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Laying the Track for Downtown/Riverfront Streetcar

The Capital Region’s population is increasing at a rapid pace, leading to higher congestion and changing traffic patterns and priorities. Effective and convenient transportation options that allow commuters, visitors, customers, and the employment centers—especially in and around the downtown and Midtown retail and entertainment districts and West Sacramento’s civic centers—are becoming increasingly vital to providing the mobility our growing communities need.

That’s why the cities of Sacramento and West Sacramento – in partnership with the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, Sacramento Regional Transit District and Yolo County Transportation District – have been hard at work planning for the development of a streetcar project that would provide a 3.3-mile service route that connects major destinations with existing Light Rail and bus service.

A special election to form a Community Facilities District (CFD) that would levy a special tax on commercial property owners in close proximity to streetcar was held in the City of Sacramento in June 2017.   The streetcar tax would generate $50 million over the next 25 years to pay for operational costs. Additional funds will be provided through federal, state and local sources.

What is the goal?

The goal is to increase connectivity of high trafficked destinations, offer alternative, convenient and cost effective transit alternatives and to reduce vehicular traffic and parking congestion.

Why is this important?

This is important because a streetcar would bring about a wide range of important benefits by increasing access to and mobility around the central city, improving connectivity between retail, neighborhood and commercial districts with existing public transit stations, and adding a convenient and cost effective mode of transit. Some benefits include:

  •  Connecting major destinations between West Sacramento, Sacramento’s central business district and the midtown neighborhoods for residents, tenants, shoppers and patrons of the fine arts, restaurants, community festivals, entertainment and sports.
  • Reducing traffic congestion and the need for additional parking facilities within these fast-growing urban cores.
  • Connecting light rail and bus service to outside the urban cores with a transit service designed for shorter pedestrian trips.
  • Spurring further economic development by increasing property values, retail sales and hotel revenue in Downtown Sacramento.

What is Valley Vision doing about it?

Valley Vision teamed up with the City of Sacramento to conduct research, create fact-based educational materials and community education, engage stakeholders, and provide counsel to support passage of a special tax for streetcar operations.

What is our desired impact?

To provide increased mobility options, further bolster the revitalization of downtown, improve connectivity between West Sacramento and the city of Sacramento, to reduce traffic and parking congestion, and to reduce the implications of vehicular travel on the region’s air quality.

How does this effort affect triple-bottom-line objectives?

Economy: Economic analysis has shown that streetcar will have a positive and significant economic benefit for the region by making West Sacramento and Sacramento more accessible, less congested, and more convenient for residents and visitors.

Equity: Streetcar will be an affordable option for mobility around West Sacramento, downtown and Midtown Sacramento. The special tax passed for commercial property owners is an appropriate measure to ensure that those who are benefiting the most are contributing financially. Residential properties were excluded to avoid placing burdens on renters and residents in the urban core.

Environment: Streetcar provides a clean transportation source and reduces vehicles, the largest GHG emitters, in the urban core. This model is line with other major cities, such as Portland, Kansas City, and many other, managing transportation in the 21st century.

Valley Vision began work on this project in fall 2016. The vote-by-mail election for special tax was held from late May to late June 2017. Nearly 80 percent of major central city businesses voted in favor of the special tax. Streetcar will break ground in 2017 and is expected to be operational in 2021.

Hermocillo-Azevedo Strategic Communications LLC and SACOG

City of Sacramento