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Traffic Fiascos: Who’s Responsible?

By Glen Holstein

Lately Davis has been lurching from one fiasco, paid parking, to another, Mace gridlock, like a drunk staggering home from a dive bar.  Kudos to the Davis Enterprise for connecting the dots that these and many other fiascos are related elements of a campaign that’s strangling vehicle traffic while increasing greenhouse gas release and reducing safety.  And kudos to Ellie Fairclough for pointing out the similarity between the Mace and Paradise fiascos.  As at Mace, the exit road from Paradise was reduced from four to two lanes and traffic “calmed” so much that 88 people were incinerated trying to escape the Camp Fire.

And in the paid parking fiasco parking enforcement staff were cheerleaded so much that they started behaving more like an occupying army than public servants.  Recently when a downtown business owner tried going to lunch she was forcibly detained by a parking enforcer who yelled “You can’t leave – I haven’t written you a ticket yet.”

One thing that’s not been said yet is that virtually all these fiascos result from the same individual, Brian Abbanat, Davis’ Senior Transportation Planner.  I know from personal observation and experience that Brian Abbanat has used his city position to engage in a personal crusade for paid parking since at least 2013.  On February 7 of that year he engineered my exclusion from the Davis Parking Task Force because I was a vocal opponent of paid parking.  Then in 2014 he presented the Davis City Council with a proposal to make all downtown parking paid. At that time Dan Wolk was mayor, and this proposal was rejected unanimously by the Council.  Then in 2019 Abbanat presented essentially the same paid parking proposal to a Davis City Council with mostly different membership at a time when Brett Lee was Mayor.  In 2014 Lee had been the councilmember most reluctant to reject Abbanat's proposal, but in the face of massive public opposition he and the other councilmembers also somewhat reluctantly rejected the parking meter element of this new proposal.  They did however accept an element that needlessly made all downtown lots paid and called it a "compromise".

Subsequently in 2019 Abbanat was described in the Davis Enterprise as the designer of a Mace Boulevard "traffic calming" project that caused massive and hazardous gridlock, widespread public opposition, and a pledge by the City Council to fix what they acknowledge was a fiasco.

Davis is one of the few towns where you can't move across town without waiting at numerous multi-minute traffic lights that cause us to emit greenhouse gasses to no purpose while idling and wasting time.  Lights are now so long that drivers often get too absorbed in work to notice signal changes and thus cause themselves and those behind them to wait through another cycle.  As Davis traffic czar Abbanat is also responsible for this.

But instead of being fired for gross malfeasance as he should be, he keeps getting more work from a city council that seems more comfortable cloistered with him than with the kind of outreach to Davis citizens that happened when Dan Wolk, Don Saylor, and Rochelle Swanson were on the council.  If the current council listened to Mr. Abbanat less and the public more they might be exposed to a more holistic and less siloed view of the city they’re responsible for and avoid floods of fiascos like the one now inundating us.

Comments

Ron O

Thanks, Glen!

I was wondering how these fiascos occurred. Something that I repeatedly asked about on the Vanguard (for the purpose of avoiding future errors), but no one volunteered that information.

That's o.k. - the city has plenty of money to fix the error at Mace, and downtown has sufficient on-street parking to accommodate those who will now avoid the paid parking lots. (Just kidding.)

Matt Williams

Glen Holstein: And kudos to Ellie Fairclough for pointing out the similarity between the Mace and Paradise fiascos. As at Mace, the exit road from Paradise was reduced from four to two lanes and traffic “calmed”

Mace goes both north and south. I live just off Mace and in the case of an emergency evacuation I would go south rather than north ... or if the emergency were a flood, I would stay in place and not evacuate at all because my house is above the 100-year flood level, as modeled by the FEMA catastrophe model that simulates a simultaneous vaporization of Monticello Dam and breach of the west side Yolo Bypass levee. South and north on Mace provide double the evacuation alternatives that Paradise had, regardless of the number of vehicle traffic lanes.

Matt Williams

Glen Holstein: Subsequently in 2019 Abbanat was described in the Davis Enterprise as the designer of a Mace Boulevard "traffic calming" project that caused massive and hazardous gridlock, widespread public opposition, and a pledge by the City Council to fix what they acknowledge was a fiasco.

The hazardous gridlock was principally caused by the construction disruptions. Now that construction has been completed, of the 168 hours in any week, less than 5% of those hours have any gridlock at all, and even in the 5% the gridlock can not be described as either massive or hazardous. The gridlock going through the Richards Tunnel each day is both more massive and more hazardous.

For the record, the bicycle I own has been hanging up in the garage, unmoved, for every day of the past five years. The vast majority of my daily transportation involves driving my own car. I typically go north and south on Mace Blvd two to three round trips a day, so I am speaking from personal experience.

I have attended all the Mace meetings at the East Davis Firehouse, and there is no evidence from those meetings that the opposition is widespread. Rather, it is very neighborhood specific. Very, very intense from those neighborhoods and loud close to Mace, but non existent in the majority of neighborhoods throughout the rest of Davis.

Before you aim you laser on Brian Abbanat, please know that staff presented the design and project plan to the Bicycle, Transportation and Safety Commission two times in public hearings, and City Council deliberated on the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) in at least two, probably three years, again in public hearings. Further, the loudest complaints are being heard by County residents rather than City residents, and Yolo County's failure to send out any notices to those County residents (of which I am one) contributed to the "Mess." Bottom-line, there are plenty of dirty fingerprints to go around to a wealth of players.

Ron O

"As at Mace, the exit road from Paradise was reduced from four to two lanes and traffic “calmed”.

Wow - I hadn't heard about this. Here's a link to an article, regarding that "road diet" and subsequent tragedy:

https://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-ln-paradise-evacuation-road-20181120-story.html

Darell

There is so much wrong with this, that I have no idea where to begin. I get that you are angry. And there is much here to be upset about. But nothing justifies making stuff up and presenting it as fact.

I will point out just one of the big misses: Brian was not the "designer" of the new Mace configuration.

Glen Holstein

Ron O. certainly gets it, but failed city council candidate Matt Williams not so much. His comments, while not necessarily all wrong, are mostly irrelevant to my post. Anonymous Darrell, on the other hand, calls me a liar. Ad hominem attacks like that are easily made and not to be taken seriously. While the Davisite is not a footnoted peer-reviewed journal, I have good evidence for every statement made in my post. I have an environmental science PhD from UC Davis, am on the boards of several non-profits, and was named Environmentalist of the Year by the Environmental Council of Sacramento in 2013 and Conservationist of the Year by the Mother Lode Chapter of the Sierra Club in 2018. Liars don't get those kinds of honors.

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