Analysis: Analyzing the Traffic Impacts of DISC

By David M. Greenwald

Critics of the project point to 24,000 additional car trips as a huge impact of the project.

Proponents of the project note that this is the unmitigated impact.

There are clearly traffic concerns with the full build out of DISC. However, critics are reluctant to note that full build out is not likely to occur prior to at least 2043 and probably further out. By that time, the freeway expansion will have occurred.

Regardless, the EIR notes: “Implementation of Mitigation Measures 3-11 and 3-72(a) and (b) would include a large number of actions that would reduce impacts related not only to air quality and transportation, respectively, but also GHG emissions.”

In addition, “The TDM plan would serve to reduce the total number of vehicle trips to and from the site, through programs such as vanpooling programs, subsidies for transit, and parking management strategies. The effect of the strategies included in the TDM program would result in a reduction in overall VMT.”

The EIR further notes: “The TDM Program is intended to increase the average vehicle ridership (i.e., increase the number of people within each vehicle by promoting carpooling, vanpooling, etc.), reduce VMT, and reduce the overall number of vehicle trips related to ARC operations.”

The EIR also notes that regional growth which includes the DISC project, “would likely exacerbate the congested conditions previously identified by Caltrans. Additional employee and residential growth with the ARC Project would generate new peak period vehicle trips that would contribute to existing and future LOS F conditions on the I-80 mainline.”

It goes on to say that it would add “several hundred new peak hour vehicle trips between the project site and the I-80/CR 32A interchange located to the east of the project site. These trips would be generated by project employees and residents traveling between the project site and Sacramento (and surrounding communities) via the I-80 causeway.”

The impact and mitigation measures in the EIR are detailed and worth reading, but the bottom line: “The implementation of TDM strategies would reduce vehicle travel to and from the ARC Site on I-80 and lessen the project’s contribution to unacceptable LOS F conditions on I-80.”

But there is a good degree of uncertainty about the level of delay reduction.

The EIR writes: “Implementation of Mitigation Measures 3-72(a) and (b) would reduce project-generated VMT per service population by instituting a TDM program to reduce external vehicle trips generated by the ARC Project, as well as future development of the Mace Triangle Site.”

But because of that uncertainty, the VMT impacts “would be considered significant and unavoidable.”

The plan calls for a number of features: establishment of carpool, buspool, or vanpool programs, vanpool purchase incentives, cash allowances for public transit, parking management strategies including limiting parking supply or providing parking cashout programs, parking subsidies for rideshare vehicles, alternative workweek and flex-time schedules, telecommuting, on-site meals and commercial services, on-site day care facilities, bicycle programs, car share and bike share services, enhancements to bus and Capitol Corridor among other required steps.

The project baseline features require the Transportation Demand Management Plan (TDM) to be “adopted and implemented requiring specific targeted reductions in vehicle use.” There would be a TDM manager that would report to the Master Owners Association and the city “to track progress on actions to improve mobility and reduce traffic impacts.”

On roadways, DISC will be required to construct or fund improvement to capacity on Mace as well as side roads if needed to address traffic generated by the project. They will fund “traffic calming” plan, create a comprehensive Mace Blvd Corridor Plan for bike and ped travel and construct safety improvements at County Roads 32A and 105 at the UPRR crossing.

The opposition to DISC are naturally skeptical of this plan.

In the ballot argument they point out: “DISC is predicted to add more than 24,000 daily car trips onto Mace Blvd. when completed. But instead of guaranteeing specific reductions of this huge traffic burden on an already overly congested thoroughfare, the City is only requiring DISC to create a future Transportation Demand Management Program. But ‘figuring it all later’ is not a plan.”

And they have a point here. A reasonable question is why not develop the TDM prior to the Measure J vote and the answer is that traffic management will depend on what gets built here first, and putting together a specific management plan prior to knowing what companies are likely to locate here and how large they will be would make the actual build out difficult if not impossible.

They have a point as well. That is the hard part of Measure J requirements—they need to be specific enough to provide guarantees to the community while being flexible enough to make the project buildable.

But at the same time, the opponents are missing that there is a good deal of required mitigation that is written into the language of the EIR and enforced through the Project Baseline features.

Again, 3-72(a) requires: “Prior to issuance of the first building permit in the first phase of development, the applicant shall develop a TDM program for the entire ARC Project, including any anticipated phasing, and shall submit the TDM program to the City Department of Public Works for review and approval.”

Among other things that are required: reduction of trips to achieve 1.5 ABR in accordance with the Davis Municipal Code and “(r)Reduce project-generated VMT such that the project achieves all three VMT significance criteria.”

