SENDING SIGNALS ... Drivers crossing and cruising along the Caltrain tracks will see some changes to the timing of traffic signals along Alma Street at East Meadow, Churchill and Charleston crossings. The City of Palo Alto last week made the changes at East Meadow and plans to schedule the other intersections as early as next week, Chief Transportation Official Jaime Rodriguez said. The signal operations would be the same at all three intersections and include the left-turn movements on Alma Street. When a train has passed through the intersection the signal can allow northbound left-turn traffic if there is demand. If no vehicles are turning left, the signal would turn green when a sensor finds a car waiting. The change affects traffic going westbound (towards El Camino Real) and eastbound (towards Middlefield Road). The light sequence that clears traffic off of the eastbound approach to the tracks before arrival of the train remains the same, however, he said.
TUNING IN ... While Palo Alto officials fret about the rising costs and unexpected delays associated with the construction of the new Mitchell Park Library, a different sort of library is quietly rising behind the scenes. Library officials in the famously high-tech city have been working on opening a "virtual branch" that would greatly expand online services and allow users to interact with library staff and check out books and music without leaving their homes. Though online services are far from new, the city's library system plans to bring this digital branch to a new level in the coming weeks by adding a host of new features, including the "Discover & Go" service that allows users to get free passes to selected museums, and an interactive "Magic Wall" platform for e-books, courtesy of the company Axis 360. The latest offering is "Freegal," a service that allows anyone with a library card to download up to three songs per week. Sure, it's not exactly iTunes or Amazon, but music selection is broad, if not deep. Songs available for downloading range from the familiar (Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" and A Flock of Seagulls' "I Ran (So Far Away)" are both in the catalog) to the eclectic (anyone up for some Classical Hindustani or Oceania?). Library Director Monique le Conge said at last month's Library Advisory Commission that the intent is to have the virtual branch operate as another library, with a branch manager who curates the collection and makes sure everything is running seamlessly. "It's not just a web page; it's actually a branch with people behind it, interacting with the customers and allowing them to interact with us in the ways that they need to and want to," le Conge said.