News

Palo Alto's transportation chief resigns

Jaime Rodriguez set to conclude his tenure next week

Jaime Rodriguez, Palo Alto's chief transportation officer and the architect of the city's aggressive plan to build a wide network of bike boulevards has resigned after nearly five years at City Hall.

Rodriguez, well known for a fast-talking, hard-charging style, a penchant for obtaining grant funds and a willingness to experiment with at-times controversial road configurations and transportation technologies, will step down on Feb. 6, he told the Weekly. He began serving in his current position in July 2010, after five years in Milpitas.

As chief transportation officer, Rodriguez has been the driving force behind the recent effort by the city to significantly expand its network of bike boulevards and make safety improvements near local schools. He spearheaded in 2012 the creation of Palo Alto's bicycle and pedestrian master plan, an effort that has spurred 24 different bicycle projects.

Last week, the council approved the conceptual plan for the first two of these projects, a bike boulevard around Maybell Avenue and bike improvements on Churchill Avenue, near Palo Alto High School.

Rodriguez was also instrumental in implementing crosswalk improvements on El Camino Real and Stanford Avenue; obtaining grant funds for the ongoing reconstruction of California Avenue; and getting $9.5 million in grant funding for a new bike bridge over Highway 101, which is now subject to a design competition. His local innovations included bike corals and "sharrow" markings on local streets.

While Rodriguez' high ambitions and willingness to experiment have attracted deep praise from the City Council, the qualities have also made him a regular target for public criticism, particularly when it came to controversial projects such as the reduction of lanes at Charleston/Arastradero and on California Avenue. His recent proposals to add sharrows to a portion of Bryant Street in Old Palo Alto and to build an off-road trail cutting through Midtown along Matadero Creek also met a cool reception from area residents, prompting him to back off and revise the plans. With his bike projects advancing, Rodriguez has been forced to defend himself against charges that these improvements are coming at the expense of drivers.

At last week's council meeting, Rodriguez acknowledged that in coming up with the concepts for the new bike boulevards the city doesn't always get it right the first time. He praised the city's process for engaging the public, which allows the city to "throw stuff on the wall" and see what sticks and what needs to be refined.

"At least we give the community an opportunity to consider these options," Rodriguez said.

He also stressed the need to improve signs and create a true network of bike routes stretching to all parts of the city.

"Each one of these projects is a great project, but it's all the projects together that really create a game change for the community," he said. "The fact that we're creating this option for those who know it's out there — that's a big benefit."

City Manager James Keene called Rodriguez "the most creative, innovative traffic engineer I've ever seen." He said the city will try to keep Rodriguez on board on a consulting basis while it's completing its traffic-signalization update. He attributed Rodriguez' departure to a desire to explore other opportunities and praised him for the many projects he had undertaken while at the city.

Rodriguez said that while he doesn't know yet where he will go next, he is considering several options. In addition to his years in the public sector, he is also a partner in a traffic-consulting company, Traffic Patterns, which he founded shortly before coming to Palo Alto.

Comments

32 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2015 at 7:46 am

Thank you Mr Rodriguez for improving road safety for our kids, especially around schools. I hope the city continues in your footsteps in your absence. There is much left to be done.


25 people like this
Posted by Gary Wesley
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 27, 2015 at 7:57 am

Jaime always listened and was involved at neighborhood meetings. Sorry to see him go!


10 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2015 at 8:00 am

curiouser and curiouser


25 people like this
Posted by Parent of Cyclists
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2015 at 9:10 am

What a loss to the city. Congratulations Jaime on your new direction but our city just lost an excellent resource and visionary transportation director.

There was so much positive change with Jaime Rodriguez's leadership. With Silicon Valley jobs booming and PAUSD population continuing growth, Mr. Rodriguez was able to keep our streets feeling like a neighborhood community and encourage us to walk and bike. Not every project was a success but the vast majority were.

I hope that James Keene can find an equally talented leader that can address the truly daunting transportation issues facing our city and region. Mr. Rodriguez certainly was one of the only transportation directors that could balance the community's divergent interests while making tremendous progress in making our streets safe for families while getting people to work.

Congratulations to Mr. Rodriguez for a successful run in Palo Alto. I'm very concerned about finding an adequate replacement.


30 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Monroe Park
on Jan 27, 2015 at 10:01 am

Great news to begin the day.

Perhaps this will mean slowing down the confusing visual pollution that is increasingly appearing on streets and sidewalks throughout Palo Alto.

And perhaps his replacement will take a serious look into the effect the beads in the garish green markings will have on wildlife after they've worn off and headed through storm drains into the bay.


19 people like this
Posted by Best wishes and thank you, Mr. Rodriguez.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2015 at 10:15 am

I agree with the previous commenters. Mr. Rodriguez made a concerted effort to understand and find solutions to problems of people who are trying to get around town on increasingly busy streets. He didn't create the traffic (we do that), He listened to community members and tried to find balance for all road users--a very challenging thing to do.

