Hmm. 16th St traffic calming

A new traffic calming feature has showed up on 16th Street approaching R Street in midtown Sacramento. Paint and flex posts have been placed between the travel lanes. Advance yield lines (‘sharks teeth’) were also painted, showing where drivers should stop when yielding to pedestrians.

16th St lane channelization

I’m not sure what to think of this. Certainly this is a problematic intersection. Cars stopped for the light rail gates between R Street and Q Street often stop throughout the intersection, blocking both the north and south crosswalks over 16th Street, as well as the intersection itself, preventing vehicles along R Street from proceeding while the traffic is stopped. As with all multilane streets, but particularly high speed, one-way arterials, drivers in one lane may stop for a walker while the others will not. I see this every day, and this intersection is worse than most. For reasons I don’t understand, traffic speeds on 16th Street northbound are noticeably higher than 15th Street southbound, even though the design of both streets in the same.

So, how’s it working. Well, I’ve so far only had the chance to observe it for 15 minutes. I’m not sure it is making much difference. About 10% of drivers stopped at or close to the advance yield lines. About 70% of drivers stopped at the forward edge of the flex posts, about 10% stopped over the crosswalk, and about 10% did not stop for people using the crosswalk. I saw three people nearly hit by drivers. This is not unusual, and it not worse than before, but it is not good.

Below is an example. The driver to the left stopped over the top of the crosswalk, even though it was clear that traffic ahead was stopped for the light rail gate, and there was no space to proceed into. The driver to the right stopped before the crosswalk, but not at the advance yield line. Not visible it the driver in the closest lane who did not stop at all because there was a space in that lane across the intersection.

walker using the crosswalk over 16th St at R St

While I appreciate the effort, I’m not sure if the results will be what is desired, which is the ability of walkers to safely cross the street.

In the long run, the reallocation of roadway on 16th Street to reduce the general purpose lanes from three to two will help this location a great deal, but I don’t know when that will happen. It could be years away.

With the new businesses on R Street to the east, and the street dining area on R Street to the west of 15th Street, this intersection has become quite busy with walkers, bicyclists, scooters, and motor vehicles. It does deserve attention.

traffic calming in the central city

There are four types of traffic calming that have been used in Sacramento central city: median islands, traffic circles, traffic diverters, and speed humps. It was recently said by city staff that only speed humps are a current solution for traffic calming, but I’d really like the city to bring back diverters.

Median islands: These islands, placed at the approaches to intersections, provide some traffic calming effect, offer walkers a refuge in the middle of a crossing (though it does not meet current ADA standards for refuge). Below is a typical setting, this one at D Street & 23rd Street. Though the median does slow some drivers, other drivers use these as slalom courses. On streets with bike lanes, the bike lanes are generally dropped before the intersection in order to accommodate the median, but his is poor practice, leaving bicyclists either feeling vulnerable or actually vulnerable at just the wrong location.

median island, D St & 23rd St, Sacramento

Traffic circles: Traffic circles deflect drivers to the side, a somewhat more effective solution, but have the same problem for bicyclists as the median islands, with bike lanes dropped at the critical point. These traffic circles are NOT roundabouts. A correctly designed roundabout allow the bicyclist to choose between continuing in the general purpose travel lane, or using a sidewalk or sidewalk adjacent bypass. Roundabouts also have a continuous flow, only requiring a driver or bicyclists to yield to someone already in the roundabout, but traffic circles have stop signs on one of the cross streets. Roundabouts also have enough deflection that a driver must slow down to navigate, whereas most traffic circles have only a slight deflection and therefore limited slowing value.

