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Palo Alto looks to cameras for traffic data

Original post made on May 13, 2014

Seeking to gather more data about local bicyclists and pedestrians, Palo Alto has installed dozens of cameras around the city, prompting citizen concerns about privacy.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, May 13, 2014, 9:54 AM

Comments (63)

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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 13, 2014 at 10:28 am

> James keene said: "I do think it's unfortunate that we did not
> get this news out in advance"

Gee .. isn't this the same thing City Manager Keene laid on the City Council when the trees on California Avenue were cut down with no notice? Don't these people ever learn anything?

And what about the PR Officer. Shouldn't she have made an effort to at least put a press release on the City's WEB-site? What good is she if she feels that the residents don't need to know why the City is installing cameras in their neighborhoods?

> "All we get is the raw data," Rodriguez said. "And once the
> data collection firm reviews the video, it is discarded."

I'd like to believe this .. but how does Rodriguez know that the video is actually discarded? Is this requirement for discarding the raw video in the contract with contractors? And what about the subcontractors? Are they equally bound to this requirement?

At one level, this isn't a big deal. On another level—it shows how indifferent the Keene Administration is to public relations.


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Posted by ICU
a resident of another community
on May 13, 2014 at 10:35 am

How long have the cameras been in place at Bryant and Homer? When will they be removed? Have they recorded pictures of platoons of bicyclists at high speed not slowing down and ignoring the stop sign while turning right from southbound Bryant to westbound Homer?


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Posted by Left of Boom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2014 at 11:07 am

Left of Boom is a registered user.

I like it. Get some real data instead of making plans out of the air.


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Posted by pedestrian
a resident of Downtown North
on May 13, 2014 at 11:11 am

I saw this story in the Post yesterday and was wondering then why the city hadn't informed the community in advance about these cameras. Did they think people weren't going to notice these cameras? And I recall previous stories about how the police department was dodgy about not wanting to have a policy regarding its automatic license plate readers. I got the impression that the police wanted the cameras but didn't want a public dialogue about the issues of data retention and sharing data with other agencies. The city is really out of step when it comes to privacy issues.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2014 at 11:24 am

The City streets are becoming vastly more dangerous for everybody - motorists,bicyclists, and pedestrians. Just about everything the City does is making the situation worse, led chiefly by the overdevelopment. The only measure which would help in this situation would be more traffic enforcement, more motorcycle cops, which the City is not doing. The money
spent on these cameras should be used to hire more cops.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 13, 2014 at 11:59 am

I'd like to know if anybody keeps track of whether or not the bicycles actually come to a stop at stop signs. I bet not. I realize bicyclists need to be given the right of way, but most I've seen lately act entitled to the road, riding right on the line and ignoring stop signs...a dangerous situation.


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2014 at 12:28 pm

A poster wrote:

" I realize bicyclists need to be given the right of way .."

The rules of the road say otherwise. Bicycles are supposed to be treated like other vehicles--and come to a complete stop. The are to be given the right of way only when it is due them via the vehicle code.

If motorists want to yield to bicylists, that's up to each individual motorist.


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Posted by MadamPresident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 13, 2014 at 12:34 pm

I am with ICU - film & fine bysiclists not stopping on Stop signs; especially adults with children - not only they put their own lifes in danger, but not properly teaching their kids...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by MadamPresident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 13, 2014 at 12:53 pm

I am with ICU - film & fine bysiclists not stopping on Stop signs; especially adults with children - not only they put their own lifes in danger, but not properly teaching their kids...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by MadamPresident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 13, 2014 at 12:53 pm

I am with ICU - film & fine bysiclists not stopping on Stop signs; especially adults with children - not only they put their own lifes in danger, but not properly teaching their kids...


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Posted by read the DMV material
a resident of Midtown
on May 13, 2014 at 1:01 pm

"If motorists want to yield to bicylists, that's up to each individual motorist."

Not true. The rules are the road are just that. Individual motorists cannot make up new rules on the spot.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2014 at 1:07 pm

Not announcing this is probably a good idea or otherwise bike groups would send their volunteers going backwards and forwards especially to get counted to artificially increase the number of bikes using a street. The same for pedestrians.

As soon as something like this is announced, someone will use the information to increase traffic just for the count.


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Posted by MadamPresident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 13, 2014 at 1:10 pm

I am with ICU - film & fine bysiclists not stopping on Stop signs; especially adults with children - not only they put their own lifes in danger, but not properly teaching their kids...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Roger
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 13, 2014 at 1:14 pm

This invades no ones right to privacy, its for the protection of us all.
Come on people grow up.


