Palo Alto seeks feedback on new traffic-reduction nonprofit

City invites residents to Jan. 29 community meeting on Transportation Management Association

Palo Alto's bid to create a nonprofit that would manage downtown's traffic-reduction programs will be the focus of a community meeting at City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave., next week.

The Transportation Management Association (TMA) will be charged with developing, marketing and administrating programs that offer incentives for drivers to switch to other modes of transportation. The new association would be funded by downtown businesses and will aim to reduce the number of commuters who drive solo by 30 percent by 2018.

The City Council has consistently supported creating a TMA, which council members see as one of many solutions to the problems of too much traffic and not enough parking.

In September 2013, council members Nancy Shepherd, Liz Kniss and Gail Price penned a colleagues memo suggesting that Palo Alto pursue such an association. They cited successful traffic-reduction programs at Stanford University and at the Contra Costa Transit Center, each of which provide incentives for commuters to take public transportation, carpool and bike to work or school.

The council voted to launch the association last February and in August, it approved a three-year $500,000 contract with the consulting firm Moore Iacofano Goltsman to kick-start the effort. The company has since been reaching out to area businesses to gauge their interest in participating in the new association and serving on its steering committee.

In a statement, the city's Planning Director Hillary Gitelman said the TMA "will be the central organization to coordinate and promote transit options and solutions to reduce solo driving into our City's downtown.

"We know that TMAs have been very successful in other jurisdictions when it comes to reducing traffic and we are looking forward to replicating that in Palo Alto," Gitelman said.

The new association is one of many initiatives that the city is now pursuing when it comes to downtown parking and traffic. In the next few months, the city is preparing to begin its Residential Parking Permit Program, which will require permits for parking in downtown's residential neighborhoods for more than two hours. The city is also looking at expanding its free shuttle service, creating a satellite parking lot on Embarcadero Road and building a new downtown garage.

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12 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 19, 2015 at 6:58 pm

It is absurd for city government to manage this situation. It would be easier cheaper and more sensible for the business community to solve the problem in a way that is efficient for their own workers.

Enough pretty talk from city leaders and staff, let's just solve the problem in a practical way for all; just follow our zoning laws about numbers of employees etc… and not allow the demands of special interests/developers to pack to many workers in our commercial buildings!!!!

18 people like this
Posted by Gridlock's already up 65%
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 19, 2015 at 7:10 pm

Maybe the city can save the $500,000 consulting fees and realize that residents, shoppers and non-commuters are avoiding downtown at all costs, especially during the work week.

There's your traffic reduction right there! You can wire the consulting fees to my Swiss bank account.

Traffic Reduction #2) Maybe the city can STOP approving big under-parked buildings, too.

Traffic Reduction #3) Maybe Mr. Rodriquez -- our Bike King -- can require all the commuters to bike to work from the East Bay, etc. since he only cares about bike traffic and is too busy to fix traffic lights.

Studies from 2009-2013 show gridlock is up 65% in that period. How much is it up 2 years later?

Traffic Reduction #4) Avoid downtown & Cal Ave restaurants. When friends from out of town meet for lunch, our main criterion is not how good the restaurant is but whether we can avoid spending an hour looking for parking! So we religiously avoid Downtown and Cal Ave. Pathetic!

But quick, let's do some more studies and spend more money to tell us what we already know!

12 people like this
Posted by JS
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 19, 2015 at 8:44 pm

This is one of the most ridiculous ideas the City of Palo Alto has ever come up with.

6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 19, 2015 at 8:59 pm

It is nothing about traffic reduction.

It should be traffic management. It should be managing the traffic efficiently. It should be getting the traffic to where it needs to go efficiently. It is about getting traffic parked close to where it needs to be efficiently, quickly and simply. We need signs showing where parking is available before it enters a garage. We need to know where the empty spaces are. We need to know which garages have spaces before we get into downtown. We need to be able to pay to park for half a day at every garage and every lot. We need pay per hour machines at all garages and lots. We need high tech apps to find where to park and we need high tech signs to show where to park and were to pay.