The central city does not have any roundabouts, and they are rare in the region. They can be a reasonable solution at the intersection of two arterial roadways, again, IF correctly designed. The footprint of a real roundabout is bigger than an urban intersection. Below is a typical setting, this one at 13th Street & F Street.

traffic circle, 13th St & F St, Sacramento

Speed humps: Speed humps slow drivers crossing over them. Many people still call these speed bumps, but the sharp bumps are now illegal on streets and are only found in private parking lots. These can also be speed tables, longer than the humps, perhaps higher, and sometimes hosting a crosswalk on top. There are two problems with humps: 1) drivers with good suspensions can sail over these without slowing, and ironically the drivers of high value motor vehicles are the ones most likely to have good suspensions and to not slow for any reason; and 2) drivers accelerate back to speed immediately after the hump, so it only has a traffic calming effect at that particular point. Often speed humps have cut-throughs for emergency vehicles, so they don’t have to slow, but wide stance pickup trucks can use the same cut-throughs, and the cut-throughs are often placed so as to inconvenience bicyclists.

Stop signs: Stop signs calm traffic somewhat by requiring drivers to slow at intersections. Anyone who thinks that drivers actually stop at stop signs, in the absence of conflicting and risky traffic, has not actually stood at an intersection and observed driver behavior. Almost no one stops at stop signs unless they have to. This includes law enforcement officers. Stop signs are the most commonly requested traffic calming solutions by people who live on or near the street. But they are simply not very effective. Drivers accelerate away from the stop signs and are soon going just as fast as they were before, likely 10 to 25 mph over the posted speed limit. While not a major issue, this stop and go traffic adds to air pollution.

Traffic diverters: Traffic diverters turn motor vehicles off a street, but allow bicyclists through. There are a number of these in the central city, and in my opinion, they work great. The subsequent blocks are quiet and safe, at least until the street has regained traffic from other directions. They make is difficult to continue for long distances in a single line of travel, which is a good effect, as it discourages low value driving trips. My observation is that these also increase compliance with stop signs. It is true that some scofflaw drivers will go around these diverters, but at least they have slowed considerably to do so. Below is a typical diverter, this one at 20th Street & D Street.

traffic diverter, 20th St & D St, Sacramento

There are a number of other traffic calming treatments, but so far as I know none are present in the centra city, so I’ve not addressed them.

I don’t think the city should install any more median islands or traffic circles, due to the negative impact on bicyclists. However, I’m OK with letting those that exist remain, as bicyclists and walkers have grown accustomed to them and mostly know how to deal with them. I’m against more stop signs, except where a stop-controlled intersection replaces a signal-controlled intersection (of which there are a number of candidates in the central city). I don’t think speed humps are effective, and I see a speed hump as an admission of a failed street design.

What I would like to see is more traffic diverters, many of them! Every street that is not a one-way arterial in the central city should have a diverter about every eight blocks. This will make is less pleasant for commuters, who have to zig-zag to get where they are going. It will also cause locals to reconsider driving trips, realizing that bicycle or walking trips are easier and more straightforward. It will ensure that more of our streets are calm and peaceful, with less driver intimidation of walkers and bicyclists.

I hope to find the time to make a map of all the traffic diverters in the central city, and will add that reference here when I do.

J St construction zone bad to worse

Though in most cases the construction zone signing and barriers improve after they are reported (first time, second time, third time…), sometimes they get worse. I had reported to the Sac311 system that there was no advance warning of the sidewalk closed ahead on the south side of J Street, westbound, at 7th Street. This the left hand photo below.

The ‘correction’ was to place an incorrect sign at the location, which is more confusing than the lack of a sign. I observed and listened for a while to people looking at this location. Every single one commented on the confusion. Does the detour sign point to a detour, or does it mean to cross the street? There were discussions and even arguments within couples and groups. The sign is the wrong sign, and it is placed in a very confusing manner, angled toward the sidewalk rather than perpendicular to it. The clear indication is to continue along the sidewalk if one wants to go west on J Street, but this is incorrect, as the sidewalk is closed a short distance away. This is the right hand photo.

7th St & J St sw, no advance signing
7th St & J St sw, wrong advance signing

The correct sign of course is this one, MUTCD R9-11 right, placed perpendicular to the path of travel along J Street. It could be argued that the sign should be orange rather than red, indicating a temporary traffic control (TTC) device, but at this time the MUTCD does not offer this sign in this color.

