Palo Alto initiative aims to shift drivers to trains, buses

Officials approve exploring an expanded shuttle system, new agency to manage traffic-reduction

After months of debate about new garages and permit programs, Palo Alto officials shifted gears on Monday in their search for parking solutions when they approved an ambitious initiative aimed at getting drivers out of cars altogether.

Buoyed by years of resident frustration over insufficient parking and a week of community praise about the latest remedies proposed by staff, the City Council voted unanimously to explore a series of "transportation demand management" (TDM) initiatives aimed at getting commuters to switch from cars to other modes of transportation. The package of proposals includes exploring a downtown Transportation Management Association; providing Caltrain Go Passes to City Hall workers willing to give up their parking permits; soliciting bids to dramatically expand the city's shuttle program and implementing various car-share and ride-share programs downtown.

The council's vote authorizes staff to issue requests for proposals to the private market for consulting services relating to the new association and for a shuttle provider who could expand the existing two-bus program into a robust, citywide system.

The fledgling TDM program borrows heavily from similar efforts both in the private sector, where companies like Google use large shuttle fleets to ferry employees, and the public sector, where agencies like the City of San Mateo and Contra Costa County have set up "transportation management associations" (TMA) that coordinate traffic-reduction efforts. Much like elsewhere, the goal in Palo Alto is to encourage downtown employees to switch to Caltrain, buses and bicycles, thereby alleviating the city's worsening parking shortage. In staff's parlance, the TDM effort is one leg in the city's "three-legged stool" of initiatives.

The other two legs of the stool are an increase in parking supply (largely through construction of new garages and lots) and a new "residential parking permit program" that would set time limits for commuters parking in downtown's congested residential districts.

In a memo issued last October, council members Gail Price, Greg Scharff, Nancy Shepherd and Liz Kniss urged the city to adopt a TDM program that would reduce car trips by at least 30 percent. They noted that the new permit program, parking garages and tougher parking requirements for new developments "will not alone solve the issues of parking and traffic."

"Stanford has reduced trips by 40 percent or more through a comprehensive TDM program, and with the right focus and attention Palo Alto could have similar results," the memo stated.

That view was widely shared on Monday. Neilson Buchanan, a Downtown North resident, said he and other neighborhood leaders fully support the steps outlined by staff.

"It looks really good to all of us," Buchanan said. "As we know more about it, it makes more and more sense."

Today, the effort to lessen reliance on cars has some urgency. With the recently approved residential-permit program scheduled to kick off early next year, commuters who have long relied on free all-day parking spots on residential blocks will soon lose that option.

For Charles "Chop" Keenan, a downtown developer who has been heavily involved in setting up downtown's existing parking-assessment district, the measures proposed by staff were key to making sure the permit program would work smoothly. Keenan said he had been exploring the existing association in Contra Costa, which consists of two full-time workers and a temp and which he said succeeded in reducing car use by 30 percent. A similar structure could be set up in Palo Alto, he said.

"Clearly TDM and supply are predicate acts to having an effective RPPP (residential parking permit program), where we don't just create chaos at the end of the day," Keenan said.

Hal Mickelson, representing the Chamber of Commerce, thanked city officials for their continued outreach to the business community and asked them to focus on encouragements, rather than penalties, in the new program.

"We advocate carrots rather than sticks," Mickelson said. "The business community believes that incentive and positive measures are going to work better and be easier and cheaper to administer with less controversy than measures that are prohibitory or restrictive."

The praise, both oral and in written letters, came as a welcome respite for council members, who have spent at least the past three years fending off a storm of complaints from residents arguing that the city hasn't done enough to improve the parking crisis downtown.

Councilwoman Gail Price said Monday it was a "a real pleasure this week to get so many positive emails" and called the new initiatives "exciting." It's nice, Price said, to be going into a direction with which so many people in the community concur. She noted that nonprofit transportation-management associations of the sort Palo Alto is considering are already up and running in many communities, which should make it easier for the council to launch its own program.

"So much of it is already out there," Price said. "Using the experiences that individuals and groups have already had, seems to me we can cut to the chase a lot faster."

Once in place, the Transportation Management Association would collect fees from businesses in its assessment district and use the money to fund initiatives that drive down the number of car commuters. The association would also be charged with measuring the impact of its programs and possibly imposing penalties for those businesses that fail to meet traffic-reduction targets.

But even after Monday's vote, it could be years before such an association actually takes shape in Palo Alto. Under staff's proposed timeline, the first phase of the process would last about a year and would entail hiring a consultant, forming a steering committee, collecting traffic data and conducting community outreach. The committee and staff would then develop a work plan, come up with regulations for new businesses, develop the actual programs and hash out the details about the structure of the association, which would then be charged with overseeing the city's newly expanded shuttle program.

Council members had plenty of questions about the new association, as well as about staff's proposal to expand the shuttle program, which currently consists of two buses. Some, including Karen Holman, wondered whether the city would retain control over the shuttle program even after the TMA takes the reins. Assistant Planning Director Aaron Aknin said that the shuttle program would ultimately fall under the association's authority, though the city would likely maintain a presence on its steering committee and thus exercise some influence.

