Palo Alto Weekly

News - December 31, 2010

News Digest

Woman struck, killed by bus in downtown Palo Alto

A woman was killed in downtown Palo Alto Thursday morning (Dec. 30) after she was hit by a bus while crossing University Avenue.

The victim, a middle-aged female whose name wasn't immediately available, was walking north on Webster Street and crossing University Avenue at about 10:30 a.m. when she was struck by a SamTrans bus headed south on Webster that was making a left turn onto University, according to a witness. The bus dragged the woman before coming to a full stop between Webster and Middlefield Road.

Palo Alto Sgt. Wayne Benitez and Officer Eric Bulatao arrived at the scene within minutes and performed CPR to resuscitate the victim, whose body was wedged between the middle of the bus and the rear tires. Benitez said it became clear fairly quickly that the victim did not survive the crash.

Glen Firstenberg was in his car preparing to pull out onto University behind the bus when he saw a red grocery bag lying in the middle of the crosswalk. He then noticed the victim under the bus and told the driver to stop the bus, he told the Weekly.

The driver didn't immediately realize she hit the woman, Firstenberg said.

"She was devastated when she found out," he said.

Another witness, who declined to give his name, said the woman was crossing the street on a green light when the bus made the left turn and hit her. The witness, who was walking on University at the time of the crash, described the victim as a woman in her 50s or older.

The bus driver appeared devastated when she learned what happened, Firstenberg said. Shortly before 11 a.m., the driver — crying hysterically — was transported by a gurney to an ambulance and then taken to Kaiser Hospital in Redwood City with hypertension.

The victim's red Whole Foods bag, its contents spilling out, remained in the crosswalk while Palo Alto police and officers from San Mateo County Sheriff's Transit Police Bureau investigated the scene. A portion of University between Cowper Street and Middlefield was closed off to traffic for part of the afternoon.

The Thursday crash was the fourth major accident in Palo Alto in the past two-and-half weeks and the second recent fatal crash downtown. On Dec. 18, Rune Nielsen, a 25-year-old Danish national who was a visiting scholar at Stanford University, died after crashing into a tree on Middlefield, near Hawthorne Avenue. This happened a day after a 24-year old male suffered serious injuries after he drove into a light pole and a tree on San Antonio Road.

Earlier this week, a man and a woman in their late 70s suffered major injuries after their car hit a tree on Foothill Expressway. More information on these incidents is available on PaloAltoOnline.com

Old-fashioned parade set for Paly state champs

A parade honoring Palo Alto High School's two state championship teams is set for 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 8, rain or shine.

Players on Paly's girls' volleyball and boys' football teams will make their way down University Avenue, ending with video highlights and a rally at King Plaza in front of Palo Alto City Hall.

Parade-watchers are urged to wear Paly's colors of green and white and to stay downtown for evening celebrations.

The Paly girls won the Division 1 state volleyball title Dec. 4, defeating Long Beach Poly in the fifth game of a best-of-five playoff.

The Paly boys topped the nation's No. 4 team, Centennial-Corona, in a Dec. 17 down-to-the-wire 15-13 victory for the California Interscholastic Federation Division I Bowl championship game.

Calls for a parade erupted spontaneously "from all age groups," said Palo Alto Mayor Pat Burt, who attended the football championship game in Southern California.

"Paly and Gunn regularly win recognition nationally for academic achievement. It's fun to see our girls' and boys' teams be at the top of the state in sports, too," school district Superintendent Kevin Skelly said.

The parade is scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m., proceeding from the University and Webster Street.

Caltrain fare hikes, service changes on track

Caltrain fare increases and service changes are set to go into effect Jan. 1.

It will cost an additional 25 cents per zone to ride Caltrain, and a one-way ticket from San Francisco to San Jose will increase from $7.75 to $8.50, officials have announced.

The fare increase is projected to raise an additional $1.4 million this fiscal year for the commuter rail system, which transports an estimated 38,000 passengers up and down the Peninsula every weekday, spokeswoman Christine Dunn said.

The price for the annual Go Pass, which allows the rider to travel through unlimited Caltrain zones seven days a week, will increase from $140 to $155.

The increase is expected to generate around $150,000, which would pay for the cost of operating the program, she said.

Also beginning in January, Caltrain will be running a three-month pilot program of weekend "baby bullet" express trains, which will make seven stops between San Jose and San Francisco.

The pilot program will cost an estimated $107,000, which Caltrain can pay for from savings on projected fuel costs, Dunn said.

—Gennady Sheyner

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