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Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 13, 2014 at 1:23 pm

These videos cannot be used to write tickets to bicyclists or car drivers who run stop signs. That kind of automated enforcement is not yet legal in California, but there will be increasing pressure to allow it in the future because it is so much cheaper than paying for police officers.

As for privacy issues, these cameras are on public streets where you have no privacy. Someone can stand there or sit in a parked car and take videos of your comings and goings all day long, and it is perfectly legal. Many drivers mistakenly feel that their driving behavior is private, but it is public behavior and they should behave accordingly.


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Posted by Thanks for counting.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2014 at 1:28 pm

The city can't win. First people complain if they don't collect data on bikes and pedestrians. Then they complain when the city uses standard data collection tools to collect the data.

The city is trying to be responsive to citizen requests for additional data.

The alternative is paying humans to get out there at multiple intersections ALL day to do the counts. This would be extremely expensive. I'm glad the city is paying attention to functionality of the streets for bikes, cars and pedestrians. This is a good thing.


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Posted by Cur Mudgeon
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 13, 2014 at 1:34 pm

Glad to see the camera on Nelson by Cubberley. Maybe it will record some of the traffic safety violations caused by parents dropping off soccer players.


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Posted by Neilson Buchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on May 13, 2014 at 1:35 pm

DTN is one of the most stressed residential areas in Palo Alto.

Many of my neighbors and I strongly support the methodical collection of vehicular, bike and pedestrian data. It is fundamental to restoring quality in our neighborhood. To achieve maximum value the data must part of a regular series of data collection. I hope the Transportation Division soon turns the data into information easily understood and appreciated by citizens.


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Posted by MadamPresident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 13, 2014 at 1:43 pm

I am with ICU - film & fine bysiclists not stopping on Stop signs; especially adults with children - not only they put their own lifes in danger, but not properly teaching their kids...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Civility on the street is for everyone.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2014 at 2:01 pm

There are scofflaws who bike, scofflaws who drive, scofflaws who walk. They all deserve a ticket, but we don't have enough police officers for that. There are plenty of really good folks who drive, bike and walk. Let's not villainize all bicyclists, please. Bikes cause less congestion than cars, spew no emissions, make no noise. I'm a bicyclist. (I also drive and walk.) I stop at STOP signs. I am not a villain. I'm just a woman who wants to get around and get some exercise on my bicycle. Let's all be considerate of each other. Thanks!


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2014 at 2:12 pm

> If motorists want to yield to bicylists, that's up to each
> individual motorist--not true.

Really? At intersections with four-way stop signs, the right-of-way is supposed to fall to the vehicle on the right, assuming that two vehicles arrive about the same time. If a vehicle arrives on the right and a bicylce arrives about the same time, and vehicle's operator waves the bicycle to proceed--you are saying that this is illegal?

Really looking forward to this person's answer.





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Posted by Orwell
a resident of Greater Miranda
on May 13, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Its one thing to put up a camera to capture images of people, but it is an entirely different thing to make those images available to the people...They will always do the first, but fail the second with the frail excuse they cant do it because of our privacy and security...Make all images public!


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on May 13, 2014 at 3:39 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

This is frustrating.

How often will the city step on its own toes, dismaying those who support the action being taken and handing ammunition to political forces who want to portray city government as either venal or incompetent or both?

The Maybell/Clemo, Arastradero Road, Measure D fiasco should have taught everyone that if a negative spin can be put on anything the city does, it will be.

The city got burned by criticism that the traffic study done on the likely impact on bicycle, pedestrian and motor vehicle traffic of the affordable housing project was inadequate. The Planning and Transportation committee held up approval of the Matadero bicycle project because commissioners wanted more traffic data before advancing that project to the City Council.

So, despite the cost, this program was set up to gather exactly the kind of data that critics had called for at several locations around the city. Hurrah for responsive, capable government, right?

Not so fast. The Palo Alto Post got to preempt the story in Monday's paper, framing the story as a possible example of government intrusion into residents' lives. Then today they could do a follow-up to the original story giving context and explaining the reasons behind the cameras' presence on the streets.

Lesson for the city from Measure D: expect opposition to even the most benign actions, and take preemptive action to minimize its effect––communicate as if it matters, because it does.














