thoughts on Sac TPP

Some further thoughts to update my Sac Transportation Priorities Plan update.

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.