News summary September 14



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News summary September 7



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We need more of this… dedicated bus lanes

dedicated bus lane, Capitol Mall, Sacramento

dedicated bus lane, Capitol Mall, Sacramento

The recent relocation of bus service from L Street to the Capitol Mall for demolition of the mall and later construction of the arena has resulting in an interesting change: the first dedicated bus lane (that I’m aware of) in the Sacramento region. There are some dedicated light rail lanes.

True, the bus lane is only one block long, between 8th Street and 7th Street (this photo is taken from 8th Street looking westbound).

Prior to the bus stops being moved, asphalt was replaced with concrete, which is the only material that can stand up well to frequent bus traffic.

So why am I excited about a one-block long dedicated bus lane? Because it is a local example of something that is happening in many cities, but you don’t have to travel to see it. It also represents a reallocation of street space that increases the utility of bus systems and better balances different modes of transportation. Buses spend much of their time at critical times of the day waiting on motor vehicle traffic congestion. Dedicated bus lanes remove some of this conflict and create, for the first time, the possibility of buses being a faster mode of transport than private cars.

This one-block location show a good balance of modes. There is a wide sidewalk for pedestrians, a dedicated bus lane, a dedicated bicycle lane, and a travel lane for motor vehicles. Many more of our streets should look like this. Any street that carries bus traffic at a frequency of once every ten minutes or better (whether from a high-frequency single route or from multiple routes), at any time of day, should have dedicated bus lanes.

There are six SacRT routes that ran on L Street and are temporarily running on Capitol Mall. In addition, four Yolobus routes and several from other transit providers run along these streets.

So what are we going to do when the arena is finished and some or all of the bus traffic moves back to L Street? I think that L Street should have a dedicated bus lane from 15th Street, where it becomes three lanes westbound (and four lanes at 6th Street), all the way to 3rd St. SABA has suggested a protected bike lane on the south side for the portion between 7th Street and 3rd Street, and I think that is a good idea as well. I am not sure if SacRT has proposed anything. Wide sidewalks, dedicated bus lanes, protected bike lanes, and a somewhat reduced capacity for private motor vehicles would make for a more welcoming and efficient street. The arena developers and city have resisted making any transformative changes to circulation downtown, but significant public pressure could bring the improvements.

The NACTO Urban Street Design Guide has diagrams and details about dedicated bus lanes.

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News summary August 31

City of Sacramento 2035 General Plan Update; open house meetings on September 3, 4 and 8

Sacramento Bait Bike program leads to 50 arrests (SacBee 2014-08-29)

Back-seat Driver: Caltrans studying I-80 construction zone crashes (SacBee 2014-08-28)

New Day on Broadway (Comstock Magazine 2014-08)

Is riding your bike good for arthritis? (Sacramento News & Review 2014-08-28)

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drunk driving in midtown

Thanks, Chris Daugherty, for linking to this CityLab article (What If the Best Way to End Drunk Driving Is to End Driving?) from Facebook. This is not a new article, but one worth thinking about.

In midtown, there are always drunk drivers on Friday and Saturday nights, sometimes other times. While vehicles don’t carry a label indicating what part of town they are from, I strongly suspect from the streets they are using and the directions they are heading that the drivers are from the suburbs. And if I’m in a bar, I notice that the most drunk people are the people talking about suburban places. None of this is to say that midtown people don’t drink, or that some of them don’t drive drunk, but the big problem, in my perception, is suburban drunk drivers.

Though I certainly don’t mean to discount the risk, the slower speed streets in midtown are probably not the big problem, where most crashes occur at lower speeds and result in injuries rather than fatalities. But for these people to get home, they are driving on the freeways and arterials, and that is where the fatalities occur. In my weekly news summary, I only keep track of pedestrian and bicyclist-involved crashes, but if I kept track of alcohol-caused or exacerbated crashes, the posts would be at least three times as long.

So why are these people coming to midtown to get drunk? Well, the places to get drunk in the suburbs are few and not very interesting. The cool places are in midtown. I don’t just say that because I live here, but because these people are voting their preferences by coming to midtown, and driving, at considerable risk to themselves and others.

So, the article. It suggests that we could largely eliminate drunk driving by providing public transportation alternatives. To some degree, we have alternatives. There are two issues, though: public transportation is not considered cool by the suburban population, or even in Sacramento in general. This is not true in some other places, where it is cool. The second problem is the “last mile,” getting from the light rail station or bus stop to home. The transit network is not dense enough in the suburbs to get people most of the way home. In fact, in the suburbs of the Sacramento region, it is not usually the “last mile” but “the last five miles.”

When drunk drivers (and here I’m not just thinking of the legal definition, but of a person who has had enough to drink that they shouldn’t be operating a motor vehicle) are stopped in midtown, some get warnings, some get citations. But none of them gets told to use public transportation instead of driving.

So here is an idea. If a person gets stopped but is not enough over the limit to get a ticket, they would receive a one-month suspension of drivers license and a free one-month pass on SacRT. Yes, this would cost some money, but if it converts drunk drivers to public transportation riders, the investment is worthwhile. This relatively mild consequence, one month of a changed life, would I think also encourage law enforcement to confront more drivers. Only a tiny fraction of the Friday and Saturday night drunks get stopped. When if we stopped them all, and got them onto public transit, or at least into Lyft, Uber, and taxis?

In the long run, some of these people who are stopped, suspended, and moved to public transit would start to realize that living in the suburbs when most of the interesting night life is in midtown, is a pretty crazy idea that can be solved not only by using public transit, but by moving to midtown and walking home from the bar. Nah, these are not my favorite people, but they’d be much closer to acceptable if they were simply drunk instead of drunk drivers.

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crossing guard for DMV on 24th

crossing guard for DMV on 24th Street

crossing guard for DMV on 24th Street

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has facilities on both side of 24th Street to the south of Broadway. Employees must go back and forth between the two facilities, but DMV does not think that it is safe for their employees to use the mid-block crosswalk without the extra protection of a crossing guard.

What are they being protected against? Well, drivers that have been licensed by DMV. Drivers who either do not know the law on yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks, or who choose not to follow it. Drivers who are distracted by cell phones. Drivers who drive over the speed limit. Drivers who are inattentive to their surroundings. You would think that maybe this hazard would cause DMV to reconsider their lackadaisical method of licensing motor vehicle drivers. Maybe drivers should be relicensed on a regular basis instead of receiving what is essentially a life-time license. Maybe drivers should have to demonstrate safe driving skills, knowledge of the law, and pro-social attitudes. Maybe. But DMV doesn’t seem interested in improving the safety of all roadways, but would rather solve a specific problem by using a crossing guard.

Another issue is that the street has been striped with a wide median in the center (not a physical median) to provide a place for the R1-6 Yield to Pedestrian signs and a refuge for pedestrians and the crossing guard. Normally this would be a good thing, but the wide painted median pushed the travel lanes to the side and pinches out the shoulder that is used by bicyclists. So in making things safer for pedestrians, the city has made things less safe for bicyclists. An appropriate trade-off if it were the only choice, but it is not the only choice. There is no logical reason for this section of 24th Street to be four lanes. To the north, it is two lanes, to the south it is two lanes. So the obvious solution is to road-diet the street so that it is two lanes or two lanes plus a center turn lane, if necessary and appropriate. The rest of the road width can be used for wide bicycle lanes.


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News summary August 24

Editorial: An improved biking network is essential for Sacramento (SacBee 2014-08-24); Another View: What we can do about bikes on sidewalk (SacBee 2014-08-24); The Conversation feedback: On a mission to get bikes off sidewalks (SacBee 2014-08-24)

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