News summary May 24




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News summary May 17



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I don’t want a transportation bill

As the “deadline” approaches for passage of a transportation bill, and the balance in the highway trust fund is in free fall, everyone seems to be falling in line behind the idea that we must pass a bill. I disagree.

The federal transportation funding system strongly favors motor vehicles, with a small amount set aside for transit, and a pittance for walking and bicycling. Patching up funding for the existing system will only serve to prolong its life, and prolong the damage it does to our communities and our economy. I think a failure of the highway trust fund is in order. Before we can figure out what sort of transportation system we need, we have to stop funding the one we have. Yes, I agree that maintenance is important, but we already seriously underfund maintenance, and continuing to do so for a little while will be no worse a crisis than what we already have. I think the preference for passing a transportation bill, any bill, is akin to what a drug addict thinks – just one more hit and then I’ll be able to figure out how to get off this stuff.

What if we don’t pass a bill, or an extension, and federal funding stops? Well, then we have the opportunity to do the following:

  1. Institute a moratorium on all construction and widening on the federal aid highway system.
  2. Agree that our highway system is built out and that not a single lane mile will be added with federal funding, ever again.
  3. Develop criteria for determining the economic productivity of roads and highways. Since the system has never been challenged to do this before, it will take some time, bringing together expertise and data that has not been part of transportation decisions.
  4. Determine the size (in lanes) necessary for the Interstate and federal aid highways to carry traffic between economically productive places, and then fund maintenance of that minimal system from the federal level. The states, therefore, would have to fund maintenance of excess lanes, those that were built to accommodate commuting and do not serve to connect economically productive places. All roads and highways that are not part of the minimal system would be returned to the states who would then be fully responsible for maintenance. That means that many freeways would no longer be a federal responsibility.
  5. Develop criteria for determining the economic productivity of the freight and passenger rail network. We know somewhat more about this, but it will still take time.
  6. Designate a national rail network similar to the federal aid highways system that serves economically productive places and uses, and funds both construction and maintenance. Over time, right of way and tracks would be transitioned to public ownership, and both passenger and freight would rent space on that network, paying fees that fund all necessary maintenance, and expansion to meet national needs. This does not mean that rail could not or would not be subsidized, but that it would be done in a transparent manner that would allow us to adjust subsidies based on productivity and the national interest in a connected passenger network. (Note: Amtrak is subject to the same soviet-style thinking that plagues the rest of our transportation network, the difference being that they never received the huge subsidies that motor vehicles and airlines did.)

Would the temporary cessation of federal funding to public transit have a negative impact. You bet it would. There would be no new projects for several years, just when we need new projects to shift our transportation to more economically and ecologically (carbon) modes. Projects already underway might have to be modified, dropping some elements or shortening routes. I’m not oblivious to this impact, and it would impact me directly in a number of ways, including the local light rail expansion and improving capacity on the Capitol Corridor trains.

None of this would impose anything on the states. However, the states, long accustomed to  “free” money (our tax money) from the federal government, would start making different decisions once the gravy train stops.

I’ve written many times before about the disfunction in our transportation system, but my post today was triggered by a post from Kaid Benfield, Do Freeways Belong Inside Cities? on HuffPost Green.

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News summary May 10

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downtown/midtown infill projects

Two articles from yesterday, CADA gets go-ahead for more housing (SacBee 2015-05-04) and Small is beautiful: Mini-developments popping up in Sacramento’s central city (Sacramento Business Journal 2015-05-04) talked about several locations where infill development has or will occur. The SacBee mentions Warehouse Artist Lofts, Legado de Ravel, 16 Powerhouse and Eviva Midtown. WAL and Legado de Ravel are complete though not all retail spaces are yet occupied. 16 Powerhouse is nearly complete, and Eviva is just getting going again, with foundation work underway. Also mentioned are Enterprise Rent-A-Car at the corner of 16th and N streets; the entire block bounded by 12th, 13th, N and O streets (this is incorrect, the block is actually 12th/13th/O/P, which is largely a parking lot but contains several older apartment buildings); and the southwest corner of 14th and N (a parking lot). The Sacramento Business Journal mentions Capitol Avenue near 18th Street (1809 Capitol Ave, where constructing is going on right now), an empty lot at 1523 E St, the southeast corner of 17th and Q Streets (a parking lot), 2215 Q St, and four single-unit townhomes on four lots at 2117 20th St (I think this may be an incorrect number on 20th, as there are some new townhouse that are part of the Tapestri Square area).

I was curious to look at these locations, some of which I’d not noticed before, so visited and took photos of each, presented in the slideshow below.

Let me say that I’m opposed to demolishing still usable buildings in order to build new developments. Not because we don’t need new large developments, but because there are plenty of other properties where they can take place. This would apply to the 12th/13th/O/P locations, on which sit several apartment buildings.

There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of properties throughout downtown/midtown which could be redeveloped. They are empty, or parking lots, or occupied by abandoned buildings which cannot reasonably be reconstructed, or buildings which have been vacant for number of years.

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More Sac county nonsense

MUTCD-2012_Figure9C-7The Bicycle Detector Pavement Marking (CA-MUTCD Figure 9C-7, shown at right) is placed to show a bicyclist where to stop so that they can trigger a traffic signal. When installed properly, they prevent the all-too-common scenario where bicyclists cannot trigger signals and must either cross against the red light when a safe gap is available, or wait until a motor vehicle arrives. They are also a clear signal to motorists that there is a reason why the bicyclist is positioned where they are. Of course “bicycles may use full lane” is true approaching any intersection where right turns are permitted, however, most motorists do not know or remember this law unless there is a sign there to remind them. The sharrow serves a similar purpose. However, these markings are often not installed in properly.

Mission southbound at Marconi, bike detector placement

Mission southbound at Marconi, bike detector placement

Here is another fresh Sacramento County mistake, where the marking was not placed properly. On Mission Ave southbound, approaching Marconi Ave, there is a Bicycle Detector Pavement Marking in the bike lane, but not in the regular through/right turn lane. This marking is on new pavement placed in a complete streets project along Marconi from Mission westward to Fulton, and was installed within the last two years. If a bicyclist is to trigger the signal, they have to stay in the right hand edge bicycle lane, where they are at risk of getting right hooked. If they adopt a merge position between the two lanes, where they should be in order to make clear to motor vehicle drivers to either get in front or fall in behind, not beside, then the signal won’t trigger.

The solution is to place a marker in the regular lane, and adjust loop sensitivity if necessary, so that the bicyclist can choose which lane position to use.

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streetcar vote coming

I live within the influence/taxation zone for the proposed Sacramento Streetcar, Sacramento Measure B, so I received a voter information pamphlet, and presumably will receive a ballot within a few days. Let me say right up front that I am voting yes. I support the streetcar for its economic and transportation benefits. However, I’d like to address some of the anti arguments.


No on Measure B

The pro side is well represented at, and the other websites linked from there. I have not found a website for the anti side, but their arguments are in the information packet and on the sign above.

Here are the anti arguments, from the pamphlet, with my comments in green:

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