There's some misinformation in this article. The Charleston/Arastradero Plan was not Mr. Rodriguez' idea. It was conceived in a traffic study done in 1999--long before he joined the city. The concept was approved for study in 2003 and finally approved for implementation after many years of study in 2010. The trial was implemented by, not just one, but two of his predecessors. Mr. Rodriguez was simply implementing a project that was well underway before he arrived.

However, his forward-thinking work on the Bike/Pedestrian Plan and Comp Plan update has been groundbreaking. He will be missed. I also am concerned about finding an adequate replacement.


15 people like this
Posted by PatrickD
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 27, 2015 at 10:18 am

I know a lot of people in this forum are going to criticize Jaime, but I thought he was doing a very good job of trying to engage residents and make city streets better for cyclists and pedestrians.


18 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Orchards
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Jan 27, 2015 at 10:24 am

YAHOO!!!!!

He has wrecked traffic flow in Palo Alto. [Portion removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by BP cyclist
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 27, 2015 at 10:29 am

i think the green lanes & higher visibility bike lanes are great. i thought what he did with speed bumps on Matadero Ave was a huge mistake and clearly did not benefit cyclists or drivers. anyone who rides a bike knows those bumps just make traffic do contortions that don't help anyone ----- the corrected bumps are an improvement over the 1st iteration, but not convinced they do much to help. a paved street would probably be the best solution. my kids & i lived on matadero for 3 years so i have some first hand knowledge of the street, speed was not the main problem. the problem was the street is just too narrow. putting bumps in the road is hard on cyclists and doesn't make the street any wider. ironic that those dumb "BUMP" signs are still in the street MONTHS after the bumps were re-built, forcing cyclists into the way of cars.


17 people like this
Posted by green Gables
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 27, 2015 at 10:47 am

Hooray!!!!


29 people like this
Posted by Ding Dong
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 27, 2015 at 10:49 am

Any chance this "visionary hard-charger" could FINALLY synchronize the Embarcadero traffic lights? It's only been close to 10 -- TEN -- years.

And maybe we could paint the $10,000,000 bike bridge green in his honor?
The poor suffering Cal Ave merchants would probably vote to approve that in honor of his $7,000,000 Cal Ave streetscape design that backs up traffic onto El Camino with his "visionary" plan to replace convenient diagonal parking with parallel parking. Maybe even embed some green glass jewels. At least his "indepedent" vision of BACK-IN diagonal parking was scuttled since it was totally unproven.

Mr. Keene's praise for Mr. Rodgriquez speaks volumes. Perhaps HE'LL figure out how to fix the T&C lights since the buck now stops in his office.


6 people like this
Posted by Casey
a resident of another community
on Jan 27, 2015 at 10:52 am

Congrats and best of luck Jaime!!


23 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 27, 2015 at 10:53 am

What has wrecked the traffic in this city was / is the success and proliferation of businesses and relying on an work force outside the city!

What Jaime did was work with the key stakeholders in making our city a safer place for pedestrians, bicyclists, and cars.

His ideas, while not perfect the first time around are better than the status quo and he was always willing to take feedback and if better than the original idea - incorporate that feedback into the design. How many of us are that flexible in our approach? How many are willing to take the criticism and keep working for a better solution?

If people on this forum want to fix something, get out and attend the many meetings Jaime/Transportation Dept. organized to gather community input and stop sitting on your butts complaining. Hell if we all used our bikes just 20% more of the time, the city would be less congested, we might actually trim a few pounds off our otherwise oversized guts, might live a bit longer because we are getting exercise, and reducing the pollution our cars spit out.


27 people like this
Posted by Ding Dong
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 27, 2015 at 11:02 am

Many of us did attend meetings but he only mentioned bikes. Read the Diana Diamond column where he mentioned bikes 27 times and refused to answer any questions about easing car congestion.

Many people have commented that he never responded to people other than bike advocates. I'm one of them. And I started writing to him about 4 years ago to complain about Embarcadero road and the silly light timing.

If you care about pollution, you don't gridlock cars with out-of-synch lights. I have NEVER seen the cross-walk light and the Paly/T&C driveway light green at the same time even late at night, when there are no pedestrians crossing, during the summer, etc.

That's unnecessary and frustrating pollution.

But instead of fixing that one light, the city is now spending $2,000,000.00 on traffic light SOFTWARE. Who knows how much it will cost to implement any real changes.


10 people like this
Posted by Samina Sundas
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 27, 2015 at 11:04 am

It is so sad to see residents of Palo Alto focused only on what they want and what their needs are. It seems it is only me, mine and I. We can build a beloved community by making a shift in our thinking by focusing on what is good for the whole or majority of the community and start thinking about we, us and ours.

I am the oldest of seven children and may be it is the older sister in me that has made my thinking this way. I can also blame my Late parents for raising us with this idea but I love them dearly for this love of the family, friends and community.

