Palo Alto Weekly

News - February 10, 2012

Report: Traffic issues top Palo Altans' concerns

Survey shows residents are highly satisfied with overall quality of life in the city

by Gennady Sheyner

Palo Alto residents are generally thrilled with their city's services and quality of life but remain concerned about traffic jams and a glaring shortage of housing that is affordable, according to an annual citizen survey just released by the City Auditor's Office.

The latest National Citizens Survey, compiled by the National Research Center, Inc., and the International City/County Management Association, found that 92 percent of the respondents rated the city's quality of life "good" or "excellent" and that 94 percent gave these ratings when sizing up Palo Alto as "a place to live."

The numbers are similar to the 2010 results, when 94 percent and 95 percent, respectively, rated Palo Alto as "good" or "excellent" in these categories. In addition, 93 percent of the respondents said Palo Alto was a "good" or "excellent" place to raise children, despite a perceived shortage of affordable child care (only 35 percent gave "availability of affordable quality child care" in the city the two highest ratings). The city also scored far higher than benchmark cities when it came to cleanliness and natural environment.

The survey was released in conjunction with the Services Efforts and Accomplishments Report, a comprehensive annual report from the Office of the City Auditor that tracks trends and accomplishments in each department.

Though the survey reflects a high level of overall satisfaction with the city, it also indicates that residents are less pleased when it comes to transportation issues such as traffic, bus service and parking. Only 40 percent of respondents gave the city the highest ratings for street repairs while 46 percent ranked the city's bus or transit services as "good" or "excellent," a similar rate as in 2010 but well below the 2006 rate of 56 percent. Residents' satisfaction with the amount of public parking has also slipped, with 54 percent giving this service a high ranking (down from 60 percent in 2010).

As in previous years, affordable housing remained a glaring weakness, with only 14 percent giving the city high marks for "availability of affordable housing" and only 37 percent expressing satisfaction with its "variety of housing options." And while residents love the "overall appearance of Palo Alto" (89 percent rated it "good" or "excellent"), they are somewhat skeptical when it comes to new developments. According to the survey, 57 percent of the respondents gave the highest ratings to the overall quality of the city's newest buildings.

Residents were more generous, however, when it came to assessing the city's role as an employment center. Palo Alto scored far above benchmark cities in every category pertaining to employment opportunities.

The survey showed 89 percent of the responders rating Palo Alto a "good" or "excellent" place to work. The city's "employment opportunities" received top marks from 56 percent of residents while its "shopping opportunities" were lauded by 71 percent.

But they were far less sanguine when it came to their own economic prospects in the near term. Only 12 percent said they expect the next six months to have a "somewhat" or "very" positive economic impact on their families, far below the percentage in benchmark jurisdictions.

Palo Alto residents also indicated in the survey that they feel extremely safe in their city, particularly during the day. The survey showed 98 percent of responders saying they feel "very" or "somewhat" safe in their neighborhoods during the day (and 83 percent after dark). Downtown Palo Alto also received mostly high marks for safety, with 91 percent saying they feel safe there during the day, although just 65 percent said they feel safe there after dark.

The survey also indicated that Palo Alto residents generally feel they're getting their money's worth from the local government. Two-thirds of the respondents gave the city "good" or "excellent" marks when asked to assess the "value of services for the taxes paid to Palo Alto" and 92 percent gave high marks to the "overall image or reputation" of the city.

Furthermore, 83 percent gave the highest ratings to "services provided by City of Palo Alto." By comparison, federal, state and county governments received high marks from only 41 percent, 26 percent and 45 percent of respondents, respectively.

The survey also identified those services that most closely correlate to residents' overall perception of local government. In 2011, these were: public-library services, police services, public schools, preservation of natural areas, traffic-signal timing and city parks.

The report can be read online at www.CityofPaloAlto.org by searching for "Service Efforts and Accomplishments."

TALK ABOUT IT

What do you think are Palo Alto's strengths and weaknesses? Give your opinion on Town Square, the online discussion forum, on Palo Alto Online.

Comments

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2012 at 4:10 pm

hmmm

traffic, bus transportation, parking,

Traffic is impeded, bus transportation is poor, parking is contentious.

Solution. Get traffic moving efficiently on major arteries. Charge for the shuttle, improve the service to serve the whole city and get more schoolkids to school on it. Get pay per hour parking in all city lots and garages.


Posted by less cars = less traffic, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 7, 2012 at 4:56 pm

If traffic is the problem, then the solution is fewer cars. Building more roads and more parking lots is extremely expensive and no one is willing to give up their property to build them. We can reduce the number of cars on our streets by encouraging the alternatives like buses, shuttles, trains, walking, and bicycling.

