Measure 2022: ‘complete streets’

This post is a follow up to (in)complete streets and streets – stroads – roads, and will make more sense if you read those first.

The proposed sales tax measure Transportation Expenditure Plan (TEP) for Sacramento County has 20 occurences of the term ‘complete streets’. The first is this phrase: “complete streets with or without capacity expansion”. This alone should make everyone uncomfortable – the sponsors are perfectly happy with expanding roadway capacity so long as all modes are accommodated in some way. The roadway could be 20 lanes wide, and that would be fine so long as there is some facility for walking and bicycling. Within the ‘Local Street and Road Repair and Transformative System Improvements’ section, Citrus Heights lists 15 possible projects, and within the ‘Local Projects of Regional Significance’ section no projects. The table below shows the complete streets summary (note that Isleton is an insignificant portion of the measure and is not listed). Only County of Sacramento specifically calls out that 15 of the projects will include road capacity expansion, but many of the other projects in all of the locations might also include expansion.

In the lead implementation section, paragraph H, ‘complete streets’ are sort of defined:

Complete Streets. Transportation projects provide opportunities to improve safety, access, and mobility for all users of streets, roads, and highways in Sacramento County and recognizes bicycle, pedestrian, vehicle, and transit modes as integral elements of the transportation system. The term “Complete Streets” describes a comprehensive, integrated transportation network with roadways designed and operated to enable safe and convenient travel for users of all abilities, including motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, persons with disabilities, seniors, children, movers of commercial goods, operators of public transportation, public transportation users, and emergency responders, in a balanced manner that is compatible with an urban, suburban, or rural context.

Transportation Expenditure Plan, I. Implementation, H. Complete Streets

Sounds OK, but it is so vague as to allow practically anything, based on the preference and judgement of city or county. No reference is made to state or federal definitions or guidelines.

The TEP does require the cities and counties to adopt a ‘complete streets’ policy. So far as I’m able to determine, only the City of Sacramento has a policy at this time. That is good. But again, no guidelines as to what a good policy would address. No reference to the National Complete Streets Coalition model, or state or federal guidelines. All of the General Plans address complete streets to some degree. It is not clear whether these existing aspirations constitute a policy.

Within one year following the implementation of this Measure, each local jurisdiction in Sacramento County receiving Measure funds shall adopt or maintain an existing “complete streets” policy or a similar document that incorporates design guidelines and standards promoting safe and convenient travel for all users including bicyclists and pedestrians when considering any construction, reconstruction, retrofit, or alteration of streets, roads, highways, bridges, and other elements of the transportation system.

Transportation Expenditure Plan, I. Implementation, H. Complete Streets

And lastly, the TEP says that projects should be consistent with policy. But again, the language is vague. What does consistency mean? Always, or only when it doesn’t impact traffic flow? No performance measures for the jurisdictions to achieve, or against which to judge their success.

Planning and design of projects affecting the transportation system shall be consistent with any local bicycle, pedestrian, transit, multimodal, and other relevant plans and/or the local complete streets policy to ensure that all transportation types and users are considered in the expenditure of Measure funds.

Transportation Expenditure Plan, I. Implementation, H. Complete Streets

So, does use of ‘complete streets’ and identifying projects as complete streets mean anything. No, not really. It is up to each transportation department to determine for themselves whether the project is complete streets, and what it would have to do to ensure that.

Even if the project does produce a ‘complete street’, it still won’t address frequent safe crossings of the corridor for walkers, nor the need to significantly reduce motor vehicles speeds to create comfortable walking and bicycling streets.

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

Measure 2022: allocation to places

Under the Transportation Expenditure Plan major category of Local Streets and Roads (page A-8 of Exhibit A), both ‘Local Street and Road Repair and Transformative System Improvements’ and ‘Local Projects of Regional Significance’ funds are allocated to the cities and county. The table below show these allocations.

The percentages for each city and the county are not too far off of what would be their allocation if based solely on population. So this aspect of the TEP can be considered to be not unfair. However, as with all transportation funding, the question arises whether this ‘formula grants’ allocation, as it is called, is the best way to meet the transportation needs of the county. 47.25% of the entire measure is dedicated to local streets and roads, so this is an important question. But one which I don’t have a clear answer to.

A future post will take a closer look at the 93 projects that are listed under both ‘Local Street and Road Repair and Transformative System Improvements’ and ‘Local Projects of Regional Significance’, and the fix-it-first language in this section.

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

Measure B moves forward

As was no surprise, the board of the Sacramento Transportation Authority passed the Transportation Expenditure Plan and related language yesterday afternoon. All of the public speakers were in favor of less for road expansion and more for transit, walking, and bicycling. The board seems to feel that gaining the votes of the suburbs is important to passing the ballot measure, but other than Steve Hansen, seemed to forget that without the votes of the urban core which favors multi-modal transportation, the measure also won’t pass. Nevertheless, the vote was not a surprise.

What was a complete surprise was the opposition of two organizations, Region Business, a front group for greenfield developers, represented by Robert Abelon, and California Alliance of Jobs, a promoter of highways, represented by Michael Quigley. They wanted removal of paragraph H from the implementation guidelines section of the measure. Paragraph H said:

Federal Air Quality Requirements. Measure _ Expenditure Plan funds programmed for a project construction phase that must be included in a federally approved air quality conformity determination to either the Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) or Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Program (MTIP) shall have consistent project descriptions to the listing in the MTP & MTIP before the Authority allocates construction funding for the project phase.

Both lobbyists threatened to derail the measure if they didn’t get their way. Apparently they and their supporters had sent threatening emails to board members in the last hours before the meeting. Why are they opposed to paragraph H? They are strong defenders of the Capital Southeast Connector, and strong opponents of everything that SACOG does. SACOG is responsible for the MTP and MTIP, though it is composed of requests from the counties and cities which are seldom really questioned. Their strong opposition to paragraph H is an admission on their part that the connector, at least in its full buildout, could never meet air quality requirements, and so they want to eliminate any mention of air quality, the MTP, and the MTIP from the measure. Tom Zlotkowski, the Executive Director of the Capital Southeast Connector JPA (Joint Powers Authority), also objected, again, with the clear implication that the project could not go forward if air quality requirements were met.

The board, after well over an hour of discussion, and a long break to negotiate and regroup, decided with go with compromise language provided by SACOG counsel, Kirk Trost, and SACOG Director of Transportation Services, Matt Carpenter.

The substitute language is, in my opinion, significantly weaker and also vaguer. Not a good sign. Steve Hansen had earlier said that the existing paragraph H was part of the guarantee of accountability the authority was making with the public, and that not having a high level of accountability would result in a lower level of support at the ballot box. Yet, in the end, all board members except Roberta MacGlashan voted in favor of the TEP and language with the “compromise” change.

The new paragraph H says:

Federal Air Quality Requirements. Measure _ Expenditure Plan funds programmed for a project construction phase shall not impair the ability of the region’s Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) and Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Program (MTIP) to meet federal air quality conformity, as determined by the Sacramento Transportation Authority Governing Board.

For all of you who may question or be opposed to the Capital Southeast Connector, I urge you to get in touch with your representatives to ask why a very narrow interest group was allowed to significantly weaken the measure by making threats.

An earlier post of mine: No to the Capital Southeast Connector