Entries categorized "Transportation"

Council to Commit to De-Commissioning Commissions?

There's some metaphor here... ask the Council about it?











Today, January 30th, the City of Davis City Council will “Consider Recommendations Related to Commissions”. Please show up this evening - item 5 is scheduled for 7:20pm - or call the comment line at (530) 757-5693 before 4pm.

Let's look at some recent history first... and then tonight's meeting:

June 3rd 2021

“City Council Subcommittee and All-Commission Chair Meeting”. Video. 

This was a two-hour meeting between all Commission Chairs with then City Council member Lucas Frerichs - who chaired the meeting - and Gloria Partida.

It’s worth noting that two of the Commission Chairs - Bapu Vaitla and Donna Neville - are now on the City Council. Vaitla does not reference this meeting in the Council sub-committee proposal scheduled for this evening.

While the meeting is certainly worth a focused viewing, for now I will focus only on statements made at the meeting related to future activity (e.g. further similar meetings with Chairs, Council agenda items, etc):

“Hopefully not the last meeting” (Lucas, earlier in the meeting)

“Update to the City Council Coming shortly” (Frerichs @ 1:59:40 - it’s not clear if this meant any minutes from meeting would be passed along to Council)
“Hopefully on a regular basis” (Frerichs @ 2:00:00 - Referring to an intention for similar meetings with Chairs.)
“I’m sure that Kelly [Stachowicz] and Zoe [Mirabile] also will [...] put together some minutes.” (Partida - 2:01:00 - As no publicly-distributed minutes are taken, it’s not clear what this referred to. )

At the end Colin Walsh - the Chair of the Tree Commission -  asked about when there would be another similar meeting “in the not too distant future”.  Partida responded:  “It was pretty clear that that’s one of the main takeaways here… we will be setting that up”. She also said  “...What I heard was that people are we really wanting twice a year to meet this way…so I can [should or will be able to] confirm that”  (Walsh, Partida from 2:04:25)

Despite what Frerichs and Partida said or intended, there were no meetings - between Chairs and a Council non-quorum or in City Council - until February 2023, 20 months after the 2021 meeting. 


February 7th 2021

City Council Meeting. Community comments start at about 2:34. Some highlights:

* Alan Hirsch. gives a good comprehensive look at the overall poor state of things regarding respect for Commissions. 

*John Johnson - a member of the NRC -  talks about NRC not having enough time to do what it needs to

* Alan Miller suggests a great, truly-democratic and also streamlined idea for organizing the Council and Commissions. 

* Roberta Millstein makes clear the paternalistic functioning of Council and Staff

* Colin Walsh criticizes the generally low-quality process

Based on Colin Walsh's observation at the meeting, there were very few members of the Public at the meeting. This would indicate a likely lack of communication about the agenda topic. I also don’t understand why it was called a “workshop”, as it didn’t have this form.


Present Day:

Two pieces earlier this week in Davisite:

Council to Eliminate Tree Commission Tuesday

City Commissions Merger Proposals are Ill Conceived - Testify Tuesday


In the sub-committee report for today’s meeting: 

"The Council Subcommittee spoke with all AVAILABLE chairs (or vice-chairs) [emphasis mine] of existing commissions to receive their feedback on what is working in the present structure and what could be improved." [page 4]

"In reviewing the scopes and structure of each of the City's 14 advisory commissions, the subcommittee undertook the following research: [...] * Met with [ALL?] chairs and vice-chairs of each commission to gain a better understanding of what works well and areas of potential improvement, especially with respect to Council direction about what areas of commission activity would be most valuable; [page 7].

What actually happened? Did the Chairs and/or Vice Chairs coordinate with each other? Did they have the opportunity to e.g. get questions from Chapman and Vaitla and then get input from their Commission before speaking with Chapman-Vaitla?Are there minutes of these meetings?

The proposal would - in the long-run - have a total of approximately 28 fewer Commissioners than the current 98, so just under 1/3 less participation from the same city (and possibly expanding) population, with similar low to mid level staff, same senior staff and same council numbers, and still minimal involvement from youth (see below)

While there would be less staff hours, it's not clear if this will reduce staffing expenditure (I don't fully understand how staff gets paid when working evenings, etc)

The new language comes from state-mandates on General Plans, but it's clear that the "Element" names don't have to be included in the names of the related Commission.

We then have the proposed "Circulation and Active Mobility" - and they don't get the correct name for the BTSSC again!  - but I think that Circulation is a somewhat old-fashioned term which I believe - and not only superficially - relates to LOS (Level of Service)

The archaic and unusual name of "Circulation..." as the new name for what’s unfortunately and informally oft-referred to  as the "bike commission" with "....and Active Mobility" which in aggregate is… poor English (just like the current BTSSC, as “Bicycling” is a subset of “Transportation” (outside the sporting context) and “Street Safety” is mostly a quality of the situation, 

I would prefer e.g. “Efficient, Joyous and Safe Mobility Commission”, as it covers all forms of transportation using conveyances, walking, other means of travel, resources/climate change issues and the social sphere!

