Council Candidates on Transportation Issues

Council-Race-2012

Today at Bike Forth on 4th and L, there will be a Transportation Candidates forum at 7 pm.  In advance, the candidates were given questions concerning transportation issues.

Davis Bicycles! and the Davis Bike Collective sent five questions to the Davis City Council Candidates concerning transportation issues.

The questions were:

1. Many people agree that there are problems with parking in Downtown Davis. Some think that the problem is a lack of parking while others think there is adequate parking but it is managed poorly. What is your perspective on the downtown parking situation and what steps will you propose to improve downtown parking? Would you support paid parking in Downtown? Why or why not?

2. Talk about your thoughts on the availability, quality and use of public transportation in Davis and Yolo County. What is working and what needs to change? What will you propose to achieve the changes you believe are necessary? Speak specifically about bus transit and talk about your personal experiences using buses in Davis or from Davis to other locations.

3. The Capitol Corridor is a wonderful transportation resource for the citizens of Davis. Currently bicyclists can take their bikes on any Capitol Corridor train without restrictions. Starting in September of this year this policy will change and bicyclists may be refused access with their bicycles if the train is full. What should we do in Davis to fill gaps that this might create for bicyclists coming to or leaving from Davis on the train?

4. What is the top safety issue concerning the mixing of pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists? What is the top law enforcement issue you see regarding cars, bikes and pedestrians?

5. To you, what would be an ideal transportation mode split between bicycling, using public transit, walking and driving automobiles for trips that occur within the city of Davis? In other words, what is the ideal percentage of trips that should be done by each mode? What specifically will you do to try to assure that the City of Davis reaches your ideal mode split?

Here are the candidates’ unedited responses in the order in which they were received:

1. Many people agree that there are problems with parking in Downtown Davis. Some think that the problem is a lack of parking while others think there is adequate parking but it is managed poorly. What is your perspective on the downtown parking situation and what steps will you propose to improve downtown parking? Would you support paid parking in Downtown? Why or why not?

Dan Wolk: There is probably no bigger issue on the minds of the downtown business owners and customers that I talk with on a regular basis than parking. Not only does there appear to be a need for improvement, but to become the downtown that we want to be – to provide more housing, to draw more people from throughout the region, to improve streetscapes and plazas, and to make the downtown more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly – parking needs to be part of the equation. Certainly there were issues with the Third/Fourth/E/F retail and parking project. But the idea of improving – as well as reconfiguring – parking downtown is a worthy one. The City Council has decided to study this issue in greater detail. I look forward to that. And, yes, everything should be on the table as we do so, including the option of adding more paid parking.

Brett Lee: I believe that it is a combination of both, a problem of managing an adequate supply during most times/days and at times a shortage in the absolute number of parking spaces (Friday nights at 7pm while UCD is in session).

The first step I would take is to provide an improved information system that would let people know how many spots are available in each parking garage. This info could be conveyed on a large sign as you enter the downtown area from the Richards underpass and also on the North on one of the main entry points along 5th Street. This would make it easy for people to know where parking is available and eliminate people circling for spots. In addition, I would have this info available on a smartphone app/website.

In conjunction with this, I would improve the lighting of the garages and hire a paid parking attendant for the evening hours; many choose not to use the parking lots because of personal safety concerns. Hiring an attendant will help alleviate the safety concerns.

I would also approach the businesses that have lots which are not used after the businesses are closed, but are not open to the public (banks, etc.) and I would ask them to make their lots available for public parking after the businesses are closed for the day. The City could cover the liability insurance for the business lots during these hours. This would immediately “create” close to 75 additional spaces for parking downtown.

I would also implement a paid parking program. The rates set would have to be quite modest ($1-$2/hr?), but significant enough to create an incentive for people with time, to park in the parking structures (which would still be free). I would have a portion of the parking revenues be directed into programs and services that directly benefit the downtown businesses (art, improvements, cleaning services, etc.), in addition I would have a portion of the parking revenues go towards a fund to help pay for a future parking structure (perhaps located at the Amtrak lot). Having said that, I believe if the above suggestions were implemented, I would be surprised if there is a near term need for an additional parking structure.

Lucas Frerichs: I think that there are problems with parking in downtown Davis- with both a lack of parking and that the parking that we have is poorly managed.

