City of Sacramento staff (Drew Hart) presented to the Sacramento Active Transportation Commission last Thursday on the Freeport Boulevard Emerging Design Concepts. The presentation slides are here. The city’s Freeport webpage has a lot of background material. A link to the virtual open house on April 28 (tomorrow!) is available. This project and the Northgate project are being supported by the same consultant, so you will notice similarities in the process and graphics.
The northern section, between Sutterville Road to the east and Sutterville Road to the west, should look exactly like the traffic-calmed, complete street to the north. This project on Freeport was successful. There is no reason for five lanes in this section. One lane northbound, one lane southbound, and one left turn lane southbound is all it needs. If traffic backs up at the Freeport and Sutterville Road to the east intersection, then shorten the signal cycle.
The emerging design document skips over the issue of whether four general purpose lanes are even needed. A concept should be presented that reduces general purpose lanes to two, and reallocates roadway width to other modes.
Dedicated right hand turn lanes should be removed everywhere. Dedicated left hand turn lanes should be provided only where traffic studies have shown a clear need, and should never reduce the roadway width for other uses.
Green lanes are shown behind protection for separated bikeways. Since the protection does or should prevent vehicle incursion, the paint is not needed.
Dedicated transit lanes should be considered. Though SacRT has not identified this as a high frequency route in the High Capacity Bus Service Study (Route 62 is 30-minute frequency), reconstruction of the roadway must consider the possibility of dedicated transit lanes and transit supporting infrastructure. Appendix A, available on the project webpage, provides a lot of detail about existing transit stops, which are mostly quite poor.
Some businesses along Freeport have multiple driveways, more than are justified by the amount of vehicle traffic access. Closure and narrowing of driveways should be considered. Since almost every business has parking fronting the street, no on-street parking is needed anywhere. This is poor urban design, but it is the nature of the corridor and could not be corrected without wholesale reconstruction of the corridor.
While separated bikeways are often a good solution, the frequency of driveways might make for poor quality infrastructure. Unless driveways can be closed or reconfigured, separated bikeways may not be the best solution.
Posted speed AND design speed should be considered for reduction. Posted speed is 30 mph from Sutterville Rd (to the east) to Arica Way, 35 mph from Arica Way to Fruitridge Rd, and 40 mph from Fruitridge Rd to Blair Ave. The section from Sutterville Rd (to the east) to Fruitridge Rd should be posted and designed for 25 mph, in recognition of the density of businesses and driveways. The section from Fruitridge to Blair Ave should be posted and designed for 30 mph, as it has a lower density of businesses and driveways, and is adjacent to the airport for a significant distance.
Prioritization of the modes for Sutterville (to the east) and Fruitridge Rd should be:
Prioritization of the modes for Fruitridge Rd to Blair Ave should be:
Crash/collision map of the Northgate Blvd corridor for pedestrians (walkers) and bicyclists. Data is from SWITRS for the years 2015-2019. (pdf)
Update: Added a crash/collision map at the bottom. Though prevention of pedestrian and bicyclist killed and severe injury is always a top priority, this is not a high risk corridor as compared to many arterials in the city.
City of Sacramento staff (Leslie Mancebo) presented to the Sacramento Active Transportation Commission last Thursday on the Northgate Boulevard Emerging Design Concepts. The presentation slides are here. The city’s Northgate webpage has a lot of background material. A link to the virtual open house on May 11 is available.
I rode Northgate Blvd yesterday to refresh my memory about the street, as I’d not gone that way in a while. So, some comments:
The section of Northgate from Rio Tierra to I-80 is a standard suburban arterial, with low quality development and a completely uninteresting place to be. Changes to the roadway may make it safer, but won’t make it any more interesting or economically successful. The city should not focus on this area. It is unpleasant, and not particularly safe, but leave it be.
The section of Northgate from Rio Tierra to Garden Hwy has serious issues, but I see it as a place that could be transformed into an interesting, welcoming, and vibrant place. The number of small businesses, each with a driveway, is a challenge, but also an opportunity. At least half of the businesses are locally owned. This is not the home of big box and chain stores like much of the suburbs. It IS a place where people could walk if provided a safe and encouraging environment, and there are multiple destinations used by local residents.
I think that this entire segment should have buffered and wide sidewalks. The bike facilities could provide some buffer, but the sidewalk buffer is critical because it allows street trees. This section desperately needs street trees! Of course to be successful, the buffer/planting strip needs to be at least six feet, and the sidewalk at least six feet, but eight-ten foot buffer and eight foot sidewalk would be better. I think that the walking mode should take precedence over all other modes, even bicycling and transit, so whatever right-of-way the buffer and sidewalk needs, it should get. Don’t compromise this away.
I realize this project is at the gathering community input stage. However, diagrams will be used, and I’d like to see the diagrams include significant improvement to the pedestrian environment, wide sidewalks buffered from other modes, with trees in the buffer.
The presentation resulted in a number of questions from commission members about bicycle facilities. One of the ideas that got support is a two-way separated bikeway (or cycletrack) to provide a connection between the Ninos multiple use trail and the American River Parkway multiple use trail (the ‘special section’ in the presentation). There was less agreement about bicycle facilities north of there. One of the ideas is separated bikeways (protected bike lanes). Though of course separated bikeways are the best solution overall, I’m not sure they make sense for the east side of the street. Separated bikeways work best when there are few or no driveways, but there is a huge numbers of driveways here. The west side of the street has far fewer driveways.
There are some opportunities on the corridor for reducing driveways, and certainly some of the driveways can be narrowed to reduce entry and exit speeds. But short of a wholesale revision of the area, most driveways will remain, so the street design must accommodate this fact.
Transit on the part of the corridor between Arden Way and San Juan Road is provided by SacRT Route 13 Natomas/Arden, with a 45 minute frequency on weekdays. The route has a fairly low ridership, but it is a long route of which the Northgate section is a small part.
Crash/collision map of the Northgate Blvd corridor for pedestrians (walkers) and bicyclists. Data is from SWITRS for the years 2015-2019. (pdf)
Take the information about fault below with a huge grain of salt. It is well known that law enforcement officers assume walkers and bicyclists to be at fault, without any serious investigation, and often on the sole word of the driver involved.
