Mayor Christopher Cabaldon rode in on a Jump bike the other day and then regaled us with a new vision for how lots of people will get around West Sacramento.
A bike share for quick trips. An on-demand van for longer trips or bad weather. A streetcar across the river to Sacramento for dinner or a Kings game. And maybe even a driverless shuttle along the riverfront.
It may sound like pie-in-the-sky wonkiness, but listening to Cabaldon, you can imagine it becoming reality. It’s even possible that West Sacramento could become a national proving ground for connecting new transportation options into a seamless network that will get residents from all walks of life out of their personal vehicles.
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For one thing, it helps that West Sac is smaller so it can more quickly test ideas. Yet it also has the issues of a larger urban area –“a big city in miniature,” Cabaldon calls it.
For another thing, it’s already starting to happen.
▪ Bike sharing launched in May in West Sacramento, Davis and Sacramento. The biggest problem with the new candy red, electric-assist Jump bicycles seems to be that riders can’t always find one available, but that should be resolved when the fleet jumps from 300 bicycles to 900 by the end of the summer.
“It’s going amazingly well,” Cabaldon told The Bee’s editorial board. Some days, he says, he rides the bikes five times, hopping from one meeting to the next across the city.
▪ On-demand vans are available citywide. Since a one-year pilot program started May 14, more than 2,500 trips have been completed, with an average wait time of less than 7 minutes, the city says. Using a smartphone app or calling, residents can book a pickup from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday. For a flat fare of $3.50 (half off for seniors), passengers can catch a ride within 10 minutes and within 200 feet of their location and go anywhere in the city.
Cabaldon calls the service, provided by ride-sharing company Via, a “love child” between Uber and a traditional bus. There are seven Mercedes six-passenger vans now, and there will soon be 10, including one with disabled access.
▪ An automated shuttle could make it easier to travel along West Sacramento’s fast-developing riverfront. Cabaldon has a longer-term vision to design streets for driverless vehicles in a test zone of the city.
▪ The streetcar from West Sacramento to downtown Sacramento is still in the works. Cabaldon says the region still needs a transit “backbone” that crosses the river, and argues it’s a good deal since the federal government could pick up a big chunk of the cost – a $100 million grant toward the $208 million line.
Residents can still, of course, order rides with Uber or old-school taxicabs. They can use traditional buses, though Cabaldon wants to eventually put more money into busy routes and get rid of routes that aren’t heavily used.
Yet what the mayor describes is a different way to look at “public” transit – not just for those who can’t afford their own cars, but for everyone. Cabaldon has a good view of what’s being tried nationally as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors committee on jobs, education and the workforce.
Many of us take for granted that we can get to work and run daily errands quickly. But many residents have to walk to the bus stop and hope the bus arrives on time, and then wait through all the stops before theirs somewhere close to the grocery store or doctor’s office. Then they have to do it all over again on the trip home.
This new public transit, Cabaldon says, has the potential to change lives – like that of the woman he met who said the on-demand van lets her buy something at the supermarket she never could when she relied on the bus: ice cream.
Sure, this isn’t going to fix the growing income gap. But wouldn’t it be great if getting around didn’t depend on the size of your bank account?