I think we need to better manage and make better use of the two parking structures that currently exist. In many cities, parking structures are equipped with electronic monitoring/screens that indicates how many spaces are available on each floor, etc.

Oftentimes, a driver will not use a structure because they are afraid there won’t be a space available for them when they drive up several floors. The ultimate purpose of these types of tools is to make it more user friendly for the driver, but also to take away the hesitation of a driver to utilize the parking structures.

Another issue for me is design. I believe that we need to be smarter when it comes to design in general, but particularly when we’re considering public projects like a parking structure. Both of the current structures in downtown Davis are pretty ugly, and draw away from the aesthetics downtown. We could make these things more attractive, and more pleasing to the community.

I applaud the increase of bike parking in the downtown, particularly the on-street bike parking. That has been a big improvement, and has helped to clear the sidewalks of bikes, allowing for an increase of pedestrian activities, additional restaurant seating, etc to take its place.

I am currently studying a book by UCLA professor Don Shoup, “The High Cost of Free Parking”, where the paid vs. free parking is detailed. It seems like paid parking would limit trips by car, cut emissions, alleviate congestion and, as a side effect, improve land use. I am interested in further discussions regarding this topic, and look forward to engaging with the DDBA and customers of our downtown as we move forward. In addition, I would like to collaborate with UCD on solutions to the paid/free parking dilemma downtown.

Stephen Souza: Increase the supply downtown through better management of the current supply and/or developing additional parking space. Part of a management plan is to implement some more targeted paid parking. Encourage use of alternative modes and reduce motor vehicle use (thereby reducing traffic congestion, accidents and pollution). The most desirable spaces should be managed to favor higher-priority uses. Special efforts should be made to deal with peak-demand. Finally more information should be available to inform the public of what is available. Using technology in this area would be very helpful.

2. Talk about your thoughts on the availability, quality and use of public transportation in Davis and Yolo County. What is working and what needs to change? What will you propose to achieve the changes you believe are necessary? Speak specifically about bus transit and talk about your personal experiences using buses in Davis or from Davis to other locations.

Dan Wolk: I utilize public transportation nearly every day, as I take the Capitol Corridor train to/from work. As for buses, it’s more convenient for me to bicycle, so I do not use buses on a daily basis. However, I certainly have used Yolobus to go to the Sacramento International Airport and, like many other parents and their children, I enjoy riding the double-decker Unitrans buses with my oldest daughter, Avery.

In general, we have much to be proud of as a community when it comes to public transportation. However, there is certainly room for improvement. I would like to see the train station become a real multmodal transit hub. I would also like to see more buses/shuttles connecting the businesses on Second Street with the downtown with the university. We should be constantly making sure the Unitrans and Yolobus routes and the number and location of bus stops are ideal. And we should make sure the high speed rail project that Governor Brown and others are pushing benefits the Capitol Corridor via track and other improvements, as the Capitol Corridor is an essential feeder and should be viewed and funded accordingly.

We also need to make a greater effort to connect regionally. I would like to see greater inroads made into Solano, whether it’s to the commercial activity in Vacaville, including the employment centers, outlets and the Nut Tree, the courts in Fairfield, or downtown Dixon. And we need to make sure Yolobus is sufficiently interconnecting the cities in our county – for example, that it is easy for someone in West Sacramento to get to Woodland, or for someone in Winters to get to Davis, and vice-versa.

Brett Lee: My experience is based upon using Yolo Bus to go to Woodland and Sacramento. I have found it to be quite convenient and reasonably priced. However, I would like to use it to go to/from the Sacramento Airport but the last bus leaves SMF at 10:20pm which is often too early for me (flight arrives after last bus leaves). So, I know for me, I would like a last bus departure from the airport at 12 midnight, but that should really be based on a passenger survey, not just my thoughts.

I do find it odd that Unitrans does not have bike racks, which would seem useful if the weather is iffy and you don’t want to ride your bike home in the rain, but again data should drive the decision on this.

Overall, I am impressed with the scope and convenience of the bus systems we have access to, especially for students who get to ride for free (reg fees pay for it, but you know what I mean).

However, I would like to look into the following: Right now, the bus system in Davis is understandably university centric. I think there are those who live in the outer neighborhoods who might like a downtown centric bus or shuttle run perhaps a couple times per day, so that they could ride the bus downtown to go lunch and maybe do a little bit of shopping or take in a movie. The schedule would not have to be as extensive as the current routes have, but I think this is an area where it might be good to do a survey of some sort and see what the demand might be.

