Commentary: The Mace Redesign Is All About Capacity and Travel Time

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – A few years ago residents along Mace Blvd. in South Davis complained about a roadway redesign.  The battle cry has been to put Mace back the way it was—which primarily was about adding another vehicle travel lane where the city’s redesign had taken one out.

Never mind that two changes of circumstance—bypass behavior at Tremont and freeway congestion on I-80—would preclude the simple restoration of Mace to four vehicle travel lanes to actually fix that problem, though the city models do agree that it would improve throughput.

Throughout this entire discussion my impression from the angry residents is that they only really cared about being able to get through the corridor as quickly as possible and the city leaders, while trying to hold onto design elements from the redesign, were really only concerned about accommodating that desire to the best of their ability.

I was interested in Rich Rifkin’s column because, unlike many of those in the room, he’s an avid biker and not simply concerned about capacity and throughput of the vehicle lanes.

He argues that “the city’s fix on Mace is bad medicine” and “what they are going to do — make Mace two lanes in each direction without dealing with the dangerous on-street curbs they installed — won’t solve anything. In fact, it might make matters more malign.”

Writes Rifkin, noting the lack of bicycle traffic to Pioneer Elementary School, “The city thought three things would solve this problem: reduce the automobile travel lanes in each direction from two to one, in order to slow traffic; put corner bulb-outs in to lessen the distance to walk across the street; and install raised concrete curbs to separate the bike lanes from the travel lanes.”

He argues, “Almost immediately, many residents in that area and other users of Mace realized the city made a mistake.”

He explained, “Once the travel lanes fell from two each way to one, traffic jams ensued. Once the city put in those massive bulb-outs, cars began crashing into them. Once the city installed on-street curbs, cyclists began hitting them and going to the hospital.”

I’m still largely convinced that the timing of the traffic jams was coincidence as much as cause.  But the city’s models show that the extra travel lane will decrease delays even though the city is also looking at ways to de-incentivize Waze rerouting traffic from I-80 through Tremont onto Mace.

Rifkin argues, “The solution suggested on Jan. 20 — to make Mace a four-lane road again — would likely reduce that congestion. It will also let cars go faster and imperil children crossing Mace. In my opinion, that’s not a worthwhile trade-off.”

Rifkin rightly points out that “the congestion on eastbound I-80 is not something the city can solve.”

And he is rightly skeptical that the city’s plans to disincentivize cutover traffic “will do much.”  He writes, “The problem is the bottleneck on I-80, which can cause traffic to stop altogether on the freeway. A red light on Tremont won’t change that reality on I-80.”

The main problem, Rich Rifkin argues, is that the city is not going to touch the concrete curbs and bulbouts.  “Their belief is that a ‘protected’ lane gives people the feeling that they are safer due to the concrete.”

He writes, “What’s hard to understand is why the city and its consultants don’t look at other major streets in Davis — that work well — for the right answer to separate cars from bikes on Mace.”

He argues that they could do as they have done elsewhere and separate the travel lane from the bike lane “with two thick stripes and hatched section in between. That creates a 5-foot-9 partition…

“There is no good reason not to do this on Mace Boulevard. In fact, there is more room to accommodate a super-striped separation. An added benefit is where drivers are turning right — such as from northbound Mace to eastbound Cowell, the bike lane could be painted to the left of the right turn lane,” he said.

It’s a good idea, it seems to me.  But no one really cares about these sorts of problems.  The city, for all their focus on splitting the baby, was really only focused on speeding up that throughput and increasing the road capacity to keep the South Davis residents (a lot of whom don’t even live in Davis) off their back.

At some point, people are going to realize that the problem with traffic on Mace was not primarily the road redesign, but rather the new volume of traffic attempting to bypass I-80.  There will simply be times when the quickest way into town is not traveling on Mace and people will have to take other routes.  Or they may have to learn to live with traffic congestion at key times and plan their travel accordingly.