Northgate near Rosin Ct: killed, 60 yo male, unknown detail, no fault, no alcohol
Northgate near Ozark Cir: severe injury, 74 yo female, crossing, at fault, alcohol
Northgate at Wisconsin: severe injury, 36 yo female with two children, crossing, driver fault
Northgate at Peralta: severe injury, 48 yo, crossing Peralta, at fault (very unlikely)
Northgate near Winter Garden: severe injury, 49 yo male, left turn, at fault
Northgate at Bridgeford: killed, 47 yo male, crossing, at fault, alcohol or drug
Northgate at Harding: killed, 31 yo female, left turn, at fault
Northgate at Garden Hwy: severe injury, 40-44 yo male, broadside, at fault CVC 21453
The intersections of Northgate and San Juan Rd, West El Camino, and Garden Hwy/Jefferson Ave are particularly problematic because they are flared out to accommodate turning lanes, thereby lengthening crossing distances for walkers and creating a walker-hostile environment. Fixing these intersections would probably do more to improve the safety and feeling of this corridor than changes along the corridor.
Many organizations and individuals are deciding to oppose the transportation sales tax measure being proposed for the November 2022 ballot in Sacramento County. The reasons for opposition are many, but previous posts here (Measure 2022) cover significant ones. If the measure does not qualify for the ballot, or does qualify and fails, what then are we to do for transportation? Below are some ideas for a safe and effective transportation system. They are not yet well organized or prioritized.
I acknowledge the contribution of Walkable City Rules by Jeff Speck to this list. If you haven’t read it, please do. I don’t agree with everything he says, but it is the best prescription for correcting our transportation system and healing our cities that I know of. See also Measure 2022: the path not taken.
The realities of climate change and social justice demand a radical redesign of our existing transportation system and radical shift in transportation policies and investments. More of the same, with slight improvements, as the sales tax measure suggests, will not serve our needs now or in the future. See also our racist and classist transportation system.
all projects must contribute to or be neutral in reaching regional (SACOG) and state goals for reducing VMT and GHG (vehicle miles traveled, greenhouse gas emissions)
travel modes will be prioritized as: 1) active transportation (walking and bicycling), 2) transit, and 3) motor vehicles
sales taxes are regressive, and will not be the default mechanism for funding transportation projects
travel needs of people who don’t or can’t drive (children, elderly, disabled, choice) will receive at least the same concern and investment as those who do drive
at least 60% of transportation investments must serve formerly underinvested communities
transportation projects will be selected and designed to meet community needs previously expressed through community engagement; projects will not be selected by transportation agencies or employees
anti-displacement measures will be included in all transportation projects
no investments will be made in transitioning motor vehicles from fossil fuels to electric or hydrogen, except where formerly underinvested communities need supporting infrastructure; transitioning vehicles away from fossil fuels merely maintains motor vehicle dominance of our transportation system
all projects over $10M will require a health impact analysis
agencies will educate the public about H+T (housing and transportation) costs as a measure of housing affordability
roadways will be maintained in a state of good repair to serve all travel modes
transportation planning will be integrated with land use planning
only agencies that acknowledge and plan around induced travel demand will receive transportation funding
all transportation agencies must implement a robust complete streets policy which includes frequent, safe crossings of roadways and speed reductions
congestion pricing will be considered as a solution in all dense urban areas, to reduce motor vehicle travel and to fund transportation projects; pricing will be based at least in part on vehicle weight, value or emissions
cities and counties will not accept responsibility for maintaining local roadways in new developments; therefore, new development must establish reserve accounts to cover ongoing maintenance
all transportation agencies must establish and implement Vision Zero policies in which redesign of roadways is a preferred action
at least 25% of transportation funds must be spent on Vision Zero projects
all roadway fatalities will be analyzed using a safe systems approach, with required change to the roadway design or use to prevent future fatalities
implement 10-foot or less travel lanes whenever a roadway is repaved; remove striping from local streets
all new developments will require a grid street system of one-eighth mile so that the need for arterials and collectors is reduced
consider all right-turn-only and left-turn-only lanes for elimination
eliminate slip lanes everywhere
require signal cycles to be 90 seconds or less
eliminate level-of-service (LOS) in transportation planning
conversions of one-way streets to two-way streets will be funded; one-way one-lane streets will be considered an acceptable design for local streets and central cities
overly wide roadways will be reduced, with unneeded right-of-way returned to adjacent property owners or sold for infill housing
rougher pavements such as brick will be considered whenever slower traffic speeds are desired (but crosswalks will be smoother than the pavement)
wherever possible, automated enforcement will be used to enforce vehicle code that protects vulnerable users, rather than direct enforcement by law enforcement officers
violations which to do not threaten the safety of other roadway users will be de-prioritized or removed, with reduced fees if maintained
temporary or permanent vehicle confiscation will be used for egregious violators of vehicle codes
cities and county shall have the authority to do city-wide and county-wide reductions of posted speed limits, with or without corresponding changes to roadway design; redesign is of course preferred
all on-street motor vehicle parking in urban areas will be charged, either through curb metering or though flat fees
parking fees will be used to:
cover the cost of providing on-street parking construction and maintenance, and parking enforcement
improve transportation and economic vitality within the neighborhood that generates them, and therefore will not go into the general fund
parking minimums will be eliminated
de-couple parking from rent so that car-free renters are not subsidizing renters with cars
parking will be managed to maintain a level of availability on every block (similar to the Shoup 85% rule)
removal of on-street parking for higher uses such as active transportation, dining, and community spaces will be supported; however, removal of a travel lane rather than removal of parking is preferred
remove parking upstream of intersection corners to ensure visibility (daylighting); not needed when curb extensions provide the visibility
parking lanes/areas will be maintained to a reduced and less expensive level than roadways
freeway removal, reduction, or decking will be considered for all freeways
new interchanges must be 100% paid for by private development
in urban areas, reconnect street networks over or under freeways at no less than one-half mile intervals, and provide pedestrian and bicyclist connections at no less than one-quarter mile intervals
managed lanes must be converted from general purpose lanes, not created through capacity expansion
transit performance measures will be developed, with a tentative goal that 80% of the population is served by 15 minute or better frequency bus or rail service, within one-half mile, for at least 15 hours per day on weekdays and 12 hours per day on weekends