"The required Noise and Safety elements [of the Consolidation] are not listed; community engagement for these will be led by Staff.)" (page four) Seriously, what the actual f*ck?? Is there any actual logic for this or a similar and official mechanism in any other part of the proposal

There's a promise at the end that no one will have to leave, presumably Commissions will change as people term out, but will there will perhaps be more split votes for a long time due to math: 7 to 7, 6 to 6, 5 to 5, 4 to 4 votes (before Commissions "settle" again at 7 members.

There's NO proposal for a Commission of Youth Members/Youth Commission. About 90 cities and towns in California have these!  At the very least, there's no proposal for more youth OR age of minority-age ex-officios for ALL Commissions

There’s NO promise of more communications - via social media, the City’s website, etc - to encourage more attendance and attention of Commission meetings and ongoing work, inclusive of biographies of Commission members. One should not have to Google a Commissioner’s name to see their affiliations, job, a bit about their experience, etc.

The I-80 Whistleblower was clearly Right

I-80 causeway 4th lane done 2024 04 14 sketch 2

By Alan Hirsch

The Caltrans whistleblower Jamie Wald-Waller accused Caltrans district 3 to beginning widening the causeway illegally- using  SHOPP-money   i.e.  funds reserved to maintain pavement surfaces. If you drive California freeway you know how short we are here on money to maintain what we already  have.

But not only does this action by Caltrans a the misappropriation of funds,  it is wildly illegal to widen a road without going thru the environmental process.

 You can see it happen in this picture of the causeway= the have repaved the center shoulder it already is a new 4th travel lane. This picture was on West Sac End of the causeway east bound on Sunday  4/14/24.  You can also notice I-80/ Reed Ave  bridge in West Sac is  being widening for the new toll lanes with money that was supposed to be only used for road maintenance.

Caltrans official I District 3 will likely get away with no consequences.

Even if you think we need the widening, should it not go thru the legal process---that has enabled added thousand of miles of new lane in the past?

This reflect a culture of corruption: If Caltrans District 3 is institutionally willing to do, why should anyone trust them on any report or application?

It seems if you have enough money the law is not an impediment to accomplishing your goals. One can also question who the elected officials in Yolo County who have said not a word as this illegal behavior works to accomplish their goals.

Little Publicized Hearing on I-80 Tolls

$10+ at rush hour  - but Tahoe Groups go free!

By Alan Hirsch

Cartoon- induce demand can't wait for road to be widenedPolicies that will  decide how hi the tolls will be on new I-80 lanes will be discussed at little publicized hearing Tuesday April 9th  5:30 at the  West Sacramento Public Library.  Zoom will be available. This may be the first - and maybe last- chance for most members to make oral public  comments as future toll agency meetings will be held during the day in DT Sacramento SACOG offices, where zoom-in comments are not allowed.

Staff for this new agency members have also shared they believe, under the proposed policies, they expect tolls on I-80  for Davis commuter  may typically be $10 each way at congestion times-- or even more when congestion is worst -even $40). But they are proposing 3-in-a- car will go toll free- a policy that seems to differentially favor Tahoe recreational travelers over commuters.

The hearing by the California Transportation  Commission (CTC) will take input on  setting up a new agency and making policies for the proposed 17 miles of new toll lane that run from I-80 in Dixon to both I-80 and I-50 Sacramento River Bridges. The agency will decide how  tolls are set, who get  discounted tolls,  and how the toll revenue will be used. The Agency sponsors are SACOG and  Yolo Transportation District. YoloTD is  chaired  by Davis Mayor Josh Chapman who is also the Davis’s representative on SACOG.

Continue reading "Little Publicized Hearing on I-80 Tolls" »

Reply from city staff concerning Sierra Club's downtown housing recommendations

The following email was received by members of the Sierra Club Yolano Group Management Committee yesterday (Apr 4, 2024) in response to the email outlining the recommendations of the Sierra Club Management Committee for Davis downtown housing projects:

Thank you for taking the time to send us your thoughts on the downtown Davis housing projects.  While your email has been received by the City Council members, I want to take this opportunity to respond to your comments.

  1. As you have correctly noted, both the Lumberyard project and the project at 240 G have a 5% affordability requirement. Both of these projects applied for approval when our housing element was not certified and our new inclusionary ordinance had not gone into effect and were therefore afforded the ability to lock in the previous affordability rate of 5%.  Our new inclusionary housing ordinance, which complies with State Law, limits the affordable housing cap to 15%.  The City of Davis cannot require more than 15% as we are unable to demonstrate that it is financially feasible to construct a project with more than 15% affordable units included.    The project at 4th and G, which proposed 20% affordable units under a different provision of the law, is not moving forward as it has been withdrawn.
  1. As you know, parking is not required in the downtown Davis specific plan area. The Lumberyard project has no associated parking while the 240 G project has some underground parking.  Both projects are providing a space for a shared car and pick up space for a ride share car.  Disabled parking is not required if no parking is required. Therefore, the 240 G project will have some ADA accessible parking.
  1. Both of the referenced projects have provided large, indoor bike storage rooms within their projects. Charging stations will also be provided.
  1. Both of the referenced projects have planned for large recreational spaces. 240 G has space planned on the roof of the building.  The Lumberyard includes more traditional space planned for the interior courtyard areas of the project.
  1. Both projects are being conditioned to plant and maintain landscaping in accordance with city standards.