Food for thoughts: please just try it for a while, I promise it will be worth it. [Portion removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by $3,000,000 traffic lights
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 27, 2015 at 11:10 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


5 people like this
Posted by Jeff Rensch
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 27, 2015 at 11:16 am

Perhaps consider Jessica Sullivan for his position, assuming she wants it.


2 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 27, 2015 at 11:17 am

@ Samina....I suppose you could say that city council/management is about our way, our way and our way. Your points are well taken and idealistic, but our city leaders don't usually think in those terms. Their focus is on what they think is good for the whole community and not what its citizens want. Kind of like the federal government and its penchant for telling us how we should manage our lives.


4 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Native
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 27, 2015 at 11:34 am

I wrote to Jaime and didn't expect a response due to his title, but he responded immediately. Then I replied and he replied back immediately. You may not approve of his performance, but please don't criticize him as a person - it's just plain selfish and rude.

That said . . . I do laugh at the sharrows on Heather Lane (the street connecting Embarcadero and Channing). If a bicyclist rode on those sharrows as they are placed, he would be run down by a car. Maybe there was some miscommunication there.

As for bike traffic, the cars have taken over and it's no longer safe to bike in this city. There are cars cutting through residential neighborhoods to avoid the rush hour traffic. Development needs to stop.


6 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 27, 2015 at 12:21 pm

I think Palo Altans are a tough lot to please but in general also fundamentally fair and not likely to waste time criticizing something simply b/c it is contrary to their personal preferences. Based on what I read, the harshest criticisms result when residents feel either ignored or patronized.

Agree with Palo Alto Native that bicycling in Palo Alto has gotten dangerous. Construction, construction barriers, and construction traffic (all the big trucks) contribute significantly to this.


4 people like this
Posted by Resident 99
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 27, 2015 at 12:48 pm

[Post removed.]


12 people like this
Posted by Well done, Jaime Rodriguez.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2015 at 12:59 pm

I bike and walk in Palo Alto...frequently. I also drive a fair amount. I think that, overall, Mr. Rodriguez has done a very good job with the resources available to him. I'm impressed by the body of work he completed in five short years. Well done. I'm sorry to see him go.

As for the Embarcadero issue...That is a costly project. No staff member has the power to willy nilly spend city money without public review. Effective citizens understand what is possible and what is not. Mr. Rodriguez has taken action on this, but that doesn't mean the problem will be immediately solved exactly the way "DingDong" demands. There may be divergent opinions about what the right solution is. Staff is required to follow a process to get approvals and funding. I don't think we want to eliminate the checks and balances of that process. Rather than lashing out at others, educate yourself about the process. Maybe then you can help staff help you.


10 people like this
Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 27, 2015 at 1:21 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


11 people like this
Posted by middlefield rd resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 27, 2015 at 1:22 pm

Jaime was the driving force behind the turning lane added in front of Mitchell Park Library in 2012, during the long building process. It is one thing to have an open and honest discussion about the tradeoffs of a particular plan, but the one he came up in isolation reversed the previous three separate traffic studies, which he dismissed as wrong, and resulted in the red-striping of 500' of Middlefield and the loss of the bike lanes over that stretch without any neighborhood notification or comment. Additionally, the red-curb wasn't part of the original plan, it was ordered by a public works inspector at the completion of the job when residents parking their cars found themselves parked in the traffic lane. Most folks might allow that an error had occurred, but not Jaime. In defense of the turning lane he had independently decided needed to be striped, he next falsely asserted that the addition of the traffic lane was on the instructions of city council. When I presented myself to city council to ask if they had ordered this change, they were surprised to hear they had given those instructions. The restriping issue was falsely introduced to the city council as "neighborhood folks worried about temporary construction inconveniences".
An open discussion of the tradeoffs of one traffic proposition over another and making a decision based on that, however unpopular it may be, would at least be transparent and open. When Jaime did in that circumstance was ignore the findings of the traffic consultants, keep the neighbors in the dark about the plan, make a new plan without any outside consultation, generate a plan that was incomplete in its impact and incorrect in its execution, resulting in the 500' red-striping, and then falsely assert these were city council instructions. As the re-striping to original was being done, Jaime asserted that he would personally see it restriped back to add the turning lane as soon as the library opened, and he didn't need any additional information to make that determination. It took a stinging rebuke letter from the now-retired directory of planning to put an end to Jaime's intransigence on that one issue.
The library is now open and traffic patterns at the entrance are smooth, bicyclists can safely ride down middlefield, residents can get in and out of their driveways safely, and the massive backups Jaime insisted would occur in front of the library have not appeared, as the original three traffic consultants determined.
What remains as a looming monument and reminder to Jaime's fiasco is the long-arm traffic light pole at the library that is missing that dedicated turning lane signal he insisted was necessary.
Hopefully Jaime's replacement brings less hubris and more knowledge to the job. Renaming the position something other than "Chief Traffic Officer" would be a start.