J Street needs construction bypass

The future development, possibly to be called Anthem Cathedral Square, at J Street & 11th Street is currently a hole in the ground. The old buildings have been razed, and debris hauled away, but new construction has not started, so it will be some while before J Street on the north side of the site (south side of the street) returns to normal.

A channelized bypass should be created to carry the sidewalk for walkers and the bike lane for bicyclists past this construction site, between 10th St and 11th St, by removing a general purpose travel lane from J Street. The aerial below (before removal of the buildings) shows a sidewalk, a parking lane, a bicycle lane, three general purpose travel lanes, and a parking lane. The channelized bypass would include a shared pathway for walkers and bicyclists, in place of the right hand general purpose lane. The bypass can be created with use of orange construction barrier, as was done on 9th Street. This bypass would remain in place until construction is complete.

While the razing and cleanup was going on, there was decent signing, but it has disappeared or been moved to the side. The first set is the former signage at J St & 1oth St, and then today without an signage. There should be a sign here, the MUTCD R9-11; a barrier is not appropriate at this location since the closure is ahead and there are businesses open.

J St at 10th St se, signage
J St at 10th St se, no signage

At the sidewalk closure point, there is an acceptable barrier but no signage. At this point, it looks like there could be a bypass, but it is fenced off. The appropriate sign here is MUTCD R9-9.

J St past 10th St, sidewalk barrier

At J St & 11th St southeast corner, there was a barrier and signage, but the barrier has been moved to the side and the signage is gone. There should be a barrier and sign here to indicate that the crosswalk is closed. The third photo is an example of a correct barrier and signage.

11th St at J St se, signage
11th St at J St se, no signage
crosswalk closure barrier
correct barrier and signage

At J St & 11th St northwest corner, there should be a barrier and signing to indicate the crosswalk is closed, but neither is present.

J St & 11th St nw, no barrier or signage

This construction zone failure is one among many in Sacramento. The city is not creating traffic control plans that accommodate walkers and bicyclists, and the construction companies are not appropriately placing signs and barriers. This is a violation of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). Responsibility for encroachment permits (when the construction project goes into the public right of way, which includes sidewalks), and traffic control plans to mitigate the situation, rests with the City of Sacramento Department of Public Works.

I have created a new category, construction zone, which will make is easier to find other posts on the construction zone topic. Photos of many construction zone locations are on Flicker in Sac construction-zone album.

9th St update

Things have changed again. The construction zone on the east side of 9th Street between K Street and L Street has changed again. The east parking lane and east travel lane are now dedicated to the construction project, the general purpose lane has been shifted right into the west parking lane, and the combined pedestrian/bicyclist bypass is now in what was the right hand general purpose lane.

One the plus side, detectable strips have been added to the left side of the bypass, which are required to provide protection from trip and crash hazards presented by the fence bases. Photo below.

detectable strips along bypass on 9th St

The entrance to the bypass is still awkward, too narrow and poorly signed. There are still corrections to be made.

entrance to pedestrian/bicyclist bypass on 9th St

Previous posts: 9th Street update, 9th St fixed, sort of, and 9th St blocked by construction.

parking instead of housing

I am working on a project to find some of the land in the central city that could be housing instead of empty land, or surface parking lots. To me, every surface parking lot is a crime against the climate because it spreads out housing and other amenities to the point where driving becomes preferred if not necessary. But while comparing the county parcel map to the current land use, I was struck by what a sad, sad loss of housing there has been, particularly in the downtown section of the central city. To highlight this, I picked a block very close to where I live, the block bounded by P Street, Q Street, 11th Street, and 12th Street. On this entire block, there is one temporary building, a state child care center, and a small power facility related to the SacRT light rail tracks on 12th Street.

The image below shows the county parcels, labeled with addresses, overlaid on up-to-date ESRI Imagery layer. The child care building is in the lower right corner, at the intersection of 12th Street and P Street, and the SacRT facility is on the unlabeled square on 12th Street. The entire remainder of the block is parking. Some of the parking is state-owned, some privately owned. Every single one of these parcels at one time had either housing or business, or both, though there is some indication that the northwest corner large lot may have been a gas station for a period of time.