transit will not be used as a mitigation for roadway expansion or induced motor vehicle travel; transit is a desirable mode in and of itself
transit will be funded to at least the equivalent of one-half cent of sales tax
dedicated bus lanes or bus rapid transit (BRT) design will be implemented on all high ridership bus routes
transit agencies will have flexibility to allocate funds between capital, maintenance, and operations, based on established criteria
metered freeway on-ramps serving four or more regular (non-commute) buses per hour will have bus bypass lanes
Sidewalks and Crosswalks
sidewalks will be considered an integral part of the transportation network, and therefore maintained by transportation agencies rather than property owners, except where trees or work on private property impacts the sidewalk; buffer strips in which trees are planted will be considered public responsibility
sidewalk infill will be considered a primary use of transportation funds, with at least 60% going to formerly underinvested neighborhoods
sidewalks with driveway ramps that slope the sidewalk crosswise will be replaced with continuous flat sidewalks, or the driveway eliminated
all traffic signals that have a pedestrian signal head will be programmed with a leading pedestrian interval (LPI) of at least 3 seconds
required pedestrian-activation will be eliminated (buttons to trigger audible information are acceptable); pedestrian auto-detection will be considered
raised crosswalks or raised intersections will be the default design for all reconstructed intersections
all crosswalks will be marked, with the possible exception of purely residential areas
pedestrian crossing prohibitions will be analyzed and eliminated where not strictly necessary for safety
curb extensions, the width of parking lanes and designed to not interfere with bicycling, will be installed whenever intersections are modified or reconstructed
bike facilities on any roadway with a posted speed limit over 30mph must be separated (protected) bikeways
bike facilities on any roadway with a posted speed limit over 40 mph must be separated from the roadway
roadway design will be used to make bicycle facilities unnecessary on low speed streets
design and implement low-stress bicycle networks
prioritize filling gaps in the bicycle network
re-stripe or re-design roadways so that bike lanes or separated bikeways are not dropped at intersections
bike share, and possibly scooter share, will be supported with transportation funds
secure, on-demand bicycle parking will be provided at common destinations; bicycle racks will be provided at common destinations and on every block in urbanized areas
school districts will have the authority to close roadways fronting the main entrance to a school, during arrival and dismissal times, in order to increase student safety and protection from air pollutants
Safe Routes to School programs or similar will be supported by transportation funds at the local level
school districts will be prohibited from building new schools at locations which are not easily accessible via active transportation or transit
school districts will prioritize neighborhood schools over magnet schools, in order to reduce travel
school districts will develop policies that allow neighborhood schools to remain open under declining enrollment
school districts will be responsible for the same transportation demand management requirements placed on any other entity
Thank you if you read all the way through. I realize some of these are radical ideas, but radical ideas make space for more reasonable ideas provided by others. That is part of the purpose of this blog.
I don’t think the five categories should be weighted equally. If the city were starting with a blank slate, it would make sense, but the slate is not blank. Out existing transportation system is profoundly racist and classist, so the city must overcome past harms by focusing improvements on low income and communities of color. Rather than being 20% of the scoring, ‘Provide Equitable Investment’ should be 40%.
I’ve also come to understand this this is a technical document, not a policy document. The only real policy here is that criteria will be used to select projects, not whim. This is acknowledged to be an immense improvement. But it is only one of many needed policies.
What is a policy? A statement that controls how the city designs and operates the transportation network. An existing policy is the goal that all streets will have a pavement condition index (PCI) or at least 72. Examples of new policies:
All sidewalks will be maintained in a state of good repair by the city. Adjacent property owners will be responsible only when a tree on private property, not in the sidewalk buffer, creates root heaves, or when construction activity damages the sidewalk.
Every crash resulting in a fatality or severe injury will be investigated by a team including a traffic engineer, a planner, a representative of a walking or bicycling advocacy organization (Civic Thread and/or SABA), and a citizen who lives in the neighborhood and regularly walks and/or bicycles. A recommendation for changes will be made, and at least one recommendation implemented. ‘No change’ will not be acceptable.
What is a project? In the city’s understanding, a project is something big, a project that requires a federal, state or SACOG grant, a project that will involve concrete and/or asphalt, and constructors to install it. What is not seen as a project is lower cost changes, many of which could be accomplished with staff time and small expenditures. Examples of lower cost projects:
Change every pedestrian signal in the city to have at least a 3 second leading pedestrian interval (LPI) in which the walker gets a head start into the crosswalk. Staff time costs, no materials costs.
Remove pedestrian beg buttons from all signals in the city. Leave buttons which trigger ADA audible signals, but label them with that function. Staff time costs, some materials costs (for the new signs).
Install temporary curb extensions at the top five fatality or severe injury intersections, every year. Observe usage and transit to refine the design for permanent curb extensions some staff time, some materials costs (paint and posts).
A lot more could be said about each of these policies and projects, and I will, but for now the caution is that the TPP will only be effective if additional policies are implemented, and projects broadly defined to include the small, lower cost stuff, not just big projects.
I almost continuously find myself thinking about our transportation system, as it exists now, and wondering, how did we get here? How did we get to a car dominated city, where the lives of people who walk and bicycle and take transit are valued less than those who drive? How come our sidewalks are in poor condition, and the city insists that it is not their problem to solve? How come we spend nearly all of our transportation dollars on freeways and interchanges, and relatively very little on streets? How come people outside cars don’t feel safe, both from traffic and from concerns about personal safety? How come the police don’t enforce laws against driver behavior which endangers people walking – specifically, egregious speeding on streets, and failure to yield to people in crosswalks? How come the city is so spread out that many people feel it necessary to drive? How come?
Well, the answer is obvious for those who care to look, and to think. We have a transportation system that was built around racist and classist values. The City of Sacramento (and Caltrans) built freeways through low income neighborhoods, on purpose. The freeways were built, not for the benefit of the communities they run through, but for commuters passing through, on their way from single family houses to jobs. The freeways don’t even serve freight and commerce very well, because they are congested with commuter traffic through which trucks must crawl. The city and Caltrans are further widening these freeways, as we speak.
