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.

#StuckInTraffic

There was a Twitter townhall today hosted by Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and House Transportation Infrastructure Committee Chair Bill Shuster, organized around the Twitter hashtag #StuckInTraffic. I was expecting the worst, given that the hashtag presupposes that the main issue is congestion, but was pleasantly surprised. The questions they answered were softball questions, but the cars-first, highways-only message was absent in their answers, and that has to be a good sign.

The #StuckInTraffic hashtag has all the related tweets and provides a wider range of opinions, but other than the Heritage Foundation cars-only fringe pushing their Transportation Empowerment Act, there was a surprising across-the-board support for a true multi-modal transportation system.

I believe that we should have a multi-modal system, but I also believe that we have already spent enough money on highways and stroads, and that we should now be spending money only on maintenance, walking, transit and bicycling. What multi-modal should mean going forward is that we make up for our past cars-only mistakes by not spending any more on that ultimately dead-end enterprise. One of my favorite transportation graphics of all time is below, showing Chicago’s transportation priorities. Though the mix may be different in different locations, it is good place from which to start discussions at all levels, federal, state and local.

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