Lucas Frerichs: Public Transit in Davis/Yolo County is pretty good, overall. We are really fortunate to have the Capitol Corridor, YoloBus, Unitrans, and Solano Express as transit operators in Yolo County.

In fact, last year, the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Smarter Cities project named Yolo County as one of the fifteen U.S. metropolitan regions leaders in transportation innovation and smart transit.

http://smartercities.nrdc.org/topic/transportation/americas-smartest-regions-transportation

Among other qualities, the primary transit authorities in these top regions must have a minimum of three current sustainable transportation programs to be identified as top performers (which Yolo County has). According to the NRDC, “the selected transportation leaders exhibit some the nation’s best and most innovative practices in transportation and make a strong case for the importance of a nationwide transit-focused, sustainable society.”

I regularly utilize YoloBus as I commute to/from my work in Sacramento at the State Capitol. I have watched (as gas prices have continued to climb over the years), the increase in the number of people riding the Express bus service that YoloBus provides. In fact, YoloBus has increased the number and frequency of express busses utilized during the commute hours.

My one primary concern is that the various express bus routes don’t offer as much flexibility for commuters who wish to go to work later or come home from Sacramento later in the evening. For the 43 route, the latest express bus I can catch to Sacramento is at 7:45am, and the last 43 express bus I can catch home is at 6:15pm- neither of which allows for much flexibility when it comes to varying the standard work hours.

I think changes to the schedule could be made that would be beneficial to riders, overall.

While Unitrans is greatly utilized by the student population, I also would like to see additional utilization of Unitrans, specifically by Davis residents. I would strategize with the Unitrans management about ways to do this. I have suggested creating a transit hub in the downtown, as one potential way of doing this.

Lastly, my wife, Stacie, and I use YoloBus as much as possible when we fly to/from the Sacramento Airport. We are big fans of the 42A/42B airport service, and think it’s a steal, especially compared to the cost of a shuttle/taxi/ parking fees for long term parking at the Airport.

Stephen Souza: Davis and Yolo County is served by a wide variety of public transportation services. Unitrans, Yolobus, Davis Community Transit, Amtrak Shuttle, Capitol Corridor and Pedicabs all operate on different schedules serving different needs. Unitrans on an annual basis tweaks the routes to accommodate new demands. Yolobus has a Board of Directors that meet on a monthly basis to refine the needs. Both of these systems are now using technology to inform riders of their arrivals to help with increasing and informing riders for better use. This is important in order to understand how to predict and influence behavior over the long term because the effectiveness of public transportation is dependent on how users respond to public policies.

3. The Capitol Corridor is a wonderful transportation resource for the citizens of Davis. Currently bicyclists can take their bikes on any Capitol Corridor train without restrictions. Starting in September of this year this policy will change and bicyclists may be refused access with their bicycles if the train is full. What should we do in Davis to fill gaps that this might create for bicyclists coming to or leaving from Davis on the train?

Dan Wolk: As someone who bicycles to the train station and then takes the Capitol Corridor nearly everyday to Fairfield for my “day job” as a Deputy County Counsel for Solano County, I am intimately familiar with this issue. This policy is the result of many instances where more people bring bikes onto the train then there are racks. Considering the safety hazard that creates, I can understand where the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority is coming from.

This is, to my mind, a “good problem” to have; we should be encouraging both train and bicycle use. In response to this policy change, I recommend a few things: (1) implement a “bike sharing” program (my understanding is that the Capitol Corridor JPA may be interested in partnering on this with us); (2) install a state-of-the-art bike parking facility at the train station – or at least additional and updated bike lockers – to encourage more commuters to leave their bicycles behind instead of bringing them on the train; and (3) work with the Capitol Corridor JPA to see how more space might be created on trains for bike racks. I suspect there is an opportunity to create more room on trains.

