Palo Alto Weekly
News - June 15, 2012
Arastradero project has improved safety, study shows
Changes to south Palo Alto road have resulted in fewer bike and car crashes, slower traffic
by Sue Dremann
Changes made to Arastradero Road two years ago have significantly reduced the number of automobile accidents involving bicyclists and pedestrians — even as the number of cars along the corridor and in the city overall has increased by 5 percent, a new study by the City of Palo Alto shows.
The number of bicyclists and pedestrians has also gone up, while the number of speeders traveling faster than 37 mph has decreased because of changes aimed at calming traffic along the south Palo Alto route, the study found.
The new data was unveiled Tuesday night, June 12, at a community meeting at Juana Briones Elementary School. Chief Transportation Official Jaime Rodriguez summarized the results of the trial project, which included shrinking the number of lanes from four to three in segments along the corridor and some changes to the timing of traffic signals. The study area runs from Gunn High School to El Camino Real.
The project is the second of two phases that encompass the Charleston-Arastradero Road corridor. The road was noted for excessive speeding and high volumes of traffic in an area that serves 11 schools, multiple preschools, three community centers, six parks and Stanford Research Park.
In 2008 the Palo Alto City Council decided to make the alterations to Charleston Road — phase 1 — permanent.
Perhaps the most significant result of the Arastradero trial has been a fivefold decrease in vehicle accidents involving bicyclists or pedestrians, Rodriguez said. Since the project began in September 2010, the crashes went from six in 2009 to one for each year thereafter. The data runs through April 2012.
The good news comes despite more bicyclists using the route. Now, roughly as many bikes as cars travel the corridor during the peak school commute in the morning, Rodriguez said. In 2003, there were 807 students cycling to Gunn High and Terman Middle School; there were 1,342 in 2011.
But some residents who attended Tuesday's meeting took issue with the comparison of bike and car traffic, pointing out that the car counts were taken for Arastradero only, while the bike traffic included nearby residential streets along the school route. Other residents said it was still a fair comparison of cars and bikes because most of those cyclists end up on Arastradero at some point on their way to school.
Traffic collisions overall, not including at El Camino Real, decreased at three main points where they have been high: at Georgia Avenue and at Terman and Coulombe drives. There was not a significant drop in accidents involving cars only.
The speed of traffic, another concern along the 25 mph corridor, has slowed by 2 to 5 mph among 85 percent of drivers (known in traffic law as the 85th percentile — the benchmark speed for any road), the study noted.
High-speed driving also dropped significantly after the trial began. Vehicles traveling more than 37 mph westbound during off-peak hours dropped from 12.8 percent to 3.8 percent west of Georgia and from 15.3 percent to 2.4 percent east of McKellar Lane, the study showed.
One of residents' greatest concerns, that the road changes would cause increased cut-through traffic through neighborhoods, seems in large part not to have occurred, Rodriguez said.
During the morning commute, cut-through traffic numbers remained relatively steady — with the exception of along Maybell Avenue.
Residents were split on how they felt about the results. Some said they have trouble exiting neighborhood streets to get onto Arastradero because of long queues at Foothill Expressway in the afternoons.
But other residents dismissed the complaints as mere quibbling.
"Do you really want to return to the Indianapolis 500?" a resident asked.
"The controls you have put on will be needed more than ever," he said, noting the planned development of homes and hotels such as at the former Palo Alto Bowl site on El Camino and companies' expansions at the Stanford Research Park.
Arastradero resident Peggy Kraft agreed.
"I think the statistics are astonishing. I believe this keeps our kids safer. You're not going to have a miracle where 15 percent of the people are going to leave the city and stop driving here," she said.
The Arastradero project trial began in 2010 and was extended to this summer after the high school changed its school-bell timing to help ease rush-hour traffic congestion.
The study will be presented to the Planning and Transportation Commission for review in July.
Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by Wayne Martin,
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 20, 2012 at 8:36 am
> I think humans are wrecking the world
You really have to be kidding! Do you really believe the words that you have written? Would I be wrong in guessing you have 3, 4 or maybe even 5 university degrees to back up your claims that "humans are destroying the world"?
I find the claim that "humans are destroying/wrecking the world" without merit, on its face, and simply crazy under scrutiny. Humans have built the world that you live inwhat part of that fact did you miss on your daily peddlings?
Where does the food come from that sustains your body? Where does the electricity come from that brightens your life after the sun disappears? Do you purchase these fundamentals of modern life from the retail supply chainor do you grow a few vegetables in your yard, and take to your bed at sun down, in order not use electricityand be a part of the human destruction of the world (or earth)?
Do you really believe that you could live the life you live if you and your kind were able to outlaw engines, motors or any machine that provide mechanical advantage to increase our collective energies, and the results of our collective enterprises?
It's not hard to find pictures of pre-industrial societies that demonstrate clearly what life would be like today without the engines and machines that have made life easier, longer, and more fulfilling. Here are a couple links to some views of Korea, around 1890:
While Mr. Palo Alto Cyclist may be salivating at the thought of living in a pre-industrial society, life was very difficult in those times. Infant mortality in Korea was pretty high prior to 1950. Since 1950, with the insertion of modern technology, motors, engines, and some modicum of a public health regimen, the information mortality is now in line with other countries in the region. The Wikipedia page on infant mortality shows significant reductions in infant mortality in (South) Korea since 1950:
South Korea, has gone in about fifty years from be a place of abject poverty to a place of relative prosperityalbeit paid for, in part, with no small amount of rapid cultural change. It is beyond belief that very many South Koreans would choose to return to their pre-industrial pastfor fear that they are "destroying the world".
