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Speed survey in works for Palo Alto streets

Original post made on May 23, 2008

How fast drivers can travel on Alma Street or Page Mill Road may — or may not — change after a speed survey is completed this fall.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, May 23, 2008, 12:00 AM

Comments (13)

Posted by Mary, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 23, 2008 at 2:47 pm

The Embarcadero speed limit is 25 mph? What a joke!! The morning Indy 500 commuters have no regard for 25 mph or any other speed limit. They come roaring off of 101 with no holds barred. The evening commute is just as bad. Non-Palo Alto trucks are big offenders as are jazzy sport car drivers. EVERYBODY seems to be on a cell phone. The PAPD cannot use radar on Embarcadero from Middlefield to 101, and it's every driver for him/herself. Radar IS allowed between El Camino and Middlefield. Speeding is absolutely out of control on all of Embarcadero - radar or no radar. Alma is a racetrack. Speed bumps have slowed down Channing where radar can be used. I will agree that a 25 mph speed limit on Middlefield is ridiculous. In Menlo Park, the speed limit on Middlefield is 35 mph.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Midtown
on May 23, 2008 at 4:08 pm

Mary: unfortunately it is known that residents tend to exaggerate speeds. Have you considered taking park in the PAPD program which lends out a radar gun to residents so they can verify the speeds they claim? If not I would advise you to take part. The results have been very interesting, many residents who have borrowed the radar gun are surprised to find that speeds are not what they had previously claimed or anywhere near.

When you stand on the sidewalk it always looks as though vehicles are traveling faster than they are because you are standing still.

Incidentally, the speed limit on Embarcadero is not 25 mph, it is the 85th percentile of the average speed of vehicles.


Posted by Driver, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2008 at 4:17 pm

It seems to me that any resident on any street in Palo Alto wishes their street was calmer, with speed bumps, lower speed limit, possibly other traffic calming measures.

What no one seems willing to accept is that Palo Alto is growing and this growing is from the inside not just on the outside. With more housing, updated shopping districts (Town & Country), more kids in our schools, etc. etc. there are more of us Palo Altans all the time. It would be nice to have quieter streets, but it just isn't going to happen.

What would be nice would be to try and improve public transit and bike paths. We need more shuttles, and we would be willing to pay for this service rather than have it free. We could get official bike paths through the city by having designated bike routes through Mitchell Park, Greer Park and also alongside the creeks.

Lowering speed limits and adding other traffic calming measures only seems to make cars go to other streets. We are living in a busy city and our streets need to be made better for expedient traffic flow and getting people where they need to go. Too many bad traffic designs spoil this traffic flow. A great example of this is Alma/El Camino where a large percentage of the traffic goes straight up El Camino and U Turns to get to Stanford, El Camino Park, or Sand Hill. Another problem is GPS systems that send cars up streets like Bryant or Park and they don't realise that they can't get through the barriers.

Someone with some sense needs to actually drive round Palo Alto and see these problems. And residents on busy streets have to realise they live on busy streets and they can't stop the traffic.


Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 24, 2008 at 7:30 am

The posted speed limit on Embarcadero is 25 mph. It is a residential street with a school on it, and it shoud stay at 25 mph. The 85th percentile law may have worked in the past, but it doesn't anymore. It allows reckless speeders to determine how speed limits can be set and enforced, a job that should be left to traffic engineers. The law is a holdover from the days when drivers were thought to be sensible and prudent. Those days are long gone and we need a change in the law.


Posted by Palo Altoans frustrate me, a resident of Midtown
on May 24, 2008 at 8:31 am

It's ridiculous for the speed limit on Embarcadero to be 25mph.. it should be at least 35..Sure make it 25 around the school (a block or two in either way) but the rest should be 35... just because there are houses on it doesn't make it JUST a residential area.. it is a major thoroughfare connecting a major highway to a major university and a sizable commercial district, and should have a speed that keeps it moving as such.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Midtown
on May 24, 2008 at 8:54 am

Donald: the 85th percentile is a State law. The State regulates all speed limits on our streets not the City. Lowering the speed limit to 25 mph is considered entrapment by the State, that's why they came up with 85th percentile of the average speed. Sure, Embarcadero is posted 25 mph, these are old signs the City has chosen not to remove, however, they are meaningless.

Embarcadero is designated an arterial street like Charleston although both have housing along them.

If you want to change the law write to your state assembly person or state senator.


Posted by Herb, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 24, 2008 at 8:57 am

One of the problems on Embarcadero is that people who only drive it from one end to another have a very different view than those who live there and must back out of driveways, turn and cross at intersections without lights, etc. The visibility just doesn't support higher speed limits, although I wouldn't expect anyone to understand that if they haven't tried it.


Posted by Driver, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2008 at 8:59 am

I occasionally have to drive Embarcadero or Oregon to get onto 101 northbound during the afternoon commute. I would sorely love to be able to drive at 25, let alone 35. I think the speed is more generally in the 5 - 10 range.


Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 24, 2008 at 9:18 am

Resident is incorrect about the state setting speed limits. The state sets the rules for surveys that are used to set the speed limits, but the local agency conducts the surveys and sets the limits. If a sign is posted that says 25, then that is the speed limit. If that is not backed up by the speed survey, then you can fight the ticket in court and win, but the speed limit is still what is written on the sign. Radar cannot be used if the speed limit is not supported by the survey. SB848, on this year's legislative agenda, will modify the laws regulating the establishement of speed limits, to exclude local roads from the speed trap rules.


Posted by Richard, a resident of Midtown
on May 24, 2008 at 2:44 pm

The 85th percentile "anti speed trap" law was designed for rural or semi-rural areas with small towns on state highways. The goal was to prevent these towns from lowering the speed limit excessively to generate revenue from unsuspecting highway users. It was never meant to be applied to urban or suburban areas, and there have been many changes over the years to lessen the impact on those areas. Once the speed survey has determined the 85th percentile speed for "free-flowing" traffic, the speed limit may be set lower than that if there is sufficient residential density, or in the interests of pedestrian or bicyclist safety, or if there is any condition that is not readily apparent to a driver (e.g. a senior citizen center on the street). For example if the 85th percentile on Embarcadero were measured to be 38 mph, it would be rounded down to 35. The speed limit could be further lowered because of the considerations above to 30 or 25 mph. That lower limit would then be legal and defensible based on the traffic survey and the law. SB 848 would further limit the applicability of the 85th percentile rule, but it would not affect Embarcadero because the SB848 changes only apply to 2-lane roads.


Posted by Me Too, a resident of Meadow Park
on May 27, 2008 at 4:41 pm

Why are there loose dogs and cats running around on Matadero anyway? That road is narrow, it is true, and there are no sidewalks (it's that Barron Park thing).


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 27, 2008 at 5:14 pm

Why don't we simplify things and have realistic speed limits that are then strictly enforced?? This all sounds incredibly complicated and bureaucratic.


Posted by 85th percentil;e, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2008 at 9:53 pm

Anonymous, you are right, speed limits in California are made excessively complicated because everyone has to have their say and it all gets put together in one big complicated bill.

In England you don't drive in a "built up area" at more that 30 mph even if the speed limit is not posted anywhere, that's the law - simple.


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