'Traffic calming' projects bloom in Palo Alto

City hopes to create more pedestrian- and bike-friendly roads; some drivers are not impressed

Fewer traffic lanes, more bike routes, colorful sidewalks along El Camino Real and road signs all over the city pointing bicyclists toward popular local landmarks could soon become some of the most visible features on Palo Alto's traffic landscape.

The city is speeding ahead on a myriad of projects aimed at calming traffic at dangerous intersections, promoting bicycle use and providing students with safe passages to school.

The projects include reducing lanes in the California Avenue Business District from four to two; adding intersection improvements at El Camino Real and Stanford Avenue; shifting Arastradero Road near Gunn High School from four lanes to three; and aggressively promoting walking and biking to schools through new literature, events and a new website to help school-bound parents find carpooling opportunities.

Most of these projects are funded by county grants, with smaller contributions from the city. Some, including those at Arastradero Road and El Camino Real, have already begun. The strip of Arastradero was restriped in August -- to a mixed reception -- and the city's traffic engineers are now monitoring the traffic impacts of the new lane configuration. Construction on El Camino and Stanford is scheduled to begin in the coming weeks and be completed by the middle of 2011.

Other projects are looking further ahead. The city has just kicked off work on a new Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, geared toward making Palo Alto a national leader in bike infrastructure. Once in place, the plan is expected to recommend new bike boulevard projects, added signage and more intersection improvements.

Members of the Planning and Transportation Commission, which reviews and issues recommendations on new traffic programs, discussed the wide array of new traffic initiatives on Wednesday night and gave projects a rave review.

"I'm not sure if I'm amazed or overwhelmed," Commissioner Susan Fineberg said just after the city's Chief Transportation Officer Jaime Rodriguez completed his presentation.

Of the new projects, the Arastradero project has so far generated the most debate. Though the project aims to calm traffic, it has had the opposite effect on some drivers.

Brian Steen, a Greater Miranda resident, wrote a scathing post about the new lane configuration on PaloAltoOnline's Town Square forum in September, giving the new lane configuration what he called a "failing grade." He described a morning scene in which cars honk, students jump out of cars to take the sidewalk and "trapped commuters (are) making illegal U-turns to get out of this mess."

"This chaos happens daily and was unnecessarily created with the City's re-striping Arastradero late this August in the name of safety," Steen wrote.

Philip Green, who also lives in the Greater Miranda, brought a list of concerns from other neighborhood residents about the new striping on Arastradero, which went from four lanes to three -- with one lane going each way and a center turning lane into residential streets and commercial properties.

Green said neighbors are concerned about traffic congestion near El Camino Real and worried that the new lane setup could force traffic to spill over to residential streets north of Arastradero.

Rodriguez acknowledged that the project has received community criticism, but stressed that the new lane configuration is a pilot project that is scheduled to end next summer.

Meanwhile, traffic engineers are preparing for construction at the intersection of El Camino Real and Stanford Avenue, which is considered by many to be one of the most dangerous crossings in the city. The project is funded through a grant from the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), Rodriguez wrote in a report, and would be a "demonstration project with Caltrans to show the creative types of street improvements that can be built along the corridor."

"We're looking at ways to convert El Camino Real from an expressway to a more pedestrian-oriented and business-friendly corridor," Rodriguez said Wednesday night. "We're fortunate enough to serve as a demonstration project for that."

The California Avenue project, which the city hopes to implement in 2012, has met some resistance from local businesses, who argued at recent community meetings that reducing lanes in the city's "Arts District" would increase traffic congestion. The project also includes new street furniture and a shift to diagonal parking spaces.

The city expects the $1.7 million project to be largely funded by a VTA grant, which is expected to total about $1.2 million.

"The goal of the project is to tie in the street with the existing land uses," Rodriguez said. "The (lane) reduction does that."

Rodriguez also cited an array of less divisive projects, including new maps for students and parents showing good walking and bike routes to schools; signals on Alma Street warning of trains approaching; and new markers for bicyclists, directing them to popular destinations such as Caltrain stations or downtown Palo Alto.

These markers are expected to be included in the Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan. If they prove popular, the city could install more markers leading residents to local trails and other pedestrian-oriented destinations.

"One of the reasons we like it is it has a lot of different uses," Rodriguez said. "If it's successful in the streets, we can use the markers for trails."

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Posted by commuter
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 18, 2010 at 9:52 am

There are too many impatient and reckless drivers in this city. Hopefully, these projects will give them less opportunity to do something stupid and endanger other road users.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2010 at 9:58 am

There are too many traffic bottlenecks in this city. These projects will just produce more tie ups which will encourage drivers to behave stupidly and endanger other road users.

The improvements for bike signs are way overdue and I welcome them. Hopefully they will put up more bike parking around town.