Get rid of all the color zones. Make parking simpler, easier to find and easier to pay.

15 people like this
Posted by No thanks
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 19, 2015 at 11:21 pm

Mr Keene keeps hiring more and more people-- managers, to enhance his empire. His greed and ambition were very apparent at the installation of new council members ceremony on January 5. He preempted the opening agenda and droned on, praising himself, for almost an HOUR. Unbelievable. Nancy Shepherd let him go on and on and on.

The audience came to celebrate the new council and left as soon as they could. Just a few stragglers were left at the end.
Keene is manipulative and it appears, self-serving. He spends our money building his empire.
Staff keeps approving underparked buildings. Latest is 441 University. No wonder there is parking problem.

4 people like this
Posted by parking logistics
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2015 at 8:16 am

Just wondering- how are the mechanical lifts working out in the Downtown
underparked buildings like the recently completed 537 Hamilton? Is the
City monitoring this? Are they being fully used? Approval of these still
underparked buildings was predicated on use of mechanical lifts.The 4-story 34,000 sf building under construction at 611 Cowper will use mechanical lifts while still being underparked by over 50 spaces. If the mechanical
lifts are not fully used then the practical, actual parking deficits grow even worse.Is the City doing any follow-up on this at 537 Hamilton, or is the staff too busy with other priorities to get involved in this?

7 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2015 at 8:24 am

The City of Palo Alto is following the San Francisco model where it dumps millions into politically connected non-profits without any accountability. Are there any effective measures for these non-profits other than how many volunteers for campaigns they produce? Is there open competition for this non-profit money so they have to actually show results? Maybe non-profits are cost effective government but mostly it's just a way to reward your political allies.

2 people like this
Posted by resident99
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 20, 2015 at 10:41 am

Parking Logistics,
611 Cowper is actually proving over sixty spaces, only three of which are on lifts. This particular developer followed all the existing zoning rules, including use of TDRs. TDRs are not back door, under the table handouts from the city to developers. They are part of the existing code and have been for decades - nothing shady about them whatsoever!

1 person likes this
Posted by akl
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 20, 2015 at 11:20 am

I find it interesting that they hire someone who is not living our downtown. They would have to really live and travel around the downtown. There are 2 large bldgs that are going through review that will be affecting Kipling, Waverley and university. Also the old university arts bldg is getting ready to tear down and they are planning to remove all the trees by the building. Very crazy

1 person likes this
Posted by akl
a resident of University South
on Jan 20, 2015 at 11:37 am

University Arts building is not being torn down, it is being renovated

Like this comment
Posted by parking logistics
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2015 at 12:58 pm

re 611 Cowper - I said it was more than 50 spaces underparked, 115 would be
required- 28000 sf commercial space and a penthouse residence- 62 were required leaving a deficit of 53. It was all above board- grandfathered conditions, TDR's,low employee ratio, 400 sf bonus,outside the Downtown Parking Assessment District,50 ft height, access to the garage off of 10 ft wide Lane 39. That is why we elected and put in place a new Council majority. The original question was - how are the parking lifts being accepted and used at 537 Hamilton? Any knowledge of that? It think the lifts there involve 10 spaces.

4 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 20, 2015 at 6:00 pm

The comments by No Thanks reminds me to ask this: when did it become vogue for cities to spend valuable staff time going after medals and awards? From the sound of Keene's reports, an inordinate amount of time is spent pursuing accolades. It's far more relevant that our local issues are handled, inquiries responded to, and problems solved than it is that we come in first in some municipal beauty contest. The proof is in the pudding; if our City is well managed and fiscally sound, we will not need a ranking or a ribbon to know that.

Also, in the interest of more efficient meetings, avoiding late night decisions, and respecting the public's time: unless there's some legal requirement that the entire City Manager's report be read aloud each week, why not have the full report available on line in advance of the meeting, allocate 5 - 10 minutes for the CM to point out highlights or field questions, and use the balance of the time for other Council business?