"The ultimate goal is that the TMA is a self-sufficient association," Aknin said. "If the shuttle system falls under that umbrella, they'd have more of an independent authority. Until we get to that point, the city would have the ability to make those decision."

Other council members stressed the urgency of having some programs in place before January 2015, when the residential parking permit program is expected to make its debut. Councilman Larry Klein urged staff to work backwards from the 2015 timeline rather than present long-term timelines.

"How do we help people who will be running around and looking for parking?" Klein asked, referring to the scheduled unveiling of the permit program.

Councilman Greg Scharff agreed.

"We're putting in an RPPP. We need to work backwards from that and have as many options as possible," Scharff said.

The proposal to expand the shuttle program also earned a unanimous vote, though Councilman Pat Burt questioned staff's proposal for new routes and argued that the city needs to do more analysis before deciding on where to send the new shuttles. He pointed out that the "West Shuttle" route proposed by city planners would overlap on El Camino Real with the existing bus system operated by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority.

"I think there's more to (the decision) than laying out a bunch of routes and presuming people will come," Burt said.


Posted by businessdecision, a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 25, 2014 at 7:12 am

I wonder if Palo Alto could have the success Stanford has had.

Stanford caused the train usage to jump so far that there is hardly room for anyone else to do what the University did.

I also wonder if employer promotion of public transit will cause a constriction of public transit for non-employees, as already seems to have happened with the tragic killing off of the KX.

I still hope that what Palo Alto is thinking of will come about and will be a success.

Posted by Neal, a resident of Community Center
on Feb 25, 2014 at 7:40 am

I too, hope for success. To improve the chances of success, the City should survey all the people that work downtown and ask them what it would take to get them to "abandon" their cars. No use putting in programs that the employees aren't interested in using. I'm afraid the City will waste a lot of time and money trying to force an unpalatable solution down their throats.

Posted by resident, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 25, 2014 at 7:41 am

In addition to encouraging residents and employees to use public transit, we need to increase the capacity of public transit. Work with Caltrain on their electrification project, which will increase capacity. Work with VTA and Samtrans to run more busses. Improving public transit can be much cheaper than building more parking lots and more freeway lanes.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2014 at 7:51 am

Caltrain is full at commute times. Getting them to offer off peak discount tickets to those who ride after 10.00 am. Also they should make parking free after 3.00 pm. The City should be working with Caltrain to make their service more user friendly.

There is no point trying to get people to use Caltrain when they have to stand like sardines in a can.

Posted by emily, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 25, 2014 at 8:01 am

-Buses need to become more efficient. One can walk faster than some of those buses out there, with stops that seem to be every 200 feet. Look at the Marguerite for more efficiency queues!
-Love the Marguerite. I am fortunate to live in downtown PA and work on Page Mill Rd. It's a true blessing to be able to take the Marguerite for free to get to work.
-Caltrain is very expensive for those who's companies don't subsidize it.
-Caltrain + Bart + Parking = a system that doesn't seem to talk to each other well. Make them more aligned.
-Caltrain's schedule is very unfriendly for those who do not work typical office hours.
-Downtown PA should be charging for parking and not giving away free parking to city employees.
-Downtown neighborhoods should not be complaining about downtown workers that park in their neighborhoods. I've lived downtown for 10 years and it's not a problem for me. We don't OWN the streets. Who cares if someone parks in front of my house during work hours when I'm gone?!

Posted by Janice, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 25, 2014 at 9:06 am

Emily, for those that are not at work all day and at home, downtown employees taking up every spot on my street is a problem. A friend, a service worker or anyone that comes to visit my home has to circle around the neighborhood to find parking. Most times blocks away. One of my friends tried to bring me some groceries and she had to walk back and forth for blocks to deliver it to me. I also had a service person come to clean my ducts and he had to haul his machine to my home from a few blocks away. I believe we need a residential parking permit program and if I had just one extra spot to park on my street, I would be elated! As it is now, bumper to bumper cars until 3:30pm everyday is just too much.

Posted by Ducat, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 25, 2014 at 9:11 am

Janice-- your friend and the service person could have double parked for a couple of minutes to unload and then found a spot. Do not believe your friend walked for blocks to deliver food.
The parking problem is overblown. The daily post reported yesterday that there more cars parked in neighborhoods near downtown years ago then there are today.
I have no,problem with people parking on my street.

Posted by Ask city employees, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 25, 2014 at 9:23 am

The city can do an online survey of its employees to find out their transportation usage, which would be a good sample of downtown workers. They don't have to survey everyone downtown.
But maybe that isn't costly enough. They like to spend more and hire consultants.

Posted by Omar, a resident of another community
on Feb 25, 2014 at 10:04 am

A shuttle from the Caltrain parking lot on Alma to downtown Palo Alto would be awesome! The parking lot is mostly unused on weekends anyway.

Posted by resident, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 25, 2014 at 10:20 am

@omar - you can ride bike share from the Caltrain station around downtown. There is one station at the train station, and a couple more on Emerson and Cowper.

Posted by Marie, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 25, 2014 at 10:32 am

Marie is a registered user.

Please - not another governmental "association" with all the attendant overhead costs and additional needed "revenue." The cost of this program should be part of Palo Alto's existing budget.

