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The College Terrace Roundabouts are Useless!

Original post made by McGrude, College Terrace, on Oct 22, 2008

Ok so over the last year public works has put in several roundabouts on College Avenue with the hope to slow down traffic. In doing so they reversed the direction of the two-way stop at College and Columbia. Most recently they removed the roundabout at College and Hanover and changed the direction of the two-way stop at College and Columbia back to the way it was! Despite all of this it hasn't worked to slow traffic. Add to that people almost never stop at the stop sign at College and Columbia. At least 10 times a day (well evenings) I see people slow, look and then just run the stop sign.

Instead of having public works spend money on pointless traffic controls why don't they have PAPD doing some actual traffic enforcement instead? Speaking of traffic enforcement I'd love to see an officer pulling people over for running the red light for the left turn from southbound El Camino Real to eastbound Embarcadero. Three or four times I a week I see a car run that light -- they're still in the intersection when the El Camino northbound light turns green one this week was even an AC Transit transbay bus.

Oof. I tired of all these selfish drivers.

Comments (28)

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Posted by College Terrace whiners
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 22, 2008 at 1:59 pm

Clearly, College Terrace needs more traffic calming--I think the city should sink a few million dollars to calm traffic in College Terrace, to the satisfaction of all the residents.
All College Terrace needs to do is send a few representatives to the next council meeting--I am sure the council will knuckle under the way they usually do to College Terrace demands.


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Posted by McGrude
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 22, 2008 at 2:00 pm

My actual point was that PAPD needs to do more traffic enforcement rather than the city paying for pointless traffic calming devices.


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Posted by McGreedy
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Oct 22, 2008 at 2:24 pm

The city has spent way too much time and resource on College Terrace. No other neighborhood in Palo Alto gets so much attention.


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Posted by Driver
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2008 at 4:33 pm

Wish we had some roundabouts in South Palo Alto. All we have are endless stop signs, some 4 way and some 2 way. It is very confusing coming up to an intersection you rarely use and stop expecting the other traffic to stop also, but it doesn't. All stop signs need another sign saying whether a stop is 2 way or 4 way. A roundabout would be great, but most American drivers don't know how to use them (you should always yield to traffic on your right already on the roundabout).


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Posted by Driver
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2008 at 4:35 pm

Woops, my British roots are coming out. I mean for America driving on the right, you need to yield to traffic on the left already on the roundabout.


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Posted by McGrude
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 22, 2008 at 10:40 pm

Wow, you guys are rude. I'm new to College Terrace, is there some historical resentment towards the neighborhood that I am unaware of, or do you just assume that I am a snob because that is where I live?

I don't want Palo Alto to spend more money here in College Terrace specifically, I just want police departments in general to spend more time working on traffic enforcement everywhere. People running red lights, people talking on cell phones and not paying attention, people not stopping at stop signs, people not looking when changing lanes, etc. etc. We all see it all the time. It happens everywhere.

Without enforcement of existing driving laws, signage and rules the general population will never improve and we'll continue to see needless property damage, injuries and deaths as a result of sloppy and unsafe driving.



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Posted by Bob
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Oct 23, 2008 at 12:55 am

"Why don't they have PAPD doing some actual traffic enforcement instead?" Every neighborhood in Palo Alto would love to have a traffic officer pulling drivers over for running red lights in their neighborhood. Do you know there are over 400 lane miles of roadway and over 200 intersections in Palo Alto?

Somehow those living in College Terrace are great at giving the the impression that they are somehow special and deserve more attention than the rest of us. The PAPD do not have enough Officers to monitor every street and intersection in Palo Alto.

We are presently experiencing a crime wave. Right now dealing with muggings, assaults and burglaries has a higher priority for the PAPD than sitting waiting for someone to run a red light.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2008 at 8:17 am

At the City Council meeting a resident of College Terrace again asked the City for permit parking on their streets. There is one huge problem with this, permit parking would have to be enforced. The City has cut back on their staff of community officers, how does College Terrace plan to pay for the additional staff to enforce their permit parking?