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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  1. Keith Olson

    What is everyone worried about?   There was a Vanguard article a few days ago where it was stated that DiSC will solve traffic problems all over the city if the project passes:

    Carson said, “It was said before, and I want to try to make this concrete, this project doesn’t in the long term worsen traffic, it solves the traffic problems. It makes things better. And that’s not my conclusion. That is the conclusion of the transportation experts at Fehr & Peers.”
    He said, “There was document released in December referred to as Volume Two Traffic Study that has an amazing amount of detailed information here to sustain this.”
    The mitigation calls for additional lanes and signalization.
    “They conclude that the total number of intersections operating with an average level of service of F during one or more peak hours, would decrease from nine to zero,” Carson explained.

        1. David Greenwald

          There are two basic problems with your initial comment.

          First, most of what you cited refers to portions of Mace north of I-80 rather than south of I-80

          Second, and most importantly, unless the project gets approved, the mitigations and upgrades to Mace do not happen.

  2. Alan Miller

    I agree with Rifkin and DG agreement 100%.  The concrete barriers and bulb-outs need to be removed.  They are both ugly and dangerous.

    As I have said many times, the bulb-outs downtown have made the busiest intersections non-functional.  Decreasing walking distance sounds good, it actually causes pedestrians to view the intersection as a through sidewalk, and not yield to cars that have already left the far intersection and are accelerating.  This causes the car to stop in the middle of the intersection to avoid hitting the pedestrians.  Not only does this cause a blockage of all other movements, but the order of who goes next is completely lost, and it becomes a free-for-all.  I see this nearly every time I go downtown, and it started when the bulb-outs were installed.  No one will acknowledge this mistake, so it continues to plague and plug downtown.

    The idea that increasing throughput will solve Mace’s problem is a backwards joke.  Increasing throughput will cause more people to detour on Wayz via Mace.  Since the time savings is like ten-minutes, a couple of traffic flow signals won’t work, as you can’t reduce the travel time enough to stop the incentivisation of leaving the freeway.  Going from two lanes back to four lanes is insanity, and totally not the Davis way of doing things.  Once again, the distant areas of Davis get the shaft.  That residential area from Mace east should be set free and allowed to float away down the Yolo Bypass.

    Rifkin has this right.

    1. Darell Dickey

      If everyone here is 100% right, I challenge you to show me the “bottleneck” on I-80.

      Not the extra capacity bubble around 113, but the “bottleneck” that’s claimed to be causing all this. (Hint: I-80 is three lanes from Vacaville to West Sac. Except for the gratuitous bubble of extra capacity at 113.  There is no bottleneck).

      This bypass congestion CAN be solved. But of course not by accommodating more bypass traffic as proposed. Some of us are actively working toward the solution.


      1. Alan Miller

         This bypass congestion CAN be solved. But of course not by accommodating more bypass traffic as proposed.

        Basic! . . . that is why the ‘solution’ is insanity.

        Some of us are actively working toward the solution.

        Do tell!  I am interested!  Offline if it’s a secret 😉


  3. Ron Oertel

    The applicants estimate an average of 450 cars would be washed per day with Saturdays and Sundays the busiest days when some 600 cars would be washed daily.

    Well, as long as one is stuck in traffic resulting from WAZE, the Mace Mess, DiSC (both halves), Shriner’s and Palomino Ranch, might as well get your car washed, assuming that the driveway to it isn’t blocked.

    The Davis Express Car Wash, according to the applicants, is needed because “an environmentally friendly express car wash option currently does not exist in Davis.”

    Yeah, to wash all those “environmentally-friendly” cars.

    I use my own “environmentally-friendly” solution:  I don’t wash my vehicle at all.  Rinse it once in a while, and keep the windows/lights clean.  It doesn’t really get dirty, beyond a certain point – even when parked outside. And since it’s parked most of the time, it’s REALLY “environmentally-friendly”. Zero emissions, most of the time.

    Oh, and the rain cleans it, as well. (That is, if it ever rains again.)

  4. Bill Marshall

    News flash… significant police involved incident @ Mace/I-80… this AM

    Real… supposedly resolved as to immediate safety… think the difference between safety, and inconvenience…

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