Fall 2000 issue, published Oct. 16, 2000

Continued, second of two web pages.


Highway Lobby Declares War on Transit and Traffic Calming

Akos Szoboszlay, MTS President

In an attempt to counter the public's support for transit and traffic calming measures, the highway lobby has distributed press kits and a "Media Toolkit." In addition, it is making available a "Quality Growth Toolkit" to "help citizens be effective advocates for road-based mobility." Just who is the highway lobby? Just look at their web site,, which lists a slew of highway construction interests.

The web site has an American flag waving on top, and is filled with .pdf files supplying disinformation. They attack both transit and traffic calming.

One of their many .pdf files is called "The Automobile Providing Freedom." I personally find this revolting: First the special interests destroyed our freedom to choose by buying up and destroying the streetcar and electric train systems. Then they claim they will give us our freedom to travel but ONLY if we first buy an automobile from them, and pay them to construct highways and freeways. This sounds like highway robbery!. And what about those who don't drive? They aren't paying customers, so government can just continue treating them as second class citizens.

Carpool (HOV) Lanes Are a Failure!

Fewer people carpool today than before Carpool (HOV) lanes were built, according to the government's own data for the San Francisco Bay Area (as a percent of commuters). Because hundreds of millions were spent on carpool lanes, this means carpool lanes are a colossal economic failure. From another standpoint, of those who want to maximize highway construction (including Caltrans, MTC, and special interests), carpool lanes have been a tremendous success. HOV lanes have served as a ruse to circumvent the Clean Air Act, enabling them to continue with highway construction by making false claims that air quality would not deteriorate. For details see then click carpool lanes.

How to Get a Local Gas Tax at the County Level

Funding for Guideways, Bicycles, Pedestrians, even "Potholes"

The California State Board of Equalization's Pamphlet #59 ["California Local Motor Vehicle Fuel Taxation Law"] details how a gas tax could be put on a County-wide ballot. For Santa Clara County, a 3 cent per gallon gas tax would bring about $20M a year. (A $1.50 gas tax, more like Europe's, would bring $1 Billion a year, but is not politically feasible). Guideway, bicycle, and/or pedestrian funding can be assured by specifying a percentage or dollar figure as part of the text placing it on the ballot.

The law states that these funds could be used for "streets and highways and their related public facilities for non motorized traffic." [Quote from California Constitution Art. 19, which is cited by this law for use of funds.]. It also allows use for "guideways."

Since the Pamphlet was not on the Internet, MTS placed a copy on its web site at:


U.P. to Sacramento: Want a Nice Big Greyhound Terminal?

Repeating a battle that seems to happen at least once each decade, the Union Pacific Railroad has launched a new front group in a plot to remove tracks from the Sacramento depot. The brazen proposal to convert railroad land to private use is portrayed by U.P. as a modernization, but most Sacramentans already know the seamy truth. Moving tracks would open 37 acres to development next to the central city.

Union Pacific desperately wants city approval to develop this slice of its railyards. The parcel was given to the railroad by the city in the early 1920's for a station closer to downtown.

Sacramento citizen groups are mobilizing to fight to save the depot. Save Our Rail Depot, a diverse coalition consisting of more than twenty organizations, wants to save the depot for a newly adapted, enlarged, modern transit complex. When the Sacramento Depot opened in 1926, it was billed as "one of the most modern stations on the Pacific Coast and one of the finest structures in Sacramento." Despite serious neglect in the recent past, it still is today.

The front group, Sacramento Intermodal Transportation Alliance, wants the public to pay for conversion of the existing station to a Greyhound station and to dig a new 2-level station on still toxic land just south of the historic 19th Century shops.

Such a move would put the U.P. tracks approximately two blocks north of the present station, severely impairing pedestrian and transit circulation to the core downtown. The U.P. plan is contrary to the principles of transit-based planning, and represents a doubling of the distance between the station and K Street at Downtown Plaza.

The late Mayor Joe Serna declared the City Council to be "the Preservation Board for the Depot," but with Union Pacific exerting political pressure in the middle of an election year, city officials seem to have forgotten what their predecessors found obvious: the value of the depot is as a working train station, not as a T-shirt shop or Greyhound terminal.

Location! Location! Location!

A 1975 proposal by the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency for a multi-modal station noted that the station is "ideally situated in downtown Sacramento, [and] is within walking distance [of state government and tourism] and the business, financial and commercial sector of the City."

However, in 1978, the legislature took steps to purchase the station and 39 acres for a multi-modal center with development north for hotel, offices and a theater, where, according to the Sacramento Bee account, "purchase of the Sacramento depot is key to carrying out the development of the area."

The Sacramento depot has nearly an optimal siting. It does need improvements to pedestrian access, but not a costly relocation that will make things tougher for every train and bus user.

Union Pacific Gets a Gold Mine, Public Gets the Shaft

Union Pacific is not promising to pay for the new station, since the public would do that with millions of dollars of scarce local, state, and federal tax funds. Meanwhile, the railroad's idea to remove Amtrak from the existing depot would relieve Union Pacific from a multimillion dollar statutory obligation to provide the building at its bargain 1971 rent price.

If Union Pacific, with resources worth billions, can convince the public to pay for a costly development-motivated track project, the public gives away a gold mine but still gets the shaft.

• Sacramento loses its grand gateway, its "Grand Central Station," and has to pay for a new replacement station.

• Over a million annual passengers arriving by train or transit receive a five-minute (two city block) delay accessing downtown, probably just enough to deter transit use.

• The Sacramento Depot becomes a Greyhound Bus Terminal.

The Citizen Alternative

The Save Our Rail Depot (SORD) Coalition proposal would keep the existing depot, expand it with a bright atrium integrating Amtrak, regional rail, light rail and bus platforms. It also has room for the future, to accommodate a future high speed rail line, unlike the cramped U.P. plan.

SORD argues that its plan is also better for the railroad. It would keep the station where it can generate high value development that the railroad can control, instead of wasting half the value of station access on undevelopable land. Says SORD, "It's too bad U.P. is run from Omaha where folks don't understand urban economics."

The SORD Coalition includes TRAC, Rail-PAC, Modern Transit Society, Odyssey 2020, League of Women Voters of Sacramento, Sacramento County Green Party, Sacramento Old City Association, Midtown Business Association, Environmental Council of Sacramento (ECOS), WalkSacramento, a local Sierra Club chapter, preservation groups and neighborhood organizations.

How to Fight Spam

Relief from junk email. MTS had to change its email address because of spam. For details, see:

MTS' search engine

For those wanting to search for specific information on the MTS web site, we implemented a search engine on the home page:

More GUIDEWAY articles of this issue in the previous file or see the contents.

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