Brett Lee: Having been a fairly frequent user of the Capitol Corridor trains, I really do appreciate their quick access to the bay area. They have relatively reasonable fares and are quite comfortable. I do understand the limitation on bicycle storage on the cars. In order to deal with possibility that the cyclist may not be able to bring his/her bike on board it is essential that the Davis Amtrak station install more bike boxes that are available on a short term basis. I would also hope that the conductor could radio ahead to let the Davis station know that the train is “full” so the cyclists would have time to securely lock their bikes before the train arrives. In the medium run, it may make sense to have a bike check area like many train stations have in other bike friendly countries. In the long run, it may be possible to have a Capitol Corridor car redesigned to have more bike storage capability.

As a side note, I am not impressed that the lot is filled with Sacramento residents who do not want to pay for parking at the Sacto Amtrak lot and drive to Davis instead to catch the train.

Lucas Frerichs: We are so lucky to have such a great and successful passenger rail service in our midst. Sometimes, with that success comes additional associated issues, and one of those is the increasing number of folks taking the train who are bringing their bikes.

We take the Capitol Corridor regularly to the Bay Area, and oftentimes bring our bikes, as we will get off in Berkeley/Emeryville and spend the day down there visiting friends, etc. Also, my wife, Stacie attended Berkeley for grad school, and did the Cap Corridor plus bike commute every Saturday for two years.

I think we should implement a bikeshare program, like Washington DC, Portland (starting in early 2013), or various other cities, and we could really use such program, particularly due to the amount of traffic going to/from the train station to the University.

Stephen Souza: Davis needs to search for a provider of rental/loaner bikes that are available at the station. Absent that we need to provide more secure bike racks and/or lockers. At the Washington, DC Union Station there is a private operator called Bike and Roll that provides both of these services.  Also the Capitol Corridor needs to convert some of it’s cars to add bike spaces.

4. What is the top safety issue concerning the mixing of pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists? What is the top law enforcement issue you see regarding cars, bikes and pedestrians?

Dan Wolk: Simply put: pedestrians and bicyclists getting hit by motorists. Just recently this was reinforced when Megan Glanville, a law student at UC Davis, was hit and killed at the corner of Lake and Russell. Her death – coupled with a near-miss of a child only a few months previously at Eisenhower and Russell – needs to be a call of action for the community. Our community could and should be doing a much better job when it comes to bike/ped safety. Among other things, we need to (1) reduce traffic speeds on certain major routes and improve certain intersections, whether through signing, striping, or programming; (2) explore ways of making bicycling in the downtown safer, as our city council pursued by painting sharrows on Second Street; and (3) pursuing the Fifth Street road diet so crossing – and biking along – Fifth Street will not be as dangerous.

At the same time, bicyclists and pedestrians need to understand that motorists are as much a part of our community as they are and that they do not “rule the road.” It’s a two-way street, so to speak. We should look to enhance educational programs to teach bicyclists the rules of the road and increase enforcement, albeit in a way that emphasizes compliance over punishment.

Brett Lee: I believe that cars are driving too fast (far over and above the posted speed limits) and this causes the streets to be less safe for pedestrians and cyclists, which serves to discourage parents from allowing their kids to cycle to school. In addition, I believe the majority of cyclists do not use headlights while riding at night, and this is going to lead to a major, completely preventable tragedy.

I would like to see additional police officers assigned to traffic control, which I hope will lead to an overall reduction in traffic speeds and also result in fewer cyclists riding at night without lights. I would specifically like to see a two-part program to address the cycling at night without lights issue: I would like to see the police issue “fix-it” tickets to cyclists without lights and the cyclist would then be able to go to a local bike shop who has opted in to the program and purchase a light set and have their “fix-it” ticket stamped so that they do not need to pay a fine. In addition, I would like to see a voluntary program where the local bike shops include in the purchase price of the bike a basic headlight and taillight.

(I do know that a taillight is not required by law, but I believe that we should still actively encourage their use).

Lucas Frerichs: For me, I think one of the top safety issues when intermingling peds, bikes and cars, is speed, and whether all three groups are moving in a safe way.

Oftentimes, pedestrians will cross in places where they perhaps shouldn’t be crossing, and that should/could be improved upon.

Many bicyclists in Davis don’t use lights or helmets, and as Davis is already a fairly dark town at night,

Top law enforcement issue for me with cars is speeding, with bikes, it’s the issue of not possessing/using bike lights, and for pedestrians it’s jaywalking/ not being smarter when walking around town.

Stephen Souza: Not stopping at intersections by bike riders or using bike lights at night and awareness of pedestrians and bike riders by automobiles. Furthermore we must ensure that bicycle facilities are an integral part of street design so that lanes and pathways form an integrated network.