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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on May 13, 2014 at 8:42 pm

This technology to collect data makes sense to me. It is smart data collection, and pictures don't lie. My concern would be what the CPA does with the data, and how transparent it will be to the general public...as long as it doesn't show private residences, let it rip. The more public cameras on our public streets the better, IMO.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2014 at 9:33 pm

The most important data is accident data, which the City does not
look at. The City also needs to evaluate "conditions" which are likely to increase the chances of an accident. For example the intersection of Webster and Channing has flashing overhead lights on poles for pedestrians,rarely used, a marked crosswalk, six warning signs on Channing approaching Webster, a sign in the middle of the crosswalk, and stop signs on Webster. Drive down Webster and see how distracting and confusing this
intersection looks as you approach it. A simple 4-way stop would be much safer and slow down traffic on Channing.


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Posted by Mister President
a resident of Barron Park
on May 14, 2014 at 6:44 am

And after we site the bikes for not stopping, they can use the cameras to fine motorists for going over the speed limit, rolling stop signs at right turns and not using their turn signs.
Oh! And we can catch them as they drive through people's houses and flip their SUVs on residential streets.

The mirror reflects does it not?


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Posted by Almost
a resident of Barron Park
on May 14, 2014 at 7:09 am

Joe, I'm not sure if it would have stuck, but I have a friend who waved a bike through an intersection(off cycle). It nearly caused an accident, prompting the cop who was behind him to pull him over. He screamed at him for a bit about how we have laws and how he's not in charge of directing traffic. Then he s aid he could write him up for obstructing traffic.
Again, not sure if that would stick in court, but it happened.
Best to go by the vehicle code so not to confuse people.


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Posted by another resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2014 at 7:41 am

@Almost
This just highlights what a mess we have created. There are near accidents,
potential accidents, conditions conducive to accidents all day long, everywhere.The massive overdevelopment is unmanageable from a circulation
standpoint, a quality of life standpoint,etc. Then the City generally
makes things worse from all these standpoints in everything it does in a
vicious cycle destroying the City. The fabric of the City is being torn apart.


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2014 at 8:11 am

> I'm not sure if it would have stuck, but I have a friend who
> waved a bike through an intersection(off cycle).

Interesting. My example was for a four-way intersection with stop signs on each corner. After I posted, I began to wonder if anyone would consider breaking protocol at a signalized intersection. Seems that they would.

The underlying reason for my suggesting yield right-of-way to cyclists at some intersectios is simply there are too many cyclists running stop signs, red lights and doing other crazy things that if you let them go, then they can do something unpredictable that will cause me to get into an accident.

People do stupid things when behind the wheel, no argument. But it's hard to see many cyclists doing the right thing. My suggestion was just another in the many things you can do to drive defensively.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2014 at 8:20 am

Love the way this has gone off topic.

These cameras are not at intersections. They are for counting pedestrians and bikes (true, you could choose not to believe the official explanation) but now that even the local news is covering this, we are going to get all the bikers and pedestrians deliberately using the streets being counted for extra usage just to artificially raise the numbers on the count.

I have been on email lists which tell us where traffic counts are to use certain streets to artificially inflate road usage, and I am sure that the same will now be done by biking groups!!


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2014 at 8:33 am

> These cameras are not at intersections.

They were on my street earlier in the week.

Up the thread a bit, @Jerry wants to give the city government the benefit of the doubt—suggesting that they would not do anything wrong. Maybe. But this whole area of license plate readers, NSA spying on our communications, and the slow emergence of national surveillance state should give us all reason to be concerned. While most city governments don't have the necessary IT funding to collect and store massive databases of traffic video recordings, private industry does:

Web Link

It's only a matter of time before some police departments start purchasing data from these sorts of companies, probably in a clandestine way so that the public is unaware that the police have this data. Recently the Palo Alto police stated that it would be purchasing automatic license plate readers. When asked about a policy on data storage—the public was told "we're working on that." When asked when the policy would be made public—we were told: "we're working on that." In short—the police told us: "go pound sand—we don't work for you."

With the deployment of these cameras, the Transportation people have pretty much told us one more time: "we don't work for you."


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Posted by another resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2014 at 8:44 am

@Resident
It's the City that is "off topic" for the last 10 years. Can anybody tell
us how this now probably unreliable data would be used to actually improve
traffic circulation and safety? The money spent on this should be used
to hire another motorcycle cop.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by paranoia
a resident of Midtown
on May 14, 2014 at 9:24 am

I cannot believe the paranoia shown here. When the city tries to improve pedestrian/bicycle routes around town, the car lobbies screams that the city has no right to do that without know how many pedestrians there already are. Now the city uses some simple technology to count pedestrians and NIMBYs whine that they don't want to be counted.

These cameras are all on city property where you have no right to privacy. Here's a tip: if you don't want to be counted, then don't use city streets.

Now that you know those rubber strips on the streets are car counters, are you going to whine about those too? Think of all the evil that the city can do if they know one street is less heavily used than another!!!