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Posted by Too Much Traffic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2010 at 10:15 am

The mindset in the city is that if you squeeze 4 lanes to 2, then all the extra traffic will just disappear. They tried this on Middlefield Road years ago (joe Kott, I believe did it) and it was a dismal failure. All you hear about is constant complaining about "too much traffic" and "walkable neighborhoods", yet the city does not realize that traffic is a part of being a viable city with a strong tax base (after all everyone wants services, children's theatres, 5 libraries etc). People refuse to accept the idea that this is a driving community--talking about walking and biking is nice, but the city has done little to actually provide the infrastructure that will make people walk/bike (think Alma and Edgewood Plaza).
Sorry but the city is once again chasing another pipe dream in order that they may think they are doing things to reduce carbon footprints. The end result is the opposite.

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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2010 at 10:45 am

>”There are too many impatient and reckless drivers in this city. Hopefully, these projects will give them less opportunity to do something stupid and endanger other road users.”

Wrong! Sitting in traffic jams caused by these bottlenecks will cause drivers to be more impatient and potentially more reckless.

“Most of these projects are funded by county grants, with smaller contributions from the city.”

And where does the county get its money? From us taxpayers. It’s all coming out of our pockets.

Why is there a “Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan” vs. an all-encompassing traffic flow master plan? Could it be because the Bicycle Advisory Committee is extremely influential?

According to Rodriguez, “The Palo Alto Bicycle Advisory Commission (PABAC) is a great resource for the City to solicit input on ideas we come up with directly or proposed through other city groups.”

Is there an Automobile Advisory Committee that participates in traffic planning? Or is it politically incorrect to drive a car?

Rodruguez also wrote in an email, “The city’s goal has been improved pedestrian and bicycle safety, not improved traffic flow.”

So where's the plan to prepare for the inevitable increase in traffic from the Stanford Hospital expansion (no new car trips is wishful thinking!), ABAG-driven dense housing units, continued cuts in Caltrain & VTA service, and lots more students and probably more schools?

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Posted by Too Much Traffic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2010 at 10:53 am

Sounds to me that Rodriguez has an agenda that does not include automobile travel as a viable option in Palo alto. Is he the right man for the job? Sounds like he is biased and possibly a shill for the bike people in the city. I would think we need a balanced approach that addresses both issues, remembering that we want people coming to Palo Alto (or does Rodriguez believe that Destination Palo Alto will have people biking/walkingto the city?)

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Posted by Millie
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 18, 2010 at 10:56 am

"Too Much Traffic" is absolutely right about what a disaster is was when they tried to turn Middlefield Road into a bike road, eliminating the turn lane and backing up traffic for miles and miles.

These traffic engineers are morons.

Like this comment
Posted by barron park
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 18, 2010 at 11:24 am

Feedback on the arastradero changes: The lanes merge into one lane too close to El Camino. Trying to park on Arastradero (westbound) just west of El Camino is very dangerous. Just where you need to park, the traffic merges into one lane. If you need to parallel park you block all the traffic. Even worse, you get stuck in a bike lane waiting for the cars to let you parallel park. I don't need to park there very often, but its really a problem... Its very dangerous. The cars in the morning commute are not willing to wait for you to park and they just swerve around you. The safest remedy I found was to park on the small street just off Arasterdo, I never even knew it existed.. i think its called Alta Mesa/Irven Ct.

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Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2010 at 11:28 am

Boy, fixing that intersection at El Camino and Stanford Ave is long over-due. Ever go to that Starbucks there and simply observe the traffic turning onto Stanford Ave west via that "pork chop" island? Crazy drivers!

I applaud City Hall for taking notice and prioritizing that intersection for a remedy.

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Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Having been trapped behind people driving way below the speed limit on the "reduced to two lanes" E. Charleston, I suspect I'll be avoiding doing any shopping on California Ave. once this is done. There's just too much traffic to be reducing lanes and forcing people to perform with the lowest common denominator in the flow of traffic.

I know the City does what it d**n well pleases, but I think it is just another one of the current decade of follies developed by the chamber full of clowns.

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Posted by Steven
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 18, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Silly me...I thought preventing traffic jams was a good goal for a city. Palo Alto wants to create traffic jams?!?!? Los Angeles has terrible traffic all the time. Do you think the city planners in LA are proud of that fact? Come on, I don't want outsiders in the future to intentionally avoid Palo Alto due to ridiculous traffic.

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Posted by EJ
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 18, 2010 at 12:16 pm

One project the city should seriously consider is a raised pedestrian and bike crossing at California Avenue across El Camino Real. This would allow business people and students to safely cross between offices and the university and California Avenue restaurants and businesses as well as the California Avenue Caltrain stop. Having seen successful pedestrian and walking communities around the country, I'm truly surprised we haven't seen a crossing like this here.

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Posted by Menlo Parker
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 18, 2010 at 12:22 pm

With both Palo Alto and Menlo Park seemingly determined to make driving there frustrating and inefficient, I think I'll be doing all my holiday shopping in Redwood City. Too bad; I'd prefer that my dollars go to local merchants. Businesspeople, take note and tell your elected officials.

