News

Plan to fix Page Mill Road takes another twist

New proposal calls for roundabout near I-280, two new lanes

Every weekday morning, an endless procession of cars crawls eastward along Page Mill Road toward Palo Alto's most congested intersection.

The caravan of commuters begins on southbound Interstate 280, where traffic is so bad that backups routinely stretch beyond the exit lane. Then, once they turn onto Page Mill, drivers inch toward the third worst intersection in Santa Clara County's entire expressway network: Page Mill and Foothill Expressway.

Improving the intersection is a priority project in Santa Clara County's Expressway Plan 2040, a document that the county is now finalizing. County officials note in the plan that the segment between I-280 and Foothill operates at the worst possible level of service (a Level F). And the worst may be yet to come.

A study on the Page Mill corridor notes that "operating conditions are projected to worsen in the future with the proposed population and employment growth in the vicinity," with congestion spreading east toward El Camino Real.

Yet fixing Page Mill, much like driving on it, has been a frustrating, fits-and-starts endeavor. An earlier proposal to add traffic signals at the interchange of I-280 and Page Mill was scuttled after Los Altos Hills residents protested it would divert traffic toward their residential streets. The Los Altos Hills council also requested that the county look at expanding capacity on Page Mill before proposing major changes to the interchange.

On Monday night, the county's latest plan to improve traffic conditions on Page Mill ran into a few speed bumps in Palo Alto. The new proposal calls for widening Page Mill from four lanes to six between the highway and Foothill, creating a shared-use bike-and-pedestrian path on the north side of the expressway and installing a roundabout at the I-280 interchange.

County officials expect the new lanes and the roundabout to improve conditions at the busiest segments of Page Mill to a Level C.

The time it takes to get through the Foothill intersection would shrink from the current levels of 84.4 seconds in the morning peak period and 108.5 seconds in the afternoon peak period to 31.1 seconds and 43.4 seconds, respectively.

Dawn Cameron, county transportation planner, told the City Council Monday that Page Mill is "facing unique and difficult challenges." As a result, the county has received more in-depth analysis than any other county expressway, with the sole exception of Lawrence Expressway. In addition to the near-term improvements on Page Mill, county officials are also looking at an under- or overpass at Foothill and Page Mill as a long-term solution.

That so-called grade separation would cost about $50 million, according to the county, or roughly half of the entire budget for Page Mill improvements. The funding could come from a 2016 sales-tax measure, county sources and local revenues collected from traffic-impact fees, according to county officials.

Despite its promise to relieve congestion, the proposal received a mixed reaction from Palo Alto officials, who are now in the midst of an overall effort to dramatically reduce the number of solo drivers on city streets.

The city has recently launched a Transportation Management Association aimed at providing employees with incentives to switch from cars to other modes of transportation. It is also expanding its citywide shuttle service and preparing to introduce new parking restrictions in downtown's residential neighborhoods. Adding driving lanes and increasing the volume of cars on local roads in some ways run counter to these initiatives, critics of the plan argued Monday.

"We're looking to spend $100 million to accommodate a growth in car traffic," said Adina Levin, a member of the group Friends of Caltrain. "Whereas in Palo Alto's current strategy focusing on downtown, we're looking at TDM (transportation-demand management) and strategies for reducing car trips (and) reducing traffic."

Robert Neff, a bicyclist who serves on the Palo Alto Bicycle Advisory Committee, voiced skepticism about the proposed bike path on Page Mill and predicted that it will be "dirty, hilly and noisy." He urged the county to consider making improvements to the more scenic and less congested Old Page Mill Road.

"I predict few will actually take advantage of the new proposed multi-use path," Neff said. "Nearly every potential user will find a more attractive route. That's just the nature of six-lane expressways."

Council members also gave the new Page Mill plan a mixed reception. While they generally accepted the county's plan to add driving lanes to Page Mill, several council members insisted that these lanes be high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes -- devoted to buses or carpooling commuters.

