There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Friday, January 31, 2014

Scoring Sacramento Transit Service

Walk Score, a valuable resource for identifying great places to live and work, has released its 2014 City & Neighborhood Ranking, which includes the ranking of transit service in 141 cities with populations of more than 200,000 in the US, Canada and Australia. Sacramento comes in 39th with a Transit Score of 33.4.

In a “the glass is half-full; the glass is half-empty” examination, one can point out that 85 of those 141 cities were not ranked for their Transit Score, which makes Sacramento’s 33.4 score 39th of 56 rated cities. (The fact that Fremont, Calif., is not ranked even though it is served by BART should underline that unscored does not necessarily mean unserved.)

The people of Walk Score have a detailed methodology and some tough rankings. For instance, no US city makes the top category, “Rider’s Paradise – World-class public transportation.” The top four US cities – New York, San Francisco, Boston and Washington, D.C. -- just reach the second tier, “Excellent Transit – Transit is convenient for most trips.”

Sacramento, at least the city, falls into the “Some Transit—A few nearby public transportation options.”  And that really is an accurate description of the city. Within the city, Walk Score breaks the Transit Scores by neighborhood.  And, as expected, top scores do to Downtown 65, Alkali Flat 64, Mansion Flats 61, Southside Park 60, and Richmond Grove 59. At the other extreme is 11 Transit Score given to the  Westlake neighborhood west of I-5 where it splits with Highway 99.

Of course, if you took the entire Sacramento Regional Transit service area or, worse yet, the Metropolitan Region, it is unlikely the score would stay in the “Some Transit” range, which encompasses scores from 25 to 49.  My home, which is less than 100 yards from the No. 82 bus stop and less than a mile from the No. 1 bus, ranks just 30 on the Transit Score. (We won’t even discuss the dismal 28 Walk Score. As Walk Score points out, “This location is a Car-Dependent neighborhood so most errands require a car.”)

Where Sacramento really shines is its bike score. Sacramento’s 68.3 places the city 7th, behind Minneapolis, Portland, San Francisco, Arlington, Denver and Philadelphia. And that score, I think, would stand up well outside the city limits. Three neighborhoods – Midtown, Marshall School and Newton Booth – get 100 Bike Scores. Another six get 99 scores.

On the other hand, it can be pointed out that Sacramento’s overall 68.3 only makes the city “Bikeable – Some bike infrastructure.” But then no US city makes the “Biker’s Paradise – Daily errands can be accomplished on a bike.” The top US cities are just middling “Very Bikeable – Biking is convenient on most trips.”

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