There are a few streets in Sacramento which are wide enough to host many activities and modes of travel, with reallocation of the roadway width to meet a new vision of a livable, walkable city. Two NACTO diagrams are below. The first, a downtown one-way street, is interesting to me because it shows a better use of space without having to change from one-way to two-way. I have always been opposed to one-way multiple lane streets because they present the multi-lane threat to people crossing the street, when one driver stops but others do not. This is one of the most common causes of fatalities for walkers, and why it must be eliminated. However, if the design is changed, the street becomes much safer, and the multi-lane threat is reduced or eliminated. Check the NACTO page for an alternate design.
I believe there should be high frequency bus service on J Street from 5th St to the university, and if J Street remains one-way, paired service on L St. This diagram would be a great model. Current service is 15-minute frequency on part of the route, but only 30-minute on part. Service should be at least 10-minute, maybe even more frequent. This would be a good design for that service and for those streets. Yes, L Street is not continuous, due to a broken street grid, so either H Street or Folsom Blvd could be used to connect.
Other streets that might remain one-way, but only with redesign, include the 9th-10th couplet, 15th-16th couplet, 19th-21st couplet, and P-Q couplet. The W-X couplet that bounds the Hwy 50 freeway would have to remain one-way due to freeway onramps and off ramps, but must be narrowed significantly. It is nothing but a traffic sewer as currently designed, and the motor vehicle capacity of the street is completely unneeded, even during rush hours.
The street has typical modes: motor vehicle lanes, bicycle lanes, parking areas, wide sidewalks. Features include curb extensions, short left turn lanes but long center medians, pedestrian scale and intersection lighting, planting strips with trees, but perhaps less than the yield street. The most important aspect is that there is only one general purpose travel lane per direction, meaning that the prudent driver controls the speed of other drivers. The design speed and posted speed might be as high as 30 mph, but would probably be less.
NACTO (National Association of City Transportation Officials) is the lead organization for progressive transportation cities. It is in strong contrast to regressive organizations such as League of California Cities which exist primarily to serve suburban areas. Of course part of the difference is the size of the cities, as NACTO tends to include large cities, while League of California Cites tends to include small cities, but it is really a difference in attitude about what cities are for. NACTO cities are cities for people, League cities are cities for cars and businesses. Take a look at CalCities Partners to see who the League likes. Unfortunately, City of Sacramento is a member. But on the plus side, Sacramento is also a member of NACTO.
In upcoming posts about Street Design Standards, I will be using NACTO materials often, primarily from the Urban Street Design Guide, but from the Transit Streets Design Guide and Urban Bikeways Design Guide as well.
I believe that the Street Design Standards should include both overviews of different kinds of streets, to provide city staff, city council, and most importantly, the public, a clear picture of what a new or reconstructed street will look like and feel like. Design details are also important, but design details without context just allow staff to build streets that follow the rules but neglect safety and livability.
So, first up, the overall design that NACTO calls a Yield Street. The portion of the street devoted to moving motor vehicles is less than most of the streets in Sacramento, but the portion devoted to street-related uses is more. The most prominent difference is that the travel part of the street is not two lanes, but a shared area (hence, the yield name) where drivers must negotiate to pass and adjust for variable widths as parking and other uses vary. This is easily a street for a 20 mph design and posted speed limit, as all local streets should be. Note also: wide planting strips with trees, perpendicular ADA ramps, high visibility crosswalks, curb extensions on most corners, small corner radii, pedestrian scaled lighting, and reduced but not eliminated parking. The diagram shows just residential uses, but the design can easily accommodate corner stores.
I have decided to start a series on street design ideas and standards, as a support for the City of Sacramento update of its Street Design Standards, due to occur this calendar year. I would hope that the city would actually engage citizens and transportation experts in the development of the standards, though it is more likely that the city will present a late-draft-stage document for review. In either case, I hope to educate the public about what good street design looks like and functions like, so that they can provide useful input and demand the highest level of design safety and innovation from the city.
The posts will be available under the category ‘Street Design Standards‘. Though this is a subcategory of City of Sacramento, the posts will almost entirely be applicable to any city or county.
First up, existing design standards and concepts. The horrible state of our transportation system is due in large part to the practice of traffic engineers using highway design ideas on urban streets. These designs have encouraged traffic violence, reduced the livability and economic vitality of cities, and created infrastructure that we will never have the funds to properly maintain. And, most importantly, then have killed millions of people and maimed at hundreds of millions more.
If you have not read it yet, I can’t more highly recommend Confessions of a Recovering Engineer by Chuck Marohn, founder of Strong Towns, for a review of the traffic engineering malfeasance and embedded but never explicit values that got us to this point.
There are a number of existing publications and resources for designing streets, some of them useful, and some us them which got us into this mess to begin with. Here are the ones I recommend that the city use, and not use:
The photo below shows Garfield Ave southbound approaching Marconi Ave, in the Carmichael community of Sacramento County. This roadway was repaved within the last year, and this is the bicycle facility that was painted by the county. The bike lane veers to the right and then ends, running into the dedicated right hand turn lane, and another bike lane continues to the left of the right hand turn lane. These pavement marking clearly give priority to motor vehicles making a right hand turn, and ask bicyclists to yield to those vehicles, as second-class users of the roadways.
There has been a discussion on the Association for Pedestrian and Bicyclist Professionals (APBP) listserv for the last two weeks on what to do with an outside lane of 14 feet (without on-street parking), particularly when there is a seam between the asphalt pavement and the gutter pan. Several people encouraged the use of narrow, substandard bike lanes in an effort to get something on the street, rather than using sharrows in the wide lane, or just leaving the lane unmarked. I believe we need to be very careful to not create “bike lanes at any cost,” and to carefully consider the actual roadway conditions before specifying anything that does not meet or exceed standards. The diagrams below are from the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide. The first shows a high quality bike lane adjacent to a curb; the second one shows sharrows rather than a bike lane where there is not sufficient roadways width.
The 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.