And 3-75(a) requires: “Prior to issuance of the first certificate of occupancy of the ARC Project, the applicant shall construct the following proposed off-site bicycle and pedestrian facilities to the satisfaction of the Public Works Department” and the “applicant shall construct the following… facilities..” prior to the certificate of occupancy. They are required to build from their own funds—“the applicant shall contribute fair share funding to cover their proportionate cost of the following improvements”—not the Roadway impact fees.

Further, per 3-75(c) they are required to “identify and construct complete streets improvements on the Mace Boulevard corridor.”

In addition, fees are locked into this process as well. The Project Baseline features commits them to contribute Roadway Impact fees in addition to mitigating their own impact. EPS on Table B-23, estimates about $78 million in roadway impact fees. Those dollars according to Page 73 of the City Council Staff report and the Development Agreement must be prioritized for Mace Blvd and other roads near the project site.

EPS, Table B-23 also shows $15 million in city construction tax revenues and $250,000 a year in assessment revenues under the Development Agreement that will be used for bike, ped and other transportation improvements (See Page 75 in the Council Staff report again, the DA).

Is that enough? Is there enough teeth in this agreement and yet is it flexible enough to be able to accommodate a vast array of companies and projects likely to come their way? The bottom line is that the voters will have a choice to make here.

Project proponents argue: “The 24,000 trips cited is highly misleading. This is the unmitigated estimate which just looks at plopping the project on top of existing conditions in Davis without changing anything. It does not look at any of the mitigation measures the DISC will provide.”

That point is largely accurate. The problem that critics will have is how much that reduction will be and the answer to that is: we don’t know.


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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.

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18 Comments

  1. Matt Williams

    Regardless, the EIR notes that: “Implementation of Mitigation Measures 3-11 and 3-72(a) and (b) would include a large number of actions that would reduce impacts related not only to air quality and transportation, respectively, but also GHG emissions”

    I pulled up the Draft SEIR and the Mitigation Measures in the Transportation section (Appendix F) have a Mitigation Measure 3.1 and 3.2 but none above 3.2.

    In the Final SEIR on page 866 (labeled 4-69) there is a reference to Impact Number 3-37 with language similar to what David has quoted, but no description of what Mitigation Measure 3-11 or 3-72(a) and (b) are.

    So, the logical next question is “What is the language of those two Mitigation Measures, and where can that language be found?” 

      1. Matt Williams

        That is indeed a step in the right direction Ron.  A very welcome step.  However, that order only applies to new passenger vehicles being sold.  Existing greater than zero emission (gas burning) passenger vehicles are not affected by the order.

        The length of time that the typical passenger vehicle in California is owned has lengthened considerably in recent years.  So people hanging on to their existing vehicle for many years beyond 2035 is highly likely.

        The Governor’s order is a step in the right direction, but it isn’t a cure, and any definitive percentage decrease in GHGs for the DISC project based on the Governor’s order is impossible to calculate … or even estimate.

        1. Matt Williams

          But the DISC project also has its own neutrality measures in it.

          David, I repeat my prior question, ““What is the language of those neutrality measures (Mitigation Measures), and where can that language of those neutrality measures be found?”

          That is the only way that the voters can know if the neutrality measures are real.

          The Final EIR is very clear in its assessment of 3-11 and 3-72(a) and (b) when it says,

          However, the ultimate efficacy of the foregoing mitigation measures is speculative at this time. Considering that the ultimate reduction in GHG emissions resulting from Mitigation Measures 3-11 and 3-72(a) and (b) cannot currently be quantified, project-related GHG emissions would still be considered a substantial increase, and the impact would remain significant and unavoidable.

          1. David Greenwald

            That line is correct. They cannot nail it down finely enough at this time because they don’t know what’s going to go there and thus what it will take to reduce the GHG emissions. But they still have to do it. Keith Echols said that this whole thing was drafted to get the project passed, but he’s wrong on this point – there is a tension between making it electable and making it workable and they had to thread that needle which gives critics something they can sink their teeth into which in turn gives the Ron Glicks, Mark Wests, and Richard McCanns and others who are opposed to Measure J, something they can sink their teeth into.

  2. Dan Cornford

    Re this discussion, and also re Brett Lee’s piece “I am not a NIMBY Now,”  I have a straightforward factual question for anyone:  Can someone give me the dates (and prior ones) of when the City last did a comprehensive city-wide traffic study?   And please also give me links or names of these studies.  If memory serves me right one was promised some time in the period c. 2015-2018, but I don’t think it ever materialized.

