News summary August 30

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linking the colleges?

I attended the Blue Line extension to Cosumnes River College (CRC) Grand Opening this morning at Meadowview station and then at CRC station. It was a lot of fun. There were more politicians in one place that I think I’ve seen, and they were justifiably proud of their part in supporting this extension, some having worked on it for years. [Photos on Flickr]

A number of speakers talked about linking the colleges, in this case Sacramento City College and Cosumnes River College. An increasing number of students apparently take classes at more than one campus in order to get the ones they need, so this extension is expected to help them, whether they don’t have a car or just choose to get around in a more convenient and more responsible way. Folsom Lake College’s Rancho Cordova Center is very close to the Mather/Mills light rail station. The Cosumnes River College’s Elk Grove Center will be on light rail if the Blue Line is extended to Elk Grove (Blue Line Phase 3). American River College’s Natomas Center will be on light rail if the Green Line is extended to Natomas. All of these connections are great, for students and for the community.

Unfortunately, American River College’s (ARC) main campus in North Highlands was barely mentioned. Brian King, Chancellor of Los Rios Community College District, said that ARC was served by a robust bus system. Unfortunately, that is not true. ARC is served by Route 1 (Greenback) on a 15 minutes frequency, and Route 82 (Howe-65th) on a 30 minute frequency, which is hardly robust service. Route 82 only runs until 9:30PM, missing students with later classes or who are staying to study, and who need to make connections to other buses or light rail to get back home.

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News summary August 23

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parking rights?

Tony Bizjak wrote in his Back-Seat Driver weekly column yesterday about parking issues in the central city, Backseat Driver: Sacramento’s central city residents want parking rights protected (SacBee 2015-08-17), as a follow-on to the community meeting held by Steve Hansen last week.

I don’t know whether Tony was responsible for the headline, but the headline does at least accurately reflect the view of some central city residents that they have a right to free parking, right in front of their house, and of some suburban commuters that they have a right to low cost parking right at their place of employment. There is no right to parking. You won’t find it in the constitution, federal, state or local law, nor in the bible, protestations to the contrary. There are always trade-offs in providing parking, including reduced livability, air pollution and carbon release, potentially lower walkability and bikeability, a less effective transit system, proliferation of that most ugly of urban forms – the parking garage and the surface parking lot, and most of all, encouragement to drive everywhere – a relict of the 1950s and 1970s that most “world class” cities are rapidly moving away from.

The article opens with “A downtown can’t prosper if its people can’t park their cars,” which has become a tag line for comments at the SacBee, Facebook and Twitter. Says who? The implication is that all other considerations are subservient to the demand for parking. A city’s businesses can’t prosper if customers can’t find parking reasonable close to the business they wish to frequent, for those customers that must or choose to drive. All day commuter parking and all day and night residential parking are in fact what threaten the prosperity of downtown, and it is our existing parking policies that make this so. A downtown can’t prosper if it is not walkable, bikeable and transit friendly, and in my opinion those are at least as important as drivability. It is not that parking need necessarily conflict with these other goals, but it does currently, and the restrictions, requirements and limitations being asked by some residents and some commuters will make it worse, much worse.

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Hansen’s community meeting on parking

timed parking and residential permit

timed parking and residential permit

On August 12, Steve Hansen sponsored a community meeting on parking issues. This is a report and reaction. The meeting was actually quite civil, not often the case when neighborhood people get involved in issues. There was clapping for things they liked but no booing and no angry outbursts.

Matt Eierman, parking manager for the City of Sacramento, presented on the current proposals and a bit about future ideas, what the city is calling “parking modernization.” He addressed concern that there would not be enough parking for the arena by showing a map of downtown parking spaces overlaid with walking distance at the Sleep Train Arena (ARCO), with sufficient parking available.

Eierman claimed that credit card fees at parking meters cannot legally be charged back to the credit card holder, however, San Francisco and many cities outside California are doing just that.

Eierman said dismissively that he hates the idea of “dynamic” parking fees, the idea that parking rates would change with location, time of day or day of week. He said “no wants to drive up to a meter and not know how much it is going to cost.” This is an absurd statement, and I’ll provide an analogy. Would a person say they are never going to buy apples at the store again because they don’t know ahead of time whether they are $0.89 or $1.19 this week? Of course not, people make decisions based on changing information, and parking is no different. With a smart phone, the person would know the fee even before pulling into the space.

The two things being proposed to go the the city council in the near future are:

  1. An increase in the parking rate from $1.25 per hour to $1.75 per hour, at all on-street metered parking in the central city. The city pointed out that fees have not increased in some time, though costs have gone up, and that an increase for on-street parking would shift longer term parking off the streets and to city parking garages and lots, some of which are very underutilized.
  2. A SPOTZone (Special Parking Over Time) pilot in Old Sacramento and one location in midtown that would allow people to pay for time beyond the set time limit, at a higher price. The pricing would discourage long term parking, causing more spaces to be open, but through payment mechanisms (smart meters and smart phone payment) would reduce the number of parking citations.

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transit frequency in Houston and Sacramento

Houston has been in the news recently, and will certainly be today, opening day, for their revised transit system which created a network of high frequency (service every 15 minutes or better, 15 hours a day, 7 days a week) transit lines. The map below left shows this new system, only, and clicking goes to the high resolution image on the Houston METRO website. The map below right shows the entire system, with lines that don’t meet the high frequency definition. The system was redesigned with the help of Jarrett Walker, transit consultant and author of Human Transit, which I posted on yesterday and will be posting a lot more in the near future.

Houston METRO Frequent Network

Houston METRO System

So, what’s the story in Sacramento?

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Beg buttons on K? Really?

Note: I discovered yesterday, to my chagrin, that I had a number of draft posts dating back to early 2013, which I’d never finished. So I’m going to post them now, all in a flurry. Some of these issues I’ll get back to and do an in-depth and up-to-date post, and some of them I probably never will. This is the fifth and last post, and I discarded two that were worth preserving. This just points out that I have more good ideas than I have time to carry them out.

My point here was that beg buttons should not be used on streets which are meant to encourage or emphasize walkability, of which K Street is certainly one. I will definitely be writing more about this.

Pedestrian beg button on a commonly used crosswalk (9th St at K St), this location should have a pedestrian signal on every cycle, not just when someone presses the button.

Pedestrian beg button on a commonly used crosswalk (9th St at K St), this location should have a pedestrian signal on every cycle, not just when someone presses the button.

Original 2015-04-11: I have to admit that sometimes I walk past things every day and don’t notice them, but this morning I noticed the pedestrian activated buttons on K Street in downtown Sacramento. Yes, they’ve probably been here since the street was re-opened to cars on November 12, 2011. These are technically called pedestrian pushbuttons, and their purpose is to activate the pedestrian signal head and a change of the traffic signal. They are often called beg buttons, because the pedestrian has to “beg” to cross the street by pushing the button, rather than being an accepted part of transportation on the street.

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