Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Planner "Pete" spurns driving alone in HOV lanes

Sacramento Bee reporter Tony Bizjak notes the following in his "Backseat Driver" Column:

Since we're talking reports, here's one about hybrid cars in carpool lanes.

Remember the state law allowing 45-mile-per-gallon hybrids with just one occupant to use the carpool lane? It's an incentive for people to buy environmentally friendly cars.
A state report tells us there are 3,000 hybrid owners zipping around Sacramento with the yellow decals.

That is, minus one guy we know, Pete. Pete got a decal, but he won't use it. He just wanted to take one decal out of circulation, on principle.

He's a planner. Carpool lanes are for carpools, he says.

It's good to know that at least one policymaker sees the disconnect between current HOV lane policy and the objective of increasing the number of carpools. (We can only wonder whether "Pete" is SACOG's Pete!)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

If You Build It, They WON'T Come?

Whatever one's opinions about Caltrans' plans for Highway 50, nearly everyone agrees that the so-called "carpool lane" is about expanding capacity so that the freeway can carry more cars. Pete Hathaway says so. Caltrans also says so in the project description.

It boggles the mind, then, that the planners and engineers at our state's largest transportation agency think that they can expand the capacity of a freeway by 20% to 25% without any effect on the volume of traffic! However strange it sounds, it's true. Below is an excerpt from an email from Caltrans in response to a question asking for justification of their claims that widening Highway 50 will not increase the total number of Vehicle Miles Traveled, and furthermore will not increase the total number of Diesel Vehicle Miles Traveled:

This project will not increase average daily VMT, but rather it will help to maintain mobility in the face of such growth.

The bus/carpool lanes are not built to facilitate diesel truck traffic or accommodate more diesel trucks to use the carpool lanes. The percentages of heavy trucks were not assumed to change in the future build models. The bus/carpool lane was not assumed to have any effect on heavy trucks, as they are not allowed to use the bus/carpool lane, even if they have the required number of occupants.

The only percentages that did increase over time were for bus/carpool vehicles (buses, vanpools, 2+, 3+ autos). There was a corresponding decrease in single-occupant vehicles. Buses can be either diesel powered or other (e.g. gasoline-hybrid, CNG). It's likely that non-diesel powered commuter buses would increase over time. Small delivery trucks were not considered as HOV vehicles.

In other words, Caltrans thinks that you can add an extra (HOV) lane to a congested freeway without affecting any increase in the total volume of traffic on the freeway! Furthermore, Caltrans thinks that no trucks or diesel vehicles will be added to the freeway, even though the project creates more space for them in all lanes. "Increased capacity" apparently doesn't mean "increased volume" to Caltrans planners.

What a relief to know that our state's engineers have mastered the magical thinking skills that allow us to continue to build freeways free from negative impacts of the increased traffic that they are built to accomodate!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Photo from the NAST press conference

NAST supporters with Sacramento City Council Member Rob Fong and California Assembly Member Dave Jones at the NAST Press Conference, January 17, 2007.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Highway 50 Workshop Recap

It's as if we showed up for a gunfight and instead were treated to reruns of "Bonanza"...

Thanks to those of you who took time out of your busy schedules to come to the Highway 50 workshop this evening. We had expected an opportunity to engage CalTrans staff, on the record, and get some clarification on some important questions on apparent gaps in the environmental review of their proposed Highway 50 expansion. I'm sure there were others, like me, who made a point of taking off from work early so we could be there at 5.00 PM sharp.

CalTrans, clearly, had other, less ambitious plans. The informal, science fair-style workshop offered no chance to ask the agency as an entity to clarify or explain the DEIR, and there was no opportunity to verbally enter comments onto the record. We were offered the opportunity to drop handwritten comments in the suggestion box, however!

CalTrans clearly missed a chance to take substantial public input on the DEIR. Consequently, our clarifying questions will need to be submitted along with our written comments, and CalTrans' only chance to respond will be in the Final EIR. That means that there is less chance that the public and CalTrans will be able to come to terms on the proper content of the environmental impact report, and there is a greater chance that the final document will be deficient. Nevertheless, we clearly showed that the community cares about the potential impact of this project.  And we learned more about how democracy works in the world of California transportation planning, where the region's decision makers are one level removed from the will of the voters.

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to turn out!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Highway 50 Expansion: Congestion relief—or accommodation for more traffic?

“The project purpose is to…improve traffic operations by reducing congestion and travel time.”

- Sac 50 Bus/Carpool Lanes and Community Enhancements Project DEIR, p. i (emphasis added)

“Do carpools relieve congestion? Temporarily, but basically, no. They add capacity to the corridor and they provide more people per vehicle.”

- Pete Hathaway, SACOG Director of Transportation Planning, in comments to the Sacramento City Council,
November 1, 2005

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Public Hearing on Hwy 50 Expansion Next Week!

CalTrans has released the DEIR on its proposed project to widen Highway 50 from Sunrise into central Sacramento. They have scheduled two public workshops-- one in Rancho Cordova and one in Sacramento-- to hear public comments on the project. For most of us living in Sacramento, this may be our best chance to demonstrate the level of community opposition to this project.

The Sacramento hearing on the Highway 50 project takes place NEXT WEDNESDAY, January 10th, from 5 PM to 8 PM at David Lubin Elementary School, 3535 M Street. PLEASE take this opportunity to share your thoughts on the impact, on our region and our neighborhoods, of increasing vehicular traffic along the 50 corridor. Even if you're not willing to speak, your presence to support the speakers is crucial. A strong public showing of opposition is politically very important.

For those of you who have been waiting for an opportunity to help NAST fight this project, this really is, um, where the rubber hits the road. Or the steel wheels hit the rails. You choose the metaphor!

Please distribute widely! Bring your friends and neighbors!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007, 5 PM to 8 PM
David Lubin Elementary School
3535 M Street
Sacramento, CA