The city approved developments, from World War II onward, that did not have sidewalks. Of course there are some neighborhoods, high income, that don’t want sidewalks because they want to preserve that rural feeling, but I doubt there was ever a middle income or low income neighborhood that didn’t want sidewalks. The city did not require them because leaving them out made for a higher profit for developers, less space taken up by sidewalks, and lower street construction costs. (I am not against developers, but governments routinely cave to developer requests to reduce infrastructure costs, rather than ensuring good infrastructure for all citizens).
And where there are sidewalks? They are often in poor condition. I live in the central city, where sidewalks get repaired, or at least patched. But I also walk in other neighborhoods populated by lower income people of color. There, the sidewalks are not in good condition. Many are too narrow for people to walk side-by-side, and certainly too narrow for people with mobility devices to pass. Curb ramps are scarce. Root heaves go unrepaired. People park blocking sidewalks, and the city does not enforce that. Most city parking enforcement is focused on the central city, where there is metered parking and therefore easy-to-write tickets. The outlying areas, where sidewalks are much more frequently blocked by illegal parking, not so much.
The city has started to pay more attention to low income neighborhoods and people of color. There have been projects completed, and awarded but not constructed, that start to address the past inequities. But it is too little, and too slow. The city is still focused on maintaining the speed and flow of motor vehicles, and not on the people who live here.
The city is also making progress on allowing a greater density of homes, both infill in the central city and incremental densification of single family house neighborhoods. But they are also encouraging and supporting greenfield developments at the periphery, which exacerbates all of these problems.
You might think I’m picking on the City of Sacramento. No. All of this is true of every other city and unincorporated place in the region. But the city is where I live, and where I experience this every day.
I am a white, male, older, middle class person. I am not the person against who these harms were directed, other than being a walker, bicyclist, and transit user.
Why is this history important? If we don’t recognize the racist and classist nature of our existing transportation system, we can’t undo the damage done in the past, and make sure that it never happens again in the future. I think the recognition of this should part of every discussion on transportation, of every engineering and planning action. In the same way that an acknowledgement of native lands helps us remember the harms of the past, the need to address these, and the people still living here, an acknowledgement of the racist and classist transportation system can help us to a better system.
These concerns fall under the category of equity, but I’ve not used that word here. Equity has largely become a checkbox for transportation agencies, and when it is taken seriously only says “we’ll do better in the future”, it does not recognize the damage to be reversed.
Since I’d like this to be part of every discussion and decision, I welcome your input on how to make this statement more succinct and powerful.
Where two previous posts come together (Reset for SacATC and don’t forget the little things) is suggested policies for the City of Sacramento that support walking for many reasons: to protect vulnerable users from drivers, to reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and thereby greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), to create a walking-first city where everyone feels safe to walk, and to support infill housing that is the next most important action to reduce GHGs. I’ll make a brief suggestion for a policy that would implement each walking idea.
These are the policies that the Sacramento Active Transportation Commission (SacATC) should be addressing, and then making recommendations to the city council. I’ll be blunt: if SacATC is not addressing these issues, then why does it exist?
The ideas presented are, not in any priority order (numbers for reference only):
1. Mark crosswalks at every intersection. Except in purely residential neighborhoods, these should be zebra design. Policy: The city will mark (paint) every crosswalk in the city. The standard will be zebra or continental markings (the solid bars), but parallel lines are acceptable at purely residential intersections. Implementation within one year. Considerations: Yes, this will be expensive to install and to maintain. But the safety benefit makes this a great investment. Since the DMV fails to ensure that drivers understand that every intersection has crosswalks whether marked or not, it is incumbent on the city to mark crosswalks.
2. Daylight intersections by removing parking from within 15 feet of every crosswalk, at least on the near side (far side is a lesser safety benefit) Policy: Marked parking spots will be removed from within 20 feet of an intersection on the near side. Unmarked parking will be converted to no parking with red curb offsets of 20 feet. The resulting area may be used for shared rideables parking. Where a curb extension is present, parking need not be removed. Implementation within two years. Considerations: This increases visibility at every intersection by making walkers more visible to motorists (and bicyclists), and making vehicles more visible to people walking. Near side means the first crosswalk at every intersection in the direction of travel. Removal of parking on the far side confers little safety benefit.
3. Re-program traffic signals to create leading pedestrian intervals, everywhere. Policy: Every traffic signal with a pedestrian signal head will be programmed to offer a leading pedestrian interval (LPI) of at least three seconds. Implementation within one year. Considerations: The greatest risk walkers face at intersections is right-turning drivers who do not yield to people in the crosswalk. The LPI gives walkers a head start so that they are visible to drivers while the traffic light is still red. State law will soon be changed to allow bicyclists to also use the LPI.
4. Remove or properly label every pedestrian push button. Don’t make walkers play the guessing game. Except at very low use intersections, pedestrian signals should be on auto-recall. Policy: Every pedestrian push button will either be removed or labeled with its function. Implementation within one year. Considerations: The presence of push buttons without indication of whether they are necessary to push is a case of clear discrimination against people walking. The city has refused to change signage to indicate whether the push button activates a signal change, triggers an audible warning only, or does nothing at all. In the long run, all pedestrian signals everywhere should be on auto-recall, meaning no push is needed, but this correctly labeling the button is the first step.
5. Remove pedestrian prohibitions which serve traffic flow rather than safety of walkers. This is the majority of them. Policy: The city will study every instance of a pedestrian prohibition to determine if the prohibition is necessary to ensure safety for people walking. Traffic flow will not be used to justify a prohibition. Each location where the study determines there is no safety benefit for walkers will be removed, crosswalks marked, and appropriate pedestrian signal heads installed. Implementation within three years. Considerations: Most, though not all, of these pedestrian prohibitions were installed to promote the flow of traffic, not to protect walkers. Studies will result in the removal of most.