Please let me know if you have any further questions or comments.


Community Development Director

Recommendations to the Davis City Council for Downtown Housing Projects

Submitted for consideration by the Davis City Council from the Sierra Club Yolano Group (email sent 4/2/2024)

March 30, 2024

Recently, several housing projects have been proposed for downtown Davis: one at the site of the former Hibbert Lumberyard at the intersection of G Street and 5th Street (“The Lumberyard”), one at the site of the former Regal Cinemas Davis Stadium 5 at the intersection of G Street and 4th Street, and one at 240 G Street. 

We write to express our strong support of these sorts of infill projects, projects that would increase housing density in Davis, allowing for more efficient use of land and creating the potential for reduced-carbon lifestyles. However, we have concerns about the details of the projects and urge that they be addressed prior to approval:

  1. Increase affordable housing. Davis’s greatest housing need is for affordable housing, yet only the 4th and G Street project provides for a reasonable percentage of affordable housing (20%, in accordance with the “Builder’s Remedy” that they are applying under). The other two projects are only proposing 5% affordable housing, which does very little to address Davis’s affordable housing needs.  Equity demands that a higher percentage of affordable housing – at least 20% – be included in all future downtown housing projects. 5% is totally unacceptable. If Proposition 1 funds become available, the minimum required percentage should be increased to 25%.

  2. Increase feasibility of a car-free lifestyle for all potential residents. Two out of the three projects (the Lumberyard and 240 G Street) provide for very little parking. We commend the attempt to foster a car-free lifestyle that could be possible in the downtown, especially if increased numbers of residents are able to attract more retail businesses.  However, the units should be feasible for all, and car-free lifestyles can be difficult for those with mobility challenges, including but not limited to some elderly seniors.  Thus, the housing projects need to facilitate other ways of getting around by including, for example, an area for taxis/Uber/Lyft/DoorDash/etc. to pick up and drop off.  Projects should provide a minimum percentage of parking spaces for people who have Disabled Person (DP) placards.  Putting funds toward improving public transportation in the downtown (including microtransit) – or having dedicated vans are other options that we strongly recommend; developers should work with the City and UCD on this, with subsidized passes provided for people with low incomes.

    We understand that some members of the community think that there should be parking minimum requirements for downtown housing projects. However, to create a walkable, active transit oriented lifestyle (which many younger people in particular have been asking for), we need fewer, not more, cars downtown.  This is the best way to achieve our climate goals. We have suggested a variety of ways to try to make it easier for everyone to live downtown, but other solutions may be possible and feasible; the City should consult with relevant experts, such as disability access professionals.

  3. Support use of vehicles other than cars. Car-free lifestyles can be facilitated with bicycles, e-bikes and e-scooters. To that end, projects should be required to set aside a sufficient number of covered spaces for these vehicles relative to number of bedrooms and units.  Moreover, San Francisco’s recent experience (https://www.sfchronicle.com/sf/article/bike-scooter-battery-fire-17869505.php) has shown that some of the batteries for e-bikes and e-scooters can be fire hazards.  Davis should look to NYC’s ordinances (they are ahead of other municipalities) as a way to mitigate the risk of fire when e-bikes and e-scooters are brought indoors.  To further facilitate the use of these vehicles, charging stations should be provided.

  4. Ensure a high quality of life for residents. Living in a dense environment can be physically and psychologically challenging if it is not done correctly. This can be ameliorated by providing greenspace, rooftop gardens, etc.  The City of Davis should work with developers to identify community garden space and/or spaces where residents of these housing developments can grow food or plants (e.g., on balconies or window boxes).  Again, this is an equity issue.

  5. Require planting and maintenance of trees and landscaping. One of the goals of the Davis Climate Action and Adaptation Plan is to “...create a cooler city with more urban forest and green space for people and habitat.” To help further that goal, developers should fund the planting and maintenance of trees in internal plazas and along public sidewalks, using best practices for producing a street canopy developed in concert with Tree Davis and the Davis Tree Commission.

Thank you for your consideration of these recommended changes.

Respectfully submitted,

The Sierra Club Yolano Group Management Committee

The Sierra Club Yolano Group is comprised of over 1,400 Sierra Club members from Yolo County, a portion of eastern Solano County, and a portion of southern Colusa County.

Council’s Non-Scientific Reasoning on I-80

Why Didn’t  YoloTD share the facts?

By Alan Hirsch

Congestion photo old car_texas59_traffic_jam_1962My beloved Davis has failed to accept the science out of UC Davis on climate change.  I worry for our future if even Davis  can’t face the urgency of our situation.

