SodaCanyonRoad | The traffic will only get worse (updated)

The traffic will only get worse (updated)

Bill Hocker | Dec 7, 2016 on: Traffic Issues

NVR 12/28/16: No. 4 story of 2016: American Canyon faces major growth issues

Update 12/7/16:
At the Dec 7th Planning Commission meeting during the often very informative commissioner comments at the end, Comm. Cottrell referenced Gary Margadant's cumulative traffic impact comments earlier. Dir. Morrison jumped in to point out the the general plan has a traffic element which looks at cumulative impacts and that the county is in the process of updating that element due to be finalized next year. This prompted Comm Scott to ask if there aren't some steps that the Commission or the Board could be taking to alleviate the concerns over cumulative traffic impacts that are going to be brought up during all the development projects they will unquestionably approve going forward. Is there a congestion trigger that would allow the county to begin working with the state to come up with solutions?

Dir. Morrison, always the realist, said that there is no threshold on traffic congestion beyond which action must be taken. Look at Los Angeles. In any case, the congestion at major intresections in Napa is a State issue to be taken up with the NVTA, and beyond the purvue of the County Board. (Comm. Scott, perhaps injudiciously, did mention that Napa now has one of its own in state government who might help.)

Comm. Gill, always with a bon mot in favor of more development, added that traffic in Turlock is even worse, and while Napa's broken finger may hurt, think of the poor people suffering a broken leg. Get over it.

12/2/16 Vine Bus Yard
NVR 3/8/19: Napa transportation leaders struggle to find bus yard funding
NVR 12/1/16: Napa traffic: The commute will only get worse
NVR 12/19/16: Planned Napa resort objects to VINE bus yard relocation
NVR 3/28/17: Napa agency to do more environmental work on proposed bus yard

The county has just issued their mitigated negative declaration for the proposed movement of the Vine Transit bus yard from central Napa to a location near the airport. You've got to get way down to the end of the document to go through the traffic numbers. The NVTA project page is here.

The congestion at intersections around the airport (and through American Canyon) are already at level F (the worst on the traffic scale). Reasoning that the project will only add 345 vehicle trips/day (less than a 1% increase to the backup), and won't change the F designation, the project traffic impacts are deemed "less than significant". It is the kind of head-in-the-sand rationalization that is made for each and every development project taking place in the county: one less-than-significant impact after another adding up to one hugely significant traffic jam.

Barry Eberling indicates some of the future projects in the immediate vicinity that will be contributing to the congestion. But he neglected to mention the Napa Pipe project (with its 950 housing units and a Costco) and the huge expansion of the Meritage Resort both at the Soscol junction. And he also didn't mention the dozens of building projects now in the works further up the valley that will require hundreds of employees and thousands of tourists. All are approved without a thought to the interchanges around the airport.

This project is different from all others, of course. The purpose of the buses is to reduce traffic congestion. And this is where the real failure of imagination in this project lies, because it is not seen as an opportunity to highlight the need to reduce congestion in a meaningful way.

For what it's worth (not much I suppose) I would like to propose an expanded vision of the project: Empty busses going to and from the bus facility are just a (rather lengthly) addition to the traffic jam and the county's GHG's. If those busses were full of workers or tourists when they leave the facility, they would be actually taking vehicles off the road in the rest of the valley. I would propose that instead of the 75 at grade employee parking spaces, what is needed is a 750 car parking sturcture. Purchasing an all-day parking slot would come with a free all-day pass on the Vine buses.

The parking structure and pickup station could be located on some other nearby property, preferably next to the potential light rail corridor a few hundred yards to the west (proposed in this Napa Pipe addendum) , and this project would remain as it is. But the time to be thinking about a longer term solution to the Napa Valley traffic problem and a decent public transport system is long past due. Noisy, cumbersome, diesel buses are frankly a pathetic solution to our transport problems, and must be considered only as a stop gap measure. Perhaps, the sleek trams that bring visitors into the pedestrian-oriented city center of Strasborg, enjoyed on a visit this last summer, can inspire greater imagination.