6. Install traffic diverters (modal filters) on about one-quarter of all streets, at no less than 1/8 mile intervals. This discourages through-traffic on most streets, and discourages longer driving trips, while being permeable to bicyclists and walkers. Policy: At every location in the city where a grid street system or alternate travel streets are available, the city will install traffic diverters (modal filters) which require motor vehicles to turn off current street. The interval should be no less than 1/8 mile. This will not apply to designated collector or arterial streets. Implementation within for years. Considerations: Diverters discourage drivers from traveling long distances on streets which should be low traffic, and they also slow traffic. Diverters are the most effective traffic calming device available. Despite the clear effectiveness of the existing diverters, the city has decided not to install any more. This policy would reverse that unofficial policy. Where a grid street system exists, diverters are completely appropriate. Unfortunately the winding streets and lack of connectivity in the sprawling parts of the city make these impractical.
7. Charge for all street parking, everywhere, even in residential neighborhoods. Policy: End all free street parking. Charge residents a reasonable fee for a parking permit that covers the cost of maintaining the portion of the street that contains the parking. Set fees for paid parking in such a way that there is always at least one open parking spot on every block. Implement within one year. Considerations: The city has done much better at managing paid parking, raising rates to more closely reflect (though not fully cover) the actual costs to the city. But outside of paid parking areas, drivers are getting a free ride, which encourages ownership and use of vehicles, contributing to VMT. In residential areas, it is not unusual for a single residence to own multiple vehicles, some of which are rarely used and just take up space that could better be used for other purposes.
8. Reduce speed limits to 20 mph, citywide and all at once, on every street that is not an arterial or collector street. Policy: The speed limit on all streets that are not collectors or arterials will be reduced to 20 mph. Implementation within six months. Considerations: The benefits to walkers and bicyclists (and drivers) of lower speeds are well known, reducing the severity of crashes and reducing the likelihood of crashes due to more reaction time. The ’20 is plenty’ movement is becoming widespread. Some argue that changing speed limits without changing roadway design is pointless, but my philosophy is “Yes, and…” – we should be redesigning roadways, but while that work is in progress, we can save lives now by reducing speed limits. It will take some while to change speed limit signs, so simply blocking out the existing 25 number would be acceptable in the interim.
9. Ensure that every construction project that reconstructs sidewalks also installs curb extensions (bulb-outs) where there is a parking lane present. This is not uniformly happening. Policy: Curb extensions will be required on every corner which is reconstructed for any purpose. Street faces on corners where a bicycle lane is present but parking lane is not present will be excepted. Curb extensions will be designed so as to not interfere with bicycle lanes, and existing or planned separated bikeways. Implementation immediately. Considerations: Curb extensions, also called bulb-outs, significantly increase safety by shortening crossing distances and by increasing visibility between walkers and drivers. The entity making the change to the sidewalk/corner would be responsible to the extension, though where drainage issues exist, the city might help with partial funding to move or enhance drainage. There are many instances in the city where curb extensions should be installed as part of construction projects, but are not being.
10. Create interim curb extensions with paint and flexible posts. Policy: At any intersection where a pedestrian fatality or severe injury has occurred within the last ten years, temporary curb extensions created with paint and vertical delineators will be installed. Implementation within one year. Temporary curb extensions will be replaced by permanent concrete curb extensions within ten years. Considerations: This policy would allow the ‘quick fix’ of curb extensions at relatively low cost, but eventually create curb extensions at all hazardous intersections, city-wide.
11. Take on responsibility for maintaining sidewalks, since they are an integral part of the transportation network. Policy: The city accepts maintenance responsibility for all sidewalks that are within the public right-of-way. The city will develop a plan for bringing all sidewalks to a state of good repair, with implementation first in low-income neighborhoods. Considerations: State law allows the city to shirk its responsibility for maintaining sidewalks by shifting the burden unfairly onto adjacent property owners. The result is poorly maintained sidewalks that do not serve the needs of anyone waking or rolling, but particularly discriminate against people with mobility limitations. Some sidewalks are not within the public right-of-way, but this is uncommon.
12. Buy every employee of Public Works and Community Development a copy of Walkable City Rules (Jeff Speck), and hold sessions to develop a new city mission that prioritizes walkers (and bicyclists and transit riders) over private vehicles. Policy: Buy the books! Implementation immediately. Hold sessions within six months. Develop new mission within one year. Considerations: Every city employee should be responsible for doing their part to make the city a walkable place where people are safe and welcomed on every street. City employees and politicians have in the past created a car-dominated city where it is unsafe to walk and bicycle, and now is the time to set a new vision and way forward. Note that this does not address the issue that people don’t feel safe walking in some locations, and this is a critically important issue that the city should also address.
“In the year I’ve been in office, I’ve heard from thousands of people regarding their concerns and ideas about needed improvements in their neighborhoods. When I bring these community concerns to staff, I hear a lot of support and empathy for the issues raised, but it is often followed by a somber realization: there isn’t a sufficient budget to provide these services.
While I understand the limitations of the City budget, I also believe there are basic services any City should provide:
Streetlights, particularly in older neighborhoods that lack sufficient lighting to promote safety for all road users.
Sidewalk repair, the costs for which we put onto property owners during the 2008 recession. Sidewalks are a public good everyone uses and should be maintained by the City.
Public Restrooms to serve everyone in our city, particularly at parks. This should also include porta potties near large encampments.
Road and traffic safety improvements, particularly targeting streets and intersections where there are repeated collisions or injuries.
Public garbage cans and collection to help mitigate litter.
These needs aren’t unique to District 4, but are issues I’ve also observed citywide. As we approach the midyear and future budgets, I urge you to join me in asking that we consider the quality-of-life improvements the community is asking for and appropriate funds for these purposes.”
These five items are all transportation issues to some degree or another.
Streetlights: Many people will not walk at night when there is insufficient lighting. They feel unsafe. Many intersections are poorly lit for people walking, providing light for drivers but not for people in crosswalks.
Sidewalk repair: The lower the income level of a neighborhood, which is strongly but not complete correlated with people of color, the poorer the sidewalks. This is an ongoing problem in north Sacramento and south Sacramento, but exists other places. When the city claims it has not responsibility for maintaining sidewalks, but does maintain roadways, it is sending a clear message that drivers are more important than walkers. This must change. The first step is not to start fixing sidewalks, but to change city code so that the city is responsible for maintaining sidewalks, not adjacent property owners. There may be situations in which a tree on private property damages a public sidewalk, but most of the damage from trees occurs by city owned trees in the sidewalk buffer area. In fact, the worst sidewalks are often adjacent to city-owned property, where the ordinance requiring property owner repair apparently doesn’t apply. (In the interests of transparency, if one wishes to see truly horrible sidewalks, visit the City of Los Angeles. Makes Sacramento look like a walking paradise.)
