Letter from ECOS to Caltrans re HOV lane settlement

April 30, 2018

Amarjeet Benipal, District Director
California Department of Transportation, District 3
703 B Street, Marysville, CA 95901

Re: Support for reprogramming funds from the Sacramento-Folsom Limited Stop Service and Hazel Frequency Enhancement Project settlement

Dear Director Benipal:

The Environmental Council of Sacramento (ECOS) supports Sacramento Regional Transit District’s (SacRT) proposal for late night service on their light rail Gold Line to Folsom.

On November 16, 2009, following settlement of a lawsuit between Caltrans and the Environmental Council of Sacramento (ECOS), SacRT and Caltrans entered into an agreement to provide funding for the Sacramento-Folsom Limited Stop Service to operate 15-minute frequency service between Hazel and Sunrise light rail stations after completion of the double-tracking project.

Due to financial limitations, SacRT has yet to complete enhancements that would allow for 15-minute service and no construction is imminent. The last train to Folsom departs downtown Sacramento at 6:18 p.m. Because of this limited evening service, many residents along the Highway 50 corridor do not use light rail service for fear of being stranded after work without a transit option. Later service would benefit residents of the eastern part of the county, while reducing congestion and airborne pollutants.

Therefore, ECOS supports reprogramming the 2009 settlement funds to allow SacRT to provide late night service. We ask Caltrans and SacRT to sign the concurrence letter that would allow for this money to be used for that purpose.

Sincerely,

Ralph Propper, President
Environmental Council of Sacramento (ECOS)

Share your thoughts! SacRT Forward Virtual Community Workshop

SacRT Forward will rethink the purpose and design of Sacramento Regional Transit’s entire transit network by exploring wholesale changes to the network, including a “blank slate” look at how to position transit competitively long-term in the Sacramento region.

We need to hear from you. Your input will help inform the project team about which key choices to make about the future of the SacRT transit network.

Join the conversation – Responses will be collected through May 15, 2018. There will be additional opportunities to provide input on the SacRT Forward Network Plan throughout this year. Get started below!

Click here to submit your input!

Highway 50 drivers, your daily commute is in for a big change. Light rail users, you too

By Tony Bizjak

April 30, 2018

The Sacramento Bee

Sacramento Regional Transit, for its part, will upgrade its light rail service along that corridor in several ways.

Beginning in June, SacRT will expand night-time service to Folsom until midnight. Currently, Folsom service stops at about 7 p.m. making the rail system unusable for late-hour workers and people going to the downtown arena or other evening events.The agency plans to follow that by adding 15-minute service to and from Folsom instead of the current 30-minute arrivals.

The most notable transit change, though, will be the introduction as early as 2020 of limited-stop express trains during morning and afternoon commute hours on the Gold Line, potentially cutting 10 or more minutes off the trip between Folsom and downtown.

That service is not likely to begin until 2020 or 2021, SacRT officials said.

The plan came together last week when local environmentalists and Caltrans resolved a years-long dispute over the state’s efforts to expand Highway 50, an environmental representative said on Friday.

Initially, the Environmental Council of Sacramento (ECOS) and the city of Sacramento opposed adding carpool lanes on Highway 50 in downtown, contending it was a narrow, car-focused and ultimately unsatisfactory solution to east county congestion.

The Sacramento City Council in 2002 voted nearly unanimously against funding to even study the idea. Several council members at the time said HOV lanes – which become regular all-user lanes during non-commute hours – would just encourage more suburban sprawl and more traffic.

More recently, city officials have looked more favorably on the plan, and have cooperated with Caltrans to use some related project money to make improvements to city streets near Highway 50 in the downtown area.

That includes money to turn 14 blocks of Broadway, near the Department of Motor Vehicles headquarters, into a more pedestrian and bicycle friendly street, and build a new block-long street just east of 28th Street between X Street and Broadway, allowing drivers to use X Street instead of Broadway to access the Highway 99 southbound on-ramp..

For its part, ECOS twice sued Caltrans to stop Highway 50 carpool lane plans. The most recent of those lawsuits became the fulcrum for last week’s negotiated deal.

Click here to read the full article.

Clean ride: Would California’s new electric ridesharing bill kill public transit?

By Michael Mott

March 1, 2018

Sacramento News and Review

As Uber and Lyft outrun public transit, more carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases get pumped into the air. It’s part of a wider commuting trend that is giving the capital region the eighth-worst air quality in the country, according to the American Lung Association. One state senator is convinced it’s time to turn ride-hailing services fully electric.

Sen. Nancy Skinner, a Berkeley Democrat, introduced legislation that sets a target for companies like Uber and Lyft to replace their fleets with clean-burning vehicles over the next 10 years. The bill would try to accomplish this by setting aside $300 million from the Clean Vehicle Rebate Program.