I urge everyone to watch the March 5th video of Davis City council and listen to their rationalization not to align city policy with UC Davis scientists on the freeway I-80 policy. The city council discussed sending a letter to state officials noting the city’s agreement with Caltrans’ own policy that freeway widening is contrary to the State’s climate action plan and won’t solve congestion. The city council rejected sending the letter, even though no one challenged its substance.

I know a few readers here still might think freeway widening works to fix congestion--  for them  I wonder who they are listening  to if Caltrans policy itself accepts UC Davis research? 

Begin watching council rationalize the “settled science” away beginning at 1:07:41 as Councilmember Donna Neville withdraws her letter and offers two unscientific  reasons: 1) there was no community consensus, and 2) the letter would not make any difference.

Is consensus the way to measure scientific validity in Davis? Should we accept at face value Councilmember Gloria Partida’s argument that her survey of people she talked to on her walks takes precedence over findings from the UCD Institute of Transportation Studies?   Or Neville’s statement that until we have consensus, we “should not speak to the highest level of government.”  I note the council managed to take a position on the Israel Gaza war before a polarized audience.

Continue reading "Council’s Non-Scientific Reasoning on I-80" »

Davis Chooses Popularism over Science

YoloTD is going to CTC for I-80 money

By Alan Hirsch

Image001 1656
YoloTD Chair/Mayor Chapman

On Tuesday March 5, Davis Council let stand a 2021 policy to “strongly support” I-80  widening for cars—ignoring 34 letters and public comments asking for  reversal of  city policy adopted with no commission or other input.

The city council, at least temporally, seems to have joined the science deniers on freeways with a majority of members  claiming we need “consensus” before simply accepting UC Davis research, affirming settled science, or even simply adopting policy that  just restated Caltrans and the state climate plan on sustainable transportation.

This also means science supporting Davisites must turn their  attention to a more sympathetic body to stop I-80: the California Transportation Commission (CTC). This body once in the  past  blocked funding Yolo80, rating it 24 out of 24 in priority and might do it again next week. Emails  on CTC agenda item 19 are needed ideally  by Monday to ask them to block a $105 Mil grant  for more I-80 auto widening in Yolo County.  They, unlike YoloTD seem concern with induced demand’s climate impact, as  described in this article “Managed Lane Expansion Project  Not Approved by California Transportation Commission

Who spoke in favor of the Widening in Davis?

Continue reading "Davis Chooses Popularism over Science " »

The Ever-Changing Justification for Widening I-80

Why can’t Caltrans Tell Yolo County the True Cost?

By Alan Hirsch

On Tuesday March 5th the Davis City Council will review and hopefully reverse the current city policy that endorses I-80  freeway widening for cars. This policy was set quietly in 2021 as two line buried  a 10 page policy  statement  on thing the city would lobby by an ad hoc committee of Lucas Frerich and Dan Carson.  But now I-80 has surfaced before council as a threat to the City Climate Change Plan its clear the current council needs to reexamine it if it want to be taken seriously on climate change.

The January 9th ye open staff report to reviewing the I-80 Draft EIR also heighten interest.. At that meeting,  Councilmember Will Arnold the former Caltrans Director Of Media Relations, shared Caltrans policy  which he  summarized:  believing  freeway widening will fix anything is the definition of insanity. (Link to transcript of Arnold’s remarks)

Every-changing Justification for I-80 Widening

Continue reading "The Ever-Changing Justification for Widening I-80" »

City Comissions Merger Proposals are Ill Conceived - Testify Tuesday!












The City Council is hearing proposals to consolidate commissions on Tuesday night. These changes have serious implications. Here are the proposals:

Continue reading "City Comissions Merger Proposals are Ill Conceived - Testify Tuesday!" »

Arnold calls $465mil I-80 Widening “Insanity"

Council Member & Former Caltrans Employee’s Remarks on I-80

Will arnold picture

Submitted by Alan Hirsch

Below is a transcription of Councilperson Will Arnold remarks on the I-80 widening for the video of the 1/9/24 Davis Council meeting. Arnold was the Manager of Media Relations at Caltrans HQ until August  2023.  His testimony adds to that of the Hi level whistle blower Jeanie Ward-Waller  She accused Caltrans of violations CEQA in moving ahead freeway widenings and I-80 project in specific. YoloTD Board has never asked their staff or Caltrans a single question about that in any open board meeting.

 (Link to city website with video see time stamp  3:51:29)


Thank you,  Mayor Chapman.

There is an important note I want to read:

‘Highway investments over the years have contributed to a dependence on automobiles and supported development patterns that have made walking, cycling and transit use inefficient, challenging and sometime dangerous in many parts of the state.  Highway investment have also contributed to the displacement and division of some neighborhoods and imposed noise and safety hazard on many others.