I can remember when there were more than twice as many bus routes running through our city, including through the residential areas. What happened to those routes?

Caltrain service has remained stagnant over the last decade while ridership has been increasing and now commuter time trains are overcrowded. When are we going to electrify Caltrain and increase performance and capacity?

20 years ago, we built a great bicycle boulevard from downtown Palo Alto to midtown, but why haven't we built any new bicycle boulevards since then? Meanwhile Mountain View has built great car free bicycle routes through their city (like the Stevens Creek Trail) and they are building even more right now.

Traffic sucks in Palo Alto because the infrastructure has not kept up with the job growth. The city should be getting a lot of revenue from these companies and we should be investing at least a part of that into infrastructure to minimize the burden of their commuters.


Posted by Gus L., a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 7, 2012 at 5:11 pm

If Traffic is such an Issue, then why does the city allow these awful stacked up projects Like the Ricky's property? Three stories tall and streets you cant park on overnight.
Or new a Grocery store Two stories high with a small parking lot and a bunch of two story homes packed in around it?
Pack em In, Its all about taxes..


Posted by Easy Rider, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2012 at 5:19 pm

I really laugh when I read how people are so mad at the traffic on roads in Palo Alto. Have you tried to drive in England or Japan? Driving in Palo Alto is a piece of cake by comparison - quit complaining you've got it easy. There is nearly always a parking space waiting for you when you get to where you want to go.


Posted by not enough traffic, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 7, 2012 at 5:38 pm

Where exactly are these traffic jams that people are unhappy about? Could they be in the areas where the city is cutting traffic lanes? Easy solution for that. BTW, Palo alto does not really have traffic problems. But people have been programmed to complain about traffic since they constantly hear about traffic issue plaguing the city.


Posted by Me Too, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 7, 2012 at 5:59 pm

The traffic issue is odd. I live and work in Palo Alto (one in the south, the other in the north) and I've never been in anything I'd call bad traffic. Maybe wait one light cycle at a big intersection at the peak of rush-hour - maybe. The rest of the time, free-flowing traffic and free parking everywhere. Where is this traffic problem you speak of?


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Feb 7, 2012 at 6:33 pm

If the State would only up the qualifications for a drivers license so that the bottom 5% of current drivers fail, the effect would be synergistic.

It would be like a 50% reduction in vehicle volume, plus public transit would get enough riders to break even, expand routes, and maybe even make a profit.


Posted by less cars, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 7, 2012 at 7:01 pm

I wonder if all the traffic complainers live in College Terrace?


Posted by Ignore-This-Survey, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2012 at 7:12 pm

Have to agree that "traffic" is not a big problem here in Palo Alto. There is a little traffic during morning drive time, and it's sort of bad around the schools, but after 8:00AM, it settles down. University Avenue might be clogged, but this is a short segment, and doesn't carry a lot of important traffic volume.

The rest of the day, after 6:30PM and on the weekends (save the Stanford Football Weekends), there isn't a lot of traffic. In fact, from data released about Traffic over the years, the traffic volumes seem to have diminished by about 25% over the past decade. Sadly, the Traffic Engineering Department has no idea how to use modern traffic counting equipment, and so we don't have monthly updates to the actual traffic flows on our streets.

This survey is entirely too simpleminded to be taken seriously.


Posted by Need some facts, a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 7, 2012 at 8:11 pm

About below market rate housing, there are something like 1,000 housing units in Palo Alto, but you wouldn't know it from the emotional pleas of the housing advocates.
Does anyone know the accurate number?


Posted by Ignore-This-Survey, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2012 at 8:50 am

The numbers in this citizen's survey about crime are curious. The sample size is about 430, and about 9% of that number is reporting that someone in the household reports themselves to be the victim of a crime. Further, some 10% of those victims did not report the crime to the police. So—what to make of these numbers?

If this survey is to be useful, the crime rate of 9% should be extrapolated to the whole town's 28,000+ dwelling units. That would mean 2850 crimes (and unreported crimes would increase this number). So what official crime stats exist? The PA Police post the Part I crimes (which are reported to the FBI) on their web-site. The following are the 2010 numbers:

Part 1 Crimes 2010
Homicide 0
Rape* 4
Robbery* 39
Assault** 70
Burglary Total* 217
Larceny-Theft* 1083
Motor Vehicle Theft* 49
Arson* 23
Totals 1485

Since not all victims of crime in Palo Alto are residents, this total number of Part I crimes needs to be reduced by the number of non-residents that were targets of crime when they were here working, shopping, or recreating. (Crimes of "domestic violence" don't seem to have a clear category in the Part I crime list, so they may, or may not, be included. Other kinds of crimes, such as vandalism may not be included in this list.)