Sacramento parcels overlaid on imagery, P Street to Q Street, and 11th Street to 12th Street

I first looked at Google Earth historical imagery, but the only fact from that is that in 1993 all of the block had been converted to parking, and the child care center was probably there (the photo is fuzzy). Then I looked through Center for Sacramento History photos. I have only started through the archive, but did find some photos of the block or nearby blocks. One things that surprised me is that in the early 1950s homes were already being torn down to build state buildings. The photo below shows 1116, 1118, and 1124 P Street in 1949. If I’m able to get a better image, I will replace this one. It shows what seems to be typical of housing in this area, single-family and multi-family mixed in.

The Sacramento Redevelopment Agency was established by 1951, and its mission was to remove all housing that didn’t meet its standards, which meant all housing occupied by lower income and people of color, centering on Japantown.

CADA (Capitol Area Development Authority) was established in 1978 to save what little was left of housing in downtown, so it is probable that the housing had been torn down by the state or city well prior to that. If so, that means that this block has been a parking lot for at least 43 years. Probably much longer, perhaps back into the 1950s. What used to be homes and businesses, has been essentially worthless for that entire time. So, so sad.

For more info on the destruction of downtown, I recommend any books by local author Bill Burg (in local bookstores for paper copies or on Amazon for Kindle copies). You can also find a number of papers and research documents on the Internet by searching ‘Sacramento redevelopment’. I have hardly scratched the surface.

There are several entire blocks of parking in downtown, and many, many blocks that are mostly parking. What a waste!

I ask that the state transfer all surface parking lots under its control to CADA. The state has as many office buildings as it will ever need, but there is no housing to support the office workers, and particularly the lower income maintenance workers that support these office buildings. More to come on that idea.

I welcome historians, particularly Bill Burg, to correct or amplify my information.

Sac Vision Zero Top 5 Corridors and top intersections

As promised in my previous post, Sac Vision Zero flaws, here is a limited analysis of high injury network intersections in Sacramento. I used bicycle crashes for 2014 through 2018 from the SWITRS crash database, and matched these to intersections of arterials and collectors in the city. It is known that most crashes occur at or near intersections, not in between. Of the 1112 crashes in this time period, 763 occurred at intersections, or 69% (for all crash types, the city said it is 78%). I selected eight intersections to highlight, which had 4, 5, or 7 crashes at the intersection or within 120 feet of the intersection, meaning on the approach or departure from the intersection. The other 590 intersections had 3, 2, 1, or no crashes. I did not analyze the crashes for fatality or serious injury, but that would be a useful.

The map below shows the Sacramento Vision Zero Top 5 Corridors, in red, and the top eight crash intersections with a bicycle symbol. The number to the right is crashes, and the location is labeled with cross streets. This is also available as a pdf.

Of the eight intersections, one is part of the Florin corridor, at 24th Street and Florin Road. The other seven are not.

I ask that the city revise its Vision Zero program to include high injury intersections. The number might be as many as 10, and selection should include the same equity criteria used to select the corridors. That means that the three central city locations might not be selected, or might be lower on the priority list, and that is good. The challenge of the Stockton Blvd & Fruitridge Road intersection is that it is on the city/county boundary, so complete treatment of the intersection would require some cooperation with the county. But with seven bicycle crashes in the time period, it is a very important intersection.

A strong advantage to giving high injury intersections recognition and attention is that they could receive near-term safety improvements that require only reallocation of roadway width and new paint. Full safety improvements probably would require redesign of the intersection.

Again, I fully support the city’s Vision Zero efforts, and want to see them be the best they can be. That means including high injury intersections.

Addition 2021-03-02: Someone asked how the bicycle collision locations relate to disadvantaged communities. Below, a map with CalEnviroScreen 3 2018-06 (CES) layer, with red end being higher pollution, green being lower, and weighted with income. CES is not the only measure of disadvantage, but it is one commonly used.