When will the "traffic calmers" learn that spending hours in stalled traffic puts out MORE noxious gases and harms our environment far more than efficiently moving cars through our cities? The disaster on Arastradero should be evidence enough, if the Charleston mess wasn't.

As for putting more school kids on bicycles: Don't do it UNLESS you are ready to educate them to be sensible riders. Every day I see them breeze through intersections without stopping, riding in bunches, going the wrong way on one-way streets, etc. When I gently warn them, they say it's OK because their parents told them that bikes don't need to obey vehicle rules. Maybe the parents are angling for a Darwin Award.

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Posted by mcal
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 18, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Time for drivers to take a breath and slow down. More lanes make for more cars. El Camino does look and feel like an expressway. When you think of the gracious, retail friendly and pedestrian friendly boulevards of Europe, you know there is a better way. I applaud Palo Alto for taking these steps!

Cities should be designed for people, not cars.

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Posted by I'm too old to bike
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Too much Traffic says: "Sounds to me that Rodriguez has an agenda that does not include automobile travel as a viable option in Palo alto." Yes, and his agenda of bicycle lanes and pedestrian friendly streets is exactly why he was hired!!!

Pat Burt our Mayor took a trip to Denmark to review their advanced bicycle lifestyle and was obviously very impressed. He is right behind Jaime Rodriguez with all his plans.

I heard Jaime give a presentation recently before a PAN committee and we were surprised because all his ideas revolve around getting cars off the streets and everyone either walking or riding bicycles. So, expect more narrowing down of streets, tall medians with tree plantings down the middle; so drivers can't make U-turns and wider bicycle lanes everywhere.

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Posted by pares
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 18, 2010 at 2:20 pm

A neighbor told me she liked the one lane on Arastradero because it slows down traffic and is supposedly better for children. Frankly, I disagree because I think it is more dangerous -- there is a steady stream of traffic right next to the bike lane. It makes it hard to pull out into traffic at rush hours. And, it is also more dangerous because it goes from two lanes to one then to two at odd places all up and down the Arastrader--Charleston corridor. These conditions create other hazards on this corridor now.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 18, 2010 at 2:43 pm

I'm not sure that Denmark's bicycle culture has much relevance to the lifestyles of residents in Palo Alto. When I lived in Europe (Holland), most people were fine with the idea of daily food shopping at individual merchants (fish monger, bakery, butcher etc) and buying only what they could carry on their bicycles. El Camino Real is packed because people are driving their oversized cars to Target, Costco, Whole Foods and numerous other big box retailers. A fundamental shift in American culture would be necessary before this "European Sidewalk /Bicycle Dominant Culture" idea takes hold. In the meantime, Palo Alto should try dealing with reality and identifying solutions that work for both cars and bicycles.

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Posted by Too Much Traffic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2010 at 2:51 pm

WEll said, Resident. DOes the city actually expect us to abandon our cars and bike to shop/work/leisure activities on a regular basis. We have had the discussion about the shopping issues on another thread. Let's face it, we are a suburb, with poor public transportation options. Clearly many of our "city leaders" are fixated on this "walkable neighborhoods" concept, which is nice on paper, but little has been done to achieve that goal.

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Posted by South PA Mom
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Actually, "complete streets," streets that accomodate the needs of all users, (not just cars) are the goal. I am glad our community is taking all road users into account. I was at the meeting last night. The writer makes it sound as though bikes were prioritized over other road users (including motorists) in the discussion. Not so. I found it to be a much more balanced discussion than is represented in this article.

With regard to Arastradero, Mr. Rodriguez explained that the city is making adjustments (as city staff promised they would before the trial) to respond to concerns raised by users, including motorists. Adjustments are an expected part of complex transportation trial. He said we could expect to see those installed sometime in the next month or so. I walk, bike and drive Arastradero regularly. As a driver, I have noticed increased congestion at some times of day. However, through most of the day, traffic is traveling at more reasonable speeds. Further, the random lane-changing that previously made Arastradero so dangerous is MUCH more controlled. When I use it as a cyclist (as so many students of Gunn, Terman, Hoover, and Juana Briones do) I feel MUCH safer.

Arastradero had a very high crash rate for a residential arterial before the trial. This is unacceptable for such a heavily traveled school commute corridor. I think the city is correct to try to solve the problem.

With Cal. can't reasonably compare it to Arastradero which carries 19-20,000 cars per day. Cal. Avenue carries a fraction of that. Cal. Avenue is well within a volume range that will permit successful lane reduction. Rodriguez is right. These changes will tie the street to the adjacent land uses. This is an idea that will be GOOD for business here as it has been in other cities. When you compare transportation projects, it is really very important to make sure you are comparing apples to apples. Complete streets are especially important in shopping areas where you want drivers to feel invited to stop, get out of their cars, and look at your wares. A local shopping area needs pedestrian comforts that invite customers to visit and linger. In a community like Palo Alto where so many locals bike, it also needs decent bicycle facilities. Look at other cities that have done similar things on streets with SIMILAR AUTO VOLUMES. It works.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2010 at 3:08 pm

I did drive Castro Street in Mountain View the other day, something I try not to do. I love it as a pedestrian, but hate it as a driver.

