A Pedestrian-Bicycle Roadmap for the review of the 2011 Draft SACOG Metropolitan Transportation Plan

As the Sacramento community prepares to draft comments on the SACOG draft Metropolitan Transportation Plan / Sustainable Communities Strategy, I wanted to share with you a letter written by WALKSacramento’s former Executive Director, Anne Geraghty, because it provides many of the questions we should ask about the draft Sacramento MTP’s potential to promote active transportation.

Also – we invite you to join us on Friday, November 18 from 12:00 – 1:00 at the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District, 777 12th Street, 3rd Floor, in downtown Sacramento.   Kacey Lizon, SACOG’s MTP coordinator, will walk us through an outline of the MTP and answer questions. This is a regular meeting of WALKSacramento’s Complete Streets Coalition – all are welcome.

November 8, 2011

A Pedestrian-Bicycle Roadmap
for the review of the
2011 Draft SACOG Metropolitan Transportation Plan

SACOG members, colleagues and friends:

WALKSacramento was pleased to receive an early draft of the 2011 update of the Sacramento Area Council of Government’s (SACOG) Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP).  We are outlining our initial concerns in order that the regional community can become aware of the implications of this MTP for the mobility of people of all ages who walk and bike and then provide comments to SACOG on these issues.  We will be hosting workshops in early December in each of the SACOG counties to get input related to pedestrian and bicycle concerns.  Our more detailed review and recommendations will follow.

SACOG staff has been working hard to put together this latest draft and to get it out for public comment and then have time for revisions in order to meet its April 2012 deadline for adoption.  The MTP is updated every four years.  The MTP must meet many state and federal requirements, but in the end it is a running list of transportation project priorities.  It defines which transportation investments will come first and which must wait.

WALKSacramento was formed in 1998 out of a concern than the needs of pedestrians were not being addressed in the MTP or local transportation and land use plans.  In fact, this concern was first expressed at a Lung Association committee meeting organized to address the 1997 draft MTP.  WALKSacramento believed at that time that if pedestrian needs were addressed many of the other transportation, traffic congestion and air quality at both the local and regional level would be addressed.  We continue to so believe.

Much has happened since 1997.  Both the City and County of Sacramento now have pedestrian master plans and are working steadily to implement these plans.   Other SACOG communities have developed such plans as well.   WALKSacramento has been involved in the preparation of many of these documents and, as well, has been involved in many Safe Routes to School efforts throughout the Sacramento area.  WALKSacramento, working with a multi-agency advisory committee, developed recommendations to make the Los Rios Community colleges pedestrian, bicycle and transit friendly as outlined in the “Los Rios Transportation Connections Plan” of 2008.  Some of these recommendations are beginning to be implemented.

This fall, with a grant from The California Endowment, Walt Seifert and Anne Geraghty, former executive directors of the Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates (SABA) and WALKSacramento, respectively, visited jurisdictions in Sutter and Yuba Counties.  They found great interest in walking and bicycling: the City of Yuba just adopted an outstanding new bicycle master plan; Sutter County is finalizing a bicycle-pedestrian master plan and Yuba County has just initiated work to develop a bicycle master plan.  As they visited these jurisdictions they saw much potential for making more trips by foot and bike.  It speaks to us about the importance of every jurisdiction having pedestrian and bicycle master plans.

In September 2010, WALKSacramento commented on SACOG’s proposed MTP scenarios and recommended that SACOG consider a “4th Scenario.”[1] This scenario would be a Complete Streets scenario that reprioritized transportation investments so that safety and mobility infrastructure for pedestrians and bicyclists could be completed in a reasonable amount of time – twelve years, or three MTP cycles.  We joined with other community organizations and individuals to form the “Safe Routes For All” Coalition with the goal of influencing SACOG’s selection of a scenario that supported a greater emphasis on this Complete Streets vision.   This enlarged the Safe Routes to School vision of a safe pedestrian and bicycle environment for our children to include safety for all adults so that all can walk and bicycle safely to nearby destinations including transit.  As we participated in the many SACOG workshops we learned that no matter what density people prefer most desire walkable and bikable communities.

Our region has a national reputation for being sensitive to the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists.  We have good policies at both the local and regional level.  As stated earlier, many of SACOG’s 28 jurisdictions have pedestrian and/or bicycle master plans.  Yet the implementation of those plans is slow.  If the pace continues as it has in recent years, it will be 40-50 years before our citizens will have a safe walking and bicycling environment – way beyond the current MTP horizon of 2035.  This does not seem right.

We think it is critical to ask these questions:  Do we have the right transportation priorities?  Is the widening of roads to provide greater speed for commuters the highest priority for our region?  Or are the needs of our children, our aging population and all of us to be able to walk and bicycle as important or more important?  These questions have implications for our health, our air quality, and our goals to reduce climate change emissions.

