My View: We Need to Be Data Driven and Forward Thinking on Transportation Issues

A packed audience gathered to hear what the city had to say and provide feedback

It was an impressive showing on Thursday night at the South Davis Fire Station – estimates were that well over 200 people attended.  As one leader asked me – when was the last time I saw a meeting with this many people?  I agree.  The sentiment of the group was pretty clearly expressed in their vote – they don’t want the current design and either believe nothing will work or some will accept Alternative 1.

What they want they may get in part – the city seems inclined to put two vehicle travel lanes back for at least a stretch.  However, it was pretty clear that the city believes that having “free right turn” lanes, like the ones at Richards and Pole Line by the Oakshade Shopping Center, are a safety risk for pedestrians and bicycles and they are moving away from it across the city.  Full stop right turn lanes, parallel to the thru traffic, similar to full stop left turn lanes found in numerous places in the city are a possibility though.

As I have explained previously, I believe in part they may be trying to fix something that isn’t as broken as it first appeared.  There was a perfect storm, with much of it outside our control that contributed to serious traffic delays – but only during a few key hours of the week.  I prefer a more measured, data-driven approach to what was clearly the anger and frustration of those in attendance.

However, the impact on Yolo County farmers moving their farm equipment north and south on Mace from one field to another having to have one wheel in the vehicle lane and the other wheel in the bicycle lane, straddling the concrete curbing that protects the bicycle lane may have been a fatal flaw in the current design.  While straddling that curbing, the working parts farm equipment would have had to be raised high enough to clear the top of the curbing, and there would always be a risk of that not happening.  The way the farm equipment uses the road now is by straddling the lane lines with the travel wheels with the equipment width covering the full extent of both travel lanes.

The Enterprise this week has an editorial arguing: “The current controversy on Mace Boulevard is only the latest in a series of large-scale infrastructure projects to raise the ire of local residents or businesses. It would behoove city planners to take a step back and look at the big-picture reasons why this keeps happening.”

This is a critical point, but, as I will explain shortly, I think they have this wrong.  What I believe we are seeing is a conflict between the needs of a particular segment of the population and a city that is recognizing that the world is changing rather quickly and there is a need to plan for the future rather than accommodate the past.

The Enterprise criticizes a lot of the road changes in Davis, from the paid parking plan to the road diet, writing: “The operative principle in all these projects seems to be that if only we make driving (or parking) inconvenient enough, then people will drive less, or slower, or somewhere else. Experience has shown otherwise.”

I think the Enterprise is completely wrong.  The notion of paid parking was driven less by changes to driving habits than the need to align supply with demand, and push people to utilize the areas of downtown where there is more ample supply.

On the other hand, a road diet is not designed to reduce capacity so much as slow down traffic and improve multi-modal safety.

The Enterprise argues: “The drivers won’t disappear, but they will sit in traffic with engines idling, fossil fuels burning, tempers shortening …”

But they are wrong.  Driving is disappearing.  Or at the very least, fewer people are driving.  The younger generation is driving less and less.  And as we move to the future, the way we drive and transport ourselves figures to radically change.

The Enterprise clings to the past, arguing that “we can have it all: a project that keeps the existing traffic flow while still improving access for bicycles and pedestrians. That should be our goal every time.”

I don’t necessarily have a problem with that as a goal, but our concerns should be driven by data rather than instance frustration.

My problem with the Enterprise editorial is my problem with many segments of the community – resistance to a changing world.  Climate change, car ownership, transportation are all rapidly changing.  And yet, what we are arguing for is keeping our road infrastructure the same as it was designed in the 1950s – when, in fact, the world is changing.

But we are not changing with it.  Davis, for a progressive community, seems unusually trapped into past practices rather than current best practices.

The downtown parking issue is a perfect example of it.  There are people who want the city to build an expensive new parking supply – even as data shows we already have sufficient supply, we just have a disconnect between where the people want to park versus where the available parking is.

Moreover, one reason the DPAC (Downtown Plan Advisory Committee) is resistant to adding supply is that they not only recognize current availability and costs, but also recognize that we are paying for current driving habits – which all signs show are in the process of changing.

One of the problems I have with the entire conversation on Thursday was how limited the audience was.  Look at the panoramic photo – you will notice that the audience was overwhelmingly over 60.  In fact, in the photo I take, you see exactly one child in the photo – mine.  There is nothing wrong with that per se, but it does limit the scope of the feedback.

Someone suggested that is the demographic reality of South Davis and El Macero.  To some extent that might be true, but the fact is I live off Cowell myself, down in the southeast corner of town, and the neighborhood I live in is teeming with school-aged children and families – every morning Cowell is jam-packed with parents dropping their kids off.