Reducing the number of existing employees in cars will do nothing to help if new office space continues to be built. 30% of new employees taking public transit still means 70% new employee car trips. The new shuttle should be funded by development fees, freed up by reducing the number of employees in the development center by requiring developers to conform to existing zoning rather than having employees spend thousands of hours analyzing proposals for overly dense proposals requiring zoning variances.

With hundreds of city employees working downtown, many at salaries where the cost of permits is negligible, the city of Palo Alto has a perfect laboratory to try out various TDM strategies. Try the Stanford strategy with them. Make the cost of public transit $0 and the cost of parking a car very high. See if it works. I seriously doubt anyone will quit because they have to pay for parking. Give them other perks to make up for it. If you can't develop a plan that succeeds in getting 30% of Palo Alto's employees (who tend to have regular predictable hours of working) to take alternative transportation, you will need a different strategy.

Posted by Adina, a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 25, 2014 at 10:36 am

Double parking is not ok - it adds a lot of risk to people who are conserving parking spots by riding bicycles, and need to weave around the double-parked cars. This is particularly problematic for children and older people. The kids wouldn't be driving themselves, of course, but parents who feel the need to drive their kids for safety reasons contribute to the traffic jams.

Managing neighborhood streets so that there are a few free spaces would help residents, and also make the streets safer for cycling, further helping with parking and traffic.

Posted by Justin, a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 25, 2014 at 10:52 am

Still no mention of metered parking?

Posted by 35 year resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 25, 2014 at 11:00 am

It is difficult, if not impossible to legislate transportation choice. Good luck!!!

Posted by Do as I say, a resident of another community
on Feb 25, 2014 at 11:03 am

Does this mean the mayor and two other councilmembers will lose their all day reserved parking spaces in the city hall garage level A and that the other six councilmembers will lose their reserved parking (Monday thru Thursday after 5 pm) there as well? Will they get Caltrain Go passes too?

Posted by curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 25, 2014 at 11:21 am

Caltrain comes to Palo Alto. Great. But does it come from where employees live?

Posted by Palo Alto Native, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 25, 2014 at 11:45 am

I would be interesting to ask at a city council meeting how many rode their bikes, or mass transit.
I am sure that all of this biking/taking public transportation is meant for the "other" people.

Posted by anon, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 25, 2014 at 12:05 pm

All due respect to Adina Levin, but she is not a Menlo Park resident; therefore does not represent Palo Alto.

Staff should be focused on RPP, which has been promised to be in place by January 2015 downtown North and South.
( Evergreen Park should have been included in this fast track RPP group) .

Once local businesses are convinced that RPP is coming they'll solve their own parking problems.

Going forward we should make sure that all new projects provide adequate parking.

Posted by Neilson Buchanan, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 25, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Dear Ducat in Old Palo Alto,

A couple of facts if you live south of Embarcadero...
#1 most of your neighborhood is minimally impacted by commuter parking. Your residential streets enjoy virtually 24x7 100% open parking availability for residents, their visitors, service workers and contractors. There are minor exceptions such as Bowden Park which will be further impacted by the commercial success of the Calif Ave Commercial Core.

#2 Janice lives in the Downtown North neighborhood which has been extensively and honestly surveyed by resident and city staff. These residential streets are 82% saturated every working day. Many streets are over 100% saturated. Double parked delivery truck and gardeners are commonplace. Double parking has become pervasive, is marginally practical and certainly dangerous to bikers and pedestrians.

For us retirees who are home during much of any workday, it is very difficult for visitors (esp. older, hobbling visitors)to park in any reasonable proximity to our homes. This is also true for major segments of Professorville, University South, Evergreen Park and Crescent Park neighborhoods. Bottom line: What you observe daily in OPA does not relate to street conditions in all residential neighborhoods adjacent to the University and California Avenue Commercial Cores. Email me at and I will prove maps that illustrative street conditions.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 25, 2014 at 12:28 pm

There are a lot of different elements here - not sure if should be handled as a whole or piecemeal.
I do get worried with Palo Alto city officials "ordering" or "penalizing" citizens to "get out of their cars." We have to deal with the realities here, this is Califoria, most public transit sucks, we have large distances and spaces.
For me, if you want me to walk, give me a decent wide, clean sidewalk and get rid of the aggressive panhandlers.
Creative thinking is fine, but we are not the underlings to these officials.
For one thing, do we taxpayers "owe" free Caltrain passes or free parking permits or etc. to PA city employees. I think this is a fair question. I have never had any payments for my parking or transit, for example.
Google is overflowing with cash and burdening Mountain View while not providing sales tax, etc. to them, so they decided to try out steps to reduce their obvious impact on the roads, highways, etc. They even tried the little ferries - fine, they have the money to try out creative ideas and see if they improve the quality of life around here and perhaps improve their image around here, too.
Another approach, back to PA - I had actually assumed city employees all parked beneath city hall - I guess I don't go there very often - but I assumed that, and that there were visitor spaces.
Yet another approach: I understand at least in past, if not now, Palo Alto has a much higher headcount of city employees per resident than all neighboring cities - perhaps we should reduce city staff.
What I strongly oppose is a scheme to set up a city "parking lot" over in the Baylands and shuttle people to/from downtown. We have enough traffic on Embarcadero and also on Channing, and disturbing these residential areas more with busses filled with employees and consultants visiting city hall is a terrible idea. I thought Palo Altans were the most concerned with preserving what's left of nature - well, the Baylands should be preserved and used appropriately, not as a city parking lot.
Aside from city employees, to assume everyone can take Caltrain is ridiculous. It doesn't work for me or tons of people I know, owing to obvious logistics problems.

