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Commissioners push for more traffic data

Original post made on Dec 12, 2013

Palo Alto residents' ongoing frustration over worsening traffic surfaced again Wednesday night, even as city transportation planners tried to explain what they're doing to meet the public's rising demand for more accurate and informed traffic analyses.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, December 11, 2013, 10:53 PM

Comments (28)

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Posted by Trust
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 12, 2013 at 8:31 am

Why are they using Hexagon to do this? They have a conflict of interest in having reported all the developments in toen had and would have no impact.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 12, 2013 at 8:39 am

It isn't the number of seconds one has to wait that shows how congested our traffic flow is, it is the number of light cycles that one needs to wait to get through the intersection.

I don't mind waiting, on say Oregon, for a minute at a red light if I can get through the next time. It is when I wait for 15 seconds for a green light, then only 2 cars get through and the lights change back to red and I have to wait another 30 seconds again. Getting the lights to actually move traffic rather than allowing turning traffic to take up the amount of space left for waiting is a big problem on Oregon and other streets. Two cars going straight at each light cycle is not efficient traffic flow.


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 12, 2013 at 9:52 am

It's clear that most people are not happy with the traffic volume data presented by the Traffic Engineers at the PC Zoning study session. It's a shame that the Traffic Engineering Department has chosen to put so much of its attention into pushing bicycles, rather than developing a technology-based plan for monitoring, collecting, and analyzing traffic data here in Palo Alto. Inexpensive microwave counting units have been on the market for well over a decade that would allow the Traffic Engineers to provide Council, and the public, real-time 7/24/365 traffic data for all of the import streets in Palo Alto.

Microwave Traffic Counters:
Web Link

There simply is no reason that we (Palo Alto) should not have this data on our City's web-site, so that Council members, and the public, could review the data when needed. It would also be important to frequently measure the intersection LOS (Level of Service) designators for the major intersections.

It would be interesting to know just how much of the work developing any new traffic projection models is being done by 3rd parties (Hexagon) and how much is being done by the PA Planning Department, including cost of these services. And finally, it would be very interesting to know why it is this late in the game for the City to be developing a "realistic" traffic model.


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Posted by Jame
a resident of another community
on Dec 12, 2013 at 10:09 am

Well a big part of the problem is the jobs to housing ratio. There would be 6X more jobs than housing. Where will those new workers be housed? Would these be net new jobs, or jobs moving from other parts of the region. Will the workers mostly live in PA, or would they be commuting from further? Are there ways to have fewer of the new residents and workers not drive to work?


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Posted by Richard
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 12, 2013 at 10:56 am

Good to see the Planning Commission paying attention to the cumulative traffic problem. It's up to the public (us) to encourage them and the Council to follow through by turning public concern into an effective plan of action. There are plenty of issues to talk about in Palo Alto. Let our officials know that this issue has stay near the top.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 12, 2013 at 11:00 am

Jame

Big flaw in your question.

Most people change jobs much more often than they move house. People who work in Palo Alto may not want to live here because of various reasons. Also people who work here are causing as many problems commuting out of town as those commuting into town.

We have to acknowledge that residents/jobs ratio is pretty meaningless inasfaras traffic. What we really have to do is make sure that public transit is efficient as possible and meeting the needs of residents/workers (including school children) and that traffic flow is efficient rather than problematic. Traffic calming doesn't work because it just moves traffic to another route. Traffic must be able to get around town expediently without gridlock.


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Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 12, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Data point: On Tuesday Dec 3 at 2:30pm I was northbound on El Camino. I had to wait through 5 cycles of the Page Mill traffic light, although 3 cycles is what is more typical. Notice that this is a non-peak hour delay, which is far worse than what Staff characterizes as peak hour delays.
Aside: I noticed because this was the day after the Council meeting where Council member Schmid attacked the Staff's analysis of traffic decline.

On Staff knowing that their reports are nonsense: A number of years ago during the review of 195 Page Mill (between Park and Caltrain tracks), there was an afternoon on-site meeting. Fortuitously this occurred during afternoon peak for Park Blvd. Traffic was barely moving and back up for 3 blocks (the ramp onto Oregon Expy, to Sheridan, to Grant). Since the Staff report claimed no such congestion, several of us pointed this out quite forcefully to Staff. The claim on no-congestion stayed in the Staff report. After all, who were they to believe: Their own lying eyes or what the developer said?


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Posted by False fact
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 12, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Doug's " data point" is not a datapoint but an observation. [Portion removed.]


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Posted by Trust
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 12, 2013 at 5:37 pm

@Richard
"Good to see the Planning Commission paying attention to the cumulative traffic problem. It's up to the public (us) to encourage them and the Council to follow through by turning public concern into an effective plan of action."

The problem is that this City Council talks a good game, but as soon as the next shiny development object comes in front of them, all that stuff just goes right out the window.


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Posted by stuck in traffic
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 12, 2013 at 6:22 pm

If the city would stop taking away lanes and making one lane roads on busy streets, we could drive faster and easier.


