The City of Sacramento has released the final draft Northgate Blvd Transportation Plan. Appendix F Layout Designs is a key part of the plan. This post reflects my original comments (Northgate Boulevard Emerging Design Concepts) and the new plan. The city’s plan page is at http://www.cityofsacramento.org/Public-Works/Transportation/Planning-Projects/NorthgateMobility. The plan is on the Active Transportation Commission agenda for January 20, 2023, and will go to the city council within the next two months.
The most important aspect to the plan is that travel lanes (general purpose lanes) have been reduced from two each direction to one each direction. A reduction of lanes and narrowing of lanes (from 12 feet or more to 11 feet) is probably the single most effective action for calming traffic. When there is a single lane, the prudent driver who is traveling at or near the speed limit controls the behavior of other drivers, many of which would be traveling at excessive and incredibly dangerous speeds.
Of the 10 common design elements on page 20 (23 of the pdf), none are about trees. Yet the lack of trees and shade for walking was a major issue in community input. The city has a tendency to minimize trees in transportation planning, because they are a detail beneath the interest of traffic engineers, and the city doesn’t want responsibility for maintaining street trees. Trees are often treated on the standard timeline of it is either a) too soon to address that (which was the response to early plans lack of attention to trees), or b) decisions already made so it is too late to address that (which will be the answer on trees now). Yet trees are a critical element of walkability, and walkability is a critical element of economic vitality. No trees, no walkers, no economic vitality.
On page 26 (29 of the pdf), the proposed cross-section does not show any trees within the public right-of-way, only on private property. Sidewalks are shown as eight feet, which is great, but without trees, many fewer people will walk there than if there were trees for shade. The wide-open viewshed also encourages higher speed driving, counteracting efforts to reduce speed.
One of the unfortunate aspects of the corridor is the prevalence of driveways. In most cases, each and every business has its own driveway or driveways, and its own parking. That is a characteristic of how the area developed, and in some ways it is a strength, because many small businesses make for a more vibrant economy (not to mention higher property tax and sales tax income). But crossing driveways are also the biggest impediment to a safe and welcoming walk, and to bicycling.
The city seems to have decided that it is not worthwhile addressing the number of curb cuts for driveways. The plan acknowledges wide and number driveways, but offers no solution.
Page 28 (31 of the pdf) shows a diagram for Wilson Avenue intersection. In just this short section, three properties are shown as having double in-out driveways for a single business. Not only is this unnecessary interruption of the sidewalk, but an interruption of the bikeway (green color in the diagram).
I believe the city should proactively reduce driveways by eliminating all double in-out driveways. It could be left to the property owner or business to decide if they want to have one in driveway and one out driveway, or a wider in-out driveway, though clearly one in-out is better for walkers and bicyclists.