Measure 2022: the path not taken

Note: I’ll pause for a bit on the Measure 2022 posts. What would you like to hear about? What are your perspectives? There will be a few posts on the transit aspects of the measure on Sacramento Transit Advocates and Riders (STAR) website and cross-posted here.

The proposed transportation sales tax measure neglects or discounts a number of progressive transportation items that certainly should be in a proposal in 2022. Overall, it pays too much attention to motor vehicle travel and too little to walking, bicycling and transit. Implementation Guidelines mention a number of good ideas, but these don’t really show up in the project list.

Some of the ‘paths not taken’:

• Managed lanes on freeways. Managed lanes should be rolled, and the income dedicated to maintaining those lanes, and funding other modes. Managed lanes should be converted from general purpose lanes, not added as capacity expansion.

• A major investment in maintaining and adding sidewalks would be a far better investment in a modern transportation network than any motor vehicle project.

• Parking should be managed so as to reduce motor vehicle use and to use some of the income to fund other modes. Parking is the purview of cities and the county, but to not even mention this critical issue seems an oversight.

• Land use is not mentioned, though transportation and land use are inextricably linked. An effective transportation network cannot succeed without supportive land use, and wise land use is not possible without a supportive transportation system. Sprawling transportation encourages sprawling land use, and vice-a-versa.

• Safe Routes to School programs are not mentioned. These programs increase student safety and are an aspect of transportation demand management, but they are not mentioned or funded, though the concept is partly addressed in the ‘Road Health and Safety’ paragraph.

• Transportation is a public health issue, but health is mentioned only in passing in the ‘Road Health and Safety’ paragraph and in the context of air quality. The car dominated environment we have created with prior transportation projects is a direct and continuing threat to public health. A transportation plan should work to undo these harms, not perpetuate them.

And here are some ideas from Jeff Speck, that are of relevance to this proposal. Quoted info from Walkable City Rules: 101 Steps to Making Better Places by Jeff Speck. If you don’t have a copy, you should!

Bike share is mentioned, but there is no acknowledgment that it can be a key factor to providing equitable transportation at lower cost.

  • “RULE 24: If your city is somewhat bikeable, introduce the most advanced bikeshare system possible, subsidized for those who need it, in conjunction with bike lane investment.”

Freeway removal, freeway lane reduction, and/or freeway capping is not mentioned.

  • “RULE 28: Replace urban highways with City-designed urban boulevards in locations where doing so will create a great increase in land value, simultaneously investing in transit along the corridor.”

Congestion pricing is not mentioned, though it is the least expensive way of increasing capacity by reducing unnecessary travel.

  • “RULE 29: If your downtown is congested, introduce a variable congestion-based toll for entry, and invest the proceeds in alternative transportation.”

Speed reduction is not mentioned. The arterial and collector streets already have posted speed limits and design speeds too high for a safe and livable place.

  • “RULE 31: Street design and design discourse should focus on reducing illegal speeding.”

Vision zero has only one mention, as a City of Sacramento project. Just as a complete streets policy is required, so should be a Vision Zero policy and implementation plan be required. So far as I know, only the City of Sacramento has this.

  • “RULE 33: Get your city to join the Vision Zero Network.”

Speed and red light running cameras, no mention at all.

  • “RULE 35: Put red-light and speed cameras wherever you can, prioritizing places where crashes have occurred. Shame state lawmakers into removing their restrictions.”

The entire plan relies on the functional classification system of freeways, arterials and collectors. This is an outmoded way of looking at transportation infrastructure.

  • “RULE 44: If possible, remove the functional classification designation from would-be walkable streets in traditional urban areas. At the least, do not allow these areas’ streets to be designed according to standards set by such a system.”

No mention of separated bikeways as best practice for arterials and collectors, or bike boulevards for parallel routes.

  • “RULE 57: Introduce regional bicycle boulevards located on calm streets that have low speed limits, no centerline, prominent markings, branded signage, and intersections designed and signed/ signalized to prioritize bikes over cars and trucks.”
  • “RULE 58: Build a network of cycle tracks, ideally by removing unnecessary driving lanes.”

Search for category Measure 2022 to see posts as they are added.

Walkable City – live chat

Pedestrian Refuge Median
Pedestrian Refuge Median

I participated in the Walkable City live chat sponsored by Sacramento Press today, which featured Jeff Speck, author of Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time, William Burg, and host Jared Goyette, which I advertised yesterday. I enjoyed hearing from both Speck and Burg. Burg is sort of the historian laureate of Sacramento, and his local perspective really added a lot.

You can review the recorded live chat by following the link from the live chat link above, and I highly recommend that you do. My take-aways from the conversation are:

  1. Jeff Speck reiterated his “General Theory of Walkability” which defines a favored walk as including the elements of useful, safe, comfortable and interesting.
  2. Speck said that in order to be walkable, a place must have “good bones”, short blocks in a grid pattern, with squares. Nearly always, these are pre-war neighborhoods. Burg pointed out that Sacramento downtown and midtown does have this, though our blocks are longer than many highly walkable cities, but our grid has been broken severely by the freeways and to some degree by the downtown mall and the convention center.
  3. Speck said that many cities that have a great reputation for walkability started with just one great street, or even one great block, such as LoDo (lower downtown) in Denver. The one great place increased the draw for young creatives, which led to more widespread changes. Continue reading “Walkable City – live chat”

Walkable City

Sacramento Press is sponsoring a live chat with Jeff Speck, the author of Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America One Step At A Time. The live chat is tomorrow, January 3, at 12:30PM. The offline chat is already going on, if you want to check it out. I am currently reading the book, in the Kindle version, but am only part way through.

Many of the online comments so far have focused on creating a livable city, and it is wonderful to see so many positive ideas and accurate identification of challenges. Intelligent conversation like this is rare in the Sacramento news blogs. I’ll make some comments specifically on the walkability safety aspects. I’ve written about this before, but it is worth writing about again and again, because the problems still exist.

Traffic sewers: Multiple lane and one way streets are traffic sewers. This epithet is used to describe streets designed to flush traffic in and out of employment centers (and to homes in the suburbs) twice a day. They serve no other reasonable purpose, and they make a place very much less walkable. Three (or more) lane roadways are incompatible with walkability. They encourage high speed traffic, and provide too long a crossing distance to pedestrians to be comfortable with. They don’t meet the “8-80” criteria, of being safe and comfortable for people of all ages.Solutions:

  1. Therefore, I think that all three-lane roadways in Sacramento must be narrowed to two lanes. If a true refuge median is provided between two directions of travel, at least three feet wide, so that a person can cross each direction of traffic separately, then roadways with a total of four lanes are acceptable. If not, then only a total of two lanes. Six lane or more roadways, common in the northern and southern suburbs of the City of Sacramento, are not acceptable.
  2. One way streets also encourage high speed travel. I think that all of our one way streets should be converted to two way streets. This can be done over time as streets are repaved, it is not as high a priority as the narrowing of streets, above.

Continue reading “Walkable City”