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Posted by Clare
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on May 14, 2014 at 9:25 am

This is just another example of the arrogance of City Transportation official
Jaime Rodriguez and City Manager James Keene. Rodriguez has screwed up so much since coming to the City- all without any accountability. He needs to be shown the door. Why can't he time the lights at Town and Country? Why can't he fix the Lytton/Alma traffic lights- where its been a month now since the roads were fully open. I still spend 5 minutes sitting at this intersection waiting for a green light when there is absolutely no traffic in either of the other directions- and this intersection has the new cameras that are supposed to respond to traffic! Come on Mr. Rodriguez and Mr. Keene- can you get something right?


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Posted by paranoia
a resident of Midtown
on May 14, 2014 at 9:28 am

Speaking of cameras, have you noticed that many (perhaps most) red lights in the city are now controlled by cameras instead of timers or electric loops in the pavement? Cameras are much more accurate and cheaper to maintain. Are you pulling on your tin hat when you drive through these intersections? How do you really know those images are not being downloaded by the NSA?


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2014 at 9:37 am

> How do you really know those images are not being downloaded by the NSA?

These cameras are believed to just hold enough data to count vehciles in their field-of-view. There has never been any claim by the city that they are actually recording data. The cameras could record, of course, but at the moment--they probably aren't.

Again--the question about a city-wide privacy policy comes into focus. It's doubtful than anyone on the city council could provide any idea about what privacy is, or should be, in this city.


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Posted by rich
a resident of Downtown North
on May 14, 2014 at 9:43 am

See bikes running stop signs every day. Where is enforcement? See families with young children doing the same at least once a week. Where is child protective services?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Check it Out
a resident of Downtown North
on May 14, 2014 at 9:49 am

The city of Palo Alto should confer with the city of Menlo Park on the legality and lawsuits concerning these cameras!!!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Richer
a resident of Barron Park
on May 14, 2014 at 10:42 am

See cars speeding every day. Read about cars driving into buildings and flipping in residential areas far too frequently.
Where is the enforcement?

See drivers complaining about everyone else but never addressing the main group responsible for the most deaths and property damage caused by users of the roads.
Where is the hypocrisy? Oh wait, there it is.


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Posted by Ray Davies
a resident of another community
on May 14, 2014 at 10:44 am

Paranoia will destroya


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Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on May 14, 2014 at 11:16 am

Greenacres is a registered user.

I would like to point out that traffic data taken in May, especially in the dry season of the driest year in memory, is not even close to representative data.

Taking data now is kind of like saying you need safety data for subway commuters but waiting until the rush hour crowds clear before proceeding. It's actually a bigger difference. It's more like waiting until the station closes.

The winter of the school year is when the kids are out in full force, and that's when it usually rains. When it rains, not only is there more traffic, there's also more cut-through traffic, as there is no way around the two safe routes to school in our neighborhood. Between the rain and less daylight AND the extra traffic, many people's habits and whole transportation plan changes. The transportation times are also more compressed in the winter because of the weather and daylight hours being shorter, people's activities are different. How the kids, especially the older kids, get around is different. When daylight is longer, even in wet years, the traffic noticeably thins out.

Data from just this year even into winter before last which was also record-dry, especially just this dry season, will not be representative and should not be used as such. (That bears repeating: Data from the warmest season in just this record-dry year and last winter which was also record-dry, will not be representative and should not be used as such!)

Additionally, many major projects impacting this corridor have yet to be completed: the giant hotel around the corner at El Camino and Arastradero, another new VMWare campus building set to begin construction soon, etc.

I hope everyone reading this remembers what I just wrote because guaranteed, this completely non-representative data will be used by our development-crazed Council and staff to whitewash more of their plans.


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Posted by Living Freely
a resident of Barron Park
on May 14, 2014 at 11:24 am

It really doesn't matter.
I betcha if the data is used to minimize bike project, many opponents here will be arguing how the data was correction.
People don't want the truth, or even an attempt to get at the truth; they just want their way.

I'm just glad that whatever happens, it will not alter my bike riding one iota. I will remain independent and free and unencumbered...with a big cheesy grin on my face.


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Posted by another resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2014 at 1:29 pm

@Greenacres
Exactly right. The data is meaningless, the analysis is meaningless, outreach, all of it, the outcome is predetermined- the same as
the entire planning process, design review, zoning, more consultants,
all a framework and justification to continue current policies.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on May 14, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

I believe we're seeing in recent posts here the kind of rhetoric that will be deployed as the city presents its bicycle boulevard proposals around the city in coming weeks.