"If we just add another lane on Page Mill for all cars, that will make it easier for them to get to work faster, and frankly that continues to encourage single-occupancy vehicles," Councilman Marc Berman said Monday.

Berman said he was "sympathetic to the idea of adding a lane if it's for HOV purposes."

"I really have a lot of problems with it if it weren't for HOV," he said.

Councilmen Pat Burt and Greg Scharff took similar positions, with each saying a new bus lane could help large employers at Stanford Research Park provide more shuttles for its employees, thus cutting down the number of solo drivers.

"The assumption is that we'll have employers bring people in buses and also use Caltrain," Scharff said. "To make buses work and make them convenient, the buses in high-occupancy lanes seems to me the way to solve that problem."

Despite some hesitation about more lanes, council members praised many aspects of the plan and agreed with county officials that something needs to be done on Page Mill.

Councilman Tom DuBois said the council needs to "pay attention to car traffic and this is really a major thoroughfare for getting workers to Palo Alto."

"I think the backup on 280 is a very dangerous situation that really needs to be fixed," DuBois said.

They also acknowledged, however, that given the expected growth in traffic, the fixes may only provide a temporary relief.

Councilman Cory Wolbach characterized the proposed improvements on Page Mill as "a really, really expensive Band-Aid."

"It will probably have short-term positive impacts that will last from when the project is done. I believe by 2025 it will start running out of efficacy," Wolbach said. "It would buy us seven to eight years of minor improvements along that stretch. I do think $90 million to $100 million can be spent better."

Mayor Karen Holman likewise referred to the proposed improvements as a "temporary fix."

"There is a saying, 'Water will find its level,'" Holman said. "Traffic will too."

Comments

18 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 23, 2015 at 7:43 am

A freeway interchange at Page Mill and Foothill? This will be a safety disaster for bicyclists and pedestrians. Isn't this the route that Stanford wants people to use to walk to the Dish Trail?


17 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2015 at 7:44 am

I rarely see this intersection in commute times, but I do use it at weekends and it is busy then with a very different problem.

At weekends there are many bikes who have to negotiate across travel and there are many vehicles who are not familiar with the layout. The stop signs seem confusing for many drivers, those coming off 280 and those continuing straight through Page Mill. The numbers of bikes, particularly large groups of bikes who straddle the lanes and ignore the stop signs make this a particularly hazardous intersection.

I would favor getting the cyclists into a designated bike lane away from the intersection itself and then having a roundabout as being an efficient traffic flow.

I would also favor more parking lots not just for shuttles, but for the cars that are used for parking for those who are bringing their bikes to start their rides.


37 people like this
Posted by JS
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2015 at 9:17 am

It is somewhat naive to think that the single-occupant vehicle is just going to disappear. It is the most efficient way for most people to get to work by far (public transit alternatives take 2-3 times as long - NOT a viable alternative for most commuters). So, until there are viable alternatives, we have single-occupant vehicles.

What about locating the jobs close to where the workers live? When the jobs are located in a city where there is a shortage of housing and where the housing costs are so high, the workers are very likely going to live some where else (where housing is available and more affordable).

The traffic on 280 and Page Mill exists because of the above and because there are no other viable alternative routes from the housing locations to the work locations.

Fixing all of the above would be nice, but this problem is generations in the making and will require a regional effort over generations of time to fix it.

In the meantime, Page Mill should be expanded to 6 lanes and the Foothill/Page Mill intersection should be improved.


16 people like this
Posted by thank goodness!
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 23, 2015 at 9:42 am

So glad that the city council understands that we need to be making long-term investments in transportation rather than minor improvements that will fizzle shortly. I watched this session and the county officials themselves said that even with all of these improvements, by 2040 the entire road will be a sea of red (i.e. traffic) and that they expected cities to solve this long-term problem with TDM. They openly admitted that adding more lanes was a short term solution and that their forecasting was purposefully not looking beyond 2025 because by then no amount of building that they could do would help with the traffic.