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Posted by College Terrace whiners
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 23, 2008 at 8:25 am

Mcgrude--College Terrace has more traffic calming then any other neighborhood in the city and they are constantly clamoring for more. They make it sound like they are the only part of the city with traffic issues. Next they are whining for permit parking on their streets, in order to make the neighborhood exclusive. earlier this year there was a great deal of work to repair the streets in college terrace--and of course the residents were whining about the inconvenience--even though there are plenty of areas in town with worse streets.
College Terrace has a history of getting what they want from the city council--they know that the squeaky wheel gets greased in Palo Alto--so they demand and demand and demand and the council is loathe to oppose them


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Posted by Council Districts?
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 23, 2008 at 10:23 am

Why don't we have Council Districts like a lot of other towns? If all the seats are at-large, the politicians don't want to alienate any group, since they might campaign against them. But if there are districts, each rep is accountable to his/her own voters and can stand up to special interests.

We could also have a mix - a couple of at-large, the rest district, to address the need of the North side to have more than their share ;-)


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2008 at 11:01 am

Why don't we have Council Districts like a lot of other towns? This is just one of several changes to the City Charter that have been suggested. How about electing our Mayor instead of having Council appoint him or her? How about reducing Council from nine to seven members to streamline the decision making process? Council members want to eliminate the two term limit, so they can serve as long as they want.

The problem is the City Charter would have to be changed. To get a citizen's led campaign on the ballot would require over 6,000 signature. These signatures would have to be collected by hand, no computer generated signatures allowed.

To change the City Charter, Council could put these issues on the ballot. However, they want to link them together with a provision that would eliminate the term limit provision which the residents of Palo Alto voted in favor of.


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Posted by McGreedy
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Oct 23, 2008 at 12:25 pm

"Wow, you guys are rude. I'm new to College Terrace, is there some historical resentment towards the neighborhood that I am unaware of, or do you just assume that I am a snob because that is where I live?"

McGrude, You're throwing a red flag out here.
College Terrace has constantly clamored for relief for the last 20 years (as long as I've been in Palo Alto) and have received several attempts to address their chorus. While other communities get no relief for their traffic problems and don't always complain, you hear continual complaints from College Terrace as a "special case".
Come on, you recently bought a hose next to Standford and you're already complaining about the effect of Stanford on your neighborhood. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 24, 2008 at 7:28 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

College Terrace does not understand public right-of-way. They should buy back the streets and gate the community. The civilized response to cut through traffic would have been an improvement in the main traffic routes. The dog-in-the-manger attitude of CT deserves external scorn.


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Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 24, 2008 at 7:34 am

Enforcement is a lot more expensive than traffic calming. We don't have enough cops to cover our whole city, and there are no traffic cops on night shift or weekends. Most cops make close to $100,000 a year and have expensive training and equipment needs. Drivers respond when they are there, then revert to their bad habits when the cop leaves. A speed bump costs about $10,000 and sits there all day and all night, every day of the year, for years on end. A traffic circle cost more, but is still a lot cheaper than a cop.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2008 at 10:48 am

If you want to install speed bumps (now called speed tables), go to the City's website and click on traffic. There you will see just how complicated it is to get a speed table approved.

Speed tables are useless because they only limit vehicle traffic to 25 mph. They must comply with State code which says you may travel at 25 mph on any street.

I agree traffic calming is a lot cheaper than paying Cops' their salary and benefits!!






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Posted by just for the record
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2008 at 2:49 pm

Couple points from someone who gave up trying to make our streets safer due to all the no-nothings in this town who think they are traffic engineers:

1. Donald is absolutely right that traffic calming is cheaper than police traffic enforcement. In fact, there's strong evidence that 15 minutes after the police car/motorcycle is no longer visible, drivers are behaving just as badly as before the enforcement was done. And our current funding levels mean we have at most 5 traffic team officers on the streets at once, few to none at night and on the weekends. A speed table may cost $25,000 and a speed hump $12,000 but they are in place and effective 24/7.

2. There are no roundabouts in place in College Terrace or anywhere in Palo Alto. What McGrude calls roundabouts are actually neighborhood traffic circles.
Roundabouts are installed at major intersections as an alternative to traffic signals, and are proven to be "safe, efficient and less costly" than adding extra turn lanes. They also reduce traffic delays because all that red light time is not wasted. And they dramatically reduce vehicle crashes if designed correctly. See what they look like here: traffic management See these links:
Web Link
"A roundabout is a circular intersection where traffic flows around a center island. Roundabouts are safe, efficient and less costly. Since vehicles entering the roundabout are required to yield to traffic in the circle, more vehicles can move through the intersection with less delay."