To drive its complete length you have to be alert to know whether you need to take the right lane or left lane each time the lanes increase to two. This is not something you should have to do when driving straight along a busy street.

You also have to be careful at each light as sometimes there are arrows and sometimes there aren't.

You also have to watch for pedestrians stepping out when they shouldn't and cars backing out from parking spots.

Because of having to cross the tracks it can be hard to avoid driving on Castro Street. It is now a wonderful street for dining and walking, but not for driving. It is fine the way it is because it is reasonably easy to avoid driving on. Cal Ave is ideal for doing the same thing to - even more so because it is not a through street across Caltrain. Not so Arastradero or even ECR. These streets should be moving traffic efficiently not holding them up.

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Posted by rhody
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 18, 2010 at 5:03 pm

I drive Arastradero all the time. Not only is the changing of lanes hazardous for drivers, the backed up traffic is hazardous for the FEW pedestrians and bicyclists I see. The kids on bicycles are smart enough to get OFF Arastradero right away and go through 'little' streets like mine, which is fine with me. THAT's the neighborhood, not Arastradero which should be funnelling cars out of the area quickly and efficiently.

20-30 years ago when clean air was the priority you would have been strung up for deliberately creating so much pollution. Those kids on bikes are deep breathing all the poisons those bumper-to-bumper cars are creating.

The powers that be don't seem to understand that with a community that is also aging, quite a few of us will never be able to walk or cycle to the mailbox, no less stores.
As someone above said -- check REALITY. And measure the air quality.

Like this comment
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2010 at 5:23 pm

Perhaps Palo Alto, in its exclusivity, should do what SF is considering: charge a toll to enter the city.

S.F. may hit drivers with variety of tolls: Web Link

That would reduce traffic by keeping out those pesky non-residents who want to work and shop in Palo Alto.

While all this “traffic calming” is being planned, let’s not forget that the city has a $500M infrastructure backlog.

An 18-member (!) Infrastructure Blue Ribbon Committee has recently been appointed. Their task: To generate an accurate accounting of our infrastructure needs beginning with, but not limited too, the $500M. Next, generate a recommendation on how to finance this vetted list.A bond would be one option, but not the only one. The Committee is to report back to the council at the end of 2011.

How easy do you think it’s going to be to find $500M, given the city budget? Would you vote for a bond to repair streets, sidewalks, buildings? Seems to me that’s what our taxes were meant to pay for.

While we can’t pay to maintain the infrastructure we’ve got, even more money is being spent on traffic calming projects.

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Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of another community
on Nov 18, 2010 at 5:40 pm

My years of observation told me that the City Council is increasingly controlled by the Palo Alto upper class. Traffic Calming is a disguise. The real purpose is to make the city more comfortable for the upper echelon and super rich, at the expense of the middle and lower class citizens.

They don't care about the daily inconveniences of busy working parents. They don't care about the people driving from Mountain View to Redwood City. They simply want to make everything less accessible for the mass so they can enjoy their "quality of life".

What's next? Maybe City of Mountain View should set up a toll booth on El Camino x San Antonio? Or 101 at Shoreline exit?

What kind of country are we living in?

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Posted by Bike Commuters
a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 18, 2010 at 5:59 pm

We like the fact that it is faster to bike in Palo Alto than drive.

We stocked up on good rain gear and bike lights and ride past the grumpy drivers with a smile on our faces.

Get out of your cars are try bike commuting for a month and see if you really want to go back to sitting in traffic!

Bike commuting is good for body and soul.

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Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2010 at 6:49 pm

The total number of auto trips through Palo Alto in a given day is probably not influenced by these "traffic calming" measures, but efficiency is likely impacted. Clogging up traffic increases local air pollution, wastes the time of commuters, and may have unintended safety implications.

Perhaps lost time and air pollution could be a reasonable consequence of some other worthy goal, but I doubt Rodriguez & Co. ever calculate or consider such tings.

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Posted by Hildegard von Stein
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 18, 2010 at 6:53 pm

AS I am sure you know, Pat, the work of this Blue Ribbon panel is so important that they have not yet met even once!!! They cannot agree on a time!!!
Anyway, there, for a long time, has been a very vocal and well-connected minority whose soul purpose is to complain about traffic. they have the ear of the council, mainly because they are loud and vocal. In fact at least one of these people has been on the council for 8 years. They constantly whine about traffic, while claiming that we need to encourage walking and biking. They are disconnected from reality and ignore the facts of life in Palo Alto--the fact that many working class families depend on cars to get around. they ignore the fact that shopping in the city is poor and that major shopping centers have been allowed to fall into disuse (again any attempt to revilatlize them has been stymied by the "whining about traffic" crowd.
now it looks like they have managed a transportation person in place who will be there puppet. Unfortunatley the needs of the majoirty in the city will be ignored in order to placate this insufferable minority.
Too bad.