So let's get to it. A $100 million worth of shuttles from our train stations as well as from areas that aren't well served by the train - like parts of San Jose - could dramatically reduce traffic here without ever having to pour more asphalt.


12 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 23, 2015 at 11:01 am

Opening upper Page Mill is a self-nullifying proposition.

(1) It will make the congestion much worse down below in that chain of randomly-timed stoplights. Their backup will just back up onto upper Page Mill.

(2) Empty HOV lanes do nothing to alleviate clogged roads.

Save the money.


27 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 23, 2015 at 11:06 am

Having spent time in the Boston area where roundabouts are common, the idea of building them here strikes me as rather scary, especially for high-traffic intersections.


31 people like this
Posted by Vanessa Warheit
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 23, 2015 at 11:08 am

I submitted this photo to the City Council: Web Link

It shows the amount of room that 60 people occupy - as pedestrians, as cyclists, as bus riders, and as car drivers. Take a look, and decide for yourself if we really need another lane on Page Mill Road. I would *really* like to see a VTA proposal that shows what kind of bike/ped infrastructure and shuttle service we could have for $100 million. I think we'd all be very pleasantly surprised at what that might look like. We might have a road that is made for people and not for cars - a road that cyclists would *want* to ride on. (Why do the cars get the most direct route, anyway?)

Thank you Cory Wolbach for telling it like it is - a $100 million band-aid is NOT what we need. We need real solutions that will last. 2050 sounds like a long-way off, but my 9-year-old son will be 45 in 2050. We owe it to our kids to leave them a world better than we found it.


30 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 23, 2015 at 11:10 am

mauricio is a registered user.

This is s band-aid approach that will change nothing in the big picture. Locating jobs in a town with some of the highest housing prices in the entire world and permanent land scarcity creates a permanent gridlock, as most people who work here have to drive in, and public transportation is not a viable alternative. We should have many silicon valleys all over the state and country, especially in areas that desperately need economic development and have available land and much lower housing costs. This will allow workers to live much closer to their workplace. This is also the solution to the housing shortage in Palo Alto. There isn't space to meet even a fraction of the demand for housing here, so the solution is for companies to relocate at least some of their operations elsewhere.


6 people like this
Posted by John Galt
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 23, 2015 at 11:17 am

What, you want to eliminate this perfect "Traffic Calming" intersection?? Are you mad! You should convert Alma into 2 lanes like Arastradero to further your "Traffic Calming". Surely enough barriers to CO2 spewers will convert even the most recalcitrant to bikes. I'm sure all you City Employees already NEVER drive, right??


6 people like this
Posted by pacsailor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2015 at 11:23 am

Doing nothing and just talking about it is not going to get us anywhere, we need to invest in public transportation locally and regionally. We should have buses running even though there are minimal riders the first year or two. People will get used to them. We should give people using cars an alternative to driving solo. We have people driving from the east bay or north bay, and they have no alternative to driving. Even if we have excellent bus system in Palo Alto these people cannot use it because getting to Palo Alto is the issue, this is where regional transportation become a necessity. We are paying lots of sales tax that is going to BART which is not going to benefit us in Palo Alto, so what is next?


6 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 23, 2015 at 11:34 am

Saying this is only a short term solution is not accurate. It is *part* of the long term solution, not the *complete* long term solution. Spending money in the short term on part of the solution that we know will work immediately once construction is completed seems preferable to spending the money on bike/pedestrian, HOV infrastructure which we know won't significantly help the problem in the short or medium term.

City Council is just being parochially practical ... making it easier for more traffic to get into Palo Alto means more pressure on the city to do something about deteriorating local road conditions.

"We might have a road that is made for people and not for cars - a road that cyclists would *want* to ride on. (Why do the cars get the most direct route, anyway?)"

The answer to this question is obvious ... only a very small privileged few have the luxury of spending a lot of time walking or biking for commuting purposes or purchasing a Tesla to be able to drive single occupancy in the HOV lanes.