18 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 27, 2015 at 1:25 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Jaime Rodriguez was hired because City Hall wanted to focus on improving bicycling, but they made a mistake in hiring someone who was too narrow in both his interests and experience. I *tried* working with him on a variety of traffic issues and, like many, found the experience intensely frustrating, especially his lack of interest in pedestrian safety and his resistance to considering local conditions that argued against textbook solutions.

For example, Matadero Ave is a major street in Barron Park and has an intersection in an S-curve (Tippawingo & Josina: map = Web Link). He insisted on putting a pedestrian crosswalk in the middle of that blind S-curve (textbook = at intersection) disregarding the advice and observations of pedestrians who walked there.

On the Matadero Bike Blvd, he was more interested in "wayfaring" and "branding" (signs) than in safety. As "BP Cyclist" above (circa 11am) notes, there have been two misfires on speed control (the current speed tables are less effective than similar ones on Maybell and Cal Ave).

While Rodriguez may have been effective dealing with elite cyclists, he was horrible dealing with the broader community (as comments here and elsewhere demonstrate). This should be a lesson-learned for hiring his successor. During his tenure, I saw little growth in this area, but couldn't tell if this was a failing of his managers or lack of aptitude on his part.

I did not find Rodriguez to be "innovative" -- what he brought was attention to aspects that got points in national rankings and awards. I repeatedly offered to support him in using Matadero Ave to experiment with alternatives to speed tables (I had considerable influence both as a resident of that street and as a then long-time member of neighborhood association board). I knew from talking to other traffic engineers that there were interesting alternatives. He rejected that and went with standard cookie-cutter, textbook approach.

In looking for a successor, City Hall needs probe much more deeply about what is needed in someone for this job.


11 people like this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 27, 2015 at 1:40 pm

I am one of the people who is pleased to see this person moving on. Five years is about the right time for any Director-level employee to be on the job.

I fear that there is a bit of hyperbole in the praise of Mr. Rodriguez’s performance. I would love to see his yearly work plans, and the projects that he completed based on the objectives that were in his work plan. For the most part, we are left with media accounts of his performance—nothing official, unfortunately.

Several people have suggested that he “ruined” traffic in Palo Alto. It’s hard for me to see that anything Rodriguez actually “ruined” traffic—given how little he seems to have been interested in it. I was very opposed to the Charleston/Arastradero downsizing, but this was proposed by the previous Traffic Engineering lead, not Rodriguez. I do believe that Rodriguez has not been particularly honest about the effects of this project, by failing responding to public information requests about traffic flow, which his department has collected.

It’s clear that Rodriguez has not provided much in the way of a “big picture” for Palo Alto vehicular traffic. His apparent obsession with bicycles has certain resulted in what seems to be a lack of work on the general traffic problems of Palo Alto. But some of this blame falls on the City Council, which seems to have been mesmerized by dreams of a car-free Palo Alto.

The downtown parking situation clearly is something that his department/leadership has failed to solve. The idea that Palo Alto has turned to a non-profit to deal with these problems would seem to be a “vote of no confidence” for this person.

People suggest that Rodriguez has not had very many resources. Well, how many dollars has he spent vis-à-vis personnel, consultants, and other expenditures during his tenure? Can we go to a City web-site and see exactly how much he has had in his yearly budgets? We can dig this information out from the two budget documents on the City’s web-site, but it would be so much better if Rodriguez had made an effort to be more transparent than he has been.

Hopefully, the next person holding this position will have more respect for the public than Mr. Rodriguez has demonstrated during his five years here in Palo Alto.


18 people like this
Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2015 at 1:42 pm

I agree with Doug Moran 100%. Jaime was quick to dismiss any plans or concepts not in line with his thinking, and he would almost never admit that anything he did was a mistake, although he made a number of them. It seems clear to me that we are not being given the whole story, or even the correct story behind his resignation. He did accomplish a lot, but I think Palo Alto can do better.


5 people like this
Posted by 2 Quick Fixes
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 27, 2015 at 1:48 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


4 people like this
Posted by 3 Quick Fixes
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 27, 2015 at 2:20 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


5 people like this
Posted by Farther north
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 27, 2015 at 2:29 pm

Jaime completely misunderstood the cause of the many crashes at Everett and Middlefield, which are all due to cars traveling on Everett failing to yield right-of-way, pulling right out onto Middlefield. But Jaime added signs and "Keep Clear" paint on Middlefield - which was irrelevant, confusing, and completely ineffective. Maybe the next person in the job will do something helpful.


5 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 27, 2015 at 2:44 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

I don't know what determined the timing of Transportation Planning Director Jaime Rodriguez's resignation. I hope he chose this moment because he had just had a chance to present and defend the overall bicycle boulevard project in front of the new city council and get its approval for the Maybell and Churchill projects. The council also supported going ahead with the other projects in the plan.

