By Joe Bolte
The Aggie Research Campus SEIR forecasts that travel to the site will be overwhelmingly by car. It includes an unsustainable transportation plan that focuses on adding general traffic lanes to roads, poor bicycle connectivity, and a “transit plaza” that will degrade local transit service.
Adding general traffic lanes is a partial mitigation for car delay aka congestion. It worsens GHG emissions, local air quality, transit reliability, and bike/ped safety. Road widening cannot be the focus of a successful transportation plan. Meeting our sustainability goals will only be possible with land use, parking management, bike/ped infrastructure, and transit service that make a sustainable choice the most convenient choice for travelers to ARC.
The most important ingredient for sustainable transportation is appropriate land use – dense housing near job centers, ideally within walking distance. By providing new homes for people who work in Davis, and new jobs for people who live in Davis, the right mixed-use development at this site can *decrease* congestion and VMT. But it has to help ease the jobs-housing mismatch in Davis by providing more homes, not worsen the housing shortage by providing too little. And it must concentrate the densest land use within a short walk of frequent transit on Mace Blvd.
Parking must be unbundled and limited to achieve or exceed local emissions, VMT, and mode share targets. Otherwise, we will be building parking spaces, then trying to incentivize people not to use them. For context, the Davis General Plan Transportation Element of 2013 includes goals for the following by 2035: 10% of trips by walking, 10% by public transportation6, and 30% of trips by bicycle. The SACOG 2020 plan includes a 10% reduction in VMT per capita from 2017 to 2040, as part of CARB’s plan to decrease statewide per capita GHG emissions 19% from 2005 to 2035. The SEIR should comment on ARC’s complicance with relevant government transportation and climate plans.
ARC is in an excellent location for mass transit access to the rest of Davis and to West Sacramento and beyond. The SEIR discusses a “transit plaza” a block East of Mace. Diverting buses from Mace Blvd into ARC would be catastrophic to bus travel times and thus ridership. A better approach would be dedicated bus lanes on Mace and stops that accommodate multiple buses to enable transfers without delaying through passengers. Bicycles, micromobility, and ridehail are door-to-door modes that don’t involve transfers. A transit plaza is not useful for them.
The SEIR discusses a dedicated shuttle to downtown Davis. For operating efficiency and network integration reasons, new or enhanced service should be operated by existing providers like Unitrans or Yolobus, as part of their standard service.
ARC bike travel must be and feel safe from origin to destination. Both Alhambra (30mph) and 2nd St (45mph!) have high speed car traffic beside unprotected bike lanes.
A fully protected route from ARC to John Barovetto Park / Target bike path will include ARC in the extensive off-street trail network that spans East Davis and South Davis. The Causeway / Olive Dr bike path is an express bikeway to West Sacramento and Richards Blvd. / UC Davis campus. Two projects in planning will connect it to Pole Line Drive and downtown Davis via the train station. These two world-class protected networks within blocks of ARC merit fully protected and shaded connecting bikeways on Mace Blvd across I80 to Cowell, and either on Alhambra from Mace to John Barovetto Park or by adding a protected bikeway on the north side of 2nd St from Mace to that park.
The grade-separated crossing across Mace must be wide enough to accommodate heavy bidirectional pedestrian and cyclist travel comfortably. It must also be somewhere south of Alhambra so that bus passengers can use it to cross Mace free of cars while allowing buses to turn from Mace to Alhambra.
The SEIR mentions micromobility as an alternative to car traffic. Davis has no active shared micromobility providers today. Davis law bans scootershare and limits bikeshare bikes to 15mph, slower than the top speed of the average rider on a non-electrified bike. Widespread micromobility usage in Davis would require legal changes and attraction of new providers.
ARC is in Davis to complement and capitalize on UC Davis academic excellence in several fields. The project must aid and integrate with our city’s exceptional transportation system. Its transportation plan must include baseline features that achieve our sustainability goals.
Joe Bolte is an alternate on the BTSSC. The opinions here are his own.