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Posted by iphonegrrrl
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 18, 2010 at 8:03 pm

I don't even own a car, but have 3 bikes! I moved to Palo Alto expressly because it's bikeable/walkable. PA is great for "undrivers" like myself - we happen to be young, entrepreneurial, affluent, and future-oriented, exactly the folks PA needs.

Denmark is the future, and that's the kind of infrastructure we should aim for: true separated bike lanes, bike stop lights, no right turn on red for cars. Nothing's more ridiculous than to see these fat old jerks climb outta their stupid Porsches in the Whole Foods parking lot! Driving your Italian sports car to Whole Foods is the height of douchebaggery.

Build the appropriate infrastructure and give ever car-less household a tax break. Boom - the problem will solve itself.

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Posted by Palo Parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 18, 2010 at 8:27 pm

iphonegrrrl: Every time you say "Boom", John Madden earns a five cent royalty.

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Posted by European
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2010 at 8:58 pm

I think people in Denmark would chuckle at being called the future. Its culture of public transportation and bicycling goes way back to before cars were common. I grew up in a neighboring country and all through school and university I was always able to walk or bike without having to share or even cross a single street. We never had a "snow day" since we didn't depend on cars in the city or suburbs.

What a street like Arastradero still needs is even less infringement on the bicycle lanes. Make just one, wide, two-way bike lane, separated from the cars by a curb or low barrier. This would still leave room for cars and allow most traffic to flow as now.

I definitely do not feel safe walking or biking in Palo Alto.

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Posted by BC
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 18, 2010 at 9:44 pm

Charleston - a heavy school transit corridor - is significantly easier to drive and safer to bike ride in its current configuration. The only problems are created by obnoxious drivers who stop in the right lane, blocking red-light right-turns at intersections.

I have no respect for people more concerned with speeding to work than protecting our kids. Too bad if you go slow - get used to it, it will only get worse - that is high density reality.

If you want to drive faster move to Turlock.

Like this comment
Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 18, 2010 at 10:36 pm

This isn't a high density area. This is a suburb. Give me a break.

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Posted by Anonoymous
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 19, 2010 at 6:34 am

Its funny I got an e-mail from Mr. Rodriguez after I included the city counsel, I was ignored prior to this. We still have dangerous situations with traffic blocking the road at El Camino and Arastadero every school day morning. No one cares that there are more accidents not the city officicals, not the people on the bicycle committee. Everyones agenda is more important then the safety of everyone at large. I get told its a different committees problem but they are working with them. They go about doing projects patting themselves on the back. There are no police at any intersection to help with the problem. There is no one going to fix this problem. I watched yesterday as three moving trucks made a left from EL Camino onto Arastadero, it was green when they went, but traffic did not move forward. People making a left onto El Camino had to carefully go around these moving trucks. There have been days when I had to sit through at least two, sometimes three lights before I could safely turn. No one at City Hall and No City Engineer Care about people's safety, they care about there projects and how go they look going before comittees. My guess is someone will care when a major accident is unavoidable and some dies. That is how it works in Palo Alto, no one cares until someone gets hurt. Then everyone tells you how concerned they are. So get use to the traffic isn't going to change because these employees have the approval of the City Counsel, the Mayor and the backing of some bike comittee who's only real concern is how much control they have.

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Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2010 at 8:10 am

I applaud the city for trying this out. It will take a little while for everything to settle out and we can see what we have. In the meantime, if you can, avoid the area. Also, for those not aware, Gunn has a major construction project going, and that would have impacted traffic anyway. Please encourage Gunn students to walk/ride bicycles whenever possible this year.

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Posted by David
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2010 at 8:36 am

Traffic calming only achives a perception of slowing traffic. With all the improvements along Arastradero Rd, I followed a 'grey haired lady' on Thursday in a new caddy driving like a mad woman from San Antonio all the way past Page Mill Rd. She was weaving in and through traffic, cutting off other drivers, not fully stopping a stop signs and other infractions. All the other motorist were doing a reasonable job a keeping speeds down, but she would not have anything to do with it.

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Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of another community
on Nov 19, 2010 at 10:04 am

I agree with David that Traffic calming only creates the perception of slower traffic. It does not reduce the number of car trips, or the mileages driven, by Palo Altans in any significant way. It in fact greatly reduce the effective vehicle MPG and leads to much more green house gas and pollution. It is anti-environment.

Palo Alto School District has just achieved a milestone in terms of the huge number of student enrollments. Many of the students have to go to overflow schools, which means longer drives.

To these parents Traffic Calming is yet another inconvenience. The kids have to get up earlier. Over the weekend the parents have less rest time in between soccer games and dance classes. It is just adding more stress to the them.

To iphonegrrrl, what you said is the modern day equivalent of Marie Antoinette's famous sentence: "Let Them Eat The Cake".

