This is the single most powerful chart on travel in Davis. It comes from the UC Davis Travel Survey and what it finds is rather profound while, at the same time, almost obvious.
If you are concerned about traffic impacts in the city, then there is a simple answer – build more housing close to campus.
The dividing line in how people get to campus is rather clear. If you live within 4.9 miles of campus, the vast majority of people either use the bus or bike or walk. If you live outside of that 4.9 mile radius, the vast majority of people drive alone.
You may say, duh. Naturally the closer you live to campus, the less likely you are to actually drive to get there. But the striking feature is just how profound those numbers actually are and their implications for land use decisions.
At the first level, within a mile of campus, 76 percent bike to campus while another 17.4 percent walk or skate. That means that within that first mile of campus, nearly 94 percent of residents use modes of transportation other than motor vehicles. And if you add in that 4.3 percent take the bus, nearly 98 percent of all people within a mile of campus do not drive.
So for those looking toward Lincoln40 this week or Nishi in June, if you want to reduce VMT (vehicle miles traveled) to campus, if you want to reduce traffic congestion during peak hours and on Richards Boulevard, if you want to reduce GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions, building projects close to campus that allow students to walk or bike is a game changer.
That might seem obvious and perhaps it is. What is always striking to me is that the next two levels are robust as well.
Modes of transportation shift when you get within 2.9 miles of campus, but not by as much as you think.
It is probably important to understand distances. From Sterling to the MU (Memorial Union) is 1.7 miles. From South Davis Nugget to the MU is 4.2 miles. In the other direction, Sycamore Lane Apartments to the MU is 0.7 miles. To the Arlington Farm Apartments it’s 2.4 miles. To the Silverstone Apartments north of Covell, it’s 2.7 miles.
The vast majority of the city of Davis is within 2.9 miles of campus. They project in the survey a population of 34,500 within that distance. At that distance, just 15 percent drive while 52 percent bike and another 31 percent take the bus.
If you go out one more level, there are another 2000 or so people within five miles of campus, and even there 57 percent bike or take the bus, versus around 43 percent who drive.
Get outside the city of Davis, and over 75 percent drive alone, and really the number is over 90 percent for those who use some sort of vehicle. Busing falls to less than 10 percent across the board outside of Davis. Only when you get to 20 or more miles out, still about 3000 projected population, do you get a significant number, 10 percent, who use the train.
The lesson here is obvious. One of the complaints about Nishi 1.0 was that it would supposedly add traffic impacts to Richards Blvd. One of the current complaints about Lincoln40 is the same. The traffic analysis does a poor job – in my opinion – of modeling the decline of traffic that has to use I-80 to get to campus via Richards Blvd.
But what this chart demonstrates and demonstrates very clearly is that the more housing you put close to campus, the less people will drive and the more people will walk or bike. People complained
that Sterling was too far from campus. Well it’s 1.7 miles from the MU. As we pointed out at the time, at that distance, you are looking at a 15 percent drive rate to campus.
Some believe that the additional biking through the Richards-Olive Drive intersection will cause traffic delays. The city is hoping to fix that intersection through the creation of an overpass. The developers at Lincoln40 are going to contribute to that. The city has also applied for a grant.
Staff believes that the EIR has adequately addressed the issue with expert analysis and potential mitigation measures down the road. The overpass will not be required as a condition of approval, rather it is a down-the-line solution. Some believe that is not sufficient, but I think the immediate problem is vastly overstated.
Yes, there are going to be 708 additional residents but it is not like they are all coming out of the apartment project at once.
That is not the case, and the intersection can handle pretty easily the additional volume of traffic and bikes expected to be generated per hour by Lincoln40.
Fehr & Peers did the Traffic Study for the Richards-Olive Drive Corridor. Keep in mind that not only will there likely be an overpass at some time, within five years, the Richards-I80 interchange and the configuration of the Richards-Olive Drive intersection will be reconstructed.
The corridor study concluded that, even with the planned development at Mace Ranch Innovation Center (MRIC, currently on hold), the Hotel Conference Center (which has since been downsized) and Nishi (defeated at the polls), there is sufficient capacity to handle the vehicular volumes at the Olive-Richards intersection. And that is under an existing conditions analysis.
The corridor study further notes, “The final memorandum on the Lincoln40 trip generation and distribution shows lower traffic volumes of 45 AM and 63 PM peak hour trips based on further trip generation studies.” (The original estimates were 62 in the AM and 85 in the PM during peak hours)
There will be more bicycles coming through that intersection, but at the rate of perhaps 1.3 per minute additional at the peak. That’s not going to cause problems for the intersection.
The bigger picture is building more housing within that one mile distance from campus will fix more problems than will be caused by additional residents. That is what we want.
—David M. Greenwald reporting