real transportation solutions

Measure A 2022, which will be on the ballot this November, is a bundle of old ideas and a commitment to doing things the old way, the way that has dominated our transportation system since World War II. It does not address current transportation challenges. It proposes building more freeways, more interchanges, and widening roadways. It proposes to continue and increase the motor vehicle dominance of our transportation system. Sure, there is a weak commitment to fix-it-first, for the first five years of the 40 years. Sure, there are some complete streets, but that won’t make a dent in the pedestrian and bicyclist-hostile roadways that traffic engineers have built for us.

When Measure A fails, we have a chance in Sacramento County to identify and implement progressive and effective transportation projects and systems. What would a better transportation system look like?

  • One not so dependent on sales taxes. Sales taxes are regressive – low income people spend a much higher percentage of income on sales tax than do higher income people. Property taxes and congestion charges are a much fairer way to fund transportation. We have been too dependent on sales tax, for not just transportation, but many government functions.
  • One that recognizes and works to overcome the disinvestment that low income and high minority communities have suffered. Our transportation system is largely designed to ease the commutes and travel of high income individuals, not of society as a whole. The light rail system was designed with the needs of suburban, largely white commuters. So too were our freeways. At least 70% of transportation expenditures should be in and for the benefit of disinvested communities.
  • We have all the lane miles and pavement we will ever need. It is time to stop adding lanes miles and stop adding pavement. Not just because of the climate implications, but because these are low-return investments. Instead, transportation expenditures should support walking, bicycling and transit.
  • Big transportation projects such as freeways and interchanges claim big job benefits, but they are in fact much less efficient at generating high paying jobs than many other types of infrastructure investments. New construction spends most of its funds on materials, not on labor. The construction companies make large profits on large projects, but little of that filters down to workers. Small to moderate projects would employ many more people.
  • A transportation system dependent on motor vehicles, whether they are fossil fueled or electric, has strongly negative impacts on our places: direct air pollution, tire dust pollution, noise, traffic violence, loss of land to parking and roadways rather than productive development, and probably most important, it intimidates people out of walking and bicycling. A transportation system based on walking, bicycling, and transit eliminates most of these negatives.
  • A car dominated transportation system pushes everything further apart, jobs and housing and shopping and medical far away from each other. Cars not only encourage but largely demand low density development, so that there is space reserved for cars, all the parking and roadways that take up a large portion of our cities. It requires a car to participate in society, and thereby requires low income people to expend an unsustainable percentage of their income on transportation. A transportation system that relies much more on walking and bicycling allows things to be closer together, so that cars are not necessary for most daily travel.
  • Transportation investment should depend much less on state and federal funding, and much more on local funding. Large portions of the Measure A funds are intended to be matches for grants. But grants cause planners to focus on what the state and the federal government want, not on what the county or cities need. When the income from taxes or fees is close to the people, the solutions are much more likely to be what is desired by the people.
  • Private vehicle travel does little to contribute to making our places and our lives better. A innovative transportation system would focus on access to services, and make those services available nearby. It would reduce vehicle miles traveled, both by changing our development pattern and by actively working to reduce motor vehicle travel.
  • Our current transportation system has destroyed a lot of natural and agricultural lands, paving it over with roadways and low density housing. The best way of preserving nature and agriculture is to focus our attention and our funding on already higher density areas, which means infill.
  • None of the projects in Measure A are designed to support infill development. A progressive transportation system would focus nearly all investment on infill areas. It would cost much less money, and be much more productive.
  • Measure A calls out and essentially requires completion of the Green Line light rail to the airport. But who will use it? Unless service hours are 24 hours a day, it won’t be usable for many of the airport workers, who work before and after peak travel times. Instead, it may become yet another very expensive service for high-income travelers, just like our freeways system. Instead, we need to rethink our transit system to determine what citizens want and will use, and build a more efficient system around that. We know that frequency is freedom, so we must shift spending towards that, even while maintaining a reasonable level of areal coverage.

I’m sure you can think of many other things that an innovative, equitable transportation system would accomplish. Please suggest!

celebration, and caution

Today is a day of celebration for housing and transportation in California, with the possibility of more to come in the next two days. Yay!

