Palo Alto extends Arastradero re-striping trial

Busy road will retain three-lane configuration at least until June

Palo Alto's most divisive traffic-calming project will be in place at least until next summer, the City Council decided Monday night. The council extended the Arastradero Road lane-reduction experiment until next June.

The council voted 7-0, with Greg Scharff and Gail Price absent, to follow the recommendations from staff and the Planning and Transportation Commission in continuing the trial period. Much like the commission, the council took its vote after hearing from more than a dozen members of the public, with the majority advocating keeping the new configuration in place.

The city redesigned a busy stretch of Arastradero Road, between El Camino Real and Gunn High School, last August to make the street safer for pedestrians and bicyclists and to provide drivers with new signals and left-turn lanes. The most significant component of the trial is a reduction of lanes from four to three, with left-turn lanes in each direction. The project also includes an expanded crosswalk at Clemo Avenue and a new traffic signal with a left-turn arrow on Coulombe Drive.

Most speakers said the project that the project made the street safer for bicyclists, particularly for students who rely on Arastradero. Nina Bell, who lives in the neighborhood near Terman Middle School, acknowledged that there is no way to satisfy everyone but said the safety of students should take precedence. The project, she said, succeeded in slowing down drivers.

"I feel so much safer on the road with the current configuration," Bell said. "The four-lane speedway that it used to be was a terror."

Others were more skeptical. Doug Moran argued that the new configuration frustrates drivers and prompts them to use other streets, endangering children in those areas. He said city officials have simply ignored input from many members of the public who have expressed frustration with the new road configuration.

"When you simply slow down traffic, you produce displacement that causes an increase in traffic on streets that are more sensitive to this increase in traffic and a decrease in safety overall," Moran said.

But the council, like the commission, agreed that the three-lane design should remain in place for now. This is partly because some aspects of the project remain untested. The traffic signal at Coulombe was only installed last month. Staff also expects road conditions to improve when Gunn High School delays its opening bell from 7:55 a.m. to 8:25 a.m. -- a move that will stagger the starting times at the various schools along Arastradero.

The council acknowledged that the project is not without flaws. Mayor Sid Espinosa said the Arastradero Road experiment remains a work in progress and should continue.

"This trial hasn't been perfect, and we're only part way there," Espinosa said. "But we made course corrections along the way, and we'll continue to make those."

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Like this comment
Posted by L LaForge
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 2, 2011 at 9:50 am

The studies underlying the proposal is seriously flawed. The city did not study the impacts on the intersection of Arastradero and El Camino (Caltrans controls that intersection, the city of Palo Alto does not) nor give sufficient attention to the impact of the project on the nearby side streets. While the city may have made parts of Arastradero safer, it has done so at the expense of the intersection of El Camino and Arastradero which is a congested mess during work/school commute times. Drivers heading west on Arastradero clog the intersection with El Camino, preventing southbound drivers from moving. Stopped cars taking a right turn from El Camino on to Arastradero clog the pedestrian walkways and entrance to the bike lane. How exactly is that safer for anyone? Drivers hoping to avoid the mess take to the side streets at speeds they used to drive on Arastradero. There has been an increase in road rage and close calls between cars in the area.

The project isn't working, and a delayed start time at Gunn HS is not going to fix it. If the traffic speed laws need enforcing, enforce them, don't incent frustrated people sitting in stop and go traffic to make bad choices.

Like this comment
Posted by Cloudy Sky
a resident of another community
on Aug 2, 2011 at 10:13 am

pat? Diana? Time for each of you to weigh in with all the dark clouds hovering over this issue.

Why is it bad? What are the problems? Why is this an outrage?

Come on, I know that each of you can do it!

Like this comment
Posted by safety first
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 2, 2011 at 10:14 am

Safety first! Speeders can use Page Mill Expressway instead.

Like this comment
Posted by movie
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 2, 2011 at 10:23 am

page mill road is also like a sit-still driving-in movie threater.