The 2010 total Part I crime count comes to about 5% of Palo Alto homes, so this survey's crime rate is very curious, at best. The survey does not provide any follow-up information about crime, such as identifying the type of crime of which the household member was the victim. Without this sort of "focusing" information, this survey provides us nothing but the perceptions of people who may not actually know what they are talking about.

A final note—the closure rate of crimes in Palo Alto tends to be about 15% (meaning crimes that are solved and referred to the DA for prosecution). This number is generally not published by the Palo Alto Police. If it were, it might significantly distort people's perception of the effectiveness of the Palo Alto Police.


Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Feb 8, 2012 at 9:51 am

Palo Alto's "traffic calming" causes a lot of the traffic congestion. Hold tight California Ave., it's your turn next.


Posted by A, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 8, 2012 at 10:55 am

To those who are wondering where is the bad traffic: The problem is almost solely during the morning rush near schools. On a rainy day when most kids are getting driven, a trip that is usually 5 to 10 minutes can take 40 minutes or more. It really is chaos if you have never experienced it. Even when it is not raining, that same trip might take 25 minutes in the morning. If you commute, you have to deal with this local traffic just to get onto the highway to deal with 101 traffic. Furthermore, when every one is anxious about their kids being late, they can make some dangerous moves to get to the next light before it turns.

Regarding housing, asking people to rank Palo Alto on affordable housing is misleading. Of course they will say Palo Alto housing is expensive. What the survey should ask is whether current residents would like to see more developments of affordable housing. I think the survey results would then be quite different given the congestion on roads and in schools caused by recent developments.


Posted by longtimeresident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 8, 2012 at 11:09 am

The streets in Palo Alto used to be smooth and easy to navigate. Now, they are all uneven and bumpy and jarring to drive on. I don't know if it is because of all the construction trucks or lack of quality road products used or both but it has all the appearances of a very poor community. One can't drive in the right lane going north on Alma because of the dips and bumps.


Posted by school congestion, a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 8, 2012 at 11:39 am

There certainly seems to be much more of parents driving kids to school instead of letting them walk (by themselves or with a parent) or ride their bike (again, by themselves or with a parent).
The afternoons with parents' cars waiting for blocks seems the worst.


Posted by neighbor, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 8, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Interesting stats. Would like to know how they sampled the city's population and whether it was residents only or also those who work here but live elsewhere.

In terms of traffic -- Alma can be horrendous during commute hours (northbound in the morning, southbound evening times). At least some of this is because of the high density housing developments in South Palo Alto. Enough of those! Only a few units can be classified as "affordable" and the quality of life in Palo Alto diminishes with each new project. The big winners are the developers.

Yes, the higher density increases tax revenues, but simultaneously increases demands for services. The higher demands lead to overcrowded schools, more costs for expanded city services (e.g., police, fire), higher road maintenance costs associated with more use, etc.It also diminishes the sense of neighborhood connection Palo Alto has always enjoyed. It's time to curb the high-density approvals. We are looking more and more like Sunnyvale and other areas cities that have compromised in their developement plans.

And on the subject of housing -- Stanford owns 1800 acres. Why should we bear all of the costs of their expansion -- build housing on their land for their employees.


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 8, 2012 at 12:33 pm

"And on the subject of housing -- Stanford owns 1800 acres. Why should we bear all of the costs of their expansion -- build housing on their land for their employees."
But, I bet you have no problem enjoying the added tax revenue derived from Stanford. Should Stanford require that it's employees live in housing built on it's land? What about other new businesses in Palo Alto--should they be required to provide housing for their employees.
However if you want to go ahead with the plan, I think the foothills would be a perfect location for housing.


Posted by Curious, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 8, 2012 at 12:35 pm

What would these people consider affordable housing?
Spend less money on fancy "toys", get rid of credit card debt, save for a down payment on a house and w interest rates insanely low, there is more affordable housing than ever.

What's so wrong with supply and demand and having to pay a premium to live in such a desirable area? The clamoring for more affordable housing has led to insanely high density complexes which leads to more traffic and over crowded schools. pick you poison!

If you think real estate is expensive here, try Tokyo or Hong Kong or Paris or London.


Posted by KB, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 8, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Traffic really is bad during rush hours, although not as bad as in major cities. Try Oregon, Alma, Meadow or Charleston during rush hour when people are also taking their kids to school. And forget about a rainy day when they don't want their kids walking in the rain. Meadow and Charleston are really a mess during rush hour because of the at-grade train crossings. Of course, adding all these new developments doesn't help the traffic situation. And the traffic calming on Arastradero has made traffic a lot worse there too.