Posted by Adina, a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 25, 2014 at 1:04 pm

I live in Menlo Park but my organization is based in Palo Alto. I bicycle into Palo Alto frequently and I'm one of the people whose life is at risk weaving around double-parked cars. Perhaps you would prefer that I drive and add to the parking and traffic crunch? Or perhaps you can somehow keep Palo Alto residents safe while freely running over residents of neighboring towns?

Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2014 at 1:48 pm

> I bicycle into Palo Alto frequently

Your life would be at less risk if you took public transit.

Hopefully you are stopping at all stop signs and red lights when you cycle to work. Many cyclists don't, making the situation a lot worse than it need be.

Posted by Adina, a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 25, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Taking the train for a 2 mile trip is overkill, and the exercise is healthy.

I agree that everyone should obey traffic laws. That said, street design and policies (like encouraging double-parking) have a major impact on safety. These choices can help make streets safer for everyone.

By the way, 9% of Palo Alto residents and 8% of Menlo Park residents currently use a bike as their primary commute mode per the last census. That's not counting people who use a bike occasionally for commuting, or for non-commute transportation. The total is likely to be 2-3x higher than the people who commute primarily by bike.

That is a lot of people today, and it would likely be more if it were safer - leaving more parking spaces for drivers.

Posted by Bon Vivant, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 25, 2014 at 2:37 pm

Many people do not want to lose sleep time or extend their commute by a couple of hours each way by using the train or bus to go to work.

Buses and trains make so many stops along the way that what is a one-hour commute by car can turn into a three-hour commute by bus or train--that's in each direction.

That makes for a terribly long day, loss of family time, and loss of sleep. That just is not acceptable,,unless, like some European countries, the workday and work week are shortened.

Posted by anon, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 25, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Pardon my typo. Not was not meant to proceed MenloPark. Adina Levin is indeed president of MP not PA! sorry

Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2014 at 3:06 pm

> By the way, 9% of Palo Alto residents and 8% of Menlo Park residents
> currently use a bike as their primary commute mode

Even though the data comes from the Census .. it's really hard to believe. If the Census included children riding bikes to school then maybe.

Posted by still don't understand why, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 25, 2014 at 4:58 pm

If Stanford employees have to pay for their parking, I cant figure why City of Palo Alto doesn't have their employees pay for parking. Giving them free Go passes doesn't help unless there is an incentive. I work at Stanford and I would probably drive if I didn't have to pay for my parking. That incentive alone makes me ride my bike and get exercise.
City of Palo Alto needs to have their employees pay for their permit

Posted by businessdecision, a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 26, 2014 at 6:45 am

I read that Palo Alto bought GO passes (that is, train passes).

Palo Alto needs to buy the ECO pass (VTA bus pass) as well, as Stanford does.

Sadly, there is no SamTrans pass.

It's probably also true that you have to charge for parking.

Posted by Ken again, a resident of Professorville
on Feb 26, 2014 at 10:34 am

Don't believe everything you read in the papers and do not believe the "data" in staff reports.

Posted by Midtown, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 26, 2014 at 11:08 am

An interesting study was done in Chicago some years ago. The question was what would it take to get people to use public transportation? The conclusion was that when public transportation was faster than driving they would take it. Cost had very little to do with it. Any scheme that increases the commute time is bound to fail. How long would it take to ride a bus from he Baylands to downtown Palo Alto vs parking in a garage in downtown. Beware of complex bus solutions that ignore how long it takes to get there. If it is not faster, forget it. People highly value their time.

Posted by MadamPresident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 26, 2014 at 11:26 am

I am with Emily, Ducat, & Adina

Neilson Buchanan & Janice - you do have driveways, don't you?

Posted by SteveU, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 26, 2014 at 11:28 am

SteveU is a registered user.

Transit seems to be designed and run for the Transit company, not how real people need it. Huge buses, running long convoluted local routes. Train /Trolley arrivals without a waiting to depart bus to main bus routes (eg the 22).

Insane amount of transfers (with new fares or expensive DAY Passes), and intermediate stop wait times just to go a few miles.
It is time for a 'Any Agency within Zone Transfer' for a single fair (And NOT limited just to monthly pass holders). 1 pass: Ride the bus(es) to the local Train station, pay the required Train Zone fare. rid the buses from the train station at the destination. This could be handled by the Clipper program.

Lack of connecting Bus routes running on the routes many folk drive on frequently. eg. ECR and Lawrence Expy. in some cases you have to go further down the route, then catch a connecting bus that drifts back in the original direction.

Peak only (lack of service at other times) routes. Not everyone works full 8 hour shifts or at daytime hours (We are talking to you DB express route). There needs to be SOME route coverage between those peaks.