Further research over the past several decades had demonstrated that highway  capacity expansion has not resulted in long term congestion relief and in some cases has worsen congestion, particularly in urbanized regions. (ed note: all emphasis his)  Projects in urban area that add travel lanes result in changes in travel behavior due to a short-term reduction in travel time and improvement in reliability. This phenomenon known as “Induced travel” explains why adding capacity has rarely succeed in reducing congestion over the long term or supported alternatives to driving and more transportation efficient land uses.

Finally, highway expansions are costly. Expansion of the existing highway system means less available funding for other transportation needs and priorities as well as continued increase to long term maintenance costs for the existing system. As a result, we cannot continue the same pattern of highway expansion investment in California and expect different results.  3:52:52

Rethinking our approach to highway expansion programs will be a critical part of insuring we are working toward equitably meeting our climate change goals.  3:53:01 ‘

This is part of the state Climate Action Plan for Transportation Infrastructure, known as CAPTI. This is a document passed in 2021 by the state transportation agency signed by Davis Hi Alumnus David Kim, former (CA) Secretary of Transportation 

 They Know. THEY KNOW (Arnold emphasis), They know what we are saying it true. 

This isn’t a secrete in Sacramento, this it isn’t a secrete in any of the 12 Caltrans districts, even District 12 in Orange county. They know.

And yet, we reach these inflection points where it’s time to put our money where our mouth is as a state in how we invest our limited transportation dollars, and we each these inflection points and the same thing keep happening when we invest in what we know, which is more freeways, or lanes expecting a different result. 

Which we know is the definition of Insanity.” ends 3:54:18

ML King’s Lesson on how needed structural change is slowed by cities

By Alan Hirsch  

This year's Davis city-sponsored King celebration is on Peace Activism. It will take place on Monday at 10 am at the Veterans Memorial Center.

This 53-second viral YouTube video of Stokely Carmichael/Kwame Ture discussing peace and justice provides the context in which King was working.

I believe local cities, especially progressive  Davis can best honor King by learning from him about how change happens- what it feels like when you are in the middle of the story.  We can learn by analogy what it looks like when a local community is grappling with deep structural change—and how local civic leaders respond when they recognize the need for a change in the traditional way of doing things.

King’s goal in 1960’s was to reform the structural evil of Jim Crow, deeply ingrained in the culture of Southern cities.

Today, we are in the middle of a story of how to deal with the climate crisis -  a  society dependent on burning fossil fuels creating a crisis for long-term survival.

For Dr. King the obstacle to change was not Washington but local government. The Supreme Court had just equipped local governments with tools through rulings like Brown vs. Board of Education. The Eisenhower and Kennedy Administrations were sympathetic, yet in the 1960s South, it was local  businesses  & governments that resisted. They sought to first maintain peace, of the status quo, fearing that change would be disruptive, leading to divisiveness and disorder.

Similarly, in addressing climate change, the State of California has established strong goals and policies. It has provided local governments with tools under the environmental impact process to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. 

Local leaders are aware of what is at stake for climate.. During a discussion of the I-80 freeway widening January 9th Davis Councilmember Will Arnold shared what he learned when he was a Caltrans employee.  He read from Caltrans HQ policy states freeway widening does not fix congestion for long  and also undermines the state climate change plan.... local caltrans district need to stop advancing these projects.  Arnold summed it up dramatically:
   "We know this," widening freeways is "insanity."

Continue reading "ML King’s Lesson on how needed structural change is slowed by cities" »

Sign the Petition to block I-80 Yolo Widening

Will Arnold labels I-80 insanity but other won’t join him

By Alan Hirsch

At the January 9th council meeting, Councilman Will Arnold read Caltrans policy guidance to local districts offices. It states flatly freeway widenings don’t work and are contrary to state climate change plan.  He then said it was “the definition of...  insanity” to try widening one more time.  Arnold is a former high level Caltrans employee.

But in the city council did NOT support Arnold and the transit option and oppose widening due to abstentions by Gloria Partida (“I’m not sure” i.e.-we may need toll revenue) and Donn Neville (“I need more information”) .

Find the petition at: https://www.change.org/BetterYoloTransit

Why this petition matters

Continue reading "Sign the Petition to block I-80 Yolo Widening" »

I-80: No such thing as a Free $86m Lunch

On Tuesday, let’s hope council is more curious than YoloTD on DEIR

By Alan Hirsch

Slide from YoloTD slide presentation on I-80 DEIR December 11 when the  board decided it was OK with the DEIR and mitigation plan. It does not disclose that the DEIR requires Yolo commit to $50m/year mitigation spending.

At the YoloTD board meeting on December 11 the YoloTD staff the presented the I-80 project. After 6 public comment, and 16 ½ minute discussion they unanimous decided to accept the DEIR, it VMT mitigation plan, and the staff recommend alternate 4. HOT3+

These are the slide staff presented.


No one at the meeting unpacked the ongoing financial obligation of mitigation that YoloTD took on as part of the DEIR

..... in turn for getting the $86 million in free starter money for the project

The VMT/GHG  mitigation plan is on slides 15-19—which lists all the 7 mitigation measures.

Its bit confusing so let me unpack – before the Tuesday council meeting.