Re housing, I absolutely agree with 'A' above: housing is not really affordable, but I think very few residents would want more high-density, affordable housing built. We already have quite a bit, and adding more just makes traffic worse and adds a burden onto the schools and infrastructure. I think most of us would agree that Palo Alto really doesn't need any new housing at all.

Show me someone who wants lots of new housing development in Palo Alto, and I'll show you either a real-estate developer or someone who doesn't live here but wants to.


Posted by Ignore-This-Survey, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2012 at 3:04 pm

> I bet you have no problem enjoying the added tax
> revenue derived from Stanford.

The Stanford "tax" situation is complicated. Stanford, itself, generally does not pay anything in property taxes. All of the staff living in the residential section pay property taxes. All of the companies who are leasing property in the Stanford Park pay property taxes (although these don't seem to own the land). Stanford itself enjoys a $4+B tax exemption (this year) for the property that is in Santa Clara County. It no doubt enjoys a similar exemption for property it own in San Mateo County.

Stanford claims to pump about $2.5B into the general economy (salaries, and benefits, mostly). However, this money follows the employees, who live all over the greater Bay Area.

If Stanford were required to build some housing for some of its people, then it would likely have to pay property taxes. However, if the number of children in that housing exceeded the cost of educating them at the PAUSD, then the property owners in the PAUSD would have to pick up the difference—meaning more property taxes for teacher's salaries and building costs.

Generally, where Stanford is concerned, no one wins—but Stanford.


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 8, 2012 at 3:10 pm

" Ignore-This-Survey-
I was referring more to tax revenue generated from visitors to Stanford that shop/eat/stay in Palo Alto, as well as Stanford employees that eat and shop in Palo Alto. Stanford did just build housing for families near College Terrace.


Posted by Ignore-This-Survey, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2012 at 4:16 pm

> Stanford built housing in College Terrace

Yes, but that doesn't necessarily bode well for Palo Altans, and other PAUSD taxpayers.

Let's look at Stanford West (on Clark Avenue). It sits on three parcels of land, which, with buildings included, is assessed at/about $85M. This brings in about $850K in property taxes, of which about 46% goes to the PAUSD and 9% goes to Palo Alto.

Now .. there are 626 units in this building. The PAUSD claimed (at one point) that there were about 160 kids in this building, each of which is supposedly enrolled in the PAUSD. With per-student expenditures now at/about $13k (and more when all of the money spent is considered) it's very clear that the property tax is not paying for the cost of these kids education. The capital costs per student is now somewhere around $3K per student per year (over a thirty year period). Stanford paid a $1.1M school impact fee, which clearly does not go far in dealing with adding 160 kids to the system.

Additionally, the City of Palo Alto spends about 2,500 per resident, and the County spends another 2k per resident for "services". The sum of these two government costs for Stanford West comes is around $700K.

So, Stanford is paying a lot less in property taxes than it is consuming in services. The difference is being picked up by Palo Alto and PAUSD property tax payers.

While the problem of Stanford's not contributing to the cost of the PAUSD is not going to be solved by having housing on its campus, at least the cost of City services will not be an issue—as Stanford will have to provide


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 8, 2012 at 5:09 pm

There must be another Palo Alto on some astral plane with no traffic.

Yes, there are periods in late morning and early afternoon when there's not much traffic. But even during those times, check out the intersection of Page Mill & El Camino or Embarcadero & El Camino.

Why do you think people cut through Olive Ave. & Pepper Lane to get on Oregon east instead of waiting through several red lights to make a right turn? The city planners "forgot" to put a right turn lane at the corner when the ATT building went up.

University is always jammed, with people trying to squeak through a red light and blocking intersections or waiting for a car to pull out of a parking space.

During commute hours, there's plenty of congestion. Try heading toward 101 on Oregon any time from 3:00 on. LOOOOONG line of cars. El Camino is also a big problem.

Outside Observer points out that some people just shouldn't be driving. Amen to that. Part of the congestion is caused by people driving 25 or 30 mph – in all lanes! – on 35mph streets.

Too bad the city planners only want to narrow the streets and make matters worse. The ONLY reason they want to narrow CA Ave. is because it's a requirement of getting a VTA grant. Their traffic study, claims that "the reduced lanes would also reduce the street capacity from 1,360 vehicles per hour to 560 per hour, with traffic delays of about two to three seconds per vehicle." (From pdf page 28 of the study at www.cityofpaloalto.org/civica/filebank/blobdload.asp?BlobID=25743 )

It doesn't seem logical to me that reducing capacity by almost 41% will delay traffic only 2 - 3 seconds.