IMHO the 'Use of Public Transit' penalty should be less than 3 times the time it takes using a car.

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Feb 26, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Here we go again with another get the people of their cars to take buses and trains.

Kinda of hard when people are scattered over a large area, served by many transit agencies. Even our highway network could be designed to handle fast express buses it a shambles. Look at Route 84.

Caltrain is joke, it is good system, but designed for something else. Suburb to City Center and then back to Suburb. City to Suburb or Suburb to Suburb is the key to a good transit system. We have to leave our 1950's mind set, i don't mean getting rid of the car.

Tell you the truth, we haven't even done a good job keeping up a 1950 car centered high system, look at highway 84 and the missing Willow Expressway.

Posted by Adina, a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 26, 2014 at 12:34 pm

I am hearing a lot of "all or nothing" thinking here. Either everyone takes transit or nobody does.

But that is overkill. 80% of jobs are within 3 miles of Caltrain. Stanford got 24% of their employees to be using Caltrain, by purchasing the GoPass and investing in the Marguerite shuttle system to take people to and from the train. With a combination of transit, carpool/vanpool, and bicycling, Stanford has nearly 60% of employees not driving to work.

No, it's not 100%. Because of land use there are people in places that aren't practical to serve. Yes, the transit system has tons of room for improvement. It is appallingly disconnected in fares and schedules.

But even using the system we have, there's a good likelihood that it's possible to incent and encourage fewer people to drive.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 26, 2014 at 12:49 pm

I've been critical of Caltrain in the past - mainly due to its high need for supplemental income from counties and/or agencies. But I wouldn't call Caltrain a joke.

I believe a more accurate description is that it is a commuter rail system that was designed and implemented in the early 20th Century and (unfortunately) the operating model has not evolved with the times. And the simple paradigms were: people commuted to SF (not the other way around); there was plenty of parking and ease of access to stations; freeways had not been built; urban sprawl did not exist.

Would love to see Menlo Park step up and follow through on their "forgotten" commitment of building the Willow Expressway. Of course that will never happen.

Posted by curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 26, 2014 at 2:10 pm

"80% of jobs are within 3 miles of Caltrain."

3 miles of a station, or merely the tracks? It makes a difference.

Posted by data, a resident of another community
on Feb 26, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Could we please have a link to the source of these numbers?

> By the way, 9% of Palo Alto residents and 8% of Menlo Park residents
> currently use a bike as their primary commute mode

> 80% of jobs are within 3 miles of Caltrain.
In which cities are these jobs?

Posted by Adina, a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 26, 2014 at 3:24 pm

SPUR did the research, from a station, and good information about jobs distribution.
Web Link

Posted by Be realistic, a resident of Community Center
on Feb 26, 2014 at 3:42 pm

Most employees working in Palo Alto do NOT live in a ten-mile radius, even. many live in less expensive areas.

For example, my BIL lives in Willow Glen, drives to the Cahill Cal Train Station. He takes the train to Palo Alto. It takes nearly two-and-a- half hours for him to get from Cahill to the Downtown Cal Train Station, one way! That is nearly five hours of commuting per day. If he drove he could get here in one to one-and-a-half hours. He would not have to get up in the pre-dawn hours and get home long after dark. He could have breakfast and dinner with his family.

The only reason he takes the train is because he can read during his commute! Or so he claims.

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South
on Feb 26, 2014 at 5:12 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

@ be realistic

Please clarify.

If you type willow glen into google maps, it says 3 min to tamien station.

The average train to downtown takes 39 minutes.

How do you get 2 1/2 hours?

Posted by Ducat, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 26, 2014 at 5:32 pm

Be realistic-- please tell you BIL he does not need to get off at each Caltrain station and wait for the next train to come. He can stay n the train he is on all the way to Palo Alto. That will cut his commute to 45 minutes.
My DIL lives I. Willow glen and it takes her 45 minutes to get to Palo Alto.

Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 26, 2014 at 5:41 pm

1. Resident Downtown North mentioned that electrification of Caltrain would
provide some benefit - why is that so? It is the number of passenger cars that is critical - electrification has nothing to do with that. Invest that money in new engines and more passenger cars. Electricity costs money - where is the electricity coming from?
2. I always take BART to SF from the Daly City station - if parking available there - we need a BART to come down on the 280 side of the peninsula to connect the loop around the bay. Huge numbers of people use BART. It has space for people with bikes.
3. Since Menlo Park is contributing convert the old auto dealer lots on El Camino to parking and ride share area. There is a huge amount of land available there within walking and biking distance of SU, S Shopping Center, and both downtown Menlo Park and PA. That is an available resource that is going to waste.

Posted by Wish to Ride, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2014 at 7:36 pm

One thing I wish bay area governments would focus on is transportation systems. How to make everything work as a whole. All the different little transit "systems" seem to operate almost without regard to the rest. We had a friend who was visiting from out of state when we lived in the East Bay, and there was no way to take transit to her work in Tiburon even though there are ferries across the bay. Nothing connected smoothly. Same with going to the airport from Palo Alto by bus and SF by bus. There's a very convenient bus that goes right to downtown SF, but figuring out how to transfer from something near my home to that bus is almost impossible. I realize there is now a BART extension (I think) but I've long since given up trying to figure the whole thing out and just take a one-way rental car to the airport. I tried really, really hard to figure out how to take a train vacation from San Jose, but again, couldn't figure out how to just compare prices and buy the tickets. (I could join MENSA, and I find our transit that confusing.)