Like this comment
Posted by PA Resident
a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 2, 2011 at 10:28 am

All studies are flawed. The facts here are that the City has spent over $1.5 Million repaving and re-striping the Charleston/Arastradero Road and they're not going to waste all that money and another $1.0 Million more to change it back. You're kidding yourselves if you think they are going to change their minds. It's a done deal!!

Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 2, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Re "Safety First":
For those new to this topic, "speeding" means going 15 mph during the times in question, and there are times that drivers can only dream of getting up to 10 mph. There are periods when there are speeds of 50mph, but the focus of this project has been on the periods when there is substantial congestion. Be aware that this project did NOT create the congestion during the peak periods -- it was already there.

Like this comment
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2011 at 2:46 pm

The City's Transportation Engineering people did not provide very much in the way of documents to prove that their goals are being met. They never provided any data about traffic accidents--allowing a relatively small number of people to create a certain amount of hysteria about traffic on the Charleston/Arastradero corridor.

I decided to do a study of traffic accidents on the C/A Corridor, using data from 1995-2009 as a basis of study. I've posted this link before, but will do so again ..

Web Link

This is a work in progress, and I will have at least one more "release". I have also been making short videos that I have posted on Youtube. The videos are shot from the point-of-view of a pedestrian, watching both motorists, and cyclists using/abusing the roads.

It's a shame that this project ever got started. It's a massive waste of money, with almost nothing to show for the money in terms of "deliverables"--like proof of increased "safety".

Like this comment
Posted by Too much traffic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2011 at 2:54 pm

"It's a massive waste of money, with almost nothing to show for the money in terms of "deliverables"--like proof of increased "safety"."

No surprise there--when has the council been concerned about possibly wasting money.
This project is the expected results of a number of factors:

1) the "too much traffic" hysteria that has been fanned in past years by certain incompetent former city council members

2) the "green at all costs/climate change" mentality fanned by other incompetent city council members

3) the "cars are evil" mentality that has been pushed by the powerful pro-biking lobby in the city (who BTW, seem to feel that there is no excise for driving, period)

Let's face it Arastedero is a major city artery. You cannot squeeze the number of lanes down and expect traffic to just disappear. People buy houses on these streets and then complain about the traffic (another example is the efforts to "fix" traffic on Embaracdero Road by the above mentioned former council member).
Of course throwing around the word "safety" always sounds good. But as Wayne and Doug have pointed out--there is no proof for this yet.
Anyway, it is clear that Mr Rodriguez was brought on board with one purpose only--to further the agenda of the Ellen Fletchers in the city, without any regard to traffic flow or the fact that the population of PA doubles during the work day.

Like this comment
Posted by Coudy Sky
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2011 at 3:01 pm

Great that Wayne Martin is weighing in since his patented gloomy recipes are at least seeded with some data, if only of his own cooking. pat? Diana? Please add some negative perspectives!

Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 2, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

I am quoted in this article. If you want to see my email submission to Council on which my brief oral comments were based, it is at Web Link

A persistent problem with the Palo Alto Process was again on display with multiple Council members praising staff for the public outreach effort, despite it being one where many residents were walking out of meetings feeling that their concerns had been ignored and would continue to be ignored--"The fix is in" was a common comment. I tend to hear lots of such comments because I tend to station myself near the door at the back of the room so that people can ask me for clarifications or background before asking their question to the full meeting. As a side-effect, I also get comments from people leaving the meetings.

Like this comment
Posted by Too much traffic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2011 at 3:25 pm

""The fix is in" was a common comment."
Of course the fix is in--the transportation director and the council have already decided the outcome--they are just playing games now saying there are more trials to come and the jury is still out. As PA resident has stated, they have already spent $1.5 million on this.

Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 2, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Just terrible. Isn't there a point at which you just admit it has been a failure and then you retool? This is very poor leadership. When do we get to vote on these positions?

Like this comment
Posted by Richard
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 2, 2011 at 6:47 pm

Observer - you got your chance to vote on this at the last City Council election.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 3, 2011 at 4:56 am

I use Arastradero regularly to get to and from work and at miscellaneous other times, and am generally happy with the re-striping. I think the street was too fast, before.

