most system enhancements and extensions means that the system has not kept up with either population growth or increased demand
  • leadership
    • the board, composed of only elected officials, provides poor oversight and leadership
    • management is weak, unwilling to explore innovative solutions and accepting of current limitations as permanent
  • light rail
    • has a poor reputation among many commuters
    • no evening service to Folsom
    • no service to American River College
    • high-floor rail cars are inaccessible to many people
  • bus network
    • buses are too infrequent to provide effective service, with no routes meeting the definition of high frequency and only four routes meeting the definition of medium frequency
    • routes deviate into neighborhoods in an attempt to maximize coverage, but the result is a loss of functionality and timeliness
  • land use
    • SacRT is ineffective in large part becuase land use decisions have resulted in an urban/suburban/exurban pattern that cannot effectively be served by a transit system
    • SacRT has little to no input into land use decisions
  • fare card system (ConnectCard)
    • the fare card system has been delayed for more than a year
    • there is no evidence that the fare card system will address equity issues such as low-income users without bank accounts and credit cards being able to purchase cards and passes
  • bike parking
    • the lack of secure bike parking at light rail stations and major bus stops reduces transit use and usability
    • SacRT has refused to provide on-demand bike lockers at stations, though Folsom has provided them at stations within the city

SacRT solutions

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As the “deadline” approaches for passage of a transportation bill, and the balance in the highway trust fund is in free fall, everyone seems to be falling in line behind the idea that we must pass a bill. I disagree. The federal transportation funding system strongly favors motor vehicles, with a small amount set aside […]

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership, along with a number of coalition partners, has offered a petition to increase the amount of funding for California’s Active Transportation Program (ATP). Information on the petition is at Safe Routes to School California and California Walks. What follows is not intended to discourage you from signing the petition. Rather, I’m suggesting that it doesn’t go far enough.

The petition asks for an increase of $100 million per year in funding. With the existing funding of about $120M, this would be just less than double the current funding, a not insignificant increase.

However, the amount is a tiny fraction the roughly $28 billion spent yearly on transportation in California. The majority of this expenditure is through Caltrans, and the majority of that is to expand the highway and road network. Those expenditures work directly against the goal of walkable, livable communities. Yes, expansions often now include some sidewalks and some bicycle facilities, but the preponderance of the project is not on these afterthoughts, but on increasing lane miles by extending and widening highways and roadways. Of the money expended on the road transportation system, about half comes from cities, counties and regions, about one-quarter from the federal government, and about one-quarter from the state. But because the state controls the federal and state portion, and state standards determine or strongly influence how the rest is spent, things must change at the state level.

Marketing for the petition includes: “Nearly $800 million in shovel-ready walking, bicycling and Safe Routes to School projects and programs were left unfunded in the first ATP awards cycle.” I imagine now that many agencies have started to figure out how ATP works, there will be even more applications this cycle, with an even bigger gap between applications and available funding. So would the addition of $100 million really make much of a difference? We have a long term deficit in active transportation of trillions of dollars. $100 million is not that significant.

The graphic below shows the portion of the state transportation budget (in red) going to the ATP program (in green) and which would be added (blue) if the petition resulted in supportive legislation. You may need to squint.

budget

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This is one of the nerdier posts I’ve written in a while, and much of it probably won’t make sense to anyone who has not been involved in SHSP. Why is it important? Because all of the safety funds in California, some of the transportation budget, and much agency effort go to the priorities identified […]

The condition and future of Sacramento Regional Transit (SacRT), particularly the light rail system, has been much in the news recently:

Everyone these days seems to want a better transit system. The problem is that no one wants to pay for a better transit system. The business leaders who suddenly want a modern, appealing, well-maintained light rail are the same ones that have worked over the years to suppress efforts at increasing the tax base for operation of the system.

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