In any case, the study was done under current conditions and does not take into account the high density housing the city is planning for the CA Ave corridor.

The VTA also wants to take one car lane (in each direction) out of El Camino and replace it with a bus lane. VTA planning manager Kevin Connolly claims driving time from Santa Clara to Mountain View would be reduced by "only one minute." When pressed, he admitted the one minute claim assumes many drivers would divert to other roads like Foothill or Central Expressway to avoid congestion on El Camino -- as if those arteries aren't already at their limits.

Connolly finally conceded that losing one lane on El Camino would reduce auto capacity by 950 cars!Does anyone really believe that 950 people would get out of their cars and ride the bus?

We are being sold down the river by ABAG, the VTA, HSR Authority, New Urbanism consultants and our city planners.


Posted by Me Too, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 8, 2012 at 5:26 pm

I go through Page Mill/ECR every day between 5:30 and 6:30 - a bad day I wait one light cycle (maybe 20-30% of the time); a good day I get through the first time. That seems fine to me - adds <5 minutes to my commute.

I don't cut through Olive/Pepper - I go back to Park several blocks before and get on Oregon that way. Pretty smooth sailing at any hour.

If people are looking for fast flow during peak rush hour, and/or on downtown retail streets like University, or next to schools during drop-off times, then they may be looking for some other "astral plane" ;-) The only places I've seen that kind of flow is where economies are dying or populations shrinking (like where I grew up).


Posted by Ignore-This-Survey, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2012 at 5:27 pm

> Outside Observer points out that some people just shouldn't
> be driving. Amen to that. Part of the congestion is caused by
> people driving 25 or 30 mph – in all lanes! – on 35mph streets.

Well .. imagine that .. particularly since the speed limit on most Palo Alto streets is 25 mph.

However, this does raise an interesting point. What would our perceptions of traffic be if the speed limit were raised to 35 mph on those streets that can handle it .. like Arastradero, Middlefield and Embarcadero?

As to the complaints about looooong lines. Best to get the LOS ratings for the intersections in question. Without those .. we are just dealing with individual perceptions. Same for queue lengths at intersections where people think that there are long waits.

Sadly .. the Palo Alto Traffic people are off spending $84M on bicycle paths ..



Posted by laura, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 8, 2012 at 5:51 pm

I have lived here for 40 years and traffic on Alma has always been terrible. The Arastradero corridor is also bad. "Traffic calming" is a joke. Too many people commute here for jobs since they cannot afford to live here (who can???). High density housing has only added to the problem. There is no solution so just live with it. Breathe deeply while waiting for the 4 minute intersection lights to change at Embarcadero and El Camino. That's what I do.


Posted by horse, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 8, 2012 at 6:54 pm

drive safely and slow down people, impatient drivers are the worst


Posted by Linda C, a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 8, 2012 at 6:56 pm

I lived in North PA for 30 years. But now I have trouble parking for my frequent local outdoor hikes at the Dish and Arastradero. It is packed now almost any time of the day. I need these places for my health and well being. Especially now that we are a metropolis. But I can't count on a place to park anymore. Just very frustrating.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 8, 2012 at 8:09 pm

> "…the speed limit on most Palo Alto streets is 25 mph."

Note that I specifically commented on people driving 25 – 30mph ON 35MPH STREETS. I'm not advocating speeding anywhere.

> "… we are just dealing with individual perceptions."

When I see cars backed up on Oregon heading east for many blocks, that's a clear sign of congestion. Ditto when I have to wait through 3 light changes heading north on El Camino south of Embarcadero.

> "… impatient drivers are the worst"

Impatient drivers are certainly bad when they speed or run red lights. But what about people who clog the fast lanes by driving 10mph under than the legal limit? Or those who merge onto the freeway at 35 mph – or stop in the merge lane? Driving too slowly is not necessarily driving safely.


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Feb 8, 2012 at 8:13 pm

>>"Impatient drivers are certainly bad when they speed or run red lights. But what about people who clog the fast lanes by driving 10mph under than the legal limit? Or those who merge onto the freeway at 35 mph – or stop in the merge lane? Driving too slowly is not necessarily driving safely. "

Amen!


Posted by Mike, a resident of University South
on Feb 8, 2012 at 8:40 pm

University Ave is the cut through to 101 and to the Dumbarton bridge. So, I would expect there to be a lot of traffic there.


Posted by Easy Rider, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2012 at 10:48 pm

Pat quotes " "…the speed limit on most Palo Alto streets is 25 mph."" WRONG. The speed limit is the 85th percentile of the average speed on that particular street. The arterials around town all have different speed limits depending on how the Police have reported the average speed on that particular street.