Sac Vision Zero flaws

Edit: Added graphics for El Camino – Grove intersection and Broadway – Stockton intersection, excerpted from the Sacramento Vision Zero Top 5 Corridors document.

The Sacramento city council will be considering the new Sacramento Vision Zero Top 5 Corridors document at the council meeting on Tuesday, February 15. It is item 11 on the consent agenda, so will not be discussed unless a council member pulls it from the consent agenda.

I have taken a look at the document, though the one included with the with the agenda is a flat file, not searchable, and with low resolution graphics, making it hard to use. When a high resolution and searchable version becomes available, I’ll link to it.

The document continues the pattern established in the 2018 Vision Zero Action Plan of focusing on corridors and not on intersections. The five segments presented as the top five are segments of El Camino Avenue, Marysville Road, Broadway/Stockton Blvd, Stockton Blvd south, and Florin Road. I believe that this exclusive focus on corridors is a mistake. Nearly all other vision zero communities have a dual focus on corridors and intersections, but Sacramento does not.

The Vision Zero Action Plan acknowledges on page 11 that 78% of collisions occur at intersections, but then seems to ignore this fact in pursuit of corridor projects. Of course if a corridor is done correctly, the intersections will be fixed as part of the project. The issue is that these corridor projects will cost millions of dollars and will require seeking state and federal grants to accomplish. The costs are El Camino $16,450,000, Marysville $12,850,000, Broadway/Stockton $8,750,000, Stockton South $9,500,000, and Florin $11,900,000. And these are only for the most important fixes; less important or more expensive fixes are somewhere off in the distant future. But a focus on the high injury intersections within the corridor could yield significant safety benefit at much lower cost, perhaps within the range of general fund expenditures.

This focus on corridors leads to some flaws in the corridor plans. On El Camino, the plan misses that there is a dropped bike lane at eastbound at Grove Avenue and therefore does not recommend the countermeasure Extend Bike Lane to Intersection. At the Broadway/Stockton intersection, the plan does not recommend the countermeasure Bike Conflict Zone Markings for Broadway eastbound and westbound approaching Stockton, and seems to completely drop the bike lane on Stockton northbound approaching, even though a bike lane is already present there.

El Camino Ave & Grove Ave intersection
Broadway & Stockton Blvd intersection

Re-striping of lanes at intersections and green paint could make many intersections a great deal safer without requiring expensive intersection reconstruction and new signals. I recently wrote about Dropped bike lanes, using Broadway/Stockton as an example. Paint could fix a lot of the problems here.

The concerns expressed here are with bicycle facilities. I actually think pedestrian (walker) facilities are more important, but it will take a lot more time to look closely at those.

The bicycle-related countermeasures recommended in the Vision Zero Top 5 Corridors are:

  • Bike Conflict Zone Markings: Green pavement within a bike lane to increase visibility of bicyclists and to reinforce bike priority. The green pavement is used as a spot treatment in conflict areas such as driveways.
  • Class II Bike Lanes: Five to seven foot wide designated lanes for ‘bicyclists adjacent to vehicle travel lanes, delineated with pavement markings.
  • Close Bike Lane Gap: Closing gaps between bike lanes increases the amount of dedicated facilities bicyclists can use, reducing mixing of bicyclists and drivers and Increasing network connectivity and visibility of bicyclists m the roadway.
  • Extend Bike Lane to Intersection: In locations where a bike lane is dropped due to the addition of a right tum pocket the intersection approach may be re-striped to allow for bicyclists to move to the left side of right-turning vehicles ahead of reaching the intersection.
  • Provide Green Time For Bikes: Provide or prolong the green phase when bicyclists are present to provide additional time for bicyclist to clear the intersection. Can occur automatically in the signal phasing or when prompted with bike detection. Topography should be considered in clearance time.
  • Remove Right Turn Slip Lane: Closing a free-flow right-turn slip lane can help slow right turning drivers, eliminates an uncontrolled crossing for pedestrians, and shortens pedestrian crossing distances. The space reclaimed in closing the slip lane can be reused as pedestrian widen sidewalks, enhance curb ramps, more space for street furniture.
  • Separated/Buffered Bikeway: Designated bike lanes, separated from vehicle traffic by a physical barrier usually bollards, landscaping, or parked cars. These facilities can increase safety by decreasing opportunities for crashing with overtaking vehicles, and reducing the risk of dooring.
  • Slow Green Wave: A series of traffic signals, coordinated to allow for slower vehicle travel speeds through several intersections along a corridor. Coordinating signals for slower travel speeds gives bicyclists and pedestrians mare time to cross safely and encourages drivers to travel at slower speeds.