So that gives validation and appreciation from both the current council and the former council for his work. He has the respect of his peers in the Traffic Engineering community and his (small) staff at City Hall. Where he doesn't have credibility and respect is among the many armchair traffic engineers in the city.

Goodbye and thank you, Jaime, for not losing heart before you got to this point with the project. Time to let the new council show how vigorously they want to pursue the outlines you've set by their choice of your successor. No need for you to absorb more anonymous attacks while advancing the city's stated goals. Good luck wherever you go next.


18 people like this
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2015 at 2:46 pm

Mr Rodriguez's huge ego and arrogance will NOT be missed. The damage he has done to this city will reverberate for years. There are no more people bicycling to work than there was 10 years ago but the automobile traffic has doubled and has no where to go but in very LONG SINGLE LINES per his design with California Avenue soon to resemble Univerisity. His recent, and I hope FINAL rude comment about how Boulder, Colorado, has nothing to offer Palo Alto because they want to be like us (!) takes the cake. Go back to the private sector, Jamie, and terrorize them for a while.


7 people like this
Posted by So Relieved
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 27, 2015 at 4:16 pm

Hope he doesn't slam the door on his way out!


5 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Jan 27, 2015 at 4:53 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

I hope Palo Alto's loss is Redwood City's gain. That city, currently in an explosive and exciting growth phase, could really use someone with Mr. Rodriguez' skills and approach to making a city's street network more bicycle/pedestrian-friendly.


5 people like this
Posted by fomad
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 27, 2015 at 5:36 pm

Hallelujah!


11 people like this
Posted by fomad
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 27, 2015 at 5:40 pm

@ Reality Check, how did Rodriguez help make PA more bike friendly??? He actually emailed me approved plans of how San Antonio Road would have a bike lane. 5 years later, where is that bike lane???? Nowhere. I'd love to hear your examples though. Oh and the "Bike Boulevard" is in need of some major repair. Take a visit to Minneapolis or Portland to see a real bicycle friendly city.


15 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 27, 2015 at 6:23 pm



Rodriquez was using Palo Alto as his showroom to get contracts for his side business, Traffic Patterns. His Traffic Patterns business was a complete conflict of interest with his PA staff job. Good riddance to him.


8 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 27, 2015 at 6:48 pm

Great news we just got rid of one bad apple at City Hall, Jaime Rodriguez. Now if we can get rid of City Manager Keene and Planning Director, Gittleman, maybe we can begin to get our town back on track. The destruction these three staff members have inflicted on our town is irreversible.


8 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 27, 2015 at 6:57 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

I am sorry the moderator considered it more important and objectionable that I was playing around with humorous names than the substance of my posts.

I am a registered user. Online Name is my official registered name.

I think it's pretty important that we're spending more than $3,000,000.00
on traffic light synchronization which the previous council pushed through last November. I humbly apologize for mistakenly claiming that it was only $2,000.000. That is quite a bit more than the $85,000 originally budgeted for the 2 RFP's to synchronize the Town & Country Embarcadero traffic lights.

Here's the link to the City Govt report citing the authorization for $3,054,608 for traffic light software including video surveillance software.

Web Link .


My 3 suggestions were:

1) Use the manual over-ride switch for the Town & Country cross-walk light when school isn't in session and there are no pedestrians there. We know it exists because it's used whenever there's a football game or a visiting dignitary rushing to 101.

Years and years of thousands of people complaining could have been easily -- and cost-effectively -- rectified.

2) Mitchell Park library parking related to a post by Middlefield Road resident. Check out the library parking lot and you'll see that more than half of the spots have been allocated to handicapped parking, "Car Pool" parking and "Hybrid Car Pool" parking, I've never seen more than 5 of those spots in use while the rest of the lot is always full. This is problematic since there's no drive-up drop-off box.

3) Cal Ave: Immediately evaluate the replacement of convenient diagonal parking with time-consuming parallel parking which is backing up El Camino traffic. Also, longer-term, evaluate what the lane reduction is doing to Cal Ave businesses. Mr. Shugat has already written that his customers have complained about being unable to park and that he may have to layoff some of his 50 employees.

Thank you.



4 people like this
Posted by Richard
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2015 at 8:28 pm

I was on a committee of citizens who interviewed the candidates when Mr. Rodriguez was applying for the job of Chief Transportation Official. While I have regretted the outcome of that process on many occasions, I console myself with knowing that some of the other candidates would have been worse.


2 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 27, 2015 at 8:35 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Online Name,

Thank you for using your real anonymous name. Didn't Arthur Keller's response a few days ago give you any satisfaction? Will the new transportation planning director start 10 years in the hole or will you reset the clock to zero for him/her?


6 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 27, 2015 at 8:45 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.


Citizen,

Whatever time he spent on Traffic Patterns doesn't seem to have taken away from the time and energy he devoted to getting his city job done. No one has claimed that he was a clock-watcher, putting in time and resting up to make more money after 5 pm. Instead everyone I've heard talks about an overabundance of energy going into his city work if anything. Any new evidence to add to your accusation, which you've made before?