One of the reasons why they pushed the redesign of Mace itself was to get more school-aged children out of their parents’ cars and onto their bikes, and many parents were afraid to send their kids across Mace.

The truth is NONE of those parents of the hundreds of kids at Pioneer were in attendance at the meeting.

It is like often is the case – the people who were angry about the design came out and came out in large and impressive numbers that should not be ignored.  But at the same time, we should not necessarily assume those are the only views in this community.

The city council wants to be responsive to the community – and they should.  But the community is not simply the people who showed up on Thursday night.  They are the people who live in South Davis but had to take their kids to soccer games, or who didn’t skip Open House as we did to attend community meetings.

Finally, as I have pointed out before, the winter season when there is ample rain here and thus snow in the mountains seems to attract extreme numbers of commuters on I-80 which have, because of the use of apps, caused backups in town.

But if we are going to spend money and make changes beyond the obvious need for altering the problematic turns and the intersection at San Marino – which are clear safety issues – it should be based on data that clearly drives our understanding of not only the current driving dynamics but also future ones.  And it should be based on the views of everyone in the community, not just the people who had time on Thursday night to come out and make their voices heard loud and clear.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for


About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Related posts

11 thoughts on “My View: We Need to Be Data Driven and Forward Thinking on Transportation Issues”

  1. Ron Oertel

    From article:  “But they are wrong.  Driving is disappearing.  Or at the very least, fewer people are driving.  The younger generation is driving less and less.  And as we move to the future, the way we drive and transport ourselves figures to radically change.”

    Arranging for rides with Uber and Lyft is not “driving less”.  Nor is a reduction in car ownership percentages necessarily supportive of your claim.

    There is nothing that I’m aware of that has resulted in significant changes in the methods used to “transport ourselves”.

    What evidence are you using to back up this statement?

      1. Ron Oertel

        How does using Uber or Lyft constitute “driving less”?  And in fact, doesn’t this add VMTs, to pick up passengers in the first place?

        Again, what evidence are you referring to, to support your claim? Are you suggesting that young people (in particular) are using some other mode of transportation, e.g., that older generations did not use?

        And, as people inevitably age, do they necessarily use the same forms of transportation as they did when they were younger?

        How many UCD students, for example, do you think live near the area where the traffic “improvements” were made, near south Mace Blvd.?

      2. Ron Oertel

        If anything, I suspect that people generally travel and drive “less”, as they age. Especially when they stop working.

        I wonder how many “old” freeway travelers were creating “concerns” for the people in Pollock Pines, when Highway 50 was shut down during recent storms. Or, how many old travelers are using apps to find shortcuts off of backed-up freeways. 😉

  2. Bill Marshall

    However, it was pretty clear that the city believes that having “free right turn” lanes, like the ones at Richards and Pole Line by the Oakshade Shopping Center, are a safety risk for pedestrians and bicycles and they are moving away from it across the city


    Every time you breathe, there is ‘risk’… every time you eat, there is a risk… every time you walk on the sidewalk, ride on a bikepath or bike lane, drive in a travel lane, there is a risk.

    Risks increase when one crosses paths of travel of same or other modes of travel… intersections of all varieties, including driveways…

    Anyone who wants life to be “risk-free” is an idiot.  Not happening, now, or ever.  Minimizing risk is good… but it is impossible to eliminate ‘risk’… attentiveness, having ‘situational awareness’, is the best way of minimizing risk… a bicycle with a youth ‘driver’ and a passenger on the handlebars, no helmets, riding the wrong way in a bike lane, with earbuds in their ears and/or texting (seen this) is Darwinism… cannot design around that!

    Right turn lanes can minimize risks… the old ‘circular’ RT lanes are not good (90 foot radius)[neck angle to perceive conflicts, etc.]… ones that enter the receiving lane @ a ~ 20 degree angle [from previous path of travel] are good… not a ‘free right’, but at an angle where normal and peripheral vision can help thinking folk identify conflicts, and respond appropriately, and not unnecessarily create queues, where folk get frustrated, and act ill-advisedly… same with the 10-20 foot curves at Downtown/other intersections… if you don’t think, good luck… you’ll need it!

    Risk cannot be eliminated… it can be minimized… “Dutch intersections” are not free of risks (a ‘Dutch treat’ is no treat at all!)  Because of the complicated markings, signage, etc., they bear their own risks.

    Just saying…

  3. Alan Miller

    Driving is disappearing.  Or at the very least, fewer people are driving.

