The city is counting on vehicle traffic to give the struggling pedestrian mall an economic boost.
When there isn’t a light rail train around, weekday afternoons on Sacramento’s K Street Mall are often so quiet you can hear the birds chirp. But soon, those sounds could mesh with noises from cars and trucks. And that has Michael Ault with the Downtown Sacramento Partnership sounding upbeat.
Ault: “We think reintroducing cars on K Street will not only open up not only the street but some of the retail opportunities that allow people greater access to many of the retail stores.”
Ault and city officials believe more cars means more eyeballs – which K Street’s shops and restaurants desperately need. They also hope cars will bring less crime. Denise Malvetti with the economic development department says Sacramento is one of many cities rethinking car-less streets.
Malvetti: “Between 1959 and 1984, about 130 US cities created these pedestrian malls to really make it feel more like a suburban mall, which was really booming at that time. And it actually had the opposite effect. It really decimated retail at a lot of these pedestrian malls.”
Malvetti says the city wouldn’t repave the street – just alter the sidewalks to make the curb-less blocks safe for pedestrians. Cars, bikes and light rail trains would co-exist. Walt Seifert with Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates says he’s fine with the plan – as long as the speed limit isn’t too high.
Seifert: “And from what I understand of the project, cars will be moving slowly. So I think cyclists and motorists will be able to share the road comfortably.”
City officials will now start designing the street’s new look. The return of cars on K should come by late next year.