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Posted by just for the record
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2008 at 3:21 pm

Sorry, I was trying to edit the sentence before the link and somehow posted it instead. Please ignore the extra words before the link and after the colon. To finish my post:

Neighborhood traffic circles is what the devices installed on interior College Terrace streets are called. You can see a picture and read about how successful they are in Seattle where hundreds of them have been installed here:
Web Link
Concluding quote, after graphs showing dramatic reductions in both crashes and injuries before and after traffic circle installation: "After nearly twenty-five years of experience installing traffic circles, Seattle has found them to be an effective device for controlling neighborhood traffic and improving the safety of residential streets. Additionally, residents feel traffic circles have successfully addressed their safety concerns and make their neighborhood a better place to live. "

So why does McGrude think the traffic circles near his house are useless? The key is in his comment about "people almost never stop at the stop sign at College and Columbia. At least 10 times a day (well evenings) I see people slow, look and then just run the stop sign."
-- No, the key is not that drivers on College are worse scofflaws than those on other residential streets in Palo Alto. It's the fact that the city refused to install the neighborhood traffic circles without stop signs, like they are in Seattle and Portland where residents love them!! Go back to that Seattle link above and note that there are no stop signs at all in the photo.
-- If this seems counterintuitive -- Don't stop signs make streets safer? Wouldn't it be better to have 4 way stops at every intersection that doesn't have a traffic signal? -- stop and think. What happens when there are no stop signs at an intersection? Then everyone has to slow down. And if there's a well-designed traffic circle, then everyone has to slow down, and of course yield to the driver/bicyclist/pedestrian already in the intersection. This is much safer than a 4 way stop or a 2 way stop because the circle prevents head-on and t-bone collisions.

3. Not only did the city engineers blow it by insisting on two way stops remaining at the traffic circles they installed, but they also failed to design the circles so that they actually slowed straight through traffic on College Avenue. McGrude should not be denouncing the traffic circles as useless, he should be demanding that the trial of traffic calming as an alternative to ineffective local street traffic control using stop signs be done right!

Sure wish we could get some of those Seattle traffic engineers to come down and do a real test of whether Palo Alto is a separate universe where traffic engineering that works elsewhere won't work and consultants have to be paid tens of thousands of dollars to design something that tries to appease those who know nothing about traffic engineering -- and therefore is set up to fail.


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Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 25, 2008 at 8:14 pm

I agree that the Palo Alto traffic circles have never been done properly (nor the ones at Stanford, either). Bryant/Addison has stop signs on two legs, too, and that was installed long before those in College Terrace.

Unfortunately, most drivers have become addicted to stop signs. When approaching an intersection without a stop sign, most drivers assume that they don't need to stop. If it is a 4-way uncontrolled intersection that is absolutely the wrong assumption. Instead, you need to slow down, look carefully in all directions and then proceed when safe. If traffic circles can bring about that behavior, then they are a valuable addition to our streets.


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Posted by Brit
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2008 at 2:25 pm

I love the idea of bringing roundabouts into this area. They are used all over Britain and Europe and they really do work, provided they don't have stop signs or lights and drivers know how to use them. They are great at getting traffic moving and once installed they need very little maintenance and work even with a power outage - something worth thinking about in earthquake country.

They work great at big intersections and would do really well at say Middlefield/Oregon and Oregon/El Camino/Page Mill from the point of view of cars, but probably not for pedestrians as traffic lights for the pedestrians would kill the advantage. So they work best at busy large intersections where there are no pedestrians or where pedestrians can cross by means of a bridge or tunnel. As a result, it would probably not be a good idea in Palo Alto as we don't have the space or the money to do this.

But, in residential areas, they work well. They would be ideal at all the 4 way stops where there is unlikely to be pedestrians most of the time. So ideally, not near schools.


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Posted by narnia
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 26, 2008 at 9:53 pm

"Posted by Driver, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Oct 22, 2008 at 4:33 pm
A roundabout would be great, but most American drivers don't know how to use them (you should always yield to traffic on your right already on the roundabout)."