Click here to read the article

On-Demand Public Transit Comes to Sacramento

By Sandy Smith

January 17, 2018

Next City

Sacramento Jumps on Microtransit Bandwagon

The notion of summoning a bus to your door to take you where you want to go appears mighty appealing. Despite the failure of several experiments with what’s been dubbed “microtransit,” cities around the world continue to launch projects to gauge the effectiveness of on-demand flexible-route bus service, a sort of cross between traditional transit and ridesharing services like Lyft or Uber.

Read more here.

2017 ECOS Accomplishments

We want to take a moment to highlight some the Environmental Council of Sacramento’s (ECOS) accomplishments this year and inform you about current activities and challenges moving into the New Year. We know these are challenging times but we hope you can find some encouragement in how our local advocacy makes a difference throughout the Sacramento Region.

For the countless number of Californians affected the horrendous wildfires or threatened by too little or too much water, this year has not been a happy one. ECOS usually focuses on guarding against environmental assaults unique to Sacramento County, but climate change is increasingly impacting everyone, whether local residents or not. Over the past year, ECOS has been increasingly proactive in building our relationships with, and holding accountable, our local elected officials, while educating them about environmental problems and effective solutions.

2017 began with ECOS’s participation and advocacy in support of a package of ethics reform ordinances that the City Council adopted on March 21. The reforms include the creation of an independent Ethics Commission, adoption of an Ethics Code and Sunshine Ordinance to increase the accountability of elected and appointed City officials.

In response to the national debate on the role of science in federal actions, ECOS joined a coalition to organize the April 22 Sacramento March for Science that had over 15,000 participants advocating for the value of the scientific method and the need to act upon the science of climate change to accelerate the pace of greenhouse gas emission reductions.

On the implementation side, ECOS advanced our climate protection commitment by:

  • Successfully advocating as part of a local government, business, and nonprofit coalition for the award of $44 million from the Volkswagen settlement agreement to the City of Sacramento for the construction of electric vehicle charging stations and acquisition of EV fleets to be stationed in disadvantaged neighborhoods and managed by local nonprofits in car sharing programs;
  • Participated in the planning and production, led by 350 Sacramento, of the “Leading the Way to Carbon Zero Community Forum” on May 13; and
  • Tracked and provided testimony on the development and updating of climate action plans by the County of Sacramento and local cities.

With the economy continuing to improve, land use projects of increasing size and adverse environmental impact were proposed within the county in 2017. Some are new – such as the Natomas North Precinct community proposal (5,700 acres, 55,000 proposed new residents) – and some are novel configurations of previously defeated proposals, such as the latest Elk Grove Sphere of Influence application. With the increasing need to accommodate new residents in ways that will limit increases in greenhouse gas emissions, these business-as-usual land use designs undercut the gains made by a growing number of residents who are investing in climate change solutions through the retrofitting of residences with solar panels and the replacement of fossil fueled vehicles with electric cars.

In addition to highlighting the adverse environmental impacts of these proposals, ECOS is working hard to protect high value lands before they become targets for development. We have played a major role in pushing adoption of the South Sacramento County Habitat Conservation Plan to the finish line after more than a decade in development. Furthermore, in conjunction with our member partners, we protected the Greenbriar settlement agreement through tough negotiations to ensure that the integrity of the Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan was preserved.

Via our settlement agreement that protects against leap-frog development along the proposed Elk Grove – Folsom Connector, we acquired funding for the mapping of important habitat and open space lands in Sacramento County. To further this effort, we have partnered with UC Davis through a U.S. EPA grant in the development of a habitat inventory and health benefit assessment project. When the regional natural resources data inventory and modeling project is complete, and as funds become available, it will facilitate the identification of critically important lands to protect through future acquisition or conservation easements.

In the transportation arena, ECOS is similarly working proactively to increase mobility while reducing environmental impacts. When Caltrans failed to correct deficiencies in its review of impacts from the construction and operation of additional lanes on Highway 50 between I-5 and Watt Avenue (despite our repeated comments), we challenged the project’s environmental impact report in court.

The above matters represent only a portion of our 2017 activities. We remain engaged on many fronts including issues such as future transportation funding options, Phase 2 hearings on the California WaterFix, and engagement on local implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and many more.

Our annual events like Sacramento Earth Day, Environmentalist of the Year and the Wild and Scenic Film Festival represent the core of our annual funding but we need your help to bridge the final budget gap. Although dedicated volunteers complete much of our work, we are significantly enhanced by the logistical support provided by two part-time paid staff. Our work is made possible by your generous commitment to our region and a desire to make it a healthier and more sustainable.