The City has many 25 MPH speed signs around town, they are all fake. They were installed many years ago before the 85th percentile of the average speed on that particular street law was passed by the State legislature.

The 25 MPH signs are meaningless but the City does not want them removed because most people driving around town actually believe them, and they keep speeds down.


Posted by pat, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 9, 2012 at 9:31 am

RE: LOS (Level of Service)

From Jaime Rodriguez: "Palo Alto does not monitor all intersections on a consistent basis. At a minimum, we monitor eight intersections, every other year, which is required by the local Congestion Management Agency (Santa Clara County VTA). This was the case for the most recent monitoring during the Fall of 2010 when we only analyzed the minimum eight."

Intersection AM Peak LOS PM Peak LOS
El Camino Real/Alma St C D
El Camino Real/Embarcadero Rd/Galvez D D
El Camino Real/Page Mill Rd D D
El Camino Real/Arastradero Rd/Charleston Rd D D
Charleston Rd/San Antonio Rd D D
Middlefield Rd/San Antonio D E
El Camino Real/University (west) C C
El Camino Real/University (east) C C

From Web Link
Level-of-Service C describes at or near free-flow operations.
Level-of-Service D describes decreasing free-flow levels.
Level-of-Service E describes operations at capacity.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2012 at 10:14 am

There is a lot we can't do about our traffic problems, but there is some that can be done.

Improve public transportation for our schoolkids by improving shuttle and bus services.

Enable traffic to move directly from Alma to Sand Hill without U turns and V V. This is one of the biggest headaches for negotiating a route through town.

Improve parking by putting in machines for pay per hour parking at all city lots and garages.

We may not be able to do much about reducing out of town traffic coming into Palo Alto, nor would we want to dissuade people from working and visiting town. But many of our problems would be alleviated by the above 3 suggestions.


Posted by Mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2012 at 11:24 am

Charleston/Arastradero is posted at 25mph because it is a school commute corridor that serves 11 public and private elementary, middle, and high schools. Hundreds of students (and other bike/pedestrian commuters use this residential arterial every day. Children who live south of the corridor must use it every day for their school commute. They have no other option.

35mph is both illegal and an unacceptable speed to travel on a school comute corridor that carries so many students. (Glad to have a conversation about the statistical incidence of serious injury and fatality with speeds over 28mph with anyone who really cares about safety of residential streets and school commute corridors. Speed matters.)

I support the lane reduction. It is working. My kids bike and walk on that street to school daily. I drive, bike, and walk the street regularly. From my perspective, congestion hasn't changed a lot even though overall traffic volumes have increased with all of the corridor development. Conditions feel much safer to me as a road user.

Relax your accelerator foot. I watch some unskilled drivers gun it and hit the brakes repeatedly. The lights are timed really well since the recent adjustments in January. If you drive the speed limit, you don't have to stop and start as much. My car travel times haven't changed much since before the restriping and my bike commutes feel a LOT safer.

Did you know that this year a daily average 679 bikes were counted at Gunn in the fall and during the winter rainy season on a wet day there were over 550 bikes? Bike commuting to Gunn has grown at about 2%/year the last few years. There were 236 bikes counted at Terman. That's just two of eleven schools--with almost a thousand bicyclists! We don't have pedestrian counts for PAUSD secondary schools, but anecdotally we see large numbers of walkers. These students deserve a safe route to school. Please help them by driving the speed limit. Each one of them is reducing the number of cars (and congestion) on the school routes by walking and biking to school.

The Charleston/Arastradero project is not funded by VTA as one writer erroneously stated. It has been funded through a combination of developer impact fees from the housing projects that recently were completed and money that would have been spent anyway on regularly scheduled resurfacing of the road. I must take issue with this incorrect information.

However, I do agree that ABAG's housing quotas are potentially destructive to Palo Alto and they need to be revisited. I encourage citizens to get active and support Council's efforts to have ABAG take another look at the jobs and population growth assumptions in their formula.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2012 at 11:40 am

Many of the drivers on Arastradero on the Gunn commute every day are student drivers, driving on permits with parents in the passenger seat, or newly qualified drivers with little experience of driving without a parent in the passenger seat.

These are the drivers that we should be concerned about. It is impossible to tell who they are because they don't have anything like a big R for Rookie on their cars.

They are also on Churchill outside Paly.

The big problem is that we don't know who they are so we have to expect all drivers on these roads to be inexperienced.


Posted by Mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2012 at 11:44 am

All the more reason to have a road design the encourages lower speeds during school commute times.