Continue reading "I-80: No such thing as a Free $86m Lunch" »

Recommendation for revision and recirculation of the DEIR for the I-80 widening project

The following letter was submitted this morning by Dr. Stephen Wheeler and the Sierra Club Yolano Group as formal comments for the Yolo 80 Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR), addressed to Dr. Masum Patwary, Environmental Scientist C at the California Department of Transportation. A copy was also sent to the Davis City Council. The letter concludes by stating that the Yolo 80 DEIR should be revised and recirculated.

Dear Dr. Patwary:

This letter provides detailed comments on the Yolo 80 Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) on behalf of the Yolano Group of the Motherlode Chapter of the Sierra Club.

I have prepared these comments as an unpaid Technical Advisor to the Yolano Group. In my professional life I am a Professor of Urban Planning and Design in the Department of Human Ecology at the University of California, Davis, and Chair of the UC Davis Community Development Graduate Group. I have studied urban and regional planning topics for more than 35 years, including interactions between transportation systems and regional land use patterns, and was formerly chair of the City of Berkeley Transportation Commission and cofounder of the Bay Area’s regional transportation-land use-housing advocacy organization Transform. I am the author of urban planning textbooks used in universities worldwide, including The Sustainable Urban Development Reader (Fourth Edition, 2023), Planning for Sustainability (Third Edition to be published in late 2024), and Reimagining Sustainable Cities (2021). My awards in this field include the Dale Prize for Excellence in Urban and Regional Planning.

Let me say first that it’s very unfortunate that the Yolo 80 project has proceeded this far without better alternatives being considered. As has been widely known for decades, widening freeways does not fix congestion problems; it just defers them for a few years while increasing overall motor vehicle use, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, local air pollution, suburban sprawl, and related problems. The climate crisis gives particular urgency to the need to stop increasing road capacity and vehicle use. Although California is making progress in many sectors towards reducing its GHG emissions, transportation is one area in which it is not. Transportation is also the single largest source of the state’s GHG emissions, accounting for 38 percent of the total.

In order to meet California’s GHG reduction goals, the state has adopted policies that discourage road expansion and its concomitant VMT increases. SB 743, passed in 2013, required agencies to use VMT as a metric for analyzing transportation impacts of new projects after July 1, 2020 instead of Level of Service (LOS). Put another way, this bill made reducing overall motor vehicle use the goal of state policy rather than short-term reductions in road congestion. The California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA)’s Climate Action Plan for Transportation Infrastructure (CAPTI), adopted in 2021, establishes policy that “projects should generally aim to reduce vehicle miles traveled” and counsels agencies that “when addressing congestion, consider alternatives to highway capacity expansion such as providing multimodal options in the corridor, employing pricing strategies, and using technology to optimize operations.” However, Caltrans appears to be disregarding the state’s new policy framework with multiple projects including Yolo 80.

A certain amount of congestion isn’t bad in that it puts realistic constraints on the public’s behavior. However, if congestion is deemed to be a problem beyond that point, the academic and professional literature shows that pricing, better land use planning, and other demand management solutions (e.g. working with large employers to promote vanpools and transit use) are the best strategies. But Caltrans never considered those alternatives in the Yolo 80 case. It clearly wanted to widen the freeway from the start, and indeed appears to have illegally begun widening I-80 east of the Mace intersection and west of the I-50 split in early Fall 2023 well before the current environmental review was completed. This action  shows a high level of disregard for CEQA/NEPA processes, and we ask Caltrans to suspend construction activities on Yolo 80 until environmental review is completed and the environmental document certified.

The Yolo 80 DEIR has a great many deficiencies which require revising and recirculating the document. These include the following:

Continue reading "Recommendation for revision and recirculation of the DEIR for the I-80 widening project" »

Can Local Caltrans Office be Trusted on DEIR’s Traffic-GHG Forecasts?

By Alan Hirsch, YoloTD

As you read this, the lengthy draft Environment Impact Report (EIR) for the widening of I-80 has been released for public review (see I-80 Widening draft EIR now available). It was first promised in early 2021.

Readers should be warned not to take its results as truth, but rather as a forecast that has not been peer reviewed. The goal of public review of an EIR is to correct the deficiencies before the final document is completed and a decision to approve the project is made. If done accurately, the conclusions should inform government decision makers if the $330 million project‘s benefits outweigh the impacts.

These background facts and past Davis Enterprise reporting might be useful as you read the draft EIR:

Continue reading "Can Local Caltrans Office be Trusted on DEIR’s Traffic-GHG Forecasts? " »

I-80 Widening draft EIR now available

(From press release) I-80 Yolo Widening project’s draft environmental documents, including the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR), are now available for public comment. This project is to improve mobility in the I-80 corridor and this environmental study compares cost/benefits of alternatives, primarily focused on adding 16 miles of freeway lanes in each direction between Dixon and the 50-80 split.

