Back-Seat Driver

City officials sign deal to upgrade tech at downtown parking garages

Aerials of downtown Sacramento locations including, Curtis Park Village, McKinley Village, the rail yard, the Golden 1 Center, old Sacramento, Capital Mall, the confluence of the Sacramento and American rivers, The Barn amphitheater in West Sacramento, and The Mill at Broadway on Friday, October 16, 2015, in Sacramento, Calif.
Aerials of downtown Sacramento locations including, Curtis Park Village, McKinley Village, the rail yard, the Golden 1 Center, old Sacramento, Capital Mall, the confluence of the Sacramento and American rivers, The Barn amphitheater in West Sacramento, and The Mill at Broadway on Friday, October 16, 2015, in Sacramento, Calif. rpench@sacbee.com

When the new downtown arena opens next year, will surrounding streets be jammed the first night with unprepared drivers circling round and round, competing for places to park?

In an effort to minimize what could be a mess, city officials signed a deal last week for $5.7 million in tech upgrades to garages, including one that will allow people to go online to buy a reserved spot in a city garage days or weeks ahead of time. The goal, says city parking chief Matt Eierman, is to create confident drivers coming into downtown for concerts or games. These drivers will know exactly where they are going and can be assured that a parking spots awaits.

“That is really important, so everybody is not on J Street at the same time,” Eierman said. “There are many access points to our city. You can do a lot of route planning before you even step foot into Sacramento.”

Too many fare jumpers

Sacramento Councilman Jeff Harris, who recently joined the Regional Transit board, has been riding the rails and buses instead of his car the past few weeks so he can get up to speed on transit issues. His initial report: He liked the efficiency of the No. 30 bus for getting to City Hall, but sees a lot of room for improvement.

For one, light-rail stations are unclean. It’s hard to carry your bike up the steps onto the train cars. The ticket vending machines are inconvenient for people who pay with cash, although a new card payment system is coming. Security guards need to mix and mingle more with riders. Most important, RT needs to police more for unticketed passengers.

“I never got fare-checked,” Harris said. “We need to do more fare checking. Too many people are fare jumping.”

‘What’s in it for me?’

The Sacramento Transportation Authority last week began looking into whether county voters would support a sales tax increase if one were put on the November 2016 ballot to fund road improvements and transit expansion.

Early polling suggests it could be a tough sell, but consultant Mark Capitolo says that could change when officials begin to pull together a list of road projects they can show people in various communities and neighborhoods, allowing them to see what would be fixed up near their homes.

“We think there is room to grow (support) when we deliver ‘what’s in it for me’ messages,” Capitolo said.

‘Looking our residents in the eye’

The Valero refining company wants to run two 50-car trains carrying crude oil every day through Roseville, downtown Sacramento, West Sacramento and Davis to its Benicia plant. Benicia officials are again asking for public opinion on the plan.

Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor, chairman of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, says the regional group of local city and county leaders is very aware and concerned about the rash of crude oil train explosions and fires nationally in recent years, and will be sending a letter calling for safety measures. The goal is not to stop the trains, he insisted, but to demand that strong steps are taken to reduce the chance of a spill or fire here.

“We want to be confident looking our residents in the eye and saying we have done everything we can for safety in our region,” he said.

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