News summary April 12

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News summary April 5

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News summary March 29

Publishing a day early because I’m off on a week-long vacation with little to no Internet access.

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River Cats: no such thing as free parking

RaleyFieldThe River Cats recently announced that they were going to make parking free and have expanded parking space for the upcoming season (SacBee). And they are raising ticket prices.

Free parking? There is no such thing as free parking. The car drivers are now receiving a subsidy to drive, at my expense. Have the River Cats not heard there is a trend away from free parking and towards motor vehicle drivers paying the true cost of that choice? This is not a good sign for livability in West Sacramento, or traffic management on both sides of the river, or greenhouse gas reduction. Just when West Sacramento seemed to be overtaking Sacramento in interest and progressive ideas comes this regressive idea.

Many game attendees have been walking across the Tower Bridge from Sacramento, some because they’ve parked in downtown or old Sacramento, and some walked from their homes or light rail. These people will now be paying for parking that they aren’t using. I won’t be subsidizing car drivers, and I won’t be attending.

The map above shows the areas I think are available for parking around Raley Field, though this needs to be field checked. Of course much of this area will eventually be developed with housing and other development, but for the time being there hardly seems any shortage of parking.

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Walking to the pub

I’d like to expand on a tweet I posted last night:

“On St Patricks day, when everyone is reminding you to drive sober, let me remind you to live close enough to your pub that you can walk.”

As I was walking around early evening yesterday, I went by a number of bars that were catering to some degree to the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. I was looking for a place with Irish music, of which there were as many yesterday as the entire rest of the year (sadly, Celtic/Irish music has faded from Sacramento). Some were pretty empty, some were so full there were long lines just to get in. The most popular in my part of town, De Vere’s, didn’t seem to be offering music at all. And I won’t set foot in a place that serves green beer. I settled on Shady Lady as the place I’d return to in the later evening. But this isn’t a post about favorite bars, it is about transportation.

Shady Lady is four blocks from my apartment. An easy walk at any time, and an easy walk if I’ve had enough to drink that it would affect my walking. I actually don’t drink much, and had only two strong beers last night. But the point is, I could have walked home if I’d had ten, or more. Or I could have done what many others were doing, jump in their car and head home, endangering themselves and their passengers, endangering other drivers and passengers, endangering pedestrians, endangering bicyclists. Everyone spends time talking about not driving drunk, about having designated drivers, but despite years of this kind of talk, and some effective shaming by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, people still do it. The talk is especially prominent around holidays, St. Patrick’s Day among many. But there are still drunks on the road, and they still cause a disproportionate percentage of crashes. We’ve made some difference, but only a small part of the difference we need to make, and I have the feeling that effectiveness has plateaued. When I read the newspaper, most crashes involve alcohol, or speed, or alcohol-fueled speed. We can never reach Vision Zero if anyone, ANYONE, is driving home from a bar with significant alcohol in their system.

So, what to do? Well, live close enough to a pub/bar that you can walk.

I think we would do well to return to the old concept of a pub, the public house, the gathering and drinking place where the town or the neighborhood went to on a regular basis. There was a time people did not jump in their cars to go drinking. I understand that pub culture has faded even in the United Kingdom, but given this celebration of St. Patrick’s Day and Irish culture, I’d like to see us turn back towards that model. Get drunk at the pub, stumble home. That was the tradition, and it could be again.

There are some issues:

  1. There are vast areas in the suburbs that have no bars, or at least no bars that the average person would feel safe walking into. Just like there are food deserts, there are good bar deserts.
  2. There is a strong social desire to go to the latest, greatest, most popular, most “cool” bar, so those places are packed with people who have driven in from somewhere else.
  3. Most people chose the place where they live based on other criteria, such as a nice house, or an affordable house, or good schools for the kids, or a quiet neighborhood. All of those are useful, but when that choice leads to killing yourself and others by driving drunk, it is a bad choice for everyone. And a real possibility is that you will end up killing your own kids or someone else’ kids.

So, do you drink enough that it affects your ability to get around? If you answer yes, then I’m asking that you commit to yourself, and to me and everyone else, that you will only do that at a place you can walk home from. No exceptions, no excuses. Will fulfilling that commitment cause you to have to move? Probably. Do it anyway. Don’t kill yourself, and don’t kills others, based on a broken concept that the decision about where we choose to live is without consequence to others.

For some more perspective on the issue, see Strong Towns “Mothers Against Drunk Driving Should Also Be Against Zoning.” Though I strongly disagree with the post title, and the post only provides arguments against dumb zoning, it is an interesting read.

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News summary March 22

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The Active Transportation Program petition

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership, along with a number of coalition partners, has offered a petition to increase the amount of funding for California’s Active Transportation Program (ATP). Information on the petition is at Safe Routes to School California and California Walks. What follows is not intended to discourage you from signing the petition. Rather, I’m suggesting that it doesn’t go far enough.

The petition asks for an increase of $100 million per year in funding. With the existing funding of about $120M, this would be just less than double the current funding, a not insignificant increase.

However, the amount is a tiny fraction the roughly $28 billion spent yearly on transportation in California. The majority of this expenditure is through Caltrans, and the majority of that is to expand the highway and road network. Those expenditures work directly against the goal of walkable, livable communities. Yes, expansions often now include some sidewalks and some bicycle facilities, but the preponderance of the project is not on these afterthoughts, but on increasing lane miles by extending and widening highways and roadways. Of the money expended on the road transportation system, about half comes from cities, counties and regions, about one-quarter from the federal government, and about one-quarter from the state. But because the state controls the federal and state portion, and state standards determine or strongly influence how the rest is spent, things must change at the state level.

Marketing for the petition includes: “Nearly $800 million in shovel-ready walking, bicycling and Safe Routes to School projects and programs were left unfunded in the first ATP awards cycle.” I imagine now that many agencies have started to figure out how ATP works, there will be even more applications this cycle, with an even bigger gap between applications and available funding. So would the addition of $100 million really make much of a difference? We have a long term deficit in active transportation of trillions of dollars. $100 million is not that significant.

The graphic below shows the portion of the state transportation budget (in red) going to the ATP program (in green) and which would be added (blue) if the petition resulted in supportive legislation. You may need to squint.

budget

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