I support the Vision Zero concept and city actions to support this, but I want to make sure that both are the best they can be. I hope to look in the near future at the pedestrian elements of the Vision Zero Top 5 Corridors, the Vision Zero School Safety Study, and the high-injury intersections in Sacramento that have been missed through a focus on corridors.

Slow & Active Streets signs

I went by the Slow & Active Streets again today. Ali Doerr Westbrook and Katie Valenzuela had a table set up on 26th Street at K Street to inform the public, and giving out Valentine’s goodie and bike network maps.

Since Friday, the signs have been moved out into the street, rather than on the side. I spent some time watching traffic, and this placement does seem more effective. I saw people starting to turn onto the routes and then not, and also drivers going less than a block to homes.

Slow & Active Street signing, O Street

An unexpected feature was that the traffic signals on 26th Street had been set to flashing red along 26th and the cross streets. I was surprised because it is rare that the city changes traffic signal operations for anything.

I heard from people that the street had been very active yesterday on a warm sunny day, but there weren’t a lot of people out today. More bicyclists than walkers. Everyone seems very happy to see this program in effect.

One driver stopped while I was taking a photo, to ask what I thought. He then mentioned that he lived on O Street, and was very happy to see this traffic calming, as he said many drivers went way to fast on O Street, coming off 21st Street (which is a one-way street with higher traffic speeds even though posted 25 mph).

So far, so good.

1500 S St infill

The house at 1500 S Street, and commercial building at 1506/1508 S Street, have been razed in preparation for a new development.

1500/1506/1508 S St, Sacramento

I am curious about redevelopment/infill projects in the central city because they have the potential to increase housing, allowing more people to live in the central city, improving economic vibrancy for businesses and property/sales tax for the government. At the same time, I know that perfectly viable Victorian houses have been torn down for redevelopment, so I’m not always in favor of these projects.

The house at 1500 S Street had been unoccupied for years. Same with the commercial building at 1506/1508 S Street. Houses on three adjacent lots were razed sometime between July 2015 and February 2018. As much detail as I was able to gather from Zillow and Google Earth historical imagery is below. I think it is interesting that the houses had survived for 95 years, 103 years, 101 years, and 108 years, whereas the commercial building lasted at most 36 years. So many commercial building are disposable, often not built to last, and not worth modifying or reconstructing. The house on the corner, 1500 S Street, looked to be in poor condition. I don’t know about the other three houses.

  • 1500 S St, house 926 sf, lot 3200 sf, 1926, gone 02/2021
  • 1506/1508 S St, building, built after 12/1985, gone 02/2021
  • 1512 S St, 3,129 sf, lot 6400 sf, 1915, present 7/2015, gone 5/2018
  • 1516 S St, 1,177 sf, lot 6400 sf, 1915, present 7/2015, gone 7/2016
  • 1522 S St, 876 sf, lot 6400 sf, 1910, present 7/2015, gone 2/2018

The combined lots sold for $5,125,000 in 2019.

The information I was able to find about plans for the location are: Anthem Acquires an Infill Project in Sacramento, Anthem Properties submits plan for site near R Street Corridor (2020-04-27, firewalled), and Downtown Sacramento Partnership 1500 S, all indicating a mixed use building of eight stories.

1500 S Street, from SacBiz