Sacramento weighs restricting gas stations, drive-throughs near transit stops
- Sacramento, CA City Council is considering a proposal that would ban new gas stations, drive-through restaurants, auto service shops and mini-storage companies within a quarter-mile of transit stations in order to incentivize transit-oriented development. Other businesses including auto repair, car lots and nurseries would require a conditional permit within a half mile.
- "You wouldn't ride light rail to a gas station, but you would ride it to buy groceries, get a haircut or have a meal," planner Jim McDonald told The Sacramento Bee. "This ordinance addresses those uses that absolutely don't serve" transit riders.
- Developers have raised concerns it would severely restrict what could be built in growing neighborhoods. For instance, developer Paul Petrovich is locked in a court battle over a proposal to build a gas station in a housing development, which would be within a quarter-mile of a transit stop, but says the gas station is necessary to attract a Safeway grocery store.
The proposed ordinance — which would still have to be approved by the city council — has the backing of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments and Sacramento Regional Transit, since it would afford more space for hotels or apartment buildings. SacRT head Henry Li said the ordinance "will attract new riders and make public transit a priority." The ban would be a real-world test of how to favor high-density or pedestrian-friendly businesses over "transit-adjacent" ones that require cars.
But even the city government has been split over what it could mean for construction and developers. John Dangberg in the city manager’s office noted "We have to encourage gas stations … Where are the right locations?" And since transit stations have different designs and surrounding neighborhoods, a one-size-fits-all restriction may be difficult. The restriction could be trouble for developments like Petrovich’s (although a city councilor said it was not targeted at his work) and another controversial proposal to build a car wash near a separate station.
Sacramento has been lauded for prioritizing transit-oriented development, but the free-market think tank Reason also points out that the proposal comes amid flagging ridership for Sacramento’s transit system, and questions whether limiting businesses near transit will really increase ridership. The system averaged 58,000 riders per weekday in 2009, but just 44,600 per weekday in fiscal year 2016, despite a new rail line being opened.
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