CAC Transportation Element Comp Plan Disucssion | Invest & Innovate | Steve Levy | Palo Alto Online |

Local Blogs

Invest & Innovate

By Steve Levy

E-mail Steve Levy

About this blog: I grew up in Los Angeles and moved to the area in 1963 when I started graduate school at Stanford. Nancy and I were married in 1977 and we lived for nearly 30 years in the Duveneck school area. Our children went to Paly. We moved ...  (More)

View all posts from Steve Levy

CAC Transportation Element Comp Plan Disucssion

Uploaded: Sep 22, 2015
This is the memo that was publcly distributed at the last Comp Plan Citizen's Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting. Other memos and comments were distributed as well.

DATE: September 5, 2015

TO: CAC Members and Staff

FROM: Stephen Levy

SUBJECT: Points to Discuss on Transportation Element

1. I encourage the City to collect more information to guide the development of programs that reduce auto travel, especially single occupancy travel.

--I support the City asking businesses to provide a map of where employees live. We could start with downtown, Cal Ave, and Stanford Research Park employers

--I support collection of more surveys of employee commuting behavior and preferences such as was done for a few downtown employers. Perhaps we could start with Stanford Research Park employers and employees.

2. I would like to discuss and clarify what we mean by reduce congestion. I see two distinct possible interpretations.

--One is to reduce congestion compared to what it would have been without policies to reduce auto use. A whole range of policies from carpooling to incentives for public transit use to carpooling could be effective here and subject to considering costs, I support these policies and programs.

--Another interpretation is to reduce congestion compared to what it is today. I am skeptical that this can be done easily or without unintended consequences or great cost and would like programs that have this goal to be subject to cost and impact analyses.

My skepticism does not mean we should not try or should not adopt cost effective programs where costs are both monetary and environmental. It does mean I do not favor adopting goals that are unrealistic or over promise.

Here is one of my concerns. As a region we did very well in having drivers shift away from single occupancy driving and I hope we continue the trend. Yet at the same time, our roads are more congested and both BART and CalTrain, despite capacity increases are more crowded.

But this was a great achievement in handling the dramatic increase in travel demand from our continuing regional growth.

Workers in the San Francisco Bay Area made the nation's most dramatic shift from commuting via automobile to using alternative transportation between 2006 and 2013, according to a new Census Bureau report.

Commuting by private car in the densely populated region, including carpooling, dropped from 73.6 percent of workers in 2006 to 69.8 percent seven years later, giving it the nation's third highest level of alternative commuting.

Read more here:
web link

In light of this experience I think it is reasonable for the CAC to discuss what reducing congestion should mean in the context of the Comp Plan and what is reasonable to tell residents to expect.

A First Cut at Increasing Travel Demand

I looked up data on per capita travel. It was national and only up to 2009 so I will look further for local data. But average travel was around 4 trips per capita.

web link

For the past five years the three peninsula counties have averaged 36,000 added residents per year. Even if that declines to say 25,000 per year that will mean 500,000 more trip demand in 2020 compared to 2015 (25,000 added residents time 4 trips per resident times five years).

I have no idea how this translates to Palo Alto except that the existing conditions report cites that most travel in PA comes from people coming here so the regional growth does impact us.

Handling the growth in travel demand seems like quite a challenge to my eyes.

3. I would like to see cost effectiveness added as a criterion for evaluating policies and programs. I think environmental impacts like the impact on air pollution and climate change are also important criteria along with mobility and cost.

4. I would like to see some commitment that Palo Alto residents and businesses should help fund new transportation investments. This is particularly important for me with regard to CalTrain right of way improvements like grade separation and trenching.

5. I support the bike and pedestrian safety and access improvements. As one who is not able to drive or bike, I do walk a lot and although I always feel safe, I appreciate the concerns of those who feel less safe.

6. I would like to explore more the concept of charging for parking and the impacts of subsidizing parking by not charging anywhere near the full costs.

7. Finally, and although I am not able to drive, I would like some appreciation for the continuing importance of car use and ease for many residents along with the goals about reduced car use and environmental impacts. To my eye it is possible to read the transportation element and come away with the feeling that residents think cars and drivers are somehow evil and should be punished.

Comments

 +   2 people like this
Posted by Dan, a resident of Midtown,
on Sep 22, 2015 at 10:18 pm

7. Finally, and although I am not able to drive, I would like some appreciation for the continuing importance of car use and ease for many residents along with the goals about reduced car use and environmental impacts. To my eye it is possible to read the transportation element and come away with the feeling that residents think cars and drivers are somehow evil and should be punished.