More of a frustration to me is the congestion that sometimes develops on West Charleston at Alma going East(exacerbated by trains and what feels like a slow light) in the evening.

Like this comment
Posted by Oh Pleazzzzz
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 3, 2011 at 9:49 am

By Gosh Ms. Molly! Isn't it interesting that City Council is discussing this during the middle of Summer when many residents are out of town, Gunn is not in session, many workers in the area are on vacation, and there are many vacancies along ECR and in the Industrial Park. When the people return and Gunn is back in session AGAIN, Arastradero Rd will again turn in to a nightmare when most of us us it to travel to and from work and take our children to schools in the area. This "TRIAL" has screwed up many area streets. Time to get rid of more of the special interested fat headed egos in City Hall and on our council. This is not leadership.

Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 4, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Richard, Uh, my point was that this will influence my vote in the future now that I see them ignore the best interests and feedback of the community and blindly forge ahead with a bad plan. I don't ever recall having voted for anyone who promised to do that.

Like this comment
Posted by Mom
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 4, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Fat headed egos? Wow. Let's not get personal.

I am a person who lives near Charleston Arastradero and uses the road daily in my car, on my bike,on foot. So do my kids, mostly for their school commutes.

I disagree that it is worse...Although I have to admit something is going on at the Alma and El Camino signals that is new. This is a trial. The trial extension gives the city more time to address concerns, and measure results. City staff made a LOT of changes in response to public comment although, practically speaking, they can't make the road work perfectly for every individual with a complaint. They are doing the best they can to meet a majority of diverse wants and needs...and many of these wants and needs are in conflict.

In the 16 years I lived here, Arastradero has never worked well. It has always been gridlocked in the morning peak hour. That is NOT new. There was always speeding during the afternoon school commute time and throughout the day. The highest speeds (speed causes higher incidence of catastrophic injuries and fatality, especially on school routes where there are many children whose bodies have less mass and therefore are more vulnerable. That is WHY they post school routes at 25mph.

While it is an arterial, it is also a heavily traveled school commute route. Let's try to share the road safely with our school commuting kids. Please drive the posted 25 mph on school routes. If the majority of drivers had been observing this law to begin with, the trial would have been unnecessary...but they didn't.

Like this comment
Posted by Some "Pilot"
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 4, 2011 at 11:14 pm

Let's stop pretending that this is a pilot and just admit that the deal is done and we are stuck with this big waste of money. And stop pouring any more precious money and time into this disaster trying to make it work. I very much doubt the city is going to admit it has made any mistake here and that it will spend millions to undo what it spent millions making in the first place. Why throw more good money after bad?

Like this comment
Posted by Smooth Safe Drive
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 5, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Three Cheers for the City of Palo Alto!!!

The re-configure project is a total success.

I drive, walk and ride my bike in this area regularly. The new scheme does an outstanding job of balancing the needs of autos, bicyclist and pedestrians.

It is true, you can not drive as quickly as before the reconfiguration...but there are two elementary, one middle and one high school on this road. We should not be driving at 50 mph. The street must be shared with the bicyclists and pedestrians. To do this safely, the speeds must slow and the crossing and turning traffic must be well thought out. The City's current configuration does a beautiful job of accomplishing this.

Before the road was dropped from 4 to 2 lanes, you would stop traffic trying to make a left turn. The inclusion of the suicide lane for left and merging traffic solves this perfectly.

Look - we all need to share the road safely. That means making some concessions to the bicycle and pedestrian uses. In the end we all will win.

Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 5, 2011 at 4:03 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: "Smooth Safe Drive"

Only a blind ideologue or a shill could call this trial "a total success", "outstanding" and say it "solves this perfectly". It is this sort of arrogance that makes it so hard to get a workable solution because major stakeholders become convinced that they will not be listened to, and thus rather than waste time on futile attempts to be part of the solution, they decide that the only reasonable course is opposition.

Alternatively, "Smooth Safe Drive" might actually be an opponent of the trial who is intentionally taking a polarizing position to create additional opposition.

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

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