Contrast that with a country like Switzerland where all you have to do is type in a website where you want to go, from where, and it gives you all your options, costs, times, etc. All very clear. Usually, wherever you're going connects nicely.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 26, 2014 at 8:12 pm

Maybe BIL is walking or biking to the station from a distance away.

Afterall, that's what we're all supposed to be doing isn't it? Spending our waking hours commuting into and around palo alto using time sucking public transportation, all because the developers and the politicians that love them to death are too greedy to stop building in Palo Alto.

Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 26, 2014 at 10:54 pm

Parent - you need to start reading more papers. In the San Jose Mercury they report on each city on the peninsula. In San Mateo a builder - Essex, wants to build a five story apartment complex next to the park with less parking spaces than required. Of course everyone is upset regarding increased traffic and reduced parking in a centrally located large apartment complex.
In Redwood City - same problem for development on the bay. In San Jose - same problem. Does this all sound familiar?
What is happening in PA is universally the same throughout the whole peninsula area. And guess what - developers are required to use union construction which provides up to 2 years of labor to the unions. So who is greedy? When all is said and done it is the unions that benefit from the additional work. Once the construction is completed they walk away and the eventual residents are left with the problems.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 27, 2014 at 12:06 am

Until you can deliver a proper and safe user experience for buses and trains, quit skewing with how people move themselves around. The creeps I see on buses and at bus stops, or the weird things people do on public transit - not to mention the fact that I cannot get where I want when I want - keeps me in my car, and while I am in my car I want my taxes and money doing to sustain and improve roads.

Posted by Justin, a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 27, 2014 at 12:32 am

@resident 1
You said:
"In San Mateo a builder - Essex, wants to build a five story apartment complex next to the park with less parking spaces than required. Of course everyone is upset regarding increased traffic and reduced parking in a centrally located large apartment complex."
Hold on a second, you say that there is not enough parking and then that increased traffic is a problem? You do realize that the more parking they provide, the more traffic there will be, right? Parking shouldn't be free.

Congestion and pollution are negative externalities. Good public transit will make it easier for you to be able to drive.

Posted by Garrett , a resident of another community
on Feb 27, 2014 at 8:26 am

80% of the jobs are 3 miles from a Caltrain. Look on a map most of the people live in the east.

Most people don't have the option to walk, bike or public transit in to work.

Those last 1 to 3 miles can be the hardest. Look at the furthest offices out at Stanford Park or Baylands.

Posted by Robert, a resident of another community
on Feb 27, 2014 at 10:03 am

@resident 1

The upgrades to Caltrain, electrification, grade separation, positive train control, additional tracks, etc., means that more trains can be run closer together, greatly increasing capacity. Yes, electricity costs money but nowhere near as much as the cost of diesel. 280 was built specifically because it bypasses the peninsula cities, there are no plans, nor should there be, to run BART down it. It makes much more sense to put trains where the densest concentration of people and jobs are, and thankfully we already have one that does that, so well in fact that it desperately needs those increases in capacity.

Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 27, 2014 at 10:21 am

Justin - when you add a very large apartment complex it is more people and more cars. I am only telling you what the paper said. This is a very large apartment complex. The number of parking slots is specific to the people who are living in the complex - which is the same argument we have had in PA all along.
Since you live in Mountain View and have a number of new apartment complexes in your city are they charging the people who live there for parking spaces? Are they providing enough parking spaces for all of the tenants? What is happening in your city on this topic?

Robert from Another Community - BART Daly City parking lot is full every day - as is the other parking lots for BART. That means people are using a local transportation need and getting their cars off the road. We already have Caltrain - we need an additional set of wheels to connect the backside - Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, with Cupertino / Apple - then to San Jose. Caltrain is a really good system but we cannot be single streamed in our transportation choices. That makes no sense.
Another reason that this swirls around is that BART and Caltrain are managed by two different agencies who are competing with each other. If you look are the rest of the peninsula from San Francisco to East Bay to San Jose it works really well.

Posted by Robert, a resident of another community
on Feb 27, 2014 at 10:32 am

Resident 1, I'm not saying that BART along the 280 corridor wouldn't be useful, its just that what you're describing is a ~50 billion dollar proposition. Its not really cost effective, especially when considering a lot more people can be moved for a whole lot less by simply improving what we already have.

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South
on Feb 27, 2014 at 10:53 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

I support what Robert is saying. Most transportation expansions are very expensive and cost effectiveness is important. To me investing in expanding CalTrain service is a clear winner among alternatives to help the peninsula commute and associated parking challenges.

BART along 280 may be another high speed rail fiscal pickle--sounds attractive until you do the hard math.

Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 27, 2014 at 11:11 am

Sorry - do not see your point here - your assembly man put forth a bill to maintain Caltrain as a 2-track system. If you want to increase ridership then add more passenger cars. Add newer engines - there are very high tech engines out there now. You can upgrade Caltrain without ripping the whole thing out and replacing it - that is the big money sink. Calrain goes from Gilroy to SF - that is big bucks to replace that. Read the San Jose Mercury News - the last Caltrain down from SF leaves at 10:30 PM. That defines why the Warrior stadium and all else cannot use Caltrain as an excuse for building there.

Bart is servicing the Oakland Airport as well as SFO - they are covering more basses more effectively. They are circling the east bay down to San Jose to connect with all of the transportation systems they have there - which is ALL OF THEM. The void in housing is along the 280 corridor - put BART there and there will be more space for additional housing on that side of the peninsula. Los Altos is adding more residential space as we speak. You can put in more parking lots to increase ridership.

The space for parking on the Caltrain side is not there - it is overbuilt.
BART is a different union - I think that is the hang-up - who gets to build it. I am sure there is a turf war over that subject.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 27, 2014 at 11:20 am

Not that it ever can be funded or built, but placing BART on 280 makes no sense as there are hardly any (close-by) business districts until the Cupertino/San Jose area.

BART is already at 101, Caltrain/Milbrae and SFO. Take it down the Caltrain line and utilize the existing right of way. Much better solution than HSR as it will serve far greater numbers of people.

If I had a pot of gold, I'd run BART down the Caltrain line and have HSR meet up with BART/Caltrain in San Jose. Connect to SJC as well. Alternately, run BART down the 101 (overhead). Run a line down the 85 corridor as well.

Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 27, 2014 at 11:30 am

I agree with the thought - but there is huge resistance as there has been too much invested in following a different path. HSR is not going to happen - if we hold up everything for that we will never move forward.
BART does not have to be on top of 280 - it can follow Foothill Expressway and come in the back side of Stanford as a depot. There are a lot of employees at Stanford working at the hospitals and other services, as well as students. There is a lot of student housing on the west side of campus. Foothill Expressway is the dividing line between Los Alto and Los Altos Hills, you also have Foothill College in the loop. There is a lot of ridership you can create if the Bart stations are strategically placed. There is more building coming along here so this is a good investment.

Posted by Robert, a resident of another community
on Feb 27, 2014 at 12:49 pm

One of the main problems is that people see Caltrain expansion as synonymous with HSR. While the idea was to use HSR funds to upgrade Caltrain, those upgrades need to, and will eventually, happen regardless of the fate of high speed rail. This means electrification, 4 tracks, grade separation, and so on.

Posted by Resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 27, 2014 at 7:10 pm

And where is the money coming from for this - use of eminent domain to take older properties and lease them back to whoever? There is enough information out there now that no one wants HSR as the funding is not there.
The California tax payers have had it. Mag-Lev is a better technology that has financing now.
So where is the funding coming from to rip out the whole Caltrain system from Gilroy to SF? How long is that going to take? How do people get around in the meantime? Events have overcome this boondoggle. Technology has overcome the older plans.
Try and use eminent domain in Atherton and se where it gets you - no where.

Posted by Justin, a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 27, 2014 at 9:11 pm

@resident 1
No, I don't think Mountain View is doing things any differently than Palo Alto is. But I think that all high-demand parking should be priced accordingly; I don't understand why metered parking is not mentioned in this initiative. Then we could build cheaper apartments with little to no parking for the people who want to live without so many cars. By the way, 5 stories is not "a very large apartment complex" even if it may seem that way in Palo Alto.

Posted by Justin, a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 27, 2014 at 9:33 pm

By the way, there is good reason to believe that new apartments with less parking are going to have fewer drivers. Web Link
The more parking you require, the worse the traffic is going to be.

Posted by Alex, a resident of Meadow Park
on Feb 28, 2014 at 1:02 am

@resident 1 posted
"... the last Caltrain down from SF leaves at 10:30 PM. That defines why the Warrior stadium and all else cannot use Caltrain as an excuse for building there. "

The last Caltrain of the evening from SF is the 198 at 12:01 AM. The last train north out of SJ is the 199 at 10:30 PM.

For evening Giant's games, Caltrain adds two trains, one leaves 15 min (express to San Carlos, then every stop) and the other leaves 25 min (every stop) after the game ends.

For SJ Sharks evening games, they will delay the 10:30 PM train up to 15 min.
Caltrain also adds extra trains for other special events.

As for Bart, the last trains leave their endpoint station just before midnight. But the stations close at midnight. If you are catching it at an intermediate station, you need to be inside the station before it closes to catch any train which comes by later.

Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 28, 2014 at 8:09 am

Justin - thank you for the info. I was relaying comments in Mr. Roadshow of the San Jose Mercury News - complaints for riders stuck at AT&T Park that appeared a couple of months ago during the Warrior discussions. Mr. Roadshow gets problems fixed - he has the right connections.

Justin - think you should report your concerns to the Mountain View City Council - I am sure they will appreciate your input. As to the 5 story apartment in San Mateo that was reported in the paper as notes from the San Mateo CC meeting - was not a Palo Alto issue.