Posted by Ignore-This-Survey, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2012 at 1:34 pm

> 35mph is both illegal and an unacceptable speed to
> travel on a school comute corridor

In the end, all law is just words on a piece of paper.

Schools are in session about 180 days a year. Why should the speed limit be set for a whole road because a school is open a few hours a day on that road? Why should the speed limit be adaptive—twenty five during the school commute hours, and higher during the rest of the day, and year?

> The Charleston/Arastradero project is not funded by VTA
> as one writer erroneously stated. It has been funded through a
> combination of developer impact fees from the housing projects that
> recently were completed and money that would have been spent anyway
> on regularly scheduled resurfacing of the road.

The original project had a price tag of some $7M-$9M. The current project has spent a little more than $1M. If the C/A project goes to completion, it's hard to believe that outside agencies, such as VTA, as hit up to pay a bit of the bill.

> I support the lane reduction. It is working.

Says who? The original goals of the reconfigured C/A Corridor were very vague: no appreciable delay in end-to-end transit time, a 5 mile-an-hour reduction in the average speed, and no stated reduction in accidents. There was no baseline data made available at the time, other than end-to-end transit time and the average speed. All of the other criteria were not measured, and don't seem to be measured at this time.

Kids got to school before the lane reduction. They are getting to school now. The number of car trips was not measured by the Transportation people prior to the start of the trial. So, there is no way to know how many car trips have been reduced by students walk/biking to school. Moreover, the shift of the start time of school at Gunn no doubt will make a bit of a difference in congestion on that segment of Arastradero in the 7:30AM to 8:00AM timeframe.

What has happened is that there are now long lines at various times of the day at various intersections. The City did not provide queue lengths prior to the start of the trial, however, it's clear that there are certain times of the day that traffic is queued much longer than it was when there were two lanes on certain segments of the roadway.

While the reconfiguration may be working for this poster, it's not working for most motorists.


Posted by KB, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 9, 2012 at 2:32 pm

pat reports that traffic light LOS is:
El Camino Real/Embarcadero Rd/Galvez D (peak AM) D (peak PM)
El Camino Real/Page Mill Rd D D

I'm surprised those two aren't graded E, especially Embarcadero - ECR.

I'm also very surprised they didn't rate Oregon / Middlefield, which is definitely an E. That's got to be the worst intersection in PA during rush hours. In fact, from Cowper to 101 is jammed, so Oregon/Ross and so on are probably Es also.

In any case, those scores are nothing to be proud of.

As for Charleston / Arastradero calming, I think it's been a disaster for drivers. Glad to hear that the city didn't baseline any of the statistics necessary for determining whether it's been a success. That way they can easily declare victory and proceed.

And for you all whose kids bike to Gunn or Terman, what's wrong with Meadow & Los Robles (or Maybell)? Much less dangerous than C/A, and a nicer ride too. Sure you may still have to cross C/A to get there, but I don't think going from four lanes to 2 or 3 had any impact on crossing. My $0.02 is go back to four lanes and keep the improved crosswalks and lights.

And for anyone who lives on C/A and complains about the traffic, sorry, but you paid $100,000-200,000 less for your house than anyone else in PA because of where you live, so you don't get to complain. If you didn't want to live on a busy street, you should have bought somewhere else.


Posted by Mom, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Beyond school hours, those students (along with many other residents of all ages) walk and ride their bikes safely to the parks, library, community centers on the corridor.

It is a residential arterial and designated school commute corridor, not an expressway. It was never intended to be a cross-town expressway. That was laid out in the Comprehensive Plan. As the project has encouraged people to use other modes of transportation, it has enabled the roadway to carry more overall trips. That has been very important as the corridor has absorbed new trips from the new housing that was built.

As for using alternate routes...It really depends where you live. Many folks south of the corridor cannot use these alternate routes conveniently.

Is it the perfect solution? No. But there really isn't a better solution. It gets congested at certain times of day as it always did. It also carries more trips. Most of the day the road works better--in my opinion.

It sounds like what you may really upset about is the increase in overall traffic from all of the new development. I agree. That's a frustrating problem.


Posted by neighbor, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 9, 2012 at 4:18 pm

@svatoid: "But, I bet you have no problem enjoying the added tax revenue derived from Stanford. Should Stanford require that it's employees live in housing built on it's land? What about other new businesses in Palo Alto--should they be required to provide housing for their employees. However if you want to go ahead with the plan, I think the foothills would be a perfect location for housing."