I agree... except I don't come away with the impression that residents feel that way , I come away with the impression that the transportation element is out of touch with reality. This mismatch between what most residents experience and need in their daily lives (single occupancy commutes to work, across town and to shopping locations outside the immediate Palo Alto area, with reasonable amounts of frustration) and these comp plan deliberations, indicates to me that the committee and staff discussions are dominated in the end by relatively narrow special interest groups (environmentalists who aren't concerned with costs, biking advocates, etc.) . Not very representative of the general population of residents.

When most residents say they want something done about congestion on the roads, they likely aren't saying that they want to make it more expensive and less convenient to get around. They want practical solutions ,,, traffic light timing, smart intersection designs to reduce bottlenecks, planning that accounts for human nature, not tries to ignore it (what do you think people will do if you make it cost money to buy a permit to park in a congested area, but there is still free parking 1/4 mile away ?)


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Sep 23, 2015 at 2:53 pm

4. I would like to see some commitment that Palo Alto residents and businesses should help fund new transportation investments. This is particularly important for me with regard to CalTrain right of way improvements like grade separation and trenching.

I'm not sure what that means. How can an advisory committee make a commitment on behalf of the voters/taxpayers? Or are you suggesting that CAC suggest to the PACC that they should present some sort of tax referendum to do this work?

Thanks.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Sep 24, 2015 at 12:42 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@Dan

You are correct. I should have said "some residents" instead of implying that most do not appreciate cars and the need for driving.

@Crescent Park Dad

You are correct that the CAC cannot make a financial commitment on behalf of the City.

My point is that I believe we as a community ought to be willing to pay for some significant portion of infrastructure investments that benefit us.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by the_punnisher, a resident of Mountain View,
on Sep 24, 2015 at 2:54 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

#7: Boulder DOES make cars and their drivers an evil..and has actually tried many times to make things difficult for car drivers. Just recently, the street used by commuters was re-striped to give bicyclists A WHOLE LANE of that busy street. The backlash from motorists quickly got that street re-striped back to 2 lanes each way again. " We will consider other methods " was the City Government's ominous warning. You may want to see what is actually happening in an example of your ideal " perfect " world by living in Boulder or Highlands Ranch for a year.
Whose money will you use?

(portion deleted)

So where is all the money going to come from for grade separations if Caltrain is still the commuter choice? BART WAS the choice most SFBA taxpayers made BEFORE THE NIMBY Menlo Park and Atherton stopped the complete BART loop cold. SP was even willing to give up a money losing commuter service and ROW 40 YEARS AGO!!! By now, (portion deleted) BART would NOW be what the TAXPAYER SUPPORTED THEN!
HSR TO SJ, BART to SF would be a possibility and still is the logical solution, not spending more money on Caltrain. BART WILL force grade separations and is already electrified, with limited access to the tracks. We know the cost per mile to build out BART with EMINENT DOMAIN to take care of problem NIMBY people.


It is past time to admit the mistakes of 40 years ago. Especially when other cities ( in the Denver Metro Area ) have done the right things and are now benefiting from those choices...


 +  Like this comment
Posted by the_punnisher, a resident of Whisman Station,
on Sep 24, 2015 at 5:21 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

Why was my Margret Thatcher quote removed? It stated the obvious very succinctly.

Stripped down to the bare bones, that quote contained the basic argument. Or is the "S" word to be avoided as too evil to be used, even when the rest of the country uses the "S" word to describe CA?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Sep 25, 2015 at 12:13 pm

@ Punisher: No offense, but your version of the "No on BART" issue is not very accurate. The main culprits were the San Mateo Co. Supervisors. Please read the following:

Web Link


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Oct 6, 2015 at 3:59 pm

"SP was even willing to give up a money losing commuter service and ROW 40 YEARS AGO!!!"

Not exactly. Esspee offered to give ONE of its tracks for being permitted to drop the commuter service. That physically impractical proposal was wisely rejected.



Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:

Follow this blogger (Receive an email when blogger makes a new post)

SUBMIT

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Happy Valentines – Let’s Be Friends
By Laura Stec | 2 comments | 18,992 views

Our Valentine’s Day baby
By Sally Torbey | 5 comments | 3,168 views

Engagement Rings: Myths and Options
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 1,215 views

Talking about baby
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 818 views