    This is pure BS.  I work in public transportation.  Mode share shift is a huge part of understanding demand.   A recent workshop looking at mode share discussed the large decline in public transit use, the much higher car ownership and driving due to laws allowing non-citizens to have licenses, the effect of ride-share.  Bottom line is auto-mode share was in the high 80’s %, and that hasn’t changed.  Offering alternatives is necessary, but even shifting that mode-share by a few percentage points requires investments of tens of billions of dollars.  We can’t design housing that needs public transportation as a solution when our public transportation is so-sub-par, and the declining numbers aren’t helping in making the argument we need to invest more.

    Also quite laughable is you note the young families not in attendance, yet you note they are driving their kids to soccer and school, etc.  This is all cultural of today, a culture where you don’t let your kids roam free, so you drive them everywhere to ‘protect’ them.  That’s just more driving.

    1. Frank Reyes

      Perhaps this is a case of “If you build it they will come”? There was a story in the SacBee a few weeks ago discussing the surprise Uber had when their data showed that the shared JUMP bikes had more rides in the Sacramento area vs ride-hailing (slightly more then 50% if I remember correctly, not including airport trips). Sac is performing quite admirably in improving it’s bike infrastructure, making it a comfortable and reasonable option to ride a bike vs ride-hail for short distances within the current JUMP boundaries. What can you expect of bicycling in Southeast Davis if a thorough protected network isn’t constructed? I would expect nothing less then the newly placed infrastructure placed for a city home to the US Bicycling Hall of Fame.


      1. Ron Oertel

        Frank:  One might ask if the JUMP bikes (and/or the “improvements” – whatever they may be) actually caused a decrease in motor vehicle use (including ride-hailing).

        Regarding the new infrastructure in Davis, it would probably be a challenge for the supposedly cash-strapped city to remove it, at this point.  However, I would assume that there’s not going to any accurate “before/after” measurements, to see if bike riding actually increases, with a corresponding decrease in motor vehicle usage.

        In any case, I wonder if the new bicycle infrastructure is an example of the “tail wagging the dog”, regarding usage of a finite space that all traffic must share. Perhaps like banning “the claw” on all streets – regardless of the amount of bicycle traffic, width of the street, etc.

      2. Alan Miller

        As someone who commutes on my bike across downtown Sacramento daily, I have little praise for Sacramento’s bike facilities.  A couple of years ago they put lanes on some linear routes, but they left a block here and there totally barren of any bike facilities except a sharrow, and these “death blocks” remain today, the worst being on I Street in front of the prison. They also put in some ‘protected’ bike lanes, but there are some serious design flaws in some places — not to mention absolute stupidity of Sacramentans of what the use of these lanes is or that bikes might be in them.  I have had more collisions and far-more near-collision using these lanes than before they went in.

        On top of this, the more-recent introduction of Jump and Scooters has made Sacramento a lawless world.  In the old days, the main insanity was meth-heads on cannibal bikes popping out of nowhere.  These new introductions ride on sidewalks, blow through lights, ride on the left, pass on the right . . . they have absolutely no street sense.  On top of that, whatever permit money Sacramento is taking in is not going into infrastructure such as more bike parking . . . and I have several times come to a destination only to find every bike stall clogged with orange electric bikes.

        Has car traffic decreased?  Not that I can see.

  4. Don Shor

    The whole premise of this article is questionable.

    Davis population is aging.

    Population of resident school-age kids is decreasing.

    Bicycle mode share is decreasing.

    Ride-hailing services increase VMT’s.

    “Even Davis, California, one of the country’s longtime leaders in bicycle mode share, saw its third straight year of falling estimates in the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. The university town estimated 17 percent of trips by bike, down from 25 percent in 2013.”

    1. Bill Marshall

      The university town estimated 17 percent of trips by bike, down from 25 percent in 2013

      I highlighted the key word.  Both numbers are suspect…  OK for politically motivated ‘guesstimates’…

      But probably not real…

      And “trips” … strictly local?  In Davis, or those ‘few’ who commute by bike to/from Sac/Woodland?

      Bike trips to school (elementary or HS, are way down, compared to late 60’s, 70’s… affluence, ‘helicopter parents’ (who drive their kids to school because there are too many cars [think Pogo, and we have met the enemy, and it is us]) … most HS students, legal drivers, need to show off their cars/”independence”… in the late 60’s early 70’s, there were school buses, and only cars belonged to parents who used cars to commute, etc… not available to teens…

      My parents only drove me to school when it was raining fiercely… from elementary, through college, biking/walking/busing was the only modes available to me… but, that was then…

      Remember Pogo… “we have met the enemy…”

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for