But I want to caution about the alignment of housing with transit. It seems like a no-brainer, right? As I’ve long said, you can’t have affordable housing without effective transit, and you can’t have effective transit without widely available affordable and other housing. The problem I’m concerned about is that most of our transit system is oriented to arterial roadways (the semi-high speed, many-lane roads that are also called stroads because they don’t function well as streets or roads, and also called traffic sewers). Or in the case of rail transit, often uses old railroad corridors or freeway medians that make housing development difficult and probably unwise.

Research indicates that people, particularly kids, who live near freeways and arterials have much higher rates of asthma, and many other health problems, and shorter lifespans. Is that where we want low income families and kids living?

Apart from freeways, most traffic crashes happen on arterial roadways, and particularly at intersections of arterial roadways, and freeway on-ramps an off-ramps. Is this the hazard we want for low income families and kids?

I don’t have an answer for this challenge, but I often think it would be better to upzone everywhere (the next increment of development), so that additional housing can be built in places with better air quality and lower traffic violence. Maybe we should be fixing the arterials first, before we build housing along them. Yes, that delays the benefit of easy transit access to housing, but good transit in a poor living environment is just not what I want to see.

Sac CAAP: council update

The City of Sacramento preliminary draft Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP) was on the agenda of the 2022-08-16 city council agenda, with a workshop on carbon neutrality. The council had asked staff for a status report, and to bring ideas for accelerating reaching carbon neutrality sooner than the original target date of 2045.

The staff presentation presented a few things that had happened before completion of the plan. Staff focused, as does the plan, on buildings and EVs. Ryan Moore of Public Works talked about transportation projects, but did not mention policy. Jennifer Venema presented several acceleration ideas, but they were vague. One was the build-out of the bicycle master plan, as though it was that, or everything else. The slides used by the staff presentation have not been made available to the public.

Almost everyone who spoke on the agenda items, on Zoom and in person (this was the first in-the-room council meeting), spoke in support of achieving neutrality sooner, and taking serious actions rather than the mild actions suggested by the plan. I am really proud of the citizens and organizations that took the time to formulate thoughtful statements and to wait for their turn.

Some of the council members spoke. Katie Valenzuela was the only one with a substatiative idea (see below), the others just offered platitudes. Darrell Steinberg unfortunately went off on a long rant in support of the transportation sales tax measures, including the lie that it had been amended. The side agreement between SACOG and SacTA has not been approved, and the language of the ballot measure has not changed at all – it is still bad news for the climate.

Katie Valenzuela’s slide

I made the following statement:


“Transportation is 57% of carbon emissions in Sacramento. Equitable transportation is what we should be talking about.

Transportation priorities, carried over from Mayors Commission on Climate Change:

  1. Active transportation
  2. Transit
  3. Electrification of remaining motor vehicles

The CAAP seems to invert that priority, and is strongly focused on EVs, which would retain the motor vehicle dominance of our transportation system.

Active transportation should be first and foremost in the CAAP.

Why is active transportation so important to transit? Because that is how people get to and from transit. Both are important to an effective response.

$510M for a full buildout of the bicycle master plan is a fraction of what is already being spent on motor vehicle capacity expansion. For example, the Fix 50 projects is estimated at $433M, but will probably come in much higher.

Deb Banks mentioned that the bicycle master plan needs an update. The pedestrian plan, however, dates from 2006, and is completely out of date. Yet the CAAP does not even mention updating those documents nor combining them into an active transportation plan.”


Some items I missed talking about (two minutes is a very short time):

Bike share is hardly mentioned in plan, and was not mentioned in the presentation. I think an effective bike share system is key to getting people out of cars, but we have a privately owned and operated system that could disappear at any time without notice (as it has before). Bike share should be effectively integrated with the transit system, but this idea is absent.

Cost to consumers (citizens) is also missing from the plan and the discussion. Conversion of fossil fueled private vehicles to electrified private vehicles is a the core action of the plan, with the unspoken and false assumption that electric cars are affordable for the vast majority of people. Think about it like this:

modecost
pedal bike$500, or less
electric bike$2000, or less
electric cargo bike$4000, or less
electric private vehicle$40,000, or more

What should the city be supporting? What should the city be subsidizing? It is clear that the bicycle is the right answer. The city seems to have the idea that the people of Sacramento are rich, and will all buy Teslas. How out of touch can you be?

