Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Transportation policies must bolster our economy

By George Hague

Glenn Holstein (“Free Parking is No Myth”) makes an excellent point in his May 4 op-ed piece.

While the lifeblood of a community’s economic viability depends on the movement of goods and people, the city of Davis had chosen to build its transportation policy around environmental concerns at the expense of the movement of goods and people. In the recent Transportation Element to the General Plan, it describes as “acceptable” the “failed” intersection of Olive Drive and Richards Boulevard. One can only guess that’s because choking off traffic to downtown is the intended outcome of its policies. Never mind the consequences to economic interests.
Shortly after the unsupported ideas in the Transportation Element were submitted, a group of business people including the Chamber of Commerce proposed a creative reconfiguration of the intersection, which demonstrated that failure need not be accepted. Their effort effectively separates pedestrian, bicycle and vehicular traffic and would facilitate traffic flow.
A visit to downtown Davis on a busy spring evening reveals a healthy amount pedestrian traffic largely composed of young people. None of them, however, are carrying shopping bags with purchases from local business. The restaurants are serving, the movies are playing and they sell a book or two at The Avid Reader. But in a town hosting 35,000 students and faculty in a world-class research university you can’t buy a computer. If you are making a presentation at the university, you can’t find a place in Davis to buy a suit and tie.
In a town trying to attract business that can build on synergies with the university, the mass transit system is literally of the students, by the students and for the students as if no one else lived or worked here. So if the executives at FMC Schilling want to take a group out to lunch or dinner, they must go downtown in several personal cars and spend their lunchtime searching for parking. No bus services their location on Second Street. It does, however, routinely pick up large amounts of students from the Target location a mile away.

In all the discussion of building innovation parks. no one has mentioned how they will be serviced by a transportation policy designed to choke off traffic to and from downtown, and a transit system that does not serve business.
It is also true, as Holstein reports, that the city staff stacks the deck when constructing so-called advisory committees. Holstein reports that he is disabled. Many of us are, but Davis eliminated an ADA Advisory Committee it used to have. When the Parking Task Force initially presented its recommendations, it was clear from their work that there were no disabled members on the task force.

Similarly, initial presentations of the Transportation Element contained not one reference to compliance with the ADA. These are just a few examples of a terribly failed transportation policy that over-weights bicycle interests and forces others to scream for attention. It’s a policy that eventually will eviscerate the economy of Davis.

— George Hague is a Davis resident.

Special to The Enterprise


Discussion | 4 comments

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  • Alan MillerJune 17, 2014 - 2:04 am

    A lot of words the point of which was vague.

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  • Elaine Roberts Musser, TAG memberJune 17, 2014 - 9:54 am

    I was on the Transportation Advisory Group (TAG) which came up with the Transportation Element of the General Plan, and I am disabled. Additionally, there was a well publicized TAG workshop where input from the public was sought. The Transportation Advisory Group circulated a transportation survey tool, that I believe was on the city's website. The TAG did discuss the Olive Drive/Richards Blvd issue at length. There were/are many differing views on the matter, by TAG members and members of the public alike. It is an extremely thorny issue for many reasons. However, improvements to it are in no way prohibited nor discouraged under the new Transportation Element. And lastly, the ideas for the Transportation Element were certainly not "unsupported". The Transportation Element was formulated over a two year period with a great deal of hard work from a large group of very dedicated cross-section of citizens as well as outstanding city staff, who took the trouble to bring the Transportation Element for review to a number of commissions, for even more public input (Planning Commission, Safety & Parking Advisory Committee, Bicycle Advisory Commission, Business & Economic Development Commission). One of those commissions was the Planning Commission, of which you were a member. If I remember rightly, the issue of Olive Drive/Richards Blvd was discussed at the Planning Commission, with various concerns and positions expressed. The Transportation Element is a very general document that does not preclude addressing transportation problems of any kind.

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  • Jim LeonardJune 17, 2014 - 10:34 am

    Why, if there is a "failed" intersection at Richards and Olive, has the City approved the building of a 7 story hotel and conference center at the corner of Richards and I-80? There is a near constant traffic jam on Richards now and sometimes there is even a backup of traffic on to I-80. But the City wants to add more traffic to Richards? I think this bears looking into. Please do.

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  • Rich RifkinJune 17, 2014 - 5:02 pm

    "So if the executives at FMC Schilling want to take a group out to lunch or dinner, they must go downtown in several personal cars and spend their lunchtime searching for parking. No bus services their location on Second Street." ........... This is a poor example on a couple of levels. First, no corporate executives anywhere in the United States plan a trip out to lunch or dinner by taking a city bus, even if the timing and course were convenient. Second, FMC Schilling can easily afford hiring a van service for that purpose. Even better, their executives could jointly commute downtown in a lovely FMC motor coach (which this very same FMC Corp. used to make in the mid-1970s). If, however, there is enough demand for a stop on the O-line at Cousteau Place (where Schilling is) or anywhere else along E. Second Street, I would agree that the City should advocate having Unitrans offer a stop there. .............. Despite the bad example of corporate executives riding a public bus, there is a larger point to be made about poor Unitrans service in Davis. The City of Davis pays almost all of the Unitrans budget (with its transportation pass-through dollars). Yet, as Mr. Hague notes, all of its service is geared for UC Davis. Unitrans has two hubs--both on campus. Most residential neighborhoods in Davis have no direct Unitrans service to downtown Davis. Rather, if someone wants to take a bus to a movie, about 90% of Davis residents have to take one bus to campus, wait for another to arrive, and then transfer to a bus which passes through downtown. Since the City is paying the bills of Unitrans, wouldn't it make sense for the City to require direct bus service to our downtown from every part of Davis? We are paying for this, after all.

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