Greenacres argued during the Maybell Revolt that the city could do nothing effective to make bicycling to school in our neighborhood safer no matter what it tried. She offered as evidence a claim that modifications to Maybell done several years ago had been ineffective in eliminating risk, therefore it would be futile to make further attempts to improve the traffic flow.

She was wrong. Those modifications on Maybell were a huge improvement over what was there before. A mark of success was that many more students have been bicycling to school each year since that time. And now more needs to be done to address current needs, not because the previous effort was a failure but because it was a success.

Jaime Rodriguez and staff presented the latest draft of the plan for the El Camino Real, Maybell, Georgia corridor at a community meeting at Terman a few weeks ago. They were at pains to show how the plan had addressed and in many cases incorporated neighborhood input from two previous meetings. The response was generally positive , ranging from "sounds good" to a more skeptical "let's see how it works."

I hope the two community meetings on the Charleston/Arastradero corridor will be as civil and productive as the meetings on Maybell have been. The first meeting will be this Thursday, May 15, 6:30 p.m. at Cubberley Community Center, Rm. M2. The second will be next Tuesday, May 20, at the Elks Club on El Camino Real.


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Posted by Data!
a resident of Barron Park
on May 14, 2014 at 3:00 pm

I'm so glad we're finally gathering data. This is the first and most important step in planning. Anyone who claims they can properly plan for ANYTHING without having a general idea on how many users will be involved, is delusional.

Those who disagree that we should be counting this way, please put up your alternate ideas on how to count the bikes and peds. Simply saying "We can't do it to my liking, so we shouldn't do it at all" is not the answer for this can-do community. That is the answer of people who fear the results.
Let the count begin and let the truth be known to all who, even those who fear it.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 14, 2014 at 3:46 pm

Off-topic: Santa Clara County real-time traffic cameras can be viewed at Web Link

Notice says "These video images are not recorded or archived"

Many of the intersections have 4 camera views, new frame at 3-second intervals.
I presume Oregon Expressway will be available again when current project is finished.


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Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on May 14, 2014 at 7:35 pm

Greenacres is a registered user.

@ Wayne,
"I'd like to believe this .. but how does Rodriguez know that the video is actually discarded?"

The City staff routinely discards anything that doesn't aid in whatever end they want. The recent bicycle improvements on Maybell that involved months of community involvement and hundreds of thousands are a prime example -- not a scrap of paper or single bit of that was left over to help inform the new effort.


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Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on May 14, 2014 at 7:37 pm

Greenacres is a registered user.

@Data!
"Simply saying "We can't do it to my liking, so we shouldn't do it at all" is not the answer for this can-do community. "

I'm not saying that. I've been calling for data for a few years now. I'm saying, take the data, do it honestly, and then use it honestly.


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Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on May 14, 2014 at 7:44 pm

Greenacres is a registered user.

@Jerry,
"Greenacres argued during the Maybell Revolt that the city could do nothing effective to make bicycling to school in our neighborhood safer no matter what it tried. She offered as evidence a claim that modifications to Maybell done several years ago had been ineffective in eliminating risk, therefore it would be futile to make further attempts to improve the traffic flow. "

Jerry, do you ever get tired of misrepresenting people's views so you can criticize them?

I was involved and waiting for years for those improvements on Maybell, they absolutely did make things safer. They didn't make Maybell a safe place to put a large development without any safety analysis or evaluation.

Along with a few other people, I asked that the City consider a light at Clemo, tied in with the light at Coulomb, in order to put the traffic out at Arastradero and make the issue moot at Maybell. The City said there were too many impacts to Arastradero for the traffic to go out on Arastradero instead of substandard Maybell.

The election is over Jerry. Please stop lying about me and my views for whatever jollies you get out of it. I took a lot of crap during that whole business before there even was a referendum to try to get the City and PAHC to do something that would involve looking at the safety issues and working with the community so they could put in the housing. If they had been willing to deal with us in good faith, things would have been different. A lot of us felt even back then that we should have been focusing the efforts and the funds on Buena Vista.

I welcome your involvement for the benefit of the community but I'm sick of your libelous misrepresentations of me and good people in the neighborhood that you live with.


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Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on May 14, 2014 at 8:25 pm

Greenacres is a registered user.

Let me also remind you that our City Councilman, Marc Berman, the only Councilmember to come out here to Maybell to look at the traffic, came out and spent many hours (according to him) observing the situation on Maybell -- during the dry sunny May we had last year.

This is AFTER all the safety improvements had been made.

He said to the public, It may be a Safe Route to School, but it's not a safe route to school.