The truly transformative and easily short term action that the city can take to protect that climate is to make walking and bicycling safe, city-wide. In the long run, that involves reconstructing streets, expensive and time-consuming. In the short run, though, there are many, many low cost actions that city could take that mostly have to do with policy and not projects. Such as:

  • leading pedestrian intervals on all signals
  • removal of pedestrian beg buttons
  • prohibiting right turn on red
  • paint and post temporary curb extensions on every intersection where a fatality or severe injury has occurred
  • acceptance by the city of responsibility for sidewalk maintenance (except for damage caused by trees on private property), in recognition that sidewalks are a core part of the transportation system along with streets
  • law enforcement focused on failure to yield to pedestrians
  • serious investigations of every crash with fatalities, with action to slow traffic, shorten crossing distances, etc. required in every instance; creation of a crash investigation team that includes nonprofit expertise and citizens, de-emphasizing law enforcement and traffic engineers
  • pricing parking everywhere in the city; this does not mean parking meters everywhere, it means that street parking requires a permit that reflects the cost building and maintaining parking on streets
  • re-energizing and empowering Vision Zero, which has languished
  • replacement of bikeway vertical delineators (soft-hit posts) with hard curbs
  • enforcement against leaving trash cans in bike lanes
  • a moratorium on roadway capacity expansion projects, through 2045, whether the city is a lead or partner agency; this would include freeways
  • lowering speed limit on all urban streets to 20 mph (20 is plenty) and collector/arterial streets to 30 mph; yes, streets need to be redesigned to physically enforce lower speeds, but in the meanwhile we can save lives with lower posted speeds

The bottom line here is that if the city makes walking and bicycling safe, throughout the city, much of our climate targets will be met. Please see my 2019 series “Walkable Sacramento” for more details and more ideas.

Sac CAAP: non-motorized and MCCC

The City of Sacramento’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP), preliminary draft, sets targets for active transportation and transit. The Mayors’ Climate Change Commission (MCCC) Achieving Carbon Zero in Sacramento and West Sacramento by 2045, set different targets.

MCCC 2020MCCC 2045CAAP 2030CAAP 2045
Active Transportation30%40%6%12%
Transit & Shared30%50%11%11%
MCCC page 26, CAAP page 66

The CAAP states (page 100) “This level of active transportation mode share by 2030 is consistent with outcomes of comparable case studies and peer-reviewed literature and anticipated level of investment through 2030, all of which are necessary factors to consider for quantifying evidence-based reductions for a qualified GHG reduction plan.” and (page 102) “Planning for at least an 11 percent transit mode share by 2030 is an evidence-based goal that the City considers achievable given current understanding of transit behaviors in Sacramento and comparable case studies, given that sufficient funding can be obtained to implement the necessary infrastructure.”

The justification for the mild targets is in the CAAP Appendix C – Community Measures GHG Emissions Quantification, page 20 for Active Transportation (TR-1) and page for Transit (TR-2). The document active transportation section cites work commute trips, which misses the point that all trips are an opportunity for GHG reduction, and that only about 15% of all trips now are work-related (pre-pandemic). It also states that we can’t be compared to European cities (nor does it even use up-to-date data from Europe), but implies that Sacramento won’t be taking the actions to significantly increase mode share, so therefore uses a much lower number. No actual research is cited. For transit, the document states that we could achieve a 21% mode share based on peer city Oakland, but then inexplicably sets the target of 11%.

Why is the city setting such low goals? Reading between the lines, it is because they don’t intend to spend the funds necessary to reach these goals, and they know they can’t fund this all with competitive grants. This is not climate leadership, in my opinion. The city should be doing everything it possibly can to shift trips aways from motor vehicles to active transportation and transit.

Some elements of the MCCC were included in the CAAP, some were not. I’ve found it valuable to compare the two. If you have the time, please do that yourself. The MCCC is a much stronger document.