13 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 27, 2015 at 9:03 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Jerry, thanks so much for your concern. Do notice that the only people who've had their posts removed were those critical of Mr. Rodriquez's performance.

I was grateful for Arthur Keller's suggestion that I write to the planning group which I did after he made it. I'm still waiting for a response.

Of course the new transportation planning director starts with a clean slate from me -- and probably others. We'll see how quickly Mr. Rodriquez's soon-to-be former supervisors respond to community concerns.

I live in hope it doesn't take another 10 years to fix the traffic lights and lane reductions that have so angered the community when there were so many simple and less costly solutions.

So, what do you think of the $3,000,000 traffic light software and video surveillance plan from November? (See above link.) (I knew nothing about it until a Council candidate called it to my attention a few days ago.)

And did you read Mr. Rodriquez's 160+ page RFPs re the Town & Country lights that contained no project descriptions? And are you defending them as being responsive to community concerns?

The PA Post's coverage attributes Mr. R's "controversial" performance and departure more to the Arastradero bottlenecks, resultant accidents and Mr. R's unwillingness to admit there were any problems with his redesign.

Who knows what led to his resignation? Publicity about the Cal Ave. glass problems? Arastradero? Embarcadero? The new Council members? Douglas Moran's editorial that the bucks stop with Mr. Keene and how it's his responsibility to supervise city employees?

All of the above? None of the above?


5 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 27, 2015 at 9:09 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Here's the Douglas Moran column

Web Link

Listening about Listening:
Council after Council after Council has said that they want to improve public outreach, but what we get is just more of the same. The latest version is the "Our Palo Alto" initiative. During the candidate debates, now Council member Cory Wolbach said that he had attended sessions and was disappointed. He later told me that the groups he had been in had produced lots of interesting ideas that didn't make it into the Staff summaries of the meetings. At one session, other members of his group included Council member Pat Burt and then-Planning Commissioner Arthur Keller. So ordinary residents shouldn't feel that it is just them having their inputs ignored.

***If there is going to be real improvement, Council is going to have to make concern about the adequacy of the public input an integral part of their hearings, and they need to hold the City Manager accountable for making improvements (Council does not manage Staff directly, but only through the City Manager).


4 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 27, 2015 at 10:30 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

"Do notice that the only people who've had their posts removed were those critical of Mr. Rodriquez's performance."

Would it help even things up if I posted under a different name on this same thread and got my posts deleted for violation of terms of service? I'd be more open to that option if I hadn't decided when I started on Town Square a year and a half ago that I'd use my real name as long as I kept posting. Shouldn't be much longer. Things are looking pretty good in the city right now--bike project is underway, city council is responsive to resident concerns, saving Buena Vista has widespread support--and it's time for me to read more novels, study Spanish and be with grandkids in Oakland.


7 people like this
Posted by Jody
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 27, 2015 at 10:56 pm

As a driver, pedestrian, and cyclist of Palo Alto, I enjoy them all. There are flaws but Page Mill drives great. Bryant cycles great, and University walks great.

Given events like the one on 7/31/2014 (reported by this website), fewer and slower cars in pedestrian heavy zones should be welcome.

Elsewhere, they would simply ban non-commercial vehicles altogether on streets like University and California Avenue, given all the pedestrian traffic/risk. These would be plazas, piazzas, leiux, platzes, or squares. Here, we still put roads through these. In either case, the merchants do just fine.

Palo Alto is such a beautiful town. It is so sad to hear so many still want to move through it walled off from its sounds, smells, and panoramic beauty. Walking or cycling for blocks is a good thing. Just ask New Yorkers.


6 people like this
Posted by Perspectives
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2015 at 10:45 am

Perspectives is a registered user.

It seems to me that Mr. Rodriguez may have spent too much of his time developing and founding his personal consulting company.

Maybe he did some good while in office, okay. But the glaring problems I see are far outweighing whatever good he may have done with bike lanes around town.

To list my top 3 serious safety issues that were under Mr. Rodriguez's wing and which he should, and could, have done something about:

1) Town and Country. What on earth. It should be illegal to have traffic patterns the way it is set up. Shameful, and dangerous is an understatement.

2) Edgewood Shopping Center parking lot. Again, what on earth. I've witnessed countless near-accidents. It's a free-for-all traffic pattern similar to T&C and no one-way arteries which are essential when the lanes are made for cars the size of HotWheels

3) When all of the construction/traffic light work was being done on Oregon Expy the past 2 years, the immediate result was incredibly dangerous. Multiple long-standing and prominent traffic patterns were completely changed- which is fine- but without any signage. So many in our community (including me) didn't know that these specific lane changes (previous turn lanes no longer, etc) had been made. A couple of signs saying "Note- new traffic patterns" would have been really wise. And cheap.

