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Transit vs Mobility

(originally published Feb 3, 2019)

Transportation planning is supposed to be about meeting mobility needs. In practice, it is more about trying to get a project funded with “someone else’s money”, such as a federal grant or a state subvention. In our case, Arden Arcade, originally a post WWII auto-oriented bedroom community, was supposed to be linked to downtown Sacramento by roads. The roads became freeways. RT offered express buses along Arden, El Camino and Marconi. It was fairly easy to commute to and from downtown Sacramento by car or bus. In the 1980s, funding for a planned freeway from what is now the Business 80/I-80 split to downtown Sacramento was redirected into the Light Rail system. RT repurposed the bus system to serve Light Rail, which hardly anyone used since it was on the far side of the bottlenecks and took too much time. At about the same time, employment centers were deliberately distributed across the Metro Area: Sac County gave carte blanche to office park developers in Rancho Cordova (before it was a city) and elsewhere, Roseville and Rocklin established Placer County as a workplace destination with developments at places like Douglas Blvd and Stanford Ranch, and Folsom transformed itself from a bedroom community to an employment center (Intel, etc.). Growth exploded. So now we have destinations all over the place, a fixed rail system designed to take commuters to one destination - downtown Sacramento - and a bunch of buses that really only serve that fixed rail system. The upshot, as anyone who tries to get around the area knows, is that our regional “mobility” system is a mess.

"Running a transit line where it’s easiest often means it doesn’t go directly to where people live, work or want to visit."
"Red Flags in the Purple Line Plans" by Aron Levy in Voice of San Diego on Jan. 30, 2019

The Country Club Alliance of Neighborhoods is having a public meeting next Tuesday for RT to explain what it is doing to try to fix its service delivery problem (at Kuni Chevy from 6pm-7:3-pm). If you plan to attend (recommended), or if you think mobility in our local area needs better attention, you might want to read this article from Voice of San Diego. It warns against building mass transit exclusively on easy alignments where obtaining right-of-way is simple — that’s what RT did — but can lead to low ridership and are not necessarily cost-effective. Sound familiar? Our region’s mobility challenges are particularly not easy to solve since we no longer have a dominant city center. Making our situation worse is that our part of the glorious UnCity does not have local representation on the RT Board except for the County. And we all know how that works, don’t we?

May contain: human, person, and pedestrian
San Diego’s Trolley is the model for urban rail transit in California. Or is it? {photo: Sam Hodgson in Voice of San Diego’s Red Flags in the Purple Line Plans}
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