Freeport Boulevard Transportation Plan Emerging Design Concepts

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:

  • walking
  • bicycling
  • transit
  • motor vehicle

Prioritization of the modes for Fruitridge Rd to Blair Ave should be:

  • bicycling
  • transit
  • walking
  • motor vehicle

Crash/collision map of the Northgate Blvd corridor for pedestrians (walkers) and bicyclists. Data is from SWITRS for the years 2015-2019. (pdf)

map of Freeport Blvd Emphasis with pedestrian and bicyclist crashes

a safe and effective transportation system

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.

General

  • 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

Equity

  • 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

Policies

  • 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

Vision Zero

  • 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

Roadway Design

  • 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)

Traffic Enforcement

  • 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

Parking

  • 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

Freeways

  • 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

  • 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

Bicycle Facilities

  • 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

Schools

  • 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.

Measure 2022: transit congestion improvement???


A group calling themselves A Committee for a Better Sacramento is sponsoring a citizen-initiated ballot measure for the November election, titled “Sacramento County Transportation Maintenance, Safety, and Congestion Relief Act of 2022—Retail Transactions and Use Tax”. (Note: Some people are referring to this as Measure A, but measure letters are assigned by county elections, not by the sponsors. I’ll continue to refer to it as Measure 2022, for now.)

One of the categories in the Exhibit A: Transportation Expenditure Plan is Congestion Relief Improvements (page A-16), and the subcategory Transit and Rail Congestion Relief Improvement Projects, which is allocated 10.85% of the measure, or about $890M over the 40 years. Projects listed are (they are not numbered in the document, but are here for reference):

  1. LRT peak service trains
  2. LRT extensions, Green Line to the airport, Blue Line to Elk Grove and Citrus Heights, Gold Line to Folsom
  3. High capacity bus corridor network throughout Sacramento County, including but not limited to Stockton Blvd, Watt Ave, Sunrise Blvd, Florin Rd, and Arden Way
  4. BRT to Citrus Heights, Stockton Blvd, and Sunrise in Rancho Cordova
  5. In coordination with the Capital Southeast Connector Joint Powers Authority, design, plan and construct a transit component, such as a bus rapid transit service, along the Capital Southeast Connector corridor to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and meet air quality targets. SacRT will match $40 million in revenues generated by this Measure with $80 million in state and federal funds for a total of $120 million in resources toward this goal. The project would consist of providing signaling and a bypass at critical connector sections to improve service, lower travel time, and reduce GHG impacts

The document does say that funding is ‘intended to be flexible’, which is good since the types of projects that might be constructed over 40 years will likely have little to do with this list. None of this funding is available for operations, which is in a different category, Sacramento Regional Transit District (SacRT) Maintenance, Operations, and Transformative System Improvements. More about that soon.

Light rail extensions and improvements for more frequent peak service (not for operating more frequent peak service, just for the infrastructure) sound appealing (items 1 and 2). Currently SacRT has unofficially prioritized Green Line to the airport, even though that would do almost nothing to reduce congestion. Infrastructure for Gold Line to Folsom is already funded, so it is strange to see it here. On the other hand, Blue Line to Citrus Heights is here, even though SacRT has removed it from consideration for the foreseeable future.

The terms ‘high capacity bus corridor network’ and ‘BRT’ (items 3 and 4) are not defined in the document, so the public really has little idea what is intended. SacRT has not been very clear about this either. Projects in other places have revealed that the quality of the improvements to a corridor, and the restraints placed on private vehicle travel, make all the difference in whether bus corridor enhancements are valuable or pointless.

The $40M for the Capital Southeast Connector (item 5) is small in comparison to the size of the allocation, but it points out how poorly thought out the entire measure is. Who would even use transit on this corridor? The connector is designed to serve commercial traffic between Folsom (really El Dorado County) and Elk Grove, and to promote greenfield development along the connector. Greenfield developments are not designed to appeal low income workers, they are designed to appeal to high income white collar workers, who might be commuting to Folsom, Rancho Cordova, and Elk Grove. But those are not the sort of people who use transit unless it is clearly superior to drive-alone, and transit on this soon-to-be-congested corridor will not make the grade.

