Mobility is a long game. It requires vision and patience to sustain long term progress, as well as a steady stream of quick wins to keep momentum going. In advance of the next council retreat, and on Christmas Eve eve, here’s my wishlist for Truckee’s transportation needs in 2022.
- Amend our development code to prohibit gas stations and drive through restaurants as permissible uses. These auto-centric uses are difficult to retrofit for walkability, and new permits given now will affect residents for decades to come. We have precedent to follow for both: Petaluma banned new gas stations this year, and many cities, including Long Beach and Minneapolis, have banned new drive through restaurants.
- Ask Amtrak to expand onboard bike reservations. The California Zephyr, which serves Truckee, currently requires a separate reservation to bring a bike on board. For reasons unclear to both Caltrans and the Capitol Corridor, it has been impossible to get a bike reservation in or out of Truckee since the start of Covid. The Town is relatively well positioned to learn more about this. Light engagement, perhaps starting with a letter, is worth the effort if we’d make it easier for people to reduce the impact of their visit to Truckee.
- Normalize the idea of our train service being significantly enhanced. Truckee was founded as a train town, and should be again, but we’re letting our pessimism about the current level of service limit our future. The future of rail in California is taking shape, and our absence from those discussions is conspicuous. We should be dreaming big and loud about what we would do with more frequent and reliable service. Changing the way our leaders talk about the train would have a positive impact, and the scale of opportunity is boundless.
Short/Medium Term Wins
- Extend parking enforcement hours downtown. Currently, parking is only enforced from 10 AM to 6 PM. Communities that are more actively engaged in transportation management typically enforce parking from 8 AM to 8 PM, to include the dinner period.
- Explore demand-based pricing for street and lot parking downtown. Conventional wisdom dictates that cheap parking improves access, but truly what people want is to know that they’ll be able to find a spot. Cities have been pricing parking to ensure an ideal 5-10% availability for nearly a decade now. The Town should conduct a monthly or quarterly utilization inventory, such that areas with sufficiently low availability would trigger an incremental price increase until demand meets supply. Such a program would allow for seasonal and day-of-week variation as needed.
- Institute a residential parking program near downtown. The High Street neighborhood occasionally feels the effects of excess parking demand downtown, but does not treat parking as a resource to be managed. A residential parking program would ensure that residents have priority access over visitors, while discouraging long term vehicle storage and other misuses of our valuable public right of way.
- Prohibit the downgrading of bicycle facilities. Earlier this year, council considered and ultimately rejected a plan that would have removed a few hundred feet of a bike lane from West River Street. This was the right call, but shouldn’t have been an option in the first place. Bike facilities have clear classifications and hierarchy, and the Town should make clear to developers and staff with a development code update that, with e-bikes on the rise and bikeshare on the horizon, we don’t have the luxury of moving backwards. This should apply to the options under consideration for a Third Road Connection to Tahoe Donner. The hierarchy, from least to most safe:
- Class III: Shared lanes marked with “sharrows”
- Class II: Striped and separated bike lanes
- Class IV: Physically protected bike paths (only recently adopted by Caltrans, hence the irregular numbering)
- Class I: fully grade- or network-separated trails
- Adopt a Transportation Demand Management ordinance for both commercial and residential uses. Give developers consistent expectations for what they should do to manage demand for parking on their project site. Today, if a project is proposed with fewer than the required number of spaces, or they meet the required number but still raise public concern, they go before the Planning Commission and hear an unpredictable variety of suggestions and suggested requirements. Instead, the Town should lay out a menu of options to all developers upfront, and establish criteria for how many options they need to choose (similar to LEED for architecture). This also allows us to put forward more ambitious options, such as hourly on-side car rentals. San Francisco has a robust TDM program with a few interesting options applicable to our context, and the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research published a set of measures specifically for rural areas.