Back-Seat Driver

Back-seat Driver: Light rail’s chance to shine?

Tony Bizjak
Tony Bizjak

Sacramento Regional Transit’s light rail has suffered bad publicity lately. Two on-board shootings, one by police, have reinforced the notion that late-night trains can be scary. Now, it appears, light rail will be handed a chance to prove its worth to skeptics.

In three weeks, Caltrans will embark on a two-month reconstruction project on the W-X freeway that includes repeated lane closures. Traffic jams could back up on all connecting highways. RT and other bus services, like Yolo Transit, say they hope to step up service. While buses will face the same potential traffic mess as car drivers, light rail won’t.

If this freeway closure period is anything like the Fix I-5 closures in 2008, hundreds of newcomers a day will flock to light-rail lines, especially the Gold Line to Folsom. RT officials say they plan to bulk up service by running “shadow” trains into stations just a few minutes after regular-schedule trains come through. They won’t say it, but RT officials wouldn’t be displeased if people stuck in traffic on Highway 50 see crowded light-rail trains zip by – and consider giving transit a go.

It’s possible some trains and parking lots will fill up during the morning commute. RT officials are exploring using social media such as Twitter to offer real-time information on parking lots and train loads.

Hit-and-run ‘cowards’

It happens five days a week in Sacramento. A driver hits another car, pedestrian or cyclist, and, instead of stopping, speeds away, leaving an injured person for someone else to tend to.

Sometimes the hit-and-run driver flees because he or she doesn’t have a license, or doesn’t have insurance. But also, says Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, it’s because the person is a coward, and state laws aren’t tough enough. In Los Angeles, someone is injured by a hit-and-run driver nine times a day on average. Gatto calls it an epidemic.

He has introduced Assembly Bill 1532, which would require automatic license suspension for motorists who flee the scene of any accident involving another person.

“The only way to know if you hurt someone is to stop,” Gatto said. “The only way to get someone medical help is to stop. Allowing drivers who don’t stop to keep their license adds insult to their victim’s injuries.”

J Street closure

Be aware, one of downtown Sacramento’s major thoroughfares, J Street, will be temporarily bottlenecked over the next three weeks as street crews close lanes during a repaving project.

The closures, on the blocks between 13th and 16th streets, will take place next Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday; then one more time on the following Saturday, April 12. Crews will close one of the street’s three lanes from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Crews will close two lanes of the street from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, and from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday. The April 12 closure will last from 6 a.m. to noon.