All of these projects are premised on the idea that the other projects in the measure will maintain or increase congestion, so it is necessary to improve transit to mitigate for that other congestion. Sadly, the SACOG MTP/SCS makes the same assumption, that transit projects will counteract the increased VMT and GHG emissions from other projects and poor land use.

Transit should not be a mitigation; it should have standing in its own right as a superior mode of travel. It should not be an attempt to make up for bad decisions made elsewhere. The question should be: what can we do to better serve existing riders, and what can we do to induce new riders?

This section of the Transportation Expenditure Plan is so-so. Not bad, not good, but mostly not well thought out and not clear what the benefits and trade-offs will be.

Search for category Measure 2022 to see posts as they are added.

Sac Transportation & Climate Workshop

The first City of Sacramento Transportation & Climate Workshop was held last night as part of the regular city council meeting. The first news, which was not at all clear before, is that this is the first of several workshops, which will develop the plan further. The next workshop has not been scheduled, but may be in March.

screen capture from city presentation

Some highlights:

  • No one spoke against the seven big idea projects.
  • People liked the enhanced bus lane on Stockton for SacRT route 51, but it didn’t receive much notice in the discussion.
  • Nailah Pope-Harden of Climate Plan and a local activist, said bold is the minimum, and said all projects should be about reconnecting communities. Many other speakers referred back to Nailah’s challenge.
  • The opening slide of the city presentation showed SacRT bus route 30 on J Street, pulled out of traffic and blocking the bike lane. Irony probably unintentional, but it does illustrate one of the ways in which the city does not support transit or bicycling. The bus should not be pulling out of traffic, but stopping at a bus boarding island with the separated bikeway running behind it.
  • Sam Zimbabwe of Seattle DOT presented on the ways in which the city has shifted mode share to transit with projects and priorities. One of his slides showed the huge increase in the number of intersections at which they have programmed leading pedestrian intervals (LPIs) to enhance pedestrian safety.
  • Jeff Tumlin of San Francisco MTA said they have realized that waiting for a few big projects is an ineffective approach, and are now doing many small projects, often with temporary measures that can be improved when made permanent. He said that sales taxes don’t have to be regressive, if the benefits are directed to the right places and projects, and that well-designed congestion pricing is not regressive. He also suggested that city staff should be challenged to a higher level of productivity and innovation, and let go if they choose not to meet that. He also spoke about SFMTA’s approach, with partners, of working on transportation and housing as a unified goal, not siloed.
  • Darrell Steinberg mentioned several times the idea of the city doing a transportation ballot measure so that it could set its own priorities for investment rather than compromising with the county (SacTA) over projects which don’t meet the needs of the city.
  • City staff said transportation is now 56% of carbon emissions in the city, which is higher than numbers reported before.
  • Ryan Moore poo-poo’d the idea of lowering speed limits, saying the MUTCD prevents that, without mentioning the state law which allows reductions in specific circumstances. Others pushed back on this.
  • Rick Jennings spoke enthusiastically about getting more kids on bikes and his own experience of bicycling with kids.
  • Jeff Harris spoke about EVs, despite the setup of the workshop being about other transportation ideas, not EVs.
  • Mai Vang pointed out that the ideas are too District 4 (central city) focused, believes that there should be more focus on low-income and outlying areas. She said we need better access to light rail stations, not just bicycling access to downtown.
  • Civic Thread spoke (all their employees!) about the need for a city-wide Safe Routes to School program to address the recent parent death at school dismissal at Hearst Elementary, as well as safety needs at every school. They also highlighted equity and community access.
  • Henry Li and Jeff Harris pointed to micro-transit (SmaRT Ride) as being a great success, but SacRT has still not provided information to the community to judge that.
  • Henry Li spoke mostly about funding, and did not address the Stockton/Route 51 project. He again highlighted light rail to the airport, despite the transit advocacy community’s request that all light rail extensions including ARC/Citrus Heights/Roseville considered before selecting the next project.

The message from the invited speakers and the community was clear: we need to make big changes in a hurry, and city funding and commitment will be necessary for that to happen. How will the city respond?

What are your highlights from the workshop?

screen capture of Seattle DOT slide on speed limits and LPIs