The draft environmental documents are available for review through the State’s CEQA Clearinghouse here: https://ceqanet.opr.ca.gov/2021060117/4

The public is encouraged to comment on the scope, alternatives (were enough considered?), assumptions, and methods of the analysis as described in these draft study documents. For example, were traffic noise and localized air pollution addressed and mitigated? Were impacts appropriately described and effectively mitigated? These draft documents include the first Caltrans EIR in Northern California that must conform to new state law SB743 (Steinberg). This new law requires environmental impact studies to focus on the climate impact described as the GHG from the changes in vehicle miles traveled. Traffic congestion is no longer considered an important factor in the environmental analysis.

The draft documents will also be posted on the Caltrans “Yolo80 Improvements” webpage: https://dot.ca.gov/caltrans-near-me/district-3/d3-projects/d3-i80-corridor-improvements. Yolo Transportation District (YoloTD) will post a link as well: www.YoloTD.org.

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Sign on to support greater oversight of Caltrans

(From press release) CalBike, along with over 100 climate, mobility, and transportation justice nonprofits, signed a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom requesting greater oversight of Caltrans. The letter, spearheaded by NextGen California, made three specific requests:

  • An external audit of the State Highway Operation and Protection Program (SHOPP) to ensure that funds aren’t being illegally used to widen roads.

  • A third-party investigation of allegations by former Caltrans Deputy Director Jeanie Ward-Waller. Specifically, Ward-Waller said Caltrans District 3 is widening a freeway in what was supposed to be a repaving project. The letter requests an investigation of all Caltrans districts to ensure none are using funds for unauthorized road expansion.

  • A moratorium on all road and interchange expansions until the investigations are completed.

Click on link to read the full letter and add your name


I-80 Whistleblower: Caltrans Steamrolls Eviro-Laws to Widen Freeways

Caltrrans whistleblower Jeanie ward-waller
Jeanie Ward-Waller, former Caltrans deputy director of Planning and Mode Development until she noted likely environmental violation on I-80 project


By Alan Hirsch, YoloMobility

News of a high-level Caltrans whistleblower hit the national media in recent weeks with stories in the Sacramento Bee, LA Times and Politico. But when you meet former Caltrans Deputy Director of Planning and Modal programs Jeanie Ward-Waller, you learn that she was forced out of Caltrans and into a public whistleblowing role by just one action.

She spoke via Zoom at a meeting of the Environmental Council of Sacramento (ECOS) on Thursday 10/19. In her opening remarks she said:

  • She misses her colleagues of six years who are doing good work to evolve Caltrans.
  • “We need good people in government.”
  • Caltrans has an important role in maintaining our existing highways.
  • Achieving a well-functioning transportation system is her life’s work and she misses being engaged.

She said her demotion and effective firing were a total surprise. Her story of how it happened started when she noted that Caltrans District 3 seemed to have misappropriated extra funds from a pavement rehab project to rebuild shoulders in a wider and more expensive way so that they could be easily converted to extra lanes. Technically it would not count as widening until the stripes for these lanes are painted. Widening the freeway had not been approved by elected officials or undergone the required public and environmental review process.  One thing she didn’t mention: the amount of misappropriated funds in question is likely on the order of tens of millions dollars — part of the $240 million I-80 Yolo Causeway pavement rehab project, which is separate from the I-80 widening project.

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Did Caltrans Piece-Meal Plan for I-80 corridor violate CEQA, ignore Davis impacts? 

Caltrans failure to do corridor wide EIR negated transit, wastes billions and did not call out cut thru impacts

Piecemealing Map I-80 corridor

 by Alan Hirsch, Yolo Mobility  

Transit works best as a network- you won’t get transit ridership if you just build just 1 or 5 miles of light rail, or upgrade just a few miles of Amtrak to 100mph service. You need to have interconnected regional system, especially with our dispersed land use patterns.  

Below is a Caltrans map from the long-hidden corridor plan, the “I-80  CMCP” shows the many widenings has planned or started in the  I-80 Corridor. These types of corridor plans, first required by SB1 (2017) reveal for the first time “piece-mealing” of freeway widening, I.E., breaking a corridor widening into  many small separate projects.   Each separate project is studied separately thru alternative analysis/EIR process so to assure transit alternative are small stand-and never pencil. And many of  project are so small they don’t even require at EIR.   

If fact, this is why piece-mealing is a violation of California Environmental Law. It has been cited by many others including a recent hi level whistleblower as how Caltrans systematically gets around environmental laws designed to address climate change.  

The corridor plan for I-80 (I-80 CMCP) was not released to public on Caltrans website until May of 2023, over 9 months after the Yolo80 EIR alternative were selected. In fact, this corridor plan did compare transit  vs highway alternatives. It concluded upgrading the Capitol Corridor Rail service to 100 MPH is 15x more cost effective to move people than the entire bundle of freeway widening shown on map (see Vanguard article).  

With many of the widening construction already are underway, one can wonder how many billions (with a B) of dollars in taxpayer money are being poorly spend because of this setup by Caltrans to preordain a result ? What sort of set back does this represent on meeting the state climate plan that required us to reduce driving and well as shift to electric cars to reduce our GHG’s. 

