By Jason Taormino
The problem with the Mace Blvd traffic is Waze and other mapping solutions. They are rerouting drivers off of highway 80, down Treemont and up Mace Blvd on Thursday and Friday evenings because it is faster than staying on highway 80. This was the case before the construction on Mace started and went from two lanes to one lane. This traffic phenomenon started about two years ago – before the Mace Blvd road construction started. The only solution is to set up a temporary traffic signal at Mace and Montgomery and regulate the cars so they do not effect local traffic. In other words, make a proactive decision to create a traffic jam in the country side rather than have it exist in our neighborhoods.
This solution does not appear to be capturing the imagination of management or our elected officials.
Perhaps I am one of the few people that live off Mace Blvd and drive their car all over town morning, noon and evenings but this has given me a clear understanding that we have issues all over town, every day and especially Thursday and Friday evenings. These issues exist for two main reasons. First and foremost the Waze app hit a critical point about two years ago. Secondarily, the City decided to marginalize cars in favor of bikes. Lastly, regional population growth has us approaching critical mass where we just have too many drivers for too few lanes and the result is a traffic flow that does not meet our desires. However, the largest factor is clearly Waze and dealing with that head on is the only long term endeavor that has a chance.
Here is what is happening on any given evening when we have traffic problems which illustrates why we have real issues all over town and not just on Mace. Drivers are exiting 80 and heading north on 113. They get off on Rusell Blvd and cause congestion on Russell and head up to 8th street and cause problems there as well. They also use Covell Blvd with the same results. Now they are using the Pole Line over crossing to cross back over 80 and not just Mace on both sides of the freeway. Friday afternoon at 3:30 it took me a half an hour to get from Emerson to my house in south Davis. That is normal. I drove north on 113 and then took road 29 to Pole Line into south Davis. At two of the signalized intersections I had to wait through two red light changes. My point is that traffic is a mess all over town and 90% of the issue is highway 80 commuters using Yolo County and City of Davis roads to by pass a few miles of highway 80 before reentering 80 ahead of the causeway.
Additionally, the city controlled changes eliminating free right turns for cars, reducing the size of car lanes, increasing the size of bike lanes and generally trying to provide special status for bikes – over cars is just now creeping into the conversation for the average Davisite. It is driven by a small group of organized and passionate people who have really won the battle over the past few years. Bikes won and cars lost. The reduction of lanes on 5th street illustrates this perfectly. There are now lots of bikers on 5th street and the traffic effects for cars has been dramatic and negative. I picked up my daughter at Redbud Montessori on 5th street in far West Davis every day in the late afternoon for two years prior to the road diet. 5th street from Stonegate all the way to L street was an easy drive. The lane reduction happened in mid summer and as soon as the students came back 5th was a mess at rush hour. Soon I was headed to 8th street and within a few weeks time enough people figured that out that it was a mess as well. My then new standard procedure was to use Covell Blvd to get to south Davis. With the $10,000,000 bike improvements underway on Covell at the little league diamond as well as the elimination of the free right turn for cars I expect traffic issues for the foreseeable future at Covell and F.
The city is spending serious money on this current pro bike initiative. Unfortunately, much of it is theory rather than data driven facts. For example, the elimination of free right turns for cars. The data clearly shows that fewer cars can flow in one direction when the free right is eliminated. However, there is no data that it is safer for bikers and pedestrians. The 5th street road diet – that was expensive, reduced car throughput at rush hour and the lights were not set up to be timed for maximum traffic throughput. It was not a win win solution. My favorite truth which now controls our municipal code is that if we have narrower car lanes people will drive slower. Having lived in Europe for five years I can attest that narrow streets do not slow down cars. It might work for a short term until drivers accept the challenge. Pedestrian deaths in Europe, caused by cars, is far higher than in the US.
A friend of mine had a great read on the anger coming out of south Davis. “People tend to live in south Davis because they don’t want to deal with the Davis baloney and now that boloney has come to them and they are furious.”