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Posted by What?
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 12, 2013 at 7:46 pm

Hexagon Traffic Consultants is being used by the city to determine traffic impacts. This is the exact same company which took traffic studies for the Maybell project during the last week of school in the 2012, while the sun was shining in 2012 and traffic lighter than a normal school day, and pronounced that there was "no problem".

A group of photos was presented to city council taken by a resident which pictured Maybell as nearly impassable during the same week in 2013 because it had rained overnight.

Hexagon had nothing to say in response, it stood by its traffic study. But PAHC replied: "Well, we weren't even obligated to do a traffic study."

After the Maybell debacle, Hexagon does not the credibility with residents of this city to be hired for this project.


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Posted by Fer sher
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 12, 2013 at 7:53 pm

@stuck in traffic: the city does this because they are trying to push us to bikeride or use public transportation. Obviously, they come from another galaxy, because this has failed miserably and pushed traffic onto residential streets, using them to bypass the single lane mess. Bikes and public transit just do not work well for long commutes; they are slow and somewhat dangerous.

What is really needed is a whole slew of options for public transportation that are fast, comfortable, and efficient. Until that happens, people will drive to work and back.

They really put the cart before the horse with this single-lane nonsense!


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Posted by False facts
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 12, 2013 at 8:00 pm

I guess Doug Moran is allowed to refer to comments as being " false facts" ( see below) , but we, the unwashed masses, are not allowed to label his comments as being " false facts"
Or is this part of the special relationship you enjoy with Doug ( he being one of your special,bloggers) or are you just kissing up to him for future considerations?
How about some consistency in your censorship


Web Link
"Posted by Douglas Moran, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 4, 2013 at 1:09 pm
Douglas Moran is a registered user.
RE: "Resident 1" on whether Council members read Town Square Forums

Being a frequent poster here and a person with occasional access to Council members, I have asked if they read the comments here. My memory is that all those asked say "no".

The reasons they state are:
- vitriol and trolls (eg "Beware" of Midtown)
- uninformed speculation, opinions based upon false "facts",...
Before one reacts, recognize that this is comment about the predominant tone/content of TSF discussions on civic issues and that many ordinary residents have made the same assessment."


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Posted by Dave
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 12, 2013 at 8:04 pm

Wait a minute.... So the City has contracted with the same people who did the traffic studies for the Arastradero re-striping, and the Maybell project? The same ones who said "no traffic will divert from Arastradero (because it only has half the capacity) and go onto Maybell"? The same ones who said that adding 60+ new housing units, all dumping out on Maybell, would cause "no significant traffic"?

So the City has evidently decided what they want the study to say, and has contracted with a known flawed (and biased!) company to say exactly what the City wants.

I think we need to stand up to the City AGAIN and let them know that we want an unbiased traffic study.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by gxbell
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 12, 2013 at 11:40 pm


Have a look at how New York is handling traffic issues.

Web Link

gxbell


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Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 13, 2013 at 7:25 am

SteveU is a registered user.

Public Transit is broken. Fix that before leaping on Lane reductions and other 'traffic remedies'.
Telling a Senior Citizen (PA has quite a few) to RIDE A BIKE is absurd.
My wife had a 10:30 doctors appointment a Kaiser Hospital. I said why not take Public Transit? (Go ahead, use the VTA trip planner) OMG 1 leg was Walk 1.4 miles. A Senior with minor mobility issues. 1 Hour 46 Minutes (estimated) to get from Barron Park to Holmstead and Lawrence. A MAJOR Hospital with no REGULAR connecting bus service!

Until Transit gets people where they NEED to go, is should NOT be allowed as anythin but a MINOR consideration in these studies.
Discrimination is against the Law. When the city process DEMANDS that you use bicycles or other means that are not an issue to those physically active, they have created an illegal barrier to those that can't.

It is time to ban any large projects until All Transit needs to them is Fixed.





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Posted by Jame
a resident of another community
on Dec 13, 2013 at 11:09 am

@resident,

Creating more housing to match the new jobs isn't assuming that everyone will move when they switch jobs, but our currently policies make it impossible to live near work with the lack of development near the job centers. There isn't enough housing in the 10 mile radius of the PA or MV job centers, so people are pushed much further out causing more traffic.

A lot of people live 20+miles from work because there are no other options, and they'd be happy to move. And there are many other people who would love to live in PA, but do not have a cash reserve of $500k to get a home. Due to constrained supply, the average PA worker can't afford to live in PA, or within 5 miles of PA (until the hit the stock options lottery).


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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Dec 13, 2013 at 11:21 am

@SteveU

I assume this means you and other Palo Alto residents are now in full support of proposed transit upgrades (El Camino bus lanes, Caltrain grade separations, electrification etc)?