Public restrooms: Any person who is walking is likely to be making a slower trip than a driver, and more likely to need to use a restroom during their trip. Walkers are also more likely to chain destinations, and therefore need a restroom during a longer trip, while drivers often make shorter individual trips to single destinations. The city has resisted making public restrooms available, partially in an effort to make unhoused people unwelcome. One new restroom was built in Cesar Chavez Plaza, and some parks have restrooms available for some hours, but many park restrooms remain locked. For example, the one in Fremont Park has been locked up for two years now.
Traffic safety improvements: This one is obvious. What is not obvious is that the city has an unwritten policy that it will only make major street changes with federal, state, and regional grants, not out of the general budget. A few things are done as part of routine maintenance, when a street is repaved and re-striped, but this is a tiny fraction of what is needed. Improvements to high-injury intersections and corridors should be a funded part of the city budget, not dependent upon grants from outside.
Public garbage cans: Again, people walking are likely to generate things that need to be trashed or recycled. For example, walk to your local coffee shop and then continue on your journey, you end up with an empty cup to dispose of. People driving simply throw it on the floor, or out the window in many cases. And if they throw it on the floor, it is likely to be thrown on the ground the next time the vehicle is parked. I know this because this is the pattern for people who commute in from the suburbs and park in the central city. I’ve observed it hundreds of times. It is true that in areas with active business improvement districts, there are more public garbage cans, but that leaves many areas of the city out, which are just as deserving of the service.
The city discriminates against people walking (and bicycling). These budget items would be a first step towards redressing that.
I will say that the greatest need for these improvements is not in District 4, which has often received more attention from the city than any district other than District 1. Sacramento has had and continues to have a serious equity failing, spending more money on repair and improvements in higher income areas.
Due to a miscommunication with a person who gave me a ride from the end of my backpack trip in Foresthill, I ended up in the Galleria part of Roseville yesterday instead of old downtown, which was what I intended. What a hellscape!
Roseville Transit does not run on Sunday, or course not, why would a transit system serve people on Sunday? So there is no way to get from the Galleria area to any place else in Roseville, or to any place else in the world.
Being stubborn, I decided I needed to walk to the closest transit, which is the Louis/Orlando Transit Center just off Auburn Blvd/Riverside Drive in Citrus Heights. On my three mile walk between the Galleria area and old downtown Roseville, I saw two bicyclists and one walker. And thousands of cars, most of them high end SUVs (pedestrian killers). Galleria Blvd has sidewalks in some places, but rarely on both sides, so you have to cross back and forth. No warning ahead, no crosswalks, just cross when you come to the end.
If you wonder what people were doing on the Memorial Day weekend, they were shopping. And shopping. And shopping. Though there is a Roseville Transit line that serves the main mall area, Monday-Saturday, it is almost not possible to walk to or from there. Sidewalks come and go, and with all the freeway onramps and off-ramps surrounding, it does not feel safe to walk. Once on the mall property, there are no sidewalks, just the ones around the buildings.
If you want to see how bad the Galleria part of Roseville is, take a look at Google: https://goo.gl/maps/jGX7BrAJFyDUrwja9/. Follow a piece of sidewalk to see how far it goes, whether it actually connects to anything. Remember that the mall area itself is much more pedestrian friendly that any of the surrounding shopping areas.
I thought, well at least things will be better when I get to old downtown Roseville. In some ways, yes. It is not a place designed for the exclusive needs of cars. There are actual locally owned businesses instead of national chains. There are places to eat, drink, shop. But… it was late Sunday afternoon and the sidewalks had been rolled up. It is hard for local business to compete with the huge subsidies that the national chains and malls get. All that car infrastructure that supports the mall, the six to ten lane roadways, the freeways and interchanges, that all was paid for by you, not by the developers, and that is money out of not just your pocket, but the the pockets of local business owners trying to compete.
On to the transit center, at least some of the walk through quiet OLD residential neighborhoods, the original part of Roseville. Thankfully, SacRT saved the day, bus and then light rail, to home. Of course service is less frequent on Sunday, and other than light rail, it doesn’t run late, but it runs! It is a lifeline for people who can’t drive, who don’t want to drive, who don’t want to be a part of car-centric hell places like Roseville.
I was walking, not bicycling, but of course was also looking at bicycle facilities. There are bike lanes on most of the stroads in Roseville. And what welcoming bike lanes they are! The photo below is of the dashed bike lane on Galleria Blvd northbound, approaching Hwy 65. It runs for 900 feet! Between high speed traffic on the left and high speed traffic on the right (40 mph posted means the minimum speed, not the maximum, most drivers are going about 55). The right hand lane is the freeway access lane, so drivers are accelerating towards the entry, hoping to catch a green light and squeal tires onto the onramp. Yes, this is the behavior I observed. Roseville seems to be of the impression that painting lines on the roadway for bicyclists is all it takes, that and nothing more.
The one good thing about being in Roseville is that it reminds me of how lucky, and how privileged, I am to live in Sacramento central city.
The intersection of 3rd Street and J Street is undergoing construction right now, most of it related to sewer line installation on 3rd Street, but perhaps related to other projects as well. Here is the Google image, not showing the current construction. I thought I had written about this intersection and its pedestrian hostility before, but I can’t find it searching, so it must have been one of those thoughts I never followed through on.
This has always been a problematic intersection. Two freeway off-ramps, coming from I-5 southbound and I-5 northbound, bring high speed drivers onto J Street without causing them to slow much from freeway speeds unless the lights happen to be red. 3rd Street is much calmers but has its own issues.
For a person walking north or south on the east side of 3rd Street, there are five crosswalks to navigate just to cross J Street. You can see in the photo that they are not well maintained, quite faded, low visibility crosswalks that many drivers would not even notice. Each crossing requires pushing a button, and since freeway off-ramp traffic is prioritized, each signal cycle is quite long. (For those counting, the reason I call this five crossings is that the crossing of 3rd Street on the south side had a short pedestrian cycle which was less than required by MUTCD and certainly less than should be available to walkers, so for most people, it had to be crossed in two stages, making for an even longer time to clear the intersection. Of course with no ped button on the median, one the second crossing just has to be done in a gap in traffic, against the signal.)