That's after the safety improvements, and during the time of lowest traffic before summer, during an unusually dry year, and when there was no development at that key location between the safe routes to school at all.

Oh, and by the way, one of the super beefed-up reinforced moved back stop signs on Maybell in front of the school? Knocked to the ground again recently. I took a few photos.

All I said above is that traffic data, if it is supposed to inform safety decisions about safe routes to school, taken in May of the most dry year on record for decades, is not representative data. If the City does not try to use it that way, then that's fine. Based on what we witnessed last year, that would be quite a change.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on May 14, 2014 at 9:37 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Greenacres

Thanks for the clarification. It's been so long since the election and the campaign that preceded it that I'm left with memories of what was said at the time that may be inaccurate. I gave up trying to take notes early on figuring the threads were all archived and if the need arose I could check there later.

And thanks for your efforts on behalf of the residents of Buena Vista. Your explanations of the intricacies of mobile home law have stood in refreshing contrast to many of the posts. We're in fairly close agreement on that neighborhood issue anyway


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on May 14, 2014 at 10:56 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Greenacres

This is the kind of comment that suggested a kind of defeatism about the prospects of improving bicycle safety on Maybell.

"And by the way, it's a lark to think that spending more money painting stripes on Maybell is going to fix this. Maybell was already the subject of a large six-figure safety upgrade in the last few years. It couldn't fix the fundamental problems because Maybell is only 15 feet wide at some places, narrower than internal development lanes are required to be by law, and is heavily overburdened by traffic at many times during the school day, not just rush hour."


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Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on May 15, 2014 at 1:50 am

Greenacres is a registered user.

@Jerry,

Once again, you have to resort to mischaracterizing other people in order to them criticize them.

In context, I was arguing and pushing for the City to do the kind of honest, trustworthy traffic analysis that would have allowed good decisions, rather than painting stripes to literally cover over the problem. That comment was probably after going to the first meeting where the City employees said they weren't going to consider potential development impacts nor were they going to use information from all the work done on the recent safety upgrade. Which was after the whole Maybell fiasco, when the City refused for months and months and months to just look at the safety impact of development to the kids, when their own policy called for heightened SCRUTINY. Where was that heightened scrutiny, Jerry? Marc Berman couldn't see even having a qualified traffic engineer do the safety study, but even he said it was unsafe when he came out.

Before you decide how to fix it, first you have to admit that there's a problem, collect data, and look at it honestly.

Defeatism is resorting to demonizing and calling your neighbors NIMBYs instead of considering that their calls for actual traffic data or a working group - when, gee, the last one they called for resulted in an even larger affordable housing development than at Maybell -- might have allowed for a positive win-win.

You want people to be civil, you finally take one positive step forward, and you just can't help being a jerk, can you?


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Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on May 15, 2014 at 1:55 am

Greenacres is a registered user.

Dear Jerry,
Thank you for the conciliatory email, I really do appreciate it. But I also feel really frustrated and sad by what was lost because all of that energy that went into fighting could have gone into doing something positive together. (That's not just a general statement, just as people planned for how to fight if they had to, there were concrete steps we would have taken to create win-wins if we had been given the chance.)

And I am frustrated that politically, much more could have been done for the residents of BV if not for the rifts. You had a lot to do with those rifts. Please stop feeding them.


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Posted by Wolfie
a resident of another community
on May 15, 2014 at 7:53 am

Y'all may be expecting too much from the traffic engineer. He can't make the road safe. He can only build something that encourages safe behavior. It is up to the people who use it to make it safe.


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Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on May 15, 2014 at 8:36 am

SteveU is a registered user.

What a waste a few paranoid people have caused.
I read elsewhere that PA is now removing these counting devices because of the outcry.
So now we (the taxpayers)are out the $ spent to lease and install them, with no significant data obtained.

Paranoids, Look at the devices. Just how much full motion video could be stored within those cases considering the available power supply, and usable bulk storage?


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Posted by your government at work
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 15, 2014 at 8:55 am

I suggest you read the new book by Glenn Greenwald, "No Place to Hide - Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State!" It is a compelling read - just got it and I am halfway through it.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 15, 2014 at 9:10 am

There is an article in the SJ Mercury concerning this topic today. The article depicts a strange situation in which the camera is put on a light post looking at a college terrace driveway. The home owner has complained to the city.

Somehow we do not look very smart here in the way this is portrayed. A consulting company will own the tapes. The cameras will be moved on a regular basis.

I wish they would come to my street - we seem to have strange people park who want to eat their fast food and throw the wrappers on the street.
We could make a lot of money in the littering law - $1,000 a pop.


