Green Line to the Airport

Greenline-MAP
click for pdf map

I attended the open house meeting hosted by SacRT and it’s consultants this evening at the Sacramento Central Library, as did about 60 others. I’ve written before about the green line extension (the green line currently ends at Township 9 on Richardson), so I’ll just add a few comments now, on the bridge, multi-modal transit trips, the airport, and the EIR.

Bridge: The bridge over the American River, between Township 9 and Truxel Blvd, is a key issue. Will it be multi-modal, for light rail, pedestrians and bicyclists, or will it be all-modes, including private motor vehicles? There are good arguments for both. A multi-modal bridge would send a message that we value these transport modes more highly than motor vehicles, and it would be a great deal less expensive. On the other hand, Sacramento is somewhat isolated by the paucity of bridges over both rivers, and this might be a chance to disperse traffic to a new route. However, more lanes generally induce more traffic, and become congested, and lead to higher GHG emissions that both work against climate mitigation and undo the other good things we are doing. The planning does not seem to be far enough along to have any cost estimates for the bridge alternatives. The consultant at the bridge display was a fill-in, not the bridge engineer, so it wasn’t possible tonight to get any more detailed information. The recently completed rail-ped-bicycle bridge over the Willamette River in Oregon did not include motor vehicle traffic in part because it would have greatly increased the cost of the bridge. I suspect that both the city and SacRT will claim that the all-modes bridge is not significantly more expensive, but this claim needs to be watched closely and perhaps challenged.

Multi-modal transit trips and bicycles: SacRT just does not seem to get that almost all transit trips are multi-modal, as they include walking and bicycling at one or both ends of the trip. There was no mention at any of the displays of providing on-demand bicycle storage at stations, and discussions with several SacRT staff indicated that it wasn’t something they were even thinking of. The center platforms (boarding in the middle, tracks on the outside) to be used in several locations won’t even allow space for bike storage of any sort. I believe the only thing that will get North Natomas commuters out of their cars is if they can ride their bike to and from the station (there are some great paths, and some of the arterials are not horrible), leaving it there for the day because they don’t need it at the downtown or Folsom end where they work. The failure of SacRT to provide on-demand, secure bicycle storage has been raised by myself and many others for years, but still nothing has happened. The on-demand BikeLink lockers and station on the Folsom line were purchased and are managed by the City of Folsom, not by SacRT. I will suggest that a light rail line to North Natomas will fail if on-demand bicycle storage is not provided. SacRT only needs to visit the bay area systems to see that no one is any longer building or revising stations, or providing or updating rail cars, without serious provision for bicyclists.

Airport: Why does light rail need to go to the airport? I’m not sure that anyone has a financially sound reason for it. The line would go through miles of empty farm and ranch land. Will this land eventually be developed? Perhaps, but not likely. The GHG implications of this type of sprawl development will at some point stop it in its tracks, and at least some of the agricultural land will remain as such. Sure, cities like to be able to say they have transit to the airport, but in two places I visit where light rail does go to the airport, Portland and Seattle (both high-transit use locations), most people still drive to and from the airport. Both lines have large numbers of intermediate stations that serve many users beside airport customers, but the green line would not. In a less transit-oriented place like Sacramento, how many people will use the airport extension? And at what cost per passenger? If we had unlimited funds, I’d be all for an airport extension, but we don’t have unlimited funds, and an extension to the airport greatly delays, or perhaps kills, extensions to ARC, Roseville, Elk Grove and Davis.

EIR: The environmental impact report will have to cover the entire extension to the airport, because projects cannot be considered piecemeal, but there is a danger that ONLY the entire project will be analyzed, and that the segments will not also be analyzed separately. As I’ve said before, I think there is a clear justification for the extension to South Natomas (stopping south of I-80), there may be justification for segment to North Natomas, if the system can be designed in such a way that it will actually be used by the car-centric residents of North Natomas, and there is little justification for the segment to the airport. If the segments are analyzed separately in addition to as-a-whole, then people will be able to better judge the impacts and benefits of the extension.

SacRT light rail extensions

SacRT is considering a number of extensions to the light rail system, beyond the opening of the Blue Line extension from Meadowview station to Cosumnes River College, which will occur August 24.

These are:

  1. lpa_mapGreen Line to the Airport, also known as DNA (Downtown, Natomas, Airport). This project is likely in two phases, first from the current end at Richards Blvd to somewhere in North Natomas, and second the rest of the way to the airport. Information on this project is on the SacRT website. This project is furthest along, and the draft EIS/EIR is now being prepared. The map of the “locally preferred alternative” is at right, and this links to the larger map on the SacRT website.
  2. Blue Line to Elk Grove. This project has been talked about, particularly as the line to CRC has approached completion and generated discussions of whether or not Elk Grove residents will be willing to change from bus to light rail at CRC. So far as I know, there are no publicly available documents on this extension, but it is included in the 2009 Transit Action Plan updated Scenario C (below).
  3. Blue Line Northeast Corridor. This project would extend the line to the northeast, to American River College, Citrus Heights, or Roseville. Though this project was part of the original vision of the light rail line when constructed back in the 1970s, it has not received much notice while I’ve been in Sacramento. So far as I know, there are no publicly available documents on this extension, but it is included in the 2009 Transit Action Plan updated Scenario C (below).

SacRT_TransitActionPlan-ScenarioC

Each of these extensions are worth exploring in detail, but for now I’m posting because I have two ideas I want to share.

Continue reading “SacRT light rail extensions”

Sacramento region transit projects in 2015

Jonah Freemark on The Transit Politic has detailed transit projects in Openings and Construction Starts Planned for 2015. For Sacramento, it will be the end of work on extension of the SacRT light rail Blue Line to Consumnes River College, and the start of planning for the Sacramento/West Sacramento streetcar. It is good that these projects are happening, but in comparison to many other urban areas, Sacramento is falling further behind. We spend most of our money on expanding the freeways, building new freeways such as the Southeast Connector, and upgrading arterial roadways. Almost all of this work furthers suburban commuting and sprawl, and very little if any of it leads to true economic vitality.

Projects I’d like to see joining the list for next year are:

  • Green line extension to Natomas. Not necessarily the airport, and I’m not sure that pencils out as a beneficial project.
  • Blue line extension to Elk Grove. Though I don’t like the suburban wasteland that is Elk Grove, it is nevertheless true that there are a huge number of commuters from there to downtown Sacramento, who could be pried out of their cars if we spent money on light rail instead of highway and roadway expansion. Just the interchanges on Interstate 5, largely purposed to serve the commuter crowd, cost more than the entire light rail system.
  • Blue line extension to American River College, and eventually to Roseville. The college is a huge trip generator, and this part of the county is very underserved by transit. Though the Capitol Corridor third track will take some of some of the demand, light rail with its more frequent service would be a great complement.
  • Bus rapid transit (BRT). I’m not sure where the best location would to pilot bus rapid transit in the Sacramento region, but the fact that we are not even really experimenting with it (other than the tiny Watt Ave over US 50 bridge) does not bode well. Bus rapid transit could be an even more important solution for the region, particularly because much of the region lacks the density to make light rail successful.

Here’s to seeing more Sacramento projects on the 2016 list.