First of all, when you talk about new businesses in Palo Alto and Stanford in the same breath, you are comparing apples and oranges. New businesses often lease/rent and have no acreage available for housing. Stanford has 1800+ acres. Secondly, did you know Stanford pays Palo Alto to build the high-density housing (not enough, of course) so that their employees can live in the area, creating overcrowding and very unattractive/undesireable high-density projects, while refusing to add significant housing themselves? Yes, houses bordering El Camino were built recently by Stanford, but are they rentals or available for purchase by faculty and staff? Does their campus housing growth match their growth in students and employees, particularly given the expansion plans? And what about the figures cited on the post showing the discrepancy between Stanford's property taxes and school costs? And then there are the increases in traffic and corresponding wear and tear on roads, increased demand for city services, etc. Stanford is not, nor has ever been, a good neighbor. Are their advantages to their being here? Sure. Do they outweigh the costs? Probably.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Arastradero is a major arterial, it is a very necessary route for travel between ECR and Foothill Expressway or 280. The alternatives are San Antonio (very busy and cars need to pass busy San Antonio shopping center and downtown Los Altos) or Page Mill which is also a busy arterial.

It is just possible that if there was a straight intersection between Alma and Sand Hill, that it might alleviate some traffic concerns on Arastradero but that is debatable.

Palo Alto trafficflow has been designed with too many bottlenecks.

Get rid of some of the bottlenecks and it might make a big difference. As an example, when I want to get from South Palo Alto to Sand Hill, the obvious route would be Alma to Sand Hill. Because I can't do that, I end up using Charleston/Meadow/Churchill to ECR to enable me to turn left onto SandHill. If I could use Alma it would make much more sense, less lights, less traffic and less time taken overall.

In fact, Alma to Sand Hill is the biggest problem for me with Charleston/Arastradero next (because I have to avoid one and do my best to avoid the other).


Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 9, 2012 at 9:35 pm

Resident said "Palo Alto trafficflow has been designed with too many bottlenecks". Palo Alto traffic flow has not been designed at all. The City has grown randomly over the decades and there has been a lot of reaction and mitigation, but no real designing. That it the way most of our country has developed.


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 10, 2012 at 6:31 am

"Secondly, did you know Stanford pays Palo Alto to build the high-density housing (not enough, of course) so that their employees can live in the area, creating overcrowding and very unattractive/undesireable high-density projects, while refusing to add significant housing themselves?"
Which high density housing projects has Stanford paid for in Palo Alto?

"Yes, houses bordering El Camino were built recently by Stanford, but are they rentals or available for purchase by faculty and staff?"
I beleive they were for purchase by faculty.

"Does their campus housing growth match their growth in students and employees, particularly given the expansion plans? "
Should Stanford require employees to live on campus?


Posted by SUHMED, a resident of Stanford
on Feb 10, 2012 at 11:03 am

A nice surprise update EIR from the CA High Speed Rail Auth related to PA traffic concerns:

(Thanks Gennedy Sheyner)

"The new document also includes a list of potential road closures on the Peninsula that could be expected because of the rail system. These include a lane of Alma Street between Homer Avenue and Embarcadero Road and two lanes of Alma between Embarcadero and California Avenue. A lane of Alma in Menlo Park, between Oak Grove Avenue and Ravenswood Avenue, could also be removed, as would one lane of Central Expressway between San Antonio Road and Rengstorff Avenue in Mountain View.

"This reduction in lanes may result in circulation, access, or parking impacts," the revised EIR states. "Some of these impacts could include complete closure of streets with circulation diverted to surrounding roadways; conversion of two-way streets to one-way streets; increasing congestion and reduced levels of service as discussed below; changes to adjacent on-street bicycle facilities; limitations or elimination of access to some parcels; requirements for new frontage roads or new access routes; and reduction in on-street parking which could have secondary impacts related to land use viability. In some locations, there could be land-use implications (acquisitions) resulting from mitigation for circulation and parking impacts."


Posted by pares, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 11, 2012 at 10:01 am

I use the A/C corridor and believe the lane reduction to be a problem. Particularly the smushing of lanes when the more aggressive drivers whip in front of you right before the merge and I have to put on the brakes. I try to avoid rush hour and when the schools get out because it is so congested.

Like others have suggested, why can't cyclists us Maybell and other back roads to get to school? That would certainly be safer.

As for ABAG telling us to build more and more dense housing -- who are they and how come they get to dictate to our city?


Posted by Typical Palo Alto, a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2012 at 11:25 am

I have a simple solution.

Why don't we have everyone drive through the neighboring communities, park in massive parking structures of course in the neighboring communities, and then walk into Palo Alto.

THIS WOULD BE PERFECT.

Oh but wait. Don't walk too fast, don't walk down my street, don't cut me off while I'm walking, and try not to all walk in the same place and make it crowded.


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