One can also note the Yolo causeway “bottle neck” and cut thru traffic in Davis did not just happen:  it was created by Caltrans by widening freeway to the west and it impact on Davis section of I-80  s shown clearly in  traffic studies.   

As for collaboration with communities in the developing corridor plans, a public record request of Yolobus/Yolo TD found no records in its files it was involved in developing the plan, and Caltrans has never presented the final or preliminary report or involved YoloTD board or Davis City or its Commissions in its development in a substantive way. Yet Caltrans lists these entities, as well as citizens groups like Bike Davis as involved with its development. Caltrans neglect of considering community impact is shown by Caltrans failure to list “reduce cut thru traffic” as a goal/purpose/need for their proposed Causeway widening on its project website

SAVE THE DATE: A Freeway Teach-In Nov 8th  

Davis Futures Forum on the Future of the I-80 Corridor 

Wed, Nov 8th 7:00-8:30  Davis Community Church Fellowship Hall, 412 C street 

I-80 traffic congestion is frustrating even the most patient among us! The Caltrans proposed solution has been to increase the number of traffic lanes, however many Davis citizens have expressed strong opposition noting the need for transportation alternatives. Further, a high level Caltrans executive has accused her peers of violating environmental laws by underestimating the negative impacts of the proposal. And research at the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies shows that attempts to address congestion by adding lanes only works for a short time before the lanes are filled again by new drivers. 

What is the solution? The public is invited to explore this question at a Davis Futures Forum talk and panel discussion. The keynote speaker is Professor Susan Handy, the renowned head of the National Center for Sustainable Development. Her presentation will be followed by a diverse response panel who will give us their thoughts about how best to move forward. The event will be held Wednesday, Nov 8th at 7pm in at the Davis Community Church. Please sign up in advance and you will receive advance material, a link to the real-time zoom and YouTube recording of the teach-in. 

Caltrans’ data shows 100mph rail upgrade 15x more cost-effective than road widening

Study: Average speed difference trivial if toll lanes added; HOV lanes don’t work.


By Alan Hirsch, Yolo Mobility 

If you read deeply and critically into Caltrans documents, you will often find a number of things  acknowledged- inconvenient truth not always shared with elected officials.

 City and County elected officials rely on agency staff to give honest and complete presentation of objective findings.  However, the reality is elected official are very vulnerable if an agency’s staff is committed to pursue a pre-ordained solution. Staff can bending their analysis or make strategic omissions of information in their presentation. These are rarely caught by elected official who don’t have time to read, much less understand the reports.

Then it’s up a rare whistleblower and or nerdy gadflies to protect the public interest by catching this, and making public comments to elected who otherwise don’t have time to read everything.

But in the end, it up courageous electeds, who are willing to both listen to the outsiders, and are then open to changing their minds, if the agency solution is be questioned if its pre-ordained solution is in the public good.

This manipulation of data  does come from all Government agencies, or even most, but this Machiavellian approach to public policy can hard backed  into  the culture of some.

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Response to I-80 update piece by Alan Hirsch

Note: The following email was sent to the Davisite, asking for a correction to Alan Hirsch's recent articles.  As the email contains some misunderstandings about the nature of the Davisite, a new article has been written that tries to correct these misunderstandings and other common misconceptions – see More about the Davisite.  Just as with Alan Hirsch's articles and with any other article on the Davisite, the volunteers who operate this blog do not vouch for the correctness of what is written below.

The Davisite has recently posted a series of guest-authored pieces by Alan Hirsch about the Yolo 80 Managed Lanes project containing a pattern of significant inaccuracies, potentially causing confusion about the project among the general population. Providing a forum for vigorous policy debate is an important role of blog-based local media, however, informal media should aspire to post accurate information, even from guest authors.

As Caltrans’ partner on the Yolo 80 Managed Lanes project, the Yolo Transportation District (YoloTD) responds to two inaccuracies in Mr. Hirsch's most recent July 24, 2023 article posting titled, "I-80 update: Caltrans proposes cutting mitigation for Phase I".

               Article Title and Article List Item #1: Mr. Hirsch's title “I-80 update: Caltrans proposes cutting mitigation for Phase I” is inaccurate. Caltrans has not proposed in any way to cut mitigation for Phase 1 of the Yolo 80 Managed Lanes project. Any version of the project that moves forward will be subject to CEQA. The Draft Environmental Impact Report has not yet been released, and any speculation about its contents is just that -- speculation. Mr. Hirsch has speculated that funding will not be available for mitigation, which is an opinion, not a fact.

               Article List Item #2: YoloTD's statement that an HOV lane would be congested on day 1 requires additional background. The comment refers to "peak" hours at bottleneck locations under a specific HOV2+ scenario where high-occupancy vehicles with two or more people (HOV2+) are allowed access to the lane, which is one of several scenarios that could advance. Other scenarios with higher occupancy requirements could result in lower congestion levels on the new lanes.

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