As to Bart on the west side of peninsula you all should look at the traffic on 280 in the morning and back-up at the HWY 92 off ramp. Lots of comments on that in Mr. Roadshow. Try checking out 280 yourself - that is a major area for improvement that would do well with BART and take many cars off the road.

Posted by Justin, a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 28, 2014 at 9:00 am

@resident 1
The story is the same everywhere in the Bay Area, including in San Francisco. The lack of new housing to meet demand everywhere makes it more expensive for everyone. And mandatory parking minimums are only going to lead to more cars and less affordability. Here is an example of a project in Palo Alto that provided much more parking than was necessary: Web Link

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2014 at 9:08 am

@Justin - SurveyMonkey's lease is a couple years. Their building could last for 50 years. It's premature to declare the building is overparked because the launch tenant currently reports high transit use. It's good news for now, but how do you propose we ensure that all future tenants are as responsible as SurveyMonkey?

Posted by Justin, a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 28, 2014 at 9:44 am

Put parking meters everywhere that there is high demand, residential permit system with high enough fees for any employees who want to get one, charge for parking in garages, and do more to support carpooling and transit use. Then there would be less incentive for people to drive alone and builders would have reason to provide enough parking.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2014 at 9:45 am

As our rainy morning commute shows, whatever happens, when it rains there will be more traffic and buses as well as cars are going to take much longer to get where they are going. As a result people will miss trains, connections, be late for work, etc. Unlike in a car when you can leave earlier to anticipate a longer commute, buses still have to leave on schedule but then they arrive later.

Getting accurate up to date information as to where the bus is when you are standing at a wet bus stop should be simple, they do it in other places, but not in technological Silicon Valley.

And when innovative companies start private buses, the locals don't like it, and treat the buses with abuse as in San Francisco with the Google buses. Society needs to treat these buses with respect (after all they are keeping more traffic off the road) and rules need to be invoked to enable these buses to move more quickly than regular traffic. Even in Palo Alto, I have seen buses stuck in tailbacks and drivers in gridlock not letting buses into the flow of traffic when they have been at a bus stop.

Buses need to get some type of priority to enable them to get people to where they are going faster than it would be to drive. In wet weather in particular, buses need to be able to keep to their schedules rather than stuck in gridlocked traffic. Otherwise, those fine weather bikers who choose not to bike in the rain will turn to cars rather than buses.

Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 28, 2014 at 10:54 am

Now the papers are saying the Oakland is the new Brooklyn. It is going to experience a deal of growth in the technology sector. Oakland has BART, Amtrack, ferries, buses, etc. It all comes back to having more than one type of transportation. And they have affordable property. All you younger people get yourself over to the east bay.

Posted by Justin, a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 28, 2014 at 12:40 pm

A lot of people have already done that, so Oakland isn't exactly cheap. Plus there is the issue of the poor people already living there. Again, the lack of real estate in Palo Alto/Mountain View is only going to make Oakland more expensive as well.

Posted by Lived there, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2014 at 2:57 pm

Oakland and much of Alameda County have quite a lot of violent crime. Worse yet, in Hayward, Union City, and Fremont, if you have a crime committed against you, the police will NOT come out and take a report--unless there is a murder in progress. If you call the cops, they will tell you to file a report online, then you never hear about it again.

On top of this, many of the parks, supposedLy for children, are littered with used syringes, needles, and broken whiskey bottles. Most of the schools are bad, although Fremont schools, thanx to the indian populace! have made a terrific comeback and now score better than PAUSD in some cases.

For the most part, most of Alameda County ( except Castro Valley and Pleasanton) are not at all family friendly. Better to go to Contra Costa County, especially Danville and San Ramon. Which have excellent schools and decent housing prices.

Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 28, 2014 at 3:42 pm

Justin - you are stuck on Palo Alto and Mountain View - unstick yourself. There is Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, San Jose, Los Altos. Go North to Menlo Park, Redwood City, San Mateo. You need to expand your outlook on available cities.
Palo Alto is built out - that is a fact. So you do the next best thing.

Posted by Justin, a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 28, 2014 at 4:01 pm

I don't think we should build out, we should build up. And there is plenty of demand to satisfy a much higher density in almost all of these cities. I would hesitate to say Los Altos should be more developed since much of it is not particularly close to any decent transit.

Posted by resident 1, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 28, 2014 at 11:07 pm

Justin - the city of San Jose is what you are describing - it is already there. It is high density with a lot of major companies and high apartment buildings. Suggest you spend some time there. They have a lot of parking meters. The whole peninsula does not need to look like San Jose, Oakland, or San Francisco. We call it regional diversity.

Posted by Justin, a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 1, 2014 at 12:10 am

San Jose is not very high density. Say what you want about diversity, but all housing is only going to get a lot more expensive as long as you keep on restricting supply. And the farther away people are from work, the worse traffic is going to be.

Posted by Troilus and Cressida, a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2014 at 9:04 am

Fine. Let the PA City Council deliver coffee and croissants for all the people who will have to wake up in the wee small hours to get to work on time by using public transportation.

Then let them deliver dinner to the same exhausted employees when they return home after bedtime at night because they used public transportation to get home again......then let the City Council wash and put away the dishes because the employees have to get up in the wee small hours to catch the public transportation.......

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