Driver is actually wrong.
In most cases (not all) you yield to traffic ENTERING the roundabout on your right just as if the road on your right was a 4 way stop provided that the vehicle on your right arrived either before you or at the same time. The circulating traffic is (already) on the roundabout ( in the US ) is on your left not on your right.

Of course the great fun is mini-roundabouts inside a roundabout. Check one out:
Web Link

The little CT circles are not roundabouts.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2008 at 10:21 pm

Narnia, if you read the next post you will realise that Driver was aware of the error and pictured himself in his own country rather than here when posting and the next post explains this.


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Posted by narnia
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 27, 2008 at 9:51 am

Resident,

I posssess a british driver's license too and when I wrote my post there wasn't any other after the driver'sl one. This happened probably because I was inernetless for most of the weekend and when I sent my post I had it, so I thought, but probably it didn't "travel" the system as I passed to a no internet zone immediately (northen california) after sending the message. Same with cell phone service. I had no intention to point fingers and no way of knowing when I am passing from internet to no internet zone.

However, Driver is still not quite right, because what she/he means is not the US but what he/she knows about America*. Most american drivers in the East Coast know perfectly how to enter the many roundabouts there are and in some jurisdictions drivers on the roundabout do not have the right of way-they have stops inside the roundabout or yield to traffic entering the roundabout.

* just a little comparison- the whole UK is smaller than california...


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Posted by A voter
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 27, 2008 at 9:45 pm

College Terrace has a problem with parking because Stanford charges exorbitant fees for parking on campus. They are supposed to keep traffic in/out of campus down, and they do it by telling people to park in College Terrace. Pay $400 to park on campus for a year, or park in College Terrace and we (Stanford) will provide you a free bus ride to your campus office.

I don't blame Stanford. The county-approved plan tells them to do this. But College Terrace shouldn't have to bear the brunt of all the cars of the people working at Stanford.


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Posted by College Terrace whiners
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 28, 2008 at 6:06 am

A Voter---then privatize the streets in College Terrace--have the residents take care of all their maintanance etc and then youc an control who parks there--until then the streets are public streets and should be available to anyone to park on. I realize that the "me, me, me" prima donnas in College Terrace do not like that, but tough luck.


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Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 28, 2008 at 7:06 am

Stanford has many thousands of employees, and has impressive percentages of them using transit and carpools. Stanford provides free shuttles for them and pays them not to drive to work. This is an outstanding program, but there are a few people who cheat. A few people take advantage of it by parking in College Terrace, but this is a very small percentage of the total. I would not blame Stanford for this, but the people who are trying to game the system. Place the blame where it belongs, please.


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Posted by College Terrace whiners
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 28, 2008 at 7:09 am

Donald--to correct you--these people that park in College Terrace are not "cheating" or "gaming the system"--the streets in College Terrace are public and available to everyone to use (despite the desires of the CT prima donnas). If people park there and walk to Stanford, that is their right. Have you done a study to see if employees of other businesses near CT also park there? Are they "cheating"?


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2008 at 4:42 pm

College Terrace has a problem that many of us do not. But, there are similar areas over the City which has people parking where they do not live on a daily basis. What about the area near the California St Caltrain station underpass. Or those on Wilkie Way who are watching and taking plate numbers of those parking. Or those on Colorado who have to take the overflow from Safeways at peak times.

What is true is that there is not enough parking round town at the right sort of places for free. We are so used to free parking that we come to expect it and do not wish to pay for parking. I am not sure that this problem will go away, people will always look for free parking if it is available even if they have to walk further to get it.

College Terrace residents realised that they lived near Stanford when they bought their homes. They can't be surprised therefore if they get people from Stanford parking there.


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Posted by ScottB
a resident of another community
on Oct 31, 2008 at 11:56 am

Modern roundabouts have the same rules where ever they are built: traffic entering the circular roadway yields to drivers in the circular roadway (regardless of which side of the road your country drives on).

Modern roundabouts don't typically exceed 200 feet in diameter. The large circular intersections on the east coast are not roundabouts - they are properly called rotaries - and the rules of interaction at each intersection can be different.


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