Guest Commentary: Reimagine Russell Needs Bus Connection to West Village

By Bret Stevens and Francois Kaeppelin

The Reimagine Russell project has the potential to link thousands of neighborhood members to quick and sustainable bus transit by immediately connecting the West Village development to Russell Boulevard via a transit-only road.

Within the last decade, West Village has become the West Coast’s largest single addition of student housing and hosts significant educational facilities.[1] This new development has a population of approximately 3,300 students and is home to some of the world’s leading transportation research institutes.[2]

However, due to opposition by nearby residents, the original builders designed West Village with a single road to Russell Boulevard, blocked off from all traffic. However, it is apparent that this was a grave mistake since the various extensions of student housing available on the West Village campus have meant that students must drive their cars or take multiple bus trips to buy groceries from their local supermarket.

Currently, if someone wants to ride a Unitrans bus from West Village to Trader Joe’s, they must take a 25-minute route and two buses to the nearest retail mall, which is less than a half-mile away.[3]

The goal of Reimagine Russell is to promote cohesion for all modes of transportation along Russell Boulevard. Facilitating and promoting the use of public transit for the thousands of residents of West Village should be one of the highest, if not the top, priority. If public transit is not convenient for students to take they will simply drive – leading to more traffic on both Russell and La Rue.

Additionally, a road route connecting West Village to West Davis has the opportunity to noticeably reduce service times of emergency vehicle calls since they would have access to a road route directly connecting West Village and West Davis.

It should be commendable that UC Davis is following through on its commitments to build large additional amounts of housing on campus. Let’s take the next step and connect those residences to one of the best public transit services for any midsize suburban community.

[1] UC Davis Completes West Village Housing Project, Breaks Ground at Orchard Park | Davis Vanguard

[2] Institute for Transportation Studies ITS Home – ITS (ucdavis.edu) https://www.kcra.com/article/uc-davis-green-west-village-student-housing/37476258#

[3]https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Tilia+St,+Davis,+CA+95616/Trader+Joe%27s,+Russell+Boulevard,+Davis,+CA/@38.5425243,-121.7717619,2136m/am=t/data=!3m1!1e3!4m19!4m18!1m5!1m1!1s0x8085285715f0e257:0xc32001b24551a249!2m2!1d-121.7748457!2d38.5420286!1m5!1m1!1s0x808529a96442a3dd:0x5d50ca121a637c80!2m2!1d-121.7614861!2d38.5467319!2m3!6e0!7e2!8j1646067600!3e3!5i2

Bret Stevens is a UC Davis PhD candidate in Agricultural & Resource Economics and a board member of Sustainable Growth Yolo

Francois Kaeppelin is UC Davis Graduate student in Transportation Technology & Policy and former member of Davis’s BTSSC

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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5 Comments

  1. Alan Miller

    If public transit is not convenient for students to take they will simply drive – leading to more traffic on both Russell and La Rue.

    They could also simply walk, or simply bicycle.  It’s not that far and there is a convenient foot bridge over the freeway.

    immediately connecting the West Village development to Russell Boulevard via a transit-only road.

    Considering the entire Unitrans system is designed to hub at two locations on campus, this would be an exception.  Any transit route that the combined wait time between buses plus travel is more than the walking time is not likely to succeed and an exception such as this to the system design unlikely.

    Add this to the collapse of public transit overall.  This was already happening before Covid-19 with the arrival of Uber/Lyft and was especially hard-hitting on short-distance bus trips.  Covid-19 has crushed many transit systems now on federal life-line dollars that will soon run out, and the rider masses have not returned.  I am looking at one route that had 78% cost recovery in 2019 and now had 2% in 2021.  Recent articles on Caltrain and BART and not rosy, and many bus routes cut in the pandemic may not return.

    I am a great believer in public transit, but let’s be real — buses take time, and there’s a wait between buses.  You have to propose routes that will be USED, and even more so in the current environment.  I am very skeptical a West Village – University Mall route would be well used.

    On the other hand, I’ve always thought West Village should connect directly to Russell Blvd. for automobiles.  Hopefully that error can be corrected someday.

  2. Alan Miller

    Also, what do those two pictures add to the story ?  I’m not even sure where one of them is, and the other doesn’t seem to have relation to the story.  Wouldn’t a map of the proposed bus route be more helpful?

  3. Todd Edelman

    1) West Village is too far west of town and campus with too view village-like services.

    2) West Village has far too much storage for private motor vehicles. This space could have been used for more housing and village-y services.

    3) It’s easy and ridiculous to drive from West Village to Trader Joe’s and everywhere aside from West Davis. This doesn’t mean that there should be private vehicle access to West Davis, only that there is way too much parking at West Village.

    4) At some point someone is going to die because of the lack of direct emergency access from West Davis. There’s really no excuse to not have this.

    5) A better reason for bus access is the potential of a route from West Davis with a couple of stops in West Village and then to Silo.

    6) A bus corridor might not even have to be two lanes wide if there are turnouts for buses and emergency vehicles. This should reduce expense and make drainage more simple, and will present a bit of research farmland. Clearly a separated two-way Class IV bike lane should run alongside it, with additional direct routes to other points in West Village.

    7) As I have stated previously in other local media, people who prefer to drive private vehicles to everywhere who live in West Davis are keeping the solutions in the Re-Imagine Russell dominated by private motorized transport, with only a slightly less-convenient route to southbound 113, which is also quite a bit safer for people riding bikes and walking on the south side of Russell west of 113. So it’s not clear how much things will improve here for buses between West Davis, Campus and the edge of Downtown.

    8) Using the the new access point from West Village to Russell, the developers of University Commons should run a shuttle from West Village, direct or in a loop via La Rue and Richardson. This can be run cheaply as a semi-autonomous services on this fixed route, or perhaps experimentally using rented vehicles to see if a Unitrans service is viable here.

    9) A very tiny percentage of bicycles used by the Campus community have well-designed cargo capabilities that enable easy and safe transport of two or even four normal shopping bags of groceries to and from TJ’s or elsewhere. This could be solved by equipping the Campus community with appropriate bikes instead of the junk or limited-use bikes many currently acquire. If done right this would be a small expense overall, and the bikes would be re-absorbed if leased or available in multiple sizes, or both. There is significant expertise in Davis to design this, inclusive of me and the bike program manager at UC Davis.

    10) When my project to build on top of 113 is completed, it will significantly change the mobility dynamics in this area of Davis and significantly increase the value of homes abutting the highway, as they will be in a much quieter environment.

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