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Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on May 15, 2014 at 9:38 am

With all due respect to the above posters, I am concerned above all about the culture at our City Hall, especially among the planning and transportation people, to make all efforts serve the approval of their favored developments (basically, any development).

@ Wolfie, I would have thought just like you if I hadn't gotten a much closer view of City Hall in the last year, and what I saw wasn't pretty. The City really is far more likely to be using the cameras and the data to bolster a pre-existing purpose than out of an interest in collecting information to inform future decisions.

@Jerry Underdal
More to the point. The City announced this bike safety improvement initiative in the middle of the Maybell debates, in which development in the area and its impacts to the safety of the thousands of school children traveling to and from school, around half by bike and on foot, was a major issue. School enrollments are projected to expand, and construction at Gunn has been geared to take hundreds more students in the coming years. Business traffic along that corridor is projected to almost double because of just the VMWare expansion, which is still in process.

The expert traffic analysis of the City's traffic report found no analysis was done of the impact of development to the bikes and pedestrians. No cumulative analysis of developments already in the pipeline was done. This despite our City having a policy of heightened scrutiny of developments on school commute routes, and safety being a reason Cities can reject bonus density requests and development plans made even under existing zoning rules. And despite the fact that the one Councilmember who went out and spent time there deeming the corridor unsafe as it was with no development at all on the property, and all of the Councilmembers being on record as saying they felt a development at Maybell even under the pre-existing zoning would be even less safe than the a major development planned there at three or four times the pre-existing zoning.

Despite that issue being a deal breaker to many who fought the rezoning at Maybell, in the many months of the debates, and repeated calls for that safety analysis, the City and the developer never did safety analysis to the bikes and pedestrians. During the debates, they claimed repeatedly that the fire department had done a separate traffic safety analysis and had found everything fine. They continued to claim this even after neighbors found out that the fire department never did any traffic analysis for that development, and that they only were ever asked to look at access to the site itself for the fire department (which was fine, since the department is across the street) and on-site code compliance.

The disturbing thing we learned, that all Palo Altans should be concerned about, was that the fire department doesn't do a separate safety assessment of emergency traffic and emergency vehicle access problems, for example (something of great concern at the elementary school there, which has no other way in and out for emergency vehicles), unless planning and transportation tells them there is a problem, and P&T never finds a problem for a development it wants to approve.

Emergency services is required to take their cues from planning and transportation, which takes its cues from developers. About that time the city manager even admitted the staff cherry pick the Comp Plan to support whatever development push they are making. And even after it had been shown to be a complete fabrication, rezoning proponents continued to claim on the record that the fire department had assessed the traffic at Maybell and deemed no problems.

So, about the recent safety improvements on that Maybell-Arastradero corridor, I have the following questions:

*Did the City do the traffic safety analysis for the impact of traffic to bikes and pedestrians that residents had called on repeatedly for months prior? Or did they launch into the effort without any new data or analysis?

*At the first meeting, one community member pointed out that many residents in the neighborhood had just spent 6 months working hard to come up with improvements for the last major costly safety upgrade of Maybell, but were ultimately told most of their suggestions couldn't be done because of the physical limitations of the road. They asked if the City employees could at least just please find the notes and reports from that effort so none of the work on the new effort was just redundant and wasted. Did City employees find the reports and/or use them to help the new effort, or did they require neighbors to just start over again as if all that had never been done and the lessons never learned?

*At the first meeting, I asked if potential development on those corridors at yet-to-be-developed sites, at least under proposed zoning, would be included in the improvements, and was told by one of the planners that they were told they couldn't. In making the current plans and improvements, were planners allowed after all to look at the impact of sites that will be developed but hadn't yet been approved, or were those sites simply ignored (even though proposals all exceeded zoning and City Council shows a propensity for approving whatever developers ask for and for ignoring the Comp Plan when it calls for lower densities)?

*Last year, one of the Councilmembers pointed out that Menlo Park measures bike traffic at every intersection in the City, and said Palo Alto should do the same. Were such measures ever taken, especially for this effort, or did this effort proceed without such comprehensive, relevant data?

*During the debates, frustrated neighbors called on the City repeatedly to conduct the "heightened scrutiny" of developments their own policy calls for on school commute routes. Did the City ever attempt to define more specifically what "heightened scrutiny" entails and to conduct it, or did they continue to just ignore those calls?

* Were residents who were completely put off at the first meeting, who felt the safety effort was sincere but being done in a way that was more for show on the part of the City -- were they contacted for their input afterwards, or was it mostly just true City Hall adherents like you whose input made for the bulk of the changes?