At this time, the intersection cannot be navigated at all. The northwest corner is under construction. Not sure why, as the ramps and curbs there were fairly new, but it is, which of course closes both the crossing of 3rd St and the crossing of the southbound off-ramp to J St. No signing and no barrier is in place on the northeast corner to indicate the closure. Notice that the pedestrian detour signs are still up on this route, even though it is not accessible. Notice also the very poorly designed curb ramp, with a detectable strip that sends walkers/rollers out into J St with its high speed traffic.
If on the other hand, you started into this mess on the south side of the intersection, there is no advance warning on the southeast corner that the crosswalk and sidewalk are closed ahead. But if somehow you approached the southwest corner, there is a sign placed in the ramp to prevent you from getting to or from the southwest corner. If there were a sign on this side, you would think there would be a sign and barrier on the southeast corner letting you know. You’d be be wrong.
What makes all of this particularly egregious is that pedestrian crossing on the east leg of the intersection is prohibited. See the prohibition signing and barricade on northeast and southeast corners, below.
First, sign and barricades sidewalks and crosswalks properly. It is well known how to do this, and failure indicates intentional neglect on the part of the construction company, and of the city staff that permits these construction projects.
Second, install a crosswalk over J Street on the east side of the intersection, so that walkers can cross in one quick crossing rather than five slow crossings. Crossing prohibitions are more than 90% of the time an effort by traffic engineers to speed motor vehicle traffic. They rarely have anything to do with safety, and in this case, the prohibition is not there for safety.
This construction project is yet one more of the issue in Sacramento where the city requirements and construction company implementation do not meet ADA requirements, nor MUTCD requirements. These practices create a hostile environment for walkers and bicyclists, and this is no ‘accident’. It is intentional, and it is probably criminal.
Added: I missed a great argument for installing a crosswalk over J Street on the east side. There is no reason for there even to be crosswalks to the west side of 3rd Street, as there are no sidewalks on the west side, to the north or to the south. So if one new crosswalk is installed on the east side, four can be removed, including the ped signals. That should make the traffic engineers salivate!
Following the online virtual open house, I realized I could not picture the situation on some segments of Stockton. Though I’ve traveled Stockton many times, I had not in a while, so I went back. I had commented during the open house, as well as after, that I didn’t think the cross-sections presented gave enough information on or weight to trees, so that was part of my agenda, to see the tree situation better. The day I went, last Sunday, was one of the cooler days in a while, high of 80 degrees Fahrenheit, but on the street the lack of shade and heat was noticeable. Add 20 degrees, and it would be intolerable for walking and unpleasant for bicycling.
The tree situation is not good. There are some sections with healthy trees, and some places where trees on commercial properties are healthy and shade the sidewalks, but on the whole, trees are lacking. The first photo below, taken looking south, to the south of Broadway, shows a long section with no trees at all, no buffer, no shade. The sidewalk is wide enough, but who would want to walk here?
The next photo is of the section adjacent to UC Davis Medical Center where trees are present in a slightly too narrow buffer. The trees are relatively young, but when mature, will provide necessary shade and probably also crowd the buffer.
The next photo is of a very narrow strip where trees were present but were all cut down, and the following photo, a Google streetview capture of the trees. The trees were obviously planted in a strip far too narrow for them, and some of them were unhealthy as a result, so I’m not presenting this as a model, but as a warning that commercial properties cannot be relied upon to provide trees. Even the small trees in this narrow strip provided some shade and feeling of place to the street. In addition to this instance, there are many commercial properties and some residential properties along Stockton where the trees are dying, dead, or have been removed. And conversely, some where the trees on commercial properties are in good condition, so thank you to these properties. Trees, if they are to serve as a long-term amenity, as I believe they should, must be provided in the public right of way and maintained by the city.
A small archive of photos from Stockton Blvd are available in the Flickr album at the end of this post, and those who live along or do business along can provide more detail.
So what is the solution? The first part of the solution is that the city must modify its cross-section renderings and pages so that it highlights the tree situation. Will there be a sidewalk buffer? How wide? What numbers and kinds of trees? To what degree will the project rely on trees on private property, versus trees in the public right-of-way? I find the options presented as unacceptable because they don’t really address this issue. On a few of the pages, trees are mentioned, but never in enough detail.
I would propose for community along Stockton Blvd that there should be continuous sidewalk buffers planted with trees, all the way from Alhambra to 47th Ave/Elder Creek Rd. Where buffers are present with trees, great, make sure they are preserved and cared for. Where buffers are present but the trees are absent or unhealthy, plant new trees and care for them. Where there are no buffers, create them, and plant trees and care for them. Where there is a healthy tree line on private property, this can serve for now, but the buffer should still be provided for the protection of walkers and as a bulwark against possible abandonment of the private trees. I envision Stockton Blvd being a tree-lined community asset, where walking is a pleasure and traffic speeds and volumes are low.
For new buffers, the minimum width of the buffer should be eight feet, as anything narrower does not allow for full development of the trees, and leads to excessive root heaving of the sidewalk. The heaving is to some degree an inevitable consequence of having trees, but wider buffers and correct watering regimes reduce the problem considerably. Where the existing buffers are at least six feet and the trees are healthy, the buffer can be widened or left as is, depending on the situation. Where the buffer is narrower than six feet, the buffer must be expanded.
Where commercial businesses are present and buildings meet the sidewalk, the trees should still be present, but the spacing and species can be adjusted in consultation with the property or business owners so that they don’t block off visibility of local businesses. In most cases the buffer would be paved, with tree wells for the trees, and street furniture or other amenities in the buffer, but the buffer would still be a minimum of eight feet.
Another issues that the city diagrams and information do not address is intersections and crossings. The existing conditions report acknowledges that there are long distances between safe crossings on the south end, but doesn’t provide much detail about intersections.