     

    I realize that there have been plenty of traffic studies as mandated by EIR’s for various projects including DISC a U-Mall.  I realize also that these studies (under CEQA)  are meant to take into account “cumulative impacts,” but…So what data is there from city wide traffic survey to compare traffic volume in the city for say 2000, 2010, and 2020?

    1. David Greenwald

      I don’t think I have seen a city-wide traffic study. Bill Marshall might know when the last one was. I have seen project-specific ones quite frequently. I can inquire.

      1. Dan Cornford

        Thanks David.  However, when I Googled I was not able to find a city LRDP, only a UCD one.  Please can you send me the link to this  (the city one)  and any other traffic studies city-wide by Davis.

  3. Matt Williams

    It goes on to say that it would add “several hundred new peak hour vehicle trips between the project site and the I-80/CR 32A interchange located to the east of the project site. These trips would be generated by project employees and residents traveling between the project site and Sacramento (and surrounding communities) via the I-80 causeway.”

    .
    The above assessment is very important, because it documents how with the traffic impacts of the proposed DISC project, access to the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area is in serious danger of becoming inaccessible every day from 3:00pm to 7:00pm … prime birding hours and prime bat watching hours. 
     
    The reason that will happen is simple. The access point to the Wildlife Area is where County Road 32A and Chiles Road meet the Yolo Bypass Levee. As noted, a significant portion of the 24,000 additional trips per day will go east on County Road 32A and Chiles Road seeking the eastbound entrance to I-80 at the Yolo Fruit Stand.  Both those roads are one-lane each way with no passing lane, and the I-80 on-ramp meter light only allows one car to pass every 13 seconds … only 8 cars a minute.  That DISC-created commuter traffic backup will mean hour-plus delays, and those delays will apply to anyone trying to go enjoy the birds and the wildlife at Yolo Basin Wildlife Area.  This environmental impact is not disclosed in any of the project materials or official documents. 
     

    1. Patrick Huber

      Matt, for what it’s worth on this point, I know that CDFW and Yolo Basin Foundation are interested in a new southern entrance. There is a parcel that has been brought to the Open Space and Habitat Commission that would help move this forward.

    2. Bill Marshall

      That DISC-created commuter traffic backup will mean hour-plus delays, and those delays will apply to anyone trying to go enjoy the birds and the wildlife at Yolo Basin Wildlife Area.  This environmental impact is not disclosed in any of the project materials or official documents. 

      Unless I’ve been missing something in the Public Resources Code, the “impact” would either be not pertinent, or, at most, de minimus and certainly not “significant” … might as well say that ‘global warming’, due to the project, cuts off a week of skiing in the Sierra’s… but we could always add that to the list of ‘significant impacts’…

      The good news is that if climate change, due to the project IS significant (or other more numerous, bigger projects in No Cal), it is likely that the area described will no longer be a bird, nor bat habitat… “problem solved”…

      I say this as someone who has gone on some of the birding tours (usually held on weekends, with escorts), and thoroughly enjoyed those… usually, a private individual would require an escort… as it is a ‘sensitive area’… which are generally not available between 3-7 P on weekdays…

       

  4. David Greenwald

    I think it’s important to note that Matt Williams addressed some of these issues in his submission (letters 80 and 81) to the Draft EIR and the consultants found his analysis to be inaccurate.

    Page 2-710

    Page 2-711

    Page 2-712

    Page 2-714

    1. Matt Williams

      Actually David, none of your highlighted yellow points relate to any of the issues that you have included in today’s article.

      As Fehr and Peers would be glad to tell you if you contacted them, the highlighted yellow passages focused on the mathematical continuity of the raw traffic data on an intersection by intersection basis.  When I created the Excel spreadsheet from the EIR pdf format data I reached out to Sherri Metzker and Ash Feeney asking if it was possible to review the data to eliminate and translation errors prior to submitting any comments on the Draft SEIR.  Sherri and Ash were unwilling to facilitate/approve such a quality control meeting, so I went with the information I had, knowing that Fehr and Peers would indeed catch any data translation errors I might have.

      Indeed there were data translation errors.  In their FEIR response Fehr and Peers correctly showed how (1) the cell alignment in the spreadsheet of the intersection-by-intersection data was offset by one cell, which caused the calculation disconnects (incorrect accounting) that I reported.

      When you say, “I think it’s important to note that Matt Williams addressed some of these issues in his submission (letters 80 and 81) to the Draft EIR and the consultants found his analysis to be inaccurate,” your choice of words are interesting.  You appear to have decided to attack me personally as the messenger, but I’m cool with that.  I have broad shoulders and a resilient disposition, so I acknowledge your attack, and it is okay with me if you choose to repeat the favor.

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