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Posted by PAUSD Mom
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2010 at 11:30 am

PAUSD school children are walking and biking to school in increasing numbers each year. From 2001-2010 the percentage of students bicycling to Paly has grown from 11% to 40%. In the same period, the percentage of bicycling school commuters at Gunn has grown from 14% to 36%. That represents 671 (Gunn) and 741 (Paly) bicyclists this year who might have been driving to school. Imagine what the streets approaching our high schools would be like during the morning peak hour if all those kids opted for cars! The trend toward alternative modes of transportation for school commutes doesn't appear to be abating. Numbers are growing at the middle schools, too. This year more than half of Jordan students biked to school. These students are bicycling in increasing numbers because routes are increasingly safer as the city, school district, and PTA collaborate to improve street and campus conditions with each passing year.

Further, the numbers of students who walk and ride local transit to school are also increasing. Our kids are modeling transportation choices that are good for the planet and reduce auto congestion in our community. Good for them! These young people deserve our support. Maybe we could learn from them.

It is all about finding the right balance for ALL road users: motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians, and public transit riders. We want a community transportation system that is safe and efficient for all of our residents--including those who don't have a driver's license. A surprisingly large (and increasing)percentage of our population falls into that category--students who are too young to drive, elders who have had to stop driving, disabled folks who cannot drive. We need a community transportation system that serves us all as well as possible.

I am grateful that our city is doing the kind of forward thinking that will create a community that works for all modes of transportation. I did not get the impression from the meeting that the concerns and needs of motorists were being discounted. The city recognizes the need for efficient operations for motorists. However, it is nice to see other users' needs being considered in the planning process as well.

P.S.--In fact, the city does look at delays and related GHG emissions. I have seen that data.

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Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 19, 2010 at 2:24 pm

PA is trying to become boulder West every day! Boulder is PROUD of their ANTI-CAR attitude; their traffic enforcement shows the obvious bias. Whenever there is a bicycle-car collision it is automatically the car drivers fault...even if the cyclist is wearing black at night with no lights and just blew off his red light to create the " accident " in the first place....

The rest of CO just point to the antics of the weirdos at Boulder City Hall and say " only in Boulder ". The tree-huggers did such a good propaganda job that Boulder almost got burned to the ground TWICE this year...We can only hope that the third time is the charm.

Boulder IS the place to go to see the effects of ELITISM and traffic calming. I recommend the on-line visits to see what future PA wants to have.

The rest of the state ( including the Denver BICYCLE COPS ) is much more even handed when dealing with bicycle lawbreakers. The same needs to apply to the SFBA cops; that is an untapped MAJOR source of revenue...BIKES are BANNED on some roads and trails; their riders' obnoxious behavior caused it.

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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2010 at 4:04 pm

“Get out of your cars are try bike commuting for a month and see if you really want to go back to sitting in traffic! Bike commuting is good for body and soul.”

How about if one’s body doesn’t allow one to ride a bike? Why do so many cyclists adopt this holier-than-thou attitude?

>”PA is great for ‘undrivers’ like myself - we happen to be young, entrepreneurial, affluent, and future-oriented, exactly the folks PA needs.”

You forgot “smug.” Let’s see how smug you’ll be when you’re too old or infirm to ride a bike.

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Posted by Joseph Kott
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2010 at 12:58 am

I'm here in The Hague having given a paper at a conference called Walk21, a meeting focused on active transportation. The amount of utilitarian cycling by people of all ages here has to be seen to be believed. I would estimate that 40% of the people (and people of all ages and in all weather!) who circulate around the center portion of The Hague do so on bicycle, 45% primarily on foot or by tram and only 15% by car.

To achieve this, The Hague (and many other Dutch cities too) have invested large sums of money in safe, convenient circulation systems for cyclists and pedestrians and in a robust public transit system based on trams, instead of even larger sums of money for larger road networks. The result is a walkable, bikeable, livable city. What's needed to do this? Vision. Courage. Perserverance. And slowing down car speeds through traffic calming measures to make walking and cycling safer.

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Posted by maguro_01
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 20, 2010 at 5:45 am

El Camino isn't really a local street and has a route number. Palo Alto doesn't exist in isolation. Control of El Camino apparently needs to be at a higher level of government. In actually attacking through drivers Palo Alto is demonstrating the need for a metro level government on the peninsula. Perhaps East Palo Alto, Los Altos, and Mountain View should gate or charge tolls on streets into Palo Alto?

The best "traffic calming" devices here are higher fuel prices and transit.

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Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2010 at 8:02 am

Per wikipedia:

Hague: population density 15265.4/sq mi
Palo Alto: 2475.3/sq mi

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Posted by James Hoosac
a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2010 at 9:01 am

A walkable/bikeable environment has the following characteristics:

1. High density. People live very close to each other.

2. Neighborhood shops and services. High density zoning inevitably means neighborhood shops and services, such as groceries, post offices, and coffee shops.