The measures that need to be developed to address these concerns will require a combination of traffic enforcement, engineering solutions and safety education to create behavioral changes and awareness among all.

5. To you, what would be an ideal transportation mode split between bicycling, using public transit, walking and driving automobiles for trips that occur within the city of Davis? In other words, what is the ideal percentage of trips that should be done by each mode? What specifically will you do to try to assure that the City of Davis reaches your ideal mode split?

Dan Wolk: Two things are worth noting. First, we need to come up with adequate data to measure this, which can be challenging. The city is working with a group at UCD to do just that. Second, although Davis’ mode split, at least when it comes to bicycling, is one of the best in the country, it still trails Europe by a significant amount. And our mode share of public transit is lower, I would suspect, than other cities, not just in Europe, but the U.S. However, I remain convinced we can do even better. As the community that built bike lanes nearly 50 years ago, we need to recommit ourselves to bicycling in the community.

I think a worthy and attainable initial goal is a 1/3-1/3-1/3 split between bicycling, public transportation, and automobiles. The city’s new Bicycling Coordinator – Dave “DK” Kemp – has a lot of energy and ideas to help get us there and I look forward to working with him and others in our community to do so. The ideas I’ve presented in this questionnaire – bike sharing, making bicycling safer, improving public transportation, to name just a few – can be utilized to help get us there. The larger challenge, it seems to me, is less with respect to commuting to/from work, than trips related to school, running errands, leisure activities, and the like. Those are both harder to measure and ones that may in some instances be more difficult to do by bicycle.

Brett Lee: I do not have enough data on this to make an estimate. I would like to see us benchmark, and see what the mode split is for various groups – 5 to 10 year olds, 11-15, 16-20,….55-60, 61-65….

I would also like to see that info combined with info on the length of the trip and purpose of the trip. From that, we can probably come up with some meaningful targets. In my mind, I think increasing walking and biking is a good thing (good for the community, good for the individual).

In order to increase the number of trips by foot or bike, we can increase the safety of our streets, we can improve signage on our streets to identify which routes are more bike friendly, we can improve the bike parking facilities at local shops (more racks, better locations, and bike boxes). We can also work to make sure that crosswalks and sidewalks are more pedestrian friendly. A good example of this is the 5th Street Redesign.

And ultimately, maintaining Davis as a compact community will also assist in this. If we continue to sprawl outward, we become less pedestrian and less bike friendly.

Lucas Frerichs: Transportation (primarily via car/truck traffic) is the largest segment of the City’s total GHG emissions output. We need to focus on increasing public transit (potentially creating a transit hub/increasing the amount of Unitrans bus routes that head through the Downtown).

I’m not sure of the exact ideal mode share, but biking/public transit and walking all need to be increased.

We also need to stop referring to the bicycle as an alternative mode of transportation, and think of it as a primary mode of transportation.

We live in an absolute perfect place (as far as geography and climate are concerned) for biking and walking. We should be doing much more to promote biking/walking and I really appreciate the City’s commitment to its new Bike/Ped Coordinator- Dave “DK” Kemp. Hiring a nationally known expert like DK will pay dividends for the City over the short and long term.

The City’s Department of Community Development and Sustainability has a great name, but we have only 1 full time staff member dedicated to the Sustainability portion of that department. There is much more we could be doing.

We also need to continue to create a culture of biking here. One way to do that is by getting more kids involved in biking. The bike rodeos are a good start, but I would like to see the formation of bike-pools (think carpools) where kids are biking to school together.

I also think we should limit the free parking at the High School for students. The only times I didn’t ride my bike to high school, was when I had a large load to take or on a truly inclement weather day.

Stephen Souza: Our ideal mode split should be for balanced and sustainable transportation 40% of non-motorized (cycling and walking), 30% of public transport and 30% automobiles.

Consider bicycles in all transportation projects and treat as an equal roadway user in planning, engineering, policy or funding. Ensure that bicycling as a viable transportation mode is available to all sectors of the community, and that bicycling is integrated into the local and regional transit network.

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2 Comments

  1. DT Businessman

    Adam, it doesn’t look like fostering a robust local economy is much of an election issue on the Vanguard either.

    -Economic Gadfly

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