O Street Activation

CADA (Capital Area Development Authority) is undertaking a process to activate O Street between 7th and 17th streets in downtown and midtown Sacramento. There was a community meeting at noon today, which I participated in. Not many people there, but there is also a meeting this evening which might gather residents who work during the day.

There are a lot of intriguing ideas and overall I think the draft framework is a good one. CADA said the diagrams and maps would be posted within a few days, so you will be able to see them at http://www.cadanet.org/projects/o-street-improvements-project.

Some comments I made:

  • the design needs to be compatible with the new light rail stations that will be constructed, probably in phases, to accommodate the new low-floor rail cars which require an 8-inch curb above the rails; the mini-high platforms needed for the current fleet of high-floor rail cars will eventually be removed, making for a much more pleasant street environment
  • rather than putting in bicycle facilities on O Street, separated bikeways on P Street and Q Street (partially complete) and N Street (not started) should handle most of the through bicycle traffic; instead, these things should be done to make the street bikeable without any special facilities:
    • speed limit 15 mph throughout
    • most sections become single-lane one-way, with narrowed travel lane; where two-way sections are needed (if at all), streets should be narrowed significantly
    • textured pavement, for streets or crosswalks or intersections, should either be sufficiently smooth to accommodate bicyclists, or have smooth pathways specifically for bicyclists
  • without bicycle-specific infrastructure, more of the right-of-way width can be devoted to pedestrians, sidewalks and the amenity zone; the pedestrian space will make the biggest difference in how the street is perceived
  • no section that is now closed to motor vehicles (9th to 10th and 11th to 12th) should be opened to motor vehicles, and no section that is currently one-way should become two-way
  • all corners should have bulb-outs (curb extensions) to calm motor vehicle speeds, reduce crossing distances, and preserve visibility at corners from parked vehicles; many corners are proposed for bulb-outs, but not all
  • raised intersections should be considered for all intersections
  • traffic on 15th Street (southbound) and 16th Street (northbound) must be calmed; it is currently difficult and hazardous for both walkers and bicyclists to cross through these intersections, traveling along O Street

The big issue, though, is that there is insufficient residents along the corridor, specifically between N Street and Q Street, to activate the corridor. More about that in my next post.

The improvements to O Street will be very expensive, if all are completed, but there are low cost items to start with, and I’m hopeful about seeing some of these in the near future.

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.

Open houses on Green Line to the Airport

PrintSacRT is holding community open houses on the Green Line to the Airport in early December. December 1 in North Natomas, December 2 in Sacramento, and December 3 in South Natomas. Details are at http://www.sacrt.com/glopenhouse.stm.

As I’ve written before, I don’t think that an extension to the airport makes economic sense, with likely low ridership and high costs to get to the airport. But there are real opportunities for South Natomas, which is very much underserved by public transit.

I encourage you to attend one of the open houses, make your own decision, and then get involved to make sure that SacRT makes decisions that support transit access for lower income communities and economic development, connecting jobs to homes.

SacRT issues and solutions

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

Continue reading “SacRT issues and solutions”

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”

Getting around… with a knee scooter

I fractured a bone in my right foot on July 7 while backpacking along the Pacific Crest Trail in the Granite Chief Wilderness. I initially thought it was a tendon problem, because I’d had some discomfort with the tendon before, however, in stepping on the outside edge of my foot on a rock, the pain level increased manifold. I walked out on it. On Friday, I went into the doctor, got an x-ray, and now have a lower leg cast. What does this have to do with transportation? Well, I’m now getting around with a knee scooter, rather than walking or bicycling.

It has been interesting, and here is my take on it so far. The knee scooter has small wheels, about eight inches, so it is less stable than a bicycle, or a wheelchair. Because it is somewhat unstable, I use a lot of energy maintaining balance. Though I’ve noticed, now that I’m paying more attention to people using wheelchairs, that the unpowered ones are not all that stable either. But it does move along quickly, faster than walking though not as fast as bicycling.

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SacRT gets grant for light rail car refurbishment

In the recently announced round of grants under the CalSTA Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program, SacRT received funding to refurbish the remainder of light rail vehicles from San Jose. The money is from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund using proceeds from the state’s cap-and-trade auctions. The statewide total was $224M.

7. Sacramento Regional Transit District (RT) – Refurbishment of Seven Light Rail Vehicles
Award: $6,427,000
Refurbishment of the last 7 of 21 vehicles acquired from Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority in order to support 15 min peak hour service frequencies throughout the RT light rail system and enable future limited stop service on the RT Gold and Blue Lines during the next 15 years. The project will result in increased ridership, eliminate impacts from the overhaul program needed on the rest of RT’s fleet, and connect residents in disadvantaged communities to jobs. Improved service on the system also increases the attractiveness of connectivity to Amtrak services and future High Speed Rail service at the Sacramento Intermodal Facility.

improving SacRT

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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North 12th Street Complete Street Project

North12thSt-logoThe 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.

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ESC workshop, and initial reading

Sac_ESC-DEIR_workshop2The Workshop

The Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the Entertainment and Sports Complex (ESC, or arena) was released a few days ago, and this evening there was a public workshop on the DEIR. About 70 people were in attendance, perhaps 1/4 of them city and consultant staff, and about 1/4 were wearing Kings supporter T-shirts or other Kings clothing. I recognized a few faces from the active transportation world, but many I did not know. A speaker gave a quick run-through of the DEIR, sort of executive summary of the summary section of the DEIR.

Following the introduction, people went to the stations on the topics covered in the DEIR to ask questions (and of course make comments, though that was not the purpose of the workshop). At least half the people gravitated to the transportation section, as it seemed to be their area of most interest. Probably parking is the issue most on the minds of Kings fans, but for many, the issues of pedestrian, bicyclist, and transit access to events, and the potential impact on these, are of great interest.
Continue reading “ESC workshop, and initial reading”