3. Very safe streets. People don't need to worry about crimes.

4. Robust public transportation network.

Does Palo Alto have, or plan to have all of these traits? Will Palo Alto promote high density as much as 6 times the current level? Will the City Council encourage zoning for neighborhood stores? Can we say no purse will be snapped, no child will be hurt, when a person walk/bike on the streets all by him/herself? Do we have any European style alleys where bike is the only practical way to go through, without worrying about crimes happening or homeless folks hiding over there? Or do we have any plan for a robust public transit system?

No. None of these are going to happen.

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Posted by Commander McBragg
a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2010 at 9:05 am

It's social engineering. People would rather drive, so they have to be forced into riding a bike. Bicycles are never going to be the foundation of our transportation system. Horses would be more practical.

When I rode a bike, I never had any problem getting around Palo Alto. The worst thing is the railroad tracks, because there are only a few places to get across. I didn't use El Camino and didn't need to.

El Camino Real is not an expressway.

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Posted by Too Much Traffic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2010 at 10:38 am

Very well put Mr. Hoosac. It is clear that Palo alto is not interested in the real solutions that will promote walking/biking. They are always against high density housing and they are against neighborhood shopping and services--otherwise Alma Plaza and edgewood Plaza would be bustling shopping centers. For years we have been paying lip service to the concept of walkable neighborhoods--as usual with our leaders it is all talk and no action.
Joe Kott also does not understand the issue of density that you pointed out--anyway he was behind the failed plan to narrow Middlefield to 2 lanes to appease the "everyone should bike/walk and cars are evil" crowd.

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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2010 at 11:55 am

Joe also forgets to mention the cost of gas in Europe. Drivers in some European cities, like Amsterdam and Oslo, are paying nearly 3 times more than those in the U.S. Web Link

Sales taxes are higher, too, making cars more expensive. VAT in England is 20%.

Americans don't want to go to several little shops every day to buy food. They want to go to the Costcos and Super Safeways to stock up for the week. That requires a car.

It's happening in Europe, too. In Sienna, outside the old walled city, is a huge Walmart-style store. Full parking lot. In Florence, locals told us the little mom & pop stores are suffering because of huge shopping centers outside the city.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2010 at 12:18 pm

We are pretty good at riding bikes around Palo Alto. The real problem is that bikes are not separated from cars or pedestrians on specialized bikeways, they do not have special traffic flows, traffic lights or any type of protection from motorized traffic.

A real bike path would be a two lane path separated by a barrier at the side of a street with its own traffic lights and treated as a non pedestrian pathway, which would have its own bridges or tunnels over streets such as El Camino and Caltrain. This would happen in European cities, but no one in Palo Alto has the gumption to do anything as innovative as this. True it would cost money but then so does putting up traffic calming features and taking them down a couple of years later - something that is being done all the time in Palo Alto.

What is done here would be laughed at as a joke in Europe.

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Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 20, 2010 at 12:21 pm

In sienna, driving inside the old walled city is virtually forbidden, with the exception of delivery and emergency vehicles. A hybrid of Sienna and the Hague would be great in Palo Alto. Trams and free shuttles would carry people from parking lots on the outskirts to many points in town. Residents may use their cars to get to and from freeways but not drive around town, with the exception of special needs people. We must make the move away from an auto society sooner rather than later. Fossil fuel is finite and the pollution it is causing is not sustainable anymore.

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Posted by Anne
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 21, 2010 at 11:10 am

As usual, the city planners have it backwards. First, get the infrastrucure in place that would support more biking/walking: neighborhood stores ( Alma Plaza??? The shopping area at Embarcadero and Channing???), create, not subtract, mass transit, and realize that cars serve a necessary purpose and cannot be entirely eliminated. Denmark and other European countries grew up with thse features in place, and then came the bicycles and cars, and the cars weren't practical in parts of the inner/ older cities.

Our suburbs exist Because of the car, rightly or wrongly, and we have to cover longer distances. We can reduce use of our cars, but there will always be a need for them.

Perhaps the most frustrating part of this is that once again, the city planners have no regard for the people who actually have to function here. How many of them live IN Palo Alto?

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 21, 2010 at 11:38 am

I strongly oppose the so-called traffic calming measure of reducing lanes, like on Arastradero/Charleston. We need two lanes, each direction, the full length of this thoroughfare.
I strongly oppose cutting out a lane each way on California Ave. FYI to merchants there, I am a PA resident and I will avoid your street if this goes through.
While I like the "look" of Castro St. in Mt. View nowadays, it is correct as someone posted it is a worry driving down that street for various reasons. It's sort of like an obstacle course.Drivers are uncertain how to turn at some of the intersections and a lot of attention must be paid to the odd lane narrowings/widenings.
It is nice to encourage bicycling, however let's do this in a positive fashion; this is a California suburb with a certain transportation infrastructure, regional travel, so intentionally blocking auto travel and/or leading to unnecessary delays (as on Charleston/Arastradero) is RIDICULOUS and poor governmental policy.
For walkability...once again...CPA and certain neighbors, please permit action on the long overdue Edgewood Plaza.