> "I believe that humans are destroying/wrecking the world"
Well .. as an American .. that's your right to believe. But we're all Americans hereso the rational segment of us will employ our educations, or personal experiences, and our creative thought processes to oppose this kind of thinking when it infects government, resulting in bad public policiessuch as outlawing motors, engines or even incandescent bulbs. It's not hard to believe that allowed to fester, this kind of thinking will, within a decade or two, create policies that remove most, if not all, of our hard-fought-for liberties and freedoms. It's not hard to believe that we won't see one child per family restrictions imposed on the American people at some point in the future, to the glee of a hand full of people who are operating in a bubble-world of their own making, unless people defend the liberties of future Americans like our parents and grandparents defended the US during WWII.
It doesn't take too much effort to look at the horrific mess these kinds of people made in the Former Soviet Union, and Mao Tse Tung's China, to understand how this sort of religious ideology that dismisses human endeavor as subordinate to the vision, and the will of the few, to be far more destructive to the world than that of our American experiment in government, which has shown the ability, over time, to allow common sense to prevail over ideologies, to "self-heal" and change course, in order to protect the Union, and ultimately, the people living in the Union.
I'm going to stop nowas I fear I may say something to Mr. Palo Alto Cyclist that I will come to regret at some time in the future. I doubt this person will understand one word of what has been written, but hopefully others will.
Posted by Wayne Martin,
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 20, 2012 at 6:56 pm
BTW .. here is what the former Transportation Official claimed, back in 2004---
Everyone wins with Charleston-Arastradero Road plan
Published Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2004 in the Palo Alto Daily News
BY JOE KOTT
A "Pareto Optimal" (named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto) change is defined as making some better, without making anyone else worse.
The Charleston-Arastradero Corridor Plan, unanimously recommended to Palo Alto's City Council by the Planning and Transportation Commission on Dec. 10, goes Professor Pareto one better. All users of the corridor -- not just cyclists and crossing pedestrians, but car drivers and transit riders, too -- will be better off if the plan is adopted by City Council Jan. 20.
Council requested that these two streets be more bicycle and pedestrian-friendly, especially for school commutes. They requested that any plan must not delay car travel or shift through traffic onto residential streets.
The Charleston-Arastradero solution presented in response to council's challenge includes five components:
We are engineering the signal lights so green time allocation is based on real-time traffic demand throughout the day. "Traffic adaptive" signal timing changes will happen when and where they are needed and will provide the equivalent of an additional -- though "virtual" -- lane at each signalized intersection.
We plan to convert about one-half the length of the corridor from four lanes to three, with one through lane in each direction, and intermittent left turn pockets and landscaped medians. This re-allocation of space provides continuous and wider bicycle lanes, and shorter and safer pedestrian crossings, protected by raised medians.
We have a provision for a new dedicated right-turn lane at Gunn High School to reduce the turning queue on Arastradero into Gunn and the related Gunn pathway drop-off congestion on Georgia Avenue.
We plan to install more electronic speed advisory signs, four new pedestrian-actuated, in-pavement lighted crosswalks and more visible pedestrian crosswalks in other locations, including El Camino Real.
Lastly, we are planting frontage street trees to enhance the visual amenity of the corridor.
The effects of these changes will be seen in several ways. They will decrease vehicle delay at intersections by up to 28 percent and travel time from Fabian to Foothill Expressway by up to 3 minutes (even when factoring in traffic growth to the year 2015). They will reduce prevailing speeds by up to five miles per hour between intersections while cutting the incidence of higher speeds (more than 40 miles per hour) much more than that. And they will dramatically increase the comfort and safety of pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers.
Safer and more comfortable bicycling and walking conditions will convince many more students and their parents that cycling or walking to school, or taking the Palo Alto Shuttle, are better choices than being driven or driving. This, in turn, will trigger a "virtuous spiral": fewer cars on Charleston-Arastradero and more use of cleaner, healthier, quieter transportation modes.
For more information about the Corridor Plan, including traffic analysis, traffic projections, alternative road designs, public meeting notes, and related studies, visit Web Link
More room for left-turners
Traffic congestion typically occurs at and not in between intersections. There is compelling evidence in the traffic engineering literature that converting urban arterial streets from four lanes to three lanes makes streets safer, mainly by giving left turners a pocket or lane in which to wait to make their turn. This reduces the risk of rear-end collision with motorists behind them, and both rear-end and sideswipe collisions caused by following motorists who change lanes. It also allows prudent drivers to set the pace on such streets since those who wish to speed are unable to pass them.
For more information on the traffic safety and traffic flow benefits of converting urban arterial streets from four to three lanes, see the important research paper from the Iowa Department of Transportation Office of Transportation Safety at Web Link.
Safer and more efficient
For more information on "traffic adaptive" signal systems, see the fine University of Utah Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering research paper at .Web Link.
Professor Pareto would have liked the new thinking in urban traffic engineering and transport planning. Cities like Palo Alto can have both safer roadways for all -- including bicyclists and pedestrians as well as drivers and their passengers -- and more efficient ones too through smart road re-design and deployment of smart electronics.
Joe Kott is Palo Alto's chief transportation official.
> We are engineering the signal lights so green
> time allocation is based on real-time traffic
> demand throughout the day. "Traffic adaptive"
> signal timing changes will happen when and where
> they are needed and will provide the equivalent
> of an additional -- though "virtual" -- lane
> at each signalized intersection.
This was a key part of Kott's plan. Yet, has it happened? I have made several public records requests to the current Transportation Official, and his boss, the Director of Planning, about the status of this traffic synchronization. To date, there has not response to any of these requests. It's pretty clear that the current Transportation Official does not see himself covered by the Public Records Act. Sadly, most the the management under James Keene seem to think much the same way.
Kott promised a lot. It's hard to see how the Transportation people delivered very much of the original promises.