Overall it feels like Mr. Rodriguez was too focused on his bike safety agenda, and not focused enough on car safety patterns, lights, traffic flow. Of course, all of that would impact cyclers and pedestrians alike, so it's too bad. It's a shame we're still left with the mess that is T&C and Edgewood. Hopefully the new person will fix these things.


12 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 28, 2015 at 11:17 am

I suspect Donald is right that there's an untold story behind this resignation. People at his level don't usually leave with such short notice. Perhaps he wants his company to contract with the City of Palo Alto and doing so while he is an employee is a conflict. I should think the conflict continues if the City is paying him as a consultant, but I am not certain about that.


5 people like this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2015 at 11:53 am

> I suspect Donald is right that there's an untold story behind this resignation.
> People at his level don't usually leave with such short notice

Hmm .. Do you remember that his predecessor resigned on short notice, went to Berkeley, and returned within a few short weeks to continue his controversial tour-of-duty trying to install roundabouts all over Palo Alto?

Of course there is an untold story, but it's doubtful we will find out about it any time soon. Maybe one of the local papers will dig it out one of these days.


4 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 28, 2015 at 12:46 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

l'd like to comment on the can't win situation Mr. Rodriguez was in while responding to criticism of the Arastradero traffic calming measures. When he offered the opinion that among the factors contributing to the unanticipated and painful traffic slowdowns on Arastradero during rush hour was a change in the opening bell schedule at Gunn he was attacked and ridiculed for expressing the thought.

His detractors were not called out when they suggested that an unplanned bell schedule would not have had a significant impact on traffic patterns. They got away with saying that all he provided was excuses, not answers. Did they really believe that the bell schedule had no effect on traffic worth considering when trying to evaluate the changes on Arastradero? I hope the new traffic director won't feel deterred from looking at all factors, including bell schedules, in judging what to do with Arastradero.


8 people like this
Posted by Kirsten Flynn
a resident of Ventura
on Jan 28, 2015 at 2:42 pm

Jaime has been great, he has actually made our children safer, and improved bike commuting.
We are so lucky to have had him in the city, because he tried to push the envelope and create a sustainable future.

I did not read the comments, because I am always stunned by how small minded, bitter, selfish and unrealistic Palo Alto'ns are about traffic. The density is here folks, booming economy plus great weather will do that. We plan for it, or assume that the past will continue until all roads are gridlocked.

Jamie, best of luck in your future, I feel so privileged to have observed you working with the population of this city to incorporate our desires and needs into modifications to traffic that will really work.


6 people like this
Posted by Jetman
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2015 at 6:51 pm

The FAA is preparing to start construction of three aircraft super-highways over Palo Alto. Palo Alto's new Chief Transportation Officer should have the experience/education to manage Palo Alto's airspace, as well as its roadways.

The FAA calls these super-highways "NextGen". The FAA has been building these super-highways in the sky over communities all across the nation, and the result has been a dramatic increase in jet noise from the commercial aircraft traveling along these super-highways.





7 people like this
Posted by OLDER
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 29, 2015 at 12:14 pm

I'm one that is glad to see him go. He did a great job on slowing the traffic on Arastradero, it is miserable
to drive, what would happened in an emergency if we needed to use the VA hospital and could Not get to it
because of all the traffic. Or exit from the neighborhoods around for an emergency.


4 people like this
Posted by Deep Throat
a resident of another community
on Jan 30, 2015 at 3:48 pm

Here is the job description for the Chief Transportation Official in case any of you think you can do a better job than Jaime Rodriguez: Web Link


12 people like this
Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 6, 2015 at 11:12 am

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

I have been on the Palo Alto Bicycle Advisory Committee (PABAC) for many years now and worked with both Jaime and his two predecessors. I found them all to be intelligent, well skilled in transportation planning, and dedicated to the community. When the city was seeking a new Chief Transportation Planner, I was serving as PABAC Chair and was asked to help interview the finalists. Each candidate was capable and would have brought unique qualities to the role. While we could see that Jaime had a strong personality, he also stood out as someone who would bring a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the position and help make progress on community master plans which had somewhat stagnated in the prior years. From day one and throughout his tenure, he delivered on that promise.

For instance, he came to his first PABAC meeting and brought with him draft plans for whatever street segment we were considering that night. He had stayed up late the night before brainstorming workable solutions and printed them out at home at his own expense. This set the tone of his engagement with PABAC, where he attended many evening meetings when he could have just gone home, put in extra effort beyond the call of duty, and worked hard to keep projects moving through the process. For the City's Master Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, developed through many rounds of community meetings, under Jaime's leadership the city was able to secure many grants and the department was able to secure funding from the Council, and progress was made on many of the items, whereas before many of these same plans had sat idle for years.

Now I'm not saying he was perfect. Some members of PABAC were concerned about some of the innovative solutions he proposed, and some in the community felt their concerns or suggestions went unheeded. However, it appears to me that he took in this criticism and matured in this regard.

