Thanks to a comment from one of our readers, we learned that the County Department of Transportation has taken a positive step towards improving our community's mobility choices. When we learned the plan and its public input activity took place during Covid, we understood how it slipped past us.
As it turns out, the County DOES have an Active Transportation Plan (ATP). Compared to the County's other planning documents, the ATP is pretty good. It does a decent job of explaining what active transportation is, what the barriers are to walking and biking, and what the County needs to do to fix the problems. Perhaps most importantly, the ATP says it is about the unincorporated area (the urbanized UnCity) for which the County has municipal service responsibility, with a stated focus on designated Environmental Justice areas like West Arden Arcade.
What the document does NOT do is stipulate how and when the many identified needs will be met. Instead, when it discusses implementation, the document uses weasel words like "should", "would" and "can", and it makes it clear that solutions are dependent on receipt of grants from entities over which the County (and, hence, the UnCity) has minimal to no control - the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) and the state and federal goverments - or the Sacramento Transportation Authority (STA), a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) with an imbalance of power against unincorporated communities. While it is true that Sacramento County has significant representation on both SACOG and STA, Supervisor Desmond and the County's Head of Transportation, Ron Vicari, have recently complained at public meetings that SACOG's fund distribution to the County is less than one would expect from a per capita distribution and that SACOG's project priorities do not align with the County's. As for STA, though all five Supervisors sit on the JPA, they constitute less than 1/3 of governing board and 3 of them represent some portion of the City of Sacramento. The other 11 board menbers are from cities, with 5 of them being from the City of Sacramento. In other words, too bad for the UnCity.
Meanwhile, though the ATP presents a miles-long list of projects neccessary to fill in sidewalk gaps, make sidewalks safer and make safe biking possible, it doesn't really convey a sense of priority. Which glaring needs deserve attention right now? Which ones will become much worse if not attended to in the short term? The document fails to answer those questions because funding depends on the priorities of others. Further, if you drill down into some of the details, you are left scratching your head. For example:
- the level of detail about individual ATP solutions is excellent, but there isn't a bridge to the implementation and funding sections (which specific intersection needs infrastructure improvement "x" and by when) and there is no clear sense that an identified problem is ever be corrected
- the solution set doesn't seem to align with an actual concern for Environmental Justice (e.g. the "Arden Way has good bones" fake "complete street" project)
- our community's bikeway plan (circa 2015 yet included in the document) was obviously made by people who do not rely on bicycles for mobility here
- the attention given to car vs pedestrian and car vs bicycle accidents, while laudable, doesn't seem to understand our community's lack of traffic enforcement, a significant problem for a community that is almost totally reliant on cars
- while the interface between walking and transit is addressed (e.g. bus stops), our community's dysfunctional transit service is a far bigger problem, one that doesn't seem to have been considered
- though it is refreshing to see acknowledgement of the necessity of wayfinding, the County's baby step in that regard is a sort of poster child for doing the minimum and letting it go at that
- the community outreach was done during Covid and seemed to skew towards affinity groups that are mostly concerned with the City of Sacramento
We could go on, taking deep dives into this, that or the other specific problem with our mobility infrastructure, but we won't, at least today. It's a target-rich environment for past and future posts. For now, despite the ATP's "Where's the beef?" problems, we'll just applaud the County's Department of Transportation for doing a much better job than is usually done unto us in Arden Arcade. We encourage our readers to have a look at the ATP and to express their thoughts and concerns to the County. Our hope is that the ATP will evolve into a set of projects that are actually funded in our lifetime.