RT: Slow start for Green Line is part of the plan
The Green Line light rail segment’s slow start with relatively low ridership, is part of the plan, officials say.
Regional Transit’s newest light rail segment has only seen about 150 riders a day, Tony Bizjak reported in Friday’s Sacramento Bee – a low number for a $44 million project that opened with great pomp and circumstance in June.
However, Regional Transit Executive Director Michael Wiley disputes those numbers, saying the Green Line has actually been averaging closer to 300 riders per day – and it’s a number he said he’s comfortable with.
“Our expectation wasn’t that we were going to achieve really high ridership numbers right off the bat,” Wiley said. “Our plan all along was to start with a somewhat minimal level of service and then add service as demand grows.”
Previous transit projects were built in places with an existing ridership and were additions to an established community, Wiley said. The Green Line started with a different purpose, however: It took more of an “if you build it, they will come” approach.
“The expectation has always been that, if transit is there, development will occur around transit,” Wiley said.
But that doesn’t satisfy some critics who say RT’s “train to nowhere” was a mistake because it doesn’t serve a large enough population to justify the cost – and development isn’t happening that will change that.
“Is there a dense population of people along the route from Richards (Boulevard) to the airport? No, not even close,” wrote Sacramento Press reader Dan Scott. “Is there a chance that there will be development in that area? No, not for a long time, as it was re-designated as a floodplain and no new houses or business can be built unless they are elevated approx 20 feet.”
Township 9 Principal Developer Ron Mellon said Friday that the notion that development at Township 9 is dead is misleading.
“Nothing could be farther from the truth,” Mellon said.
The 64-acre mixed use development project at Township 9 is located between Richards Boulevard, North 5th Street, North 7th Street and the American River, about one mile from downtown. It includes 18 lots that will eventually offer 2,500 housing units and nearly 800,000 square feet of commercial, office and retail space.
“We are trying to double the size of the downtown core,” Mellon said. “When people see what we’re going to do out there, they’ll be blown away.”
But first things first, Mellon said, and that means completing the unseen infrastructure work before breaking ground on the first building.
The infrastructure portion of the first phase – roads, curbs, lighting, and the like – is nearly complete, and construction will begin on a 180-unit apartment complex sometime around November, Mellon said.
Still, Assistant Project Manager Noah Lane said some perspective is needed.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Township 9 won’t be, either,” Lane said.
Considering the scope of the project, Lane said it wouldn’t be possible to build it all at once, and at full buildout, the cost would be between $2 billion and $3 billion, which Lane said would be a stretch for even the largest local developers.
Lane said the owners of Township 9 are developing it in phases and will likely partner with other developers on some of the project’s 18 lots to get them all built. The first phase of the project has a five year buildout plan, according to Mellon.
Meanwhile, Wiley said, the Green Line is a valuable investment that is driving development in the River District and Township 9 at a time when there is little development happening in other parts of the city.
“I don’t know how quickly the tide is going to turn and we’ll go back to the pace that was happening six or seven years ago,” Wiley said, “but there’s no question that without the Green Line, many current developments wouldn’t be happening.”
RESULTS FROM YESTERDAY’S POLL:
We asked Sac Press readers if the Green Line was a good investment, and nearly 57 percent responded "Yes – it will eventually be an important part of Sacramento’s regional transit infrastructure and be a great way to get to Natomas and the airport."
Another 23.5 percent said "It’s too early to tell," and 17.5 percent said "No – it costs too much and it’ll be too long before it goes anywhere."