The intersections as they exist actively discourage pedestrian activity. The midblock crossings, of which there are a few, do not have any additional protection. At a minimum, these locations need user-activated RRFBs (Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons). At many of the signalized intersections with minor streets, there is a pedestrian prohibition on either the north or south leg. These prohibitions exist solely to speed the signal cycle and encourage traffic flow; they do not exist for safety reasons. They must be removed. The photos below shows just one of the many such prohibitions. A person walking on the south side of Jansen, wanting to go south on Stockton, would have to use two crosswalks, waiting for the signal, and then walk through an overly wide commercial driveway. There is no reason for this.
At the major intersections, where crosswalks are present on all legs, the crossing distances are long. Though not as bad as many other locations in Sacramento, intersections are often flared out to add turn lanes, both left and, often, right turn lanes. This increases crossing distance. This issue can be solved in two ways: removing the unnecessary turn lanes, or adding pedestrian refuge islands in the middle, so that slower walkers can make the crossing in two stages. The medians must be six feet wide, to meet standards, and must have a pedestrian button so that people don’t become stranded. (Note: I’m not in favor of pedestrian buttons at all, except when they: 1) trigger audible information, or 2) lengthen the crossing time; however, this is one situation in which they make sense)
The project information does not really address intersections at all. City staff said that these details would be worked out later, but I find this unacceptable. Intersection design must be part of the options presented. Intersections are where most conflicts occur between pedestrians and vehicle drivers, and bicyclists and drivers as well, so they are a critical element of any effort to improve Stockton.
Some of the sections of Stockton are littered with driveways. Each commercial property has one to several. Part of improving Stockton must be to reduce the number of driveways. Each commercial property should have one driveway, or less. One of (the only) advantages of the parking moats that front the street (what I mean by parking moat is that the commercial buildings are set back away from the street, and parking lots face the street; these parking moats contribute significantly to the feeling of Stockton Blvd being a car-dominated place). In several cases, these parking moats can be combined for several properties in order to reduce the frequency of driveways. The issue with driveways is that they not only make a place feel busy and unwelcoming to walkers and bicyclists, but they are safety hazards for walkers and bicyclists very nearly as bad as the hazard of an intersection.
There is a section of ‘old’ Stockton Blvd where the buildings come to the sidewalk, and parking, if any is to the side or back. This traditional pattern (traditional before suburban sprawl) is the best built environment, the one that feels most welcoming to people outside cars. It increases customers, it makes the street feel smaller and the sidewalk feel larger.
The ‘new’ sections of Stockton Blvd where buildings are set back behind a moat of parking have exactly the opposite effect, producing an environment that feels unwelcoming to walkers, makes the sidewalk feel like a part of the street rather than a part of the neighborhood. This built form is a widely recognized mistake, but the correction will take many, many years as these commercial properties evolve. But what can happen, now, is that all new commercial buildings can be required to front the sidewalk. There are a lot of empty or abandoned parcels on Stockton, which everyone hopes will see new development. That development should be the traditional pattern that gives the street a neighborhood feel rather than a traffic sewer feel.
Another issue that the study pays scant attention to is speed limits. Whether or not the street design option work depends on design speed and posted speed. The default assumption in transportation planning is that speed limits cannot be lowered, due to California ‘law’. First, it is not a law, it is case law, established by judges, not the legislature, that says traffic tickets won’t be enforced unless speed limits are set to the level at which only 15% of drivers exceed. This will of course be changed, but the process is long, with powerful opponents, most specifically CHP whose lip service to safety is legend. But more important to this study is that streets that are reconfigured, with a change to lane width or number of lanes or mix of modes, can be set to any speed limit the city wishes. The road is new, and the past speed limit doesn’t apply.
So, in accordance with my desire to see a tree-lined neighborhood boulevard, I think that the speed limit for this entire length should be 30 mph. And of course the street must be designed to enforce that posted speed limit.
Highway 50 Interchange
The Hwy 50 and Stockton Blvd interchange is problematic for both walkers and bicyclists. There are no bike lanes through this section, at all, and walkers on the east side of Stockton face long crossing distances in a design that strongly favors high speed motor vehicle drivers. In the photo below, look at the long crossing distance on the north side of the freeway, of the exit and entrance ramps. It’s about 120 feet, with no protection from drivers, at all. I have both used and observed this crosswalk, and can confirm that very few drivers yield to walkers in the crosswalk. It is a guaranteed death trap for walkers.
The roadway striping does not delineate areas for motor vehicles and bicyclists, nor does it indicate where riders or drivers should be merging to reach their destination. It is just a wide-open area, and as with all wide-open areas, drivers will assume they have complete right-of-way. You can see by the tire tracks that the turns on and off the freeways are being taken at high speed.
This interchange must be completely reconfigured for the safety of walkers and bicyclists, and drivers for that matter. The entry and exit ramps must connect with the street at 90 degree angles, requiring drivers to make low speed turns. Bicycle lanes with green conflict markings must be installed throughout the interchange. Sidewalks must be improved and crossing distances shortened to no more than 22 feet.
It is disappointing that such a critical safety hazard was not addressed in the study.
The study, online survey, and open house never address the key issue for the entire corridor, which is: what should be the priority of travel modes in design of the street? Some of the options imply a higher priority for some modes than others, but the critical question is never asked of the public. I had said in my previous post that my priorities would be transit first, then walking, then bicycling, then private motor vehicle travel. However, having spent more time looking at and thinking about the corridor, I’m going to change that. The priorities should be walking first, strongly supported by the tree-lined boulevard configuration I’ve outlined and justified, then transit, then bicycling, then private motor vehicles.
What is is important here, though, it not my preference, but that the public, and in particular the residents and customers along the corridor were never asked this question.
I’ve laid out what I consider some major flaws in the study. I am not against the particular options that were presented, and from that limited perspective, the study has done a good job. But the number of things NOT considered is glaring. I know the city hopes to address these issues later, but I don’t find later to be acceptable. The public needs a full set in information now, so that it can comment on the study from a perspective of understanding how the street will feel after the changes, not just design diagrams, but how each traveler will get along and across the corridor, and whether it supports their desires for mobility and livability.
I think the city should pause the study process and add in the elements not addressed, then go back out to key stakeholders, and re-do the engagement process including the survey and open house.