4 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Grandma
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 21, 2015 at 10:20 am


The only way traffic is going to be dealt with is to limit development in Palo Alto.

In the downtown area, no amount of tweaking traffic patterns and providing on-line transportation or parking apps is going provide parking spaces for current workers. Nor for shoppers. In the city as a whole, traffic is rapidly approaching grid-lock at various times of the day, fueled by the influx of non-PA resident workers. None of the solutions discussed in the article are going to provide more roads in and out of the city. Telling people to bicycle or to take the next-to-non-existent public transit (other than Caltrain) is not a solution.

In fact, telling anyone, residents included, to bicycle is not a safe solution. Drivers on the major arteries consistently are driving over the speed limit, and driving dangerously. Traffic is increasingly spilling over to residential streets. There seems to be no realization that there is a finite limit to the number of people and cars Palo Alto can absorb and still be a reasonably liveable city.

Finally, until we have an accurate picture - numbers - for the current population of business employees, and an accurate traffic study - numbers - of the flow into and out of the city, nothing we do will actually address the problem. Spending money on a non-profit to do cosmetic fixes is, in someone's immortal words, like putting lipstick on a pig.

1 person likes this
Posted by Ask Us
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 21, 2015 at 12:36 pm

Might the city have an online feedback area? Sure, it will catch all griping/venting, but the Palo Alto drivers know where the issues are.

3 people like this
Posted by No Representation
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 21, 2015 at 5:16 pm

What a joke. The city council and Transportation Dept. wants us to ride our bikes around town to get groceries, pick up the laundry, go to Target, pick up the kids from soccer, etc. The bicycling concept is for "the folks," the residents of PA that they don't care about. I wonder how many city council members and staff members at last night's city council meeting rode their bikes to the meeting? Probably zero. They drove and parked their cars in their "reserved" parking spaces at City Hall.

5 people like this
Posted by Gridlock's Already Up 65%
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 21, 2015 at 6:23 pm

Traffic Reduction "Plan" #6: Bar all City Employees, Consultants, Contractors and elected officials from commuting by car into the City of Palo Alto.

6A: When within the City of Palo Alto, bar them from traveling in any car or motorized vehicle.

Traffic Reduction "Plan" #7: Take away all parking spaces dedicated exclusively to the use of the above.

Traffic Reduction "Plan" #8: Violations of the above by the above will result in sharply escalating fines. Repeated violations will result in their immediate termination of employment, contracts, "extra" pay, benefits and future contracts with and for the City of Palo Alto.

[Portion removed.]

3 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 21, 2015 at 6:58 pm

I agree completely with "No Thanks." I, too, went to the city council meeting that was to celebrate the induction of a new mayor and several city council members. I was outraged that City Manager Keene was given the first hour of the meeting to drone on and on about his accomplishments as city manager. It was a disgrace and inappropriate. He sucked all the energy out of the meeting. As soon as the new city council was sworn in, I got up and left. I was disappointed that the meeting went on so long and that most everyone, like myself, left and didn't stay for the reception. The audacity of Keene to take up the time of residents in such a fashion. [Portion removed.]

1 person likes this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 21, 2015 at 7:31 pm

The PACC will jump on any gimmick, at any cost (to us), to distract residents from the real problem... they let real-estate developers go on an orgy of construction, the real-estate development outstripped the transportation and parking infrastructure, and there is no way to fix it.

2 people like this
Posted by parking logistics
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 21, 2015 at 11:12 pm

Exactly right. It went on for years as the problems grew from the
overdevelopment as the City doubled down on the parking issues with
bonuses, exceptions, P.C.'s and now the whole thing has blown up in
our faces and in our neighborhoods and the pipeline keeps gushing

1 person likes this
Posted by PA
a resident of University South
on Jan 22, 2015 at 12:06 pm

An always open free parking space is a constitutionally protected liberty.

How can we fight these monsters wanting to use the terrors of the free market to price parking as we would other commodities?

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

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