*Are the changes the result in any way of review and recommendations based on safety analysis and traffic experts, or are they based on recommendations picked and chosen by P&T staff based on input by mostly amateur CH adherents in subsequent meetings? Are the changes based in any way on projections of future development and traffic on those corridors, or just the suggestions the P&T staff liked from people who showed up at the meetings?

*Again, traffic data taken in May of ANY year, much less the driest on record or memory, is NOT representative. Will the City remember the data taken now is NOT REPRESENTATIVE DATA, or will it use this traffic data (and this round of community involvement) to make sweeping claims about the traffic there or the improvements?

If the answer is Yes to any of the former question in each point above, please elaborate, because I doubt it. If the answer is yes to any — or more like, ALL — of the latter of each point above, it's business as usual in our City, and as most of us suspected, the City is less concerned about the safety of the kids on bikes than about getting away with pushing ever more density and our part of town, using things like this as cover.

So, to the above persons concerned about your privacy - I support your complaints, because I seriously doubt there's any more noble purpose in using the cameras than political manipulation to get some development approved. You watch, this NON-representative data and the recent bike corridor effort will get used to try to approve another too-big development.


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Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on May 15, 2014 at 9:48 am

PS, And by the way, Jerry, I am taking your word that I made the above quote, I do not remember it. Not saying I didn't make it, I just don't remember, and think the fact that you do is just strange - speaking of paranoia - it must be months old at best. Just as I am taking your word that you are motivated by the things you say you are, because it's tempting not to. Just for the sake of the civility you call for in others, please accord your neighbors the same courtesy.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on May 15, 2014 at 2:55 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.


@Greenacres
"The City announced this bike safety improvement initiative in the middle of the Maybell debates"

Exactly! I took this as a victory for our joint effort to get the city to pay serious attention to bicycle safety on Maybell. I had read in your posts about the Maybell bicycle initiative that hadn't gone anywhere for some time and saw that as an important failing that had to be addressed.

Cause or coincidence, I can't be sure. But the announcement that a consultant would be named and plans drawn up for the Maybell Bicycle Corridor came after the explosion of neighborhood concern about safety on the streets. If the process and timetable of gradually building out a network of bicycle routes based on community input had been communicated clearly and consistently early on, it might have dissipated some of the heat around the topic.

First meeting on the Charleston/Arastradero corridor 6:30 this evening at Cubberley M2. This is an important event. Everyone concerned should attend either this session or the one next Tues. at the Elks Club.


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Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on May 16, 2014 at 4:04 pm

It would have been easier and less time consuming for City personnel if they had gone about this camera project differently and informed the public (especially the residents slated to "host" one of the cameras) in advance that these short term cameras were going to be installed for a specific purpose. An ounce of prevention . . .


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Posted by Greenacres
a resident of Green Acres
on May 16, 2014 at 7:06 pm

Sigh.

During the Maybell debates, the City announced the bike safety plans, and many of us thought that was great. We had called for a trustworthy traffic analysis that took into account the impact to the bicycles and kids for months. Unfortunately, when they announced plans for the bike safety work, they also said they didn't intend to do that traffic analysis, didn't intend to avoid wasting work doing redundant plans that couldn't be implemented because of the limitations of Maybell (as found in the previous safety work), nor did they intend to include the impacts of the developments in the pipeline or the potential developments from properties such as Maybell in doing the new plans. I was told this myself, this was not hearsay.

I didn't see any point in going to anymore of the meetings. One of the people who had spent months working on the last Maybell safety improvement left the first one in the middle in disgust.

Data taken right now, in mid May, during one of the driest years on record, before most of the major development around us is finished, without taking into account the properties to be developed (as the bike safety people said they wouldn't be doing), and during a major street project on East Meadow that disrupts the traffic on this side, too (I know I've completely changed my plans and habits on Maybell because of it) does not lead to representative data.

The bike safety plans were also made prior to this data taken here.

Was there any safety analysis done as we called for for months during the Maybell debates, Jerry? Did any further data, as we called for in vain for months, inform the safety plans? If so, where is it?

A victory would be an HONEST look at safety, instead of this dishonest attempt to cover for poor prioritization of safety in order to approve overdevelopment.

And by the way, I don't think what they've just done on East Meadow should be extended all over town nor do I think it is going to make things appreciably safer to continue the overdevelopment -- and it's a horrible eyesore (The Chicago River called, they want St. Patrick's Day back! Holy Moley!)

I would be less critical if the City (or Jerry Underdal) had ever acted honestly throughout the Maybell process. This seems like more of the same. They use data just like the City manager admitted they use the comprehensive plan -- they cherry pick to support whatever development they want to approve.


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