Take Matadero Road, for instance, which is near my home so I get to observe it first hand. There were existing safety concerns raised by pedestrians, cyclists and drivers, such as the terrible traffic light timing at El Camino Real leading to speeding to make the light (this is state-level CalTrans jurisdiction), or drivers squeezing pedestrians (there are few sidewalks), or drivers speeding through the left turn onto Josina and driving into the on-coming traffic lane. Several community input meetings were held and I know Jaime met with some residents individually on site, and eventually speed humps were installed at a few locations, including before the Josina intersection where a jog in Matadero reduces sight-lines. Some residents then complained that the humps were too jarring. Jaime listened to the community, inspected the situation, and found that they had been built too tall, so he had them removed and replaced by longer speed tables. (Personally I think the tables are now too low and fear they won't sufficiently calm the traffic, but I haven't yet had time to sit out there and watch driver behavior to draw a conclusion.) One may have advocated for a different solution, but many were proposed and they couldn't all be implemented. It would be unfair to say that resident concerns were ignored. Clearly the concerns were heard, solutions were tried, and then adjusted to subsequent concerns. The reality is one can't please all the people all the time, and someone is bound to complain online.

In some cases, he was caught in a catch 22. To one community meeting he came prepared with draft ideas to bounce off the public, only to have people complain that the solutions were all pre-determined (which was not true). So for the next meeting he came with a blank slate, to get people's input before drafting solutions. Then people complained that he didn't bring any ideas to the table and wanted the public to do his job. Damned if you do, Damned if you don't...

Further several of the criticism evoked in this thread are factually inaccurate. For instance, people blame him for their frustrations with the changes on Arastradero Road, but it has been pointed out by several people that this project was designed and approved (with extensive community input) well before he arrived on the scene. Some people seem to blame Jaime for the traffic in Palo Alto, but that is a problem decades in the making, where we have three times as many jobs in the city as beds to sleep in. Efforts have been made to improve the bicycling network, to increase the percentage of people who bike instead of driving, and virtually every cyclist on the road is one less car to congest your drive.

On the balance, Jaime's strengths outweighed his weaknesses in service to the community. While I hope his successor might be somewhat more skilled in building community consensus, I hope that person is not so mild as to stall out all progress in the face of the inexorable "Palo Alto process".

Thanks Jaime for your contributions to our community, and good luck in our next endeavor.


5 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 6, 2015 at 11:20 am

Cedric,

Jaime isn't really going away.

He's been hired as a city consultant to oversee his $3,000,000 traffic light software and video camera surveillance plan which is probably related to Liz Kniss's recently reported desire to make ticketing "soflaws" frustrated with long light times easier than fixing the problematic lights.


5 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2015 at 3:55 pm

Online Name,

A lot of people have been wondering why this project was so expensive... now we know.


4 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 6, 2015 at 8:28 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Online Name,

Consider the irony. Town Square critics rage against payments to consultants for doing work they feel should be handled by city staff as part of their regular duties. Former Transportation Director Jaime Rodriguez was carrying a lot of the work on his shoulders. He had energy and expertise, but he was on the city payroll, which meant dealing with constant criticism, some of it reasonable but much of it petty, while he developed his projects.

So he has left his job as a city employee and been hired back as a consultant. The skills he demonstrated while drawing a regular paycheck are needed by the city. I hope he's well paid and enjoys the chance to do work he finds challenging and worthwhile, without having to pay attention to attacks from the sidelines, while he decides what to do next.


6 people like this
Posted by Just Say No
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 7, 2015 at 9:32 am

Jaime Rodriguez should not be hired as a consultant(possibly payback for some hidden agreement). Does the City Council authorize these kinds of $$$$ to be spent on consultant fees without whole hearted support from the community. Just Say No. I don't think there is any REAL justification for this outlay. Another comment about constant criticism directed to Jaime Rodriguez. It was obvious from the beginning that he was not experienced manager material when he took the job. I went to various meetings which were informational in nature. He was not at all comfortable speaking about non-controversial topics, and made some poor remarks that shouldn't have been said. Ultimately the responsibility for hiring and job duties lie under the City Manager's purvey.
Not so short comment, it is apparent there is more to this story than is available here. He was let go for some reason, would really like to know the REAL story.


7 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 13, 2015 at 9:30 pm

"Rodriquez was using Palo Alto as his showroom to get contracts for his side business, Traffic Patterns. His Traffic Patterns business was a complete conflict of interest with his PA staff job. Good riddance to him".

Jaime, thanks for the traffic nightmare and the horrid lime green bike lanes .

There needs to be a grand jury investigation.


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

Post-election reflections -- and sponges
By Diana Diamond | 12 comments | 1,452 views

Couples: Philosophy of Love
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,105 views

El Camino: Another scheme to increase congestion?
By Douglas Moran | 4 comments | 593 views

Trials of My Grandmother
By Aldis Petriceks | 1 comment | 279 views