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Posted by PAUSD Mom
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 21, 2010 at 12:29 pm

On the other hand, I (a resident who uses the Charleston/Arastradero corridor daily on foot, on bike and in the car for errands, work, and getting my kids to school) fully support the plan. I think it needs some adjustment (as staff said up front that it would) during the trial to smooth out lane transitions and maximize intersection efficiency for motorists. They are working on that.

What I love about the plan is that drivers who used to race down the two lanes doing uncontrolled turns and passing movements are now more controlled. It will be interesting to see the crash stats when they do the trial evaluation. If the lane changes bring down the high crash rate, I think it is worth some delay. The road serves a lot of school children. Anyone who lives south of the road has to cross it or travel along it to school their entire academic life in Palo Alto. They have no other choice. They deserve a safe route to school. Further, the road will be safer for motorists, too.

Thanks, Palo Alto, for trying to make this road safer. Let's wait and see the final results of the trial and the adjustments which staff said would be installed in the next month before we judge it. Given the previous crash rates, I think this is a very worthwhile trial.

Comparing this street Cal Ave, however, is ridiculous. Cal Ave. carries a small fraction of the auto volume. Lane reduction could easily be done there without delays. Do your homework.

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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 21, 2010 at 5:50 pm

> “A hybrid of Sienna and the Hague would be great in Palo Alto.”
Palo Alto is neither Sienna nor the Hague nor a hybrid.

Anne has it right: “Denmark and other European countries grew up with thse features in place, and then came the bicycles and cars, and the cars weren't practical in parts of the inner/ older cities.”

> “Fossil fuel is finite..”

How about electric cars?

> “It will be interesting to see the crash stats when they do the trial evaluation. If the lane changes bring down the high crash rate, I think it is worth some delay.”

In the 5-year period between 01/01/2004 - 12/31/2008, 27 accidents were reported in the Charleston-Arastradero corridor:

- 3 involved pedestrians/cars. One of these was a pedestrian violation. One cause was not stated.

- 2 involved bicycles/cars. Both collision types were “wrong side of road,” though the report doesn’t state who was on the wrong side. One of those was in a construction zone.

- 3 involved bicycles and something else not stated. 1 violation category was “Auto right-of-way,” whatever that means, and resulted in property damage only.

- The rest were cars/cars. 14 were caused by “unsafe speed,” 2 were “wrong side of the road,” 1 was “improper turning.”

- Only one accident (one car rear-ended another) resulted in “severe injury.”

So, about half the accidents were caused by speeding.

The “Severity” category shows
- 1 “severe injury”
- 2 “other visible injury”
- 9 “complaint of pain”
- 14 “property damage only”

While any accident is one too many, were these 27 accidents over 5 years on a busy street enough to restructure a major artery?

How can we compare one year of a trial reconfiguration to 5 years of 27 accidents?

(And, shouldn't we have better accident reporting?)

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Posted by Resident 0.1
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 22, 2010 at 12:20 pm

I have been driving on the East Charleston/Arastradero school commute corridor daily for many years and approve the new road configuration. Driving and biking (and walking) are safer now. I understand this new configuration is not perfect, but it is much much better because it does slow traffic. People speaking against traffic calming do not mention the recent over-building in Palo Alto. The over-building is the elephant in the room, further degrading our already degraded environment.

No economy is possible in the absence of ecosystem services. The economy is a subsystem of a larger finite system, the biosphere, hence permanent growth is impossible. And the fundamental value to sustain a new economy should be that no economic interest, under no circumstance, can be above life-sustaining ecosystems.

First we need to confront the big lie that population in the Bay Area has to grow in order for residents to prosper. ABAG is supporting failed policy. I've lived in the Bay Area for 60 years and have watched the growth. Where is the prosperity? In the hands of a few.

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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 22, 2010 at 1:06 pm

> “The over-building is the elephant in the room…”

And the biggest elephant is over-population. But it's too sacrosanct a topic for anyone to talk about.

As to prosperity in the hands of a few, that’s a world-wide phenomenon.

Between 2002 and 2007, the bottom 99 percent of US incomes grew 1.3 percent a year in real terms, while the incomes of the top 1 percent grew 10 percent a year. During these years, the top 1 percent accounted for two-thirds of all income growth.

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Posted by stanhutchings
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 26, 2010 at 9:48 pm

As a biker, I beg NO MORE DIAGONAL PARKING, especially on California Ave. Those monster SUVs and trucks block the view of approaching traffic, including bicycles. Cyclists would have to veer out into traffic to avoid a vehicle backing up, which could not see them until they are more than half way out. There is no way to get out of a diagonal safely, unless someone watches your back and guides you out. At least with parallel parking a driver can check the mirror and see things coming before pulling out (even so, many cyclists still get "doored").

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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