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Posted by It ain't necessarily so
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 13, 2013 at 11:28 am

Arastradero does NOT have "half" the capacity. Hyperbole is not helpful. Most of the road is striped three or four lanes. The lane reduction was limited to sections where the majority of school children bike-- they needed a standard width bike lane because alternate routes through neighborhoods were not available at those locations. 19% of morning peak hour traffic on that street is CHILDREN on bikes pedaling their way to school. Arastradero is an arterial, but it is also a major school commute route. This plan was a necessary compromise solution that balanced the increased auto volumes with school commute safety. Going back to four lanes is not an option.

Going back to four lanes will cause parents to pull their school commuters back to cars--a problem, because the plan has worked. Auto counts are nearly back to pre-trial levels because hundreds of new housing units, CJL, and new Elks Club, Arbor Real, Alma Plaza, and VMware (and more) were built in the interim. Mode shift is well underway. Bike counts are up. The traffic would be a lot worse if these students were being driven to school. If we shift the kids on bikes back to cars by making the road unsafe again, you'll see some REAL congestion. Be careful what you wish for. We ARE the traffic.

That said, overall congestion is a result of transportation mitigations and transit improvements not keeping pace with increases in intensity of land use that is driven by state and county. THEY are supposed to be providing transit resources to offset the impacts of growth. THEY have been ineffective in doing so. THEY should pull back on development mandates until THEY can get their act together on the transit front.

Example: VTA 22 and 522 buses were recently (last couple of years)equipped to override a north/south red signal and push it to green. This, essentially, creates preemption of the east/west green at Charleston/El Camino. VTA sacrifices local east/west efficiency to gain north/south transit efficiencies. The city has no control over this because El Camino is a state highway, controlled by Caltrans.I'd like VTA to remove Charleston/Arastradero from the signals they can override.

Another example: Caltrain has been messing around with signals at Alma/Charleston (they claim this is for safety reasons that they have not explained well to anyone). This is causing major delays at the intersection. I sat through FOUR trains and THREE light cycles at the front of the queue going westbound before I got a green on Charleston the other day. That is a completely unacceptable delay, and it is completely the fault of Caltrain. The city has little control over this. Grade separation would go a long way toward solving that problem.

We, fellow citizens, should be putting some serious pressure on Caltrain for grade separation. As trains and number of cars increase, this will be an increasing problem.

Send your comments here Web Link


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Posted by Send comments to Caltrain here
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 13, 2013 at 11:46 am


Send your comments about train preemption and requests for a solution to Caltrain here
Web Link


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Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 13, 2013 at 11:50 am

Have the [portion removed] traffic consultant study and fix the traffic light timing.

I sat on Oregon yesterday where cars just backed up and NOTHING moved. We ALL had red lights. No one was using the turn lanes or going straight through.

They should cancel the Cal Ave plan to take away another lane until we have decent traffic studies.

And fix the nonsense around Town & Country!


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 13, 2013 at 11:57 am

> 19% of morning peak hour traffic on that street is CHILDREN on bikes
> pedaling their way to school. Arastradero is an arterial, but it
> is also a major school commute route.

Any chance you can cite your sources for this assertion?

> I sat through FOUR trains and THREE light cycles at the front
> of the queue going westbound before I got a green on Charleston
> the other day.

How many times a day would you guess this happens?

> We, fellow citizens, should be putting some serious pressure
> on Caltrain for grade separation.

This topic comes up from time-to-time. The Planning/Traffic people would not even consider doing a simulation of traffic flow on Charleston when they were involved with the Charleston/Arastradero Moratorium a few years back. They used the lame excuse that the Comprehensive Plan does not call for grade separations--therefore the Traffic people could not even consider the possibility.

With the HSR up in the wind, it's unlikely that CalTrain is going to spend $50M-$75M for a grade separation at this location. BTW--the people living between Alma and El Camino came out against this idea in great numbers when the idea came up before the City Council a few years ago.


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Posted by Get your facts straight.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 13, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Ummm. Oregon is COUNTY Expressway. The city does not control it.


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Posted by 2 Minny Eejits
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 13, 2013 at 3:10 pm

All any [portion removed] have to do is look outside any morning between 7:00 and 10:30, or any afternoon between 4/00 and 8:00.

How much intelligence and money does that require?


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Posted by Wrong again, Mr. Martin.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 13, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Actually, the city's consultant TJKM did do simulations of Charleston and Arastradero in preparation for the striping trials.


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Posted by Caltrain needs ot pay some attention to this crossing.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 13, 2013 at 3:19 pm

If you look out your window, what you'll see is cars waiting for the train. You'll see that with either 3- or 4-lanes.

Write to Caltrain. In the short term, they could adjust the signals to something more reasonable. In the longer term, they could trench the train under the road at this location.


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 13, 2013 at 4:00 pm

> Actually, the city's consultant TJKM did do simulations of Charleston
> and Arastradero in preparation for the striping trials.

What I said was that the Traffic people would not add a grade separation in this simulation. I never said that no simulation was done.

Please respond to what I write, we can move the conversation farther down the road that way!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by We've seen it in MV
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 22, 2013 at 12:34 am

Hexagon has a terrible record in Mountain View, issuing reports with a pro-developer bias. They know where their bread is buttered. PA shoud not expect impartiality from this company.


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