We are in difficult times economically, so our transportation investments must be doubly scrutinized to be sure that they are the most cost-effective investments possible.  With its multiple benefits including job creation and its relative low cost, we think that pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure investments will prove to have excellent cost-effectiveness by providing safety for our children walking and bicycling to school, improved health for all people who will be able to and bike because of safer conditions, improved air quality through reductions in vehicle miles traveled, and greater community cohesiveness from the interaction supported by walkable and bikable neighborhoods.

With this perspective of safe mobility for all modes, we offer the following initial questions related to the Draft 2011 MTP.

Chapter 1 – Introduction: Building a Sustainable System

  • How will pedestrian, bicycle and transit investments support a sustainable system?  How can we make improvements to the system’s sustainability with greater emphasis on pedestrian and bicycle investments?

Chapter 2 – Planning Process

  • How many cities and counties in the region have Complete Street policies and plans?
  • How many have pedestrian and bicycle master plans?
  • How can levee maintenance and rehabilitation include multiuse trail development?  Are county and regional levee plans needed?

Chapter 3 – Summary of Growth and Land Use Forecast

Chapter 4 – Summary of Budget and Investments

  • Road and highway maintenance and rehabilitation can be an economical way to increase Complete Streets and mobility for walking and bicycling.  The addition of bike lanes, the consideration of lane restriping to make room for bike lanes and sidewalks, and the addition of crosswalk markings and other crossing enhancements can greatly expand the pedestrian and bicycle network.  Is this a requirement for receiving funds?  Is SACOG working to provide training on how to implement the latest research findings regarding crosswalk markings and “road diets”?  What amount of pedestrian and bicycle network and intersection improvement will occur with these road maintenance and rehabilitation investments?
  • What bicycle and pedestrian investments are envisioned?
  • What proportion of regional funds will go to bicycle and pedestrian investments?

Chapter 5A, B, C – Trends and Performance

  • 5C – Transit and Non-Motorized Travel
    • What is the number of miles of Complete Streets of major roadways – arterials and collectors?
    • What is the number of miles of arterials and collectors without bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure?
    • How does land use create pedestrian and bicycle demand?  What is the latent demand that is not being met due to unsafe pedestrian and bicycle conditions?
    • What areas of our region have Complete Streets, and how do they influence the number of people walking and bicycling?  What areas of the region have good walkability and bikability?
    • What do the traffic fatality and injury statistics tell us?  What are the statistics by jurisdiction?  What is the relationship between fatalities, injuries and infrastructure?

Chapter 6 – Policies and Supportive Strategies

  • What are the Region’s Complete Streets policies?
  • What are the Region’s goal and timeframe for achieving Complete Streets?

Chapter 7 – Environmental Sustainability

  • What would a “4th Scenario” contribute to environmental sustainability?
  • How would a “4th Scenario” reduce per capita emissions, and would it achieve a total reduction in emissions?   (Total reduction is not projected by this plan).
  • How would a “4th Scenario” contribute to individual and community health?
  • What would be the difference in emissions and health between the 4th Scenario and that proposed in the draft MTP?

Chapter 8 – Equity and Choice

  • How does the analysis of Environmental Justice areas impacts address walking and bicycling?  Pedestrian access is a key to providing transit accessibility so how does the analysis address this aspect of transit accessibility?

Chapter 9 – Economic Vitality

  • This chapter focuses solely on commuting and goods movement.  What about the economic importance of creating walkable and bikable communities?  Aren’t these key ingredients of a good “quality of life” – and also key ingredients in attracting new businesses to invest in our region?
  • What about the economic importance of a regional bicycle network to support increased tourism?
  • What about the economic importance of health and the costs of our health care?  How could the development of a truly walkable and bikeable region contribute to our health and the reduction of health costs?

Chapter 10 – Financial Stewardship

  • Again, how does road repair lead to more Complete Streets?
  • How does provision of good pedestrian access provide greater usage of public transit?
  • How does implementation of Complete Streets lead to greater system efficiency and productivity?
  • How safe will our roadways be for walking and bicycling?


A – Project List

We have not yet reviewed the MTP in depth.  As it is not a small document, has many appendices, and is of critical importance to many, we thought it beneficial to identify the issues that we will be looking at a sort of road map as we and others review the MTP in detail.

The draft MTP is  on SACOG’s website at: http://www.sacog.org/calendar/2011/11/03/transportation/pdf/2-MTP%20SCS.pdf.

We urge all of our Complete Street and Safe Routes For All colleagues to review the draft MTP, to participate in our upcoming workshops, and to work with us to provide useful comments to SACOG and its member jurisdictions on the draft MTP’s policies and transportation project priorities.

Best regards,

Teri Duarte, MPH                                           Anne Geraghty

Executive Director                                          Policy Consultant

[1] WALKSacramento letter to Kacey Lizon, Sacramento Area Council of Governments, Re: SACOG’s 2010 MTP: A Fourth Scenario, September 3, 2010.