22 people like this
Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 23, 2015 at 11:36 am

If we're really looking ahead to 2040, we need to account for self-driving cars. Once they're a reality, traffic flow ought to improve measurably. Let's try better signal sequencing first. Dedicated lanes for buses make no sense unless we already have hundreds of more bus routes and buses and the consequent change in human behavior. And if these buses don't allow infants and kid (many commuter buses do not), that won't be an option for families. There are many other reasons why people need to leave work or get to work at times, and go to and from places, when a car is the only realistic option.


2 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 23, 2015 at 11:38 am

Annette is a registered user.

Thx for providing that photo, Vanessa W. It appears to be from another country. If it is, I wonder if that country has successfully shifted a significant # of commuters to buses. Maybe there's some data to be shared? Beats me why anyone would want to drive in our traffic when someone else could do the driving. It's too bad company buses can't also transport non-employees b/c I bet some commuters would happily pay for a seat on a Google bus and then bike/shuttle/walk to their destination.


22 people like this
Posted by Sea Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 23, 2015 at 11:52 am

Please fix El Camino traffic first.


60 people like this
Posted by Move'em Out
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 23, 2015 at 11:56 am

Why don't the companies, businesses and developers all move to where the employees are: the ( far) East Bay, the Central Valley, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Salinas, Hollister, etc.

Those are the areas where housing is quasi-affordable, but driving to the peninsula for employment
is causing HUMONGOUS problems: heavy air pollution, unbearable traffic congestion, frustration, road rage, multi-vehicle accidents, excess wear and tear on vehicles, gross waste of fossil fuels, time that could be spend with family wasted on a long, laborious drive spent sitting in heavy traffic, and on and on.

Public transit is just as time consuming; there really is no more room for more development, either business or residential, due to natural boundaries; there is very little room,,if any, to widen major thoroughfares; land prices here are outrageous to the max; we are in a serious drought and there should not be more people working here than living here, using our dwindling resources, etc.

Land in the aforementioned locations is multitudes cheaper; labor is less expensive if employees don't have 100 mile commutes; employees can spend more time at work or at home if they aren't spending four or more hours on the road daily; and EVERYONE'S lives will improve if their are far fewer commuters driving to the peninsula daily. That means the commuters themselves, the employers, the residents on the peninsula. It's a win-win situation.

So why in the world do all of the businesses, companies, developers, etc., INSIST on building HERE were the costs are exorbitant, the smog and congestion increase as the quality of life diminishes, and employees must spend tortuous hours on the road every day ( always in danger of being late, should one small thing go wrong during the commute)? It makes no sense!

This is something that is obvious to all of us drones, but the powers that be either fail or choose not to see.


34 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 23, 2015 at 12:13 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

I would NEVER take expensive public transportation if I already own a vehicle (like pretty much everyone over the age of 18 and under the age of 85). CalTrain might be a somewhat viable option if it were paid for by an employer and I lived and worked close to the tracks. The problem for most people is that public transportation becomes a confusing and time-consuming exercise (bus to CalTrain, CalTrain to city, bus from CalTrain to work) while a car is merely a straight shot with the only negative being traffic.

Page Mill Road is a nightmare. It certainly needs two (short term) or four (long term) more lanes.


15 people like this
Posted by Been there
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jun 23, 2015 at 12:28 pm

Roundabouts don't work well when most of the traffic is from the same entry point. Having to give way to cars already on the roundabout would cause eastbound Page Mill Road to back up in the morning as continuous traffic flows from 280.


2 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 23, 2015 at 12:36 pm

Santa Clara County is requesting feedback on the Page Mill Road Expressway Corridor Study until August 7, 2015.

Send comments to: PageMill280@countyroads.org

Presentation Slides, Executive Summary, Report, Appendices, numerous studies, and a
link to subscribe for updates are available at the web site below.

============
Here's a message sent out by Santa Clara County:

The Page Mill Road Expressway Corridor Study website is updated with the Corridor Study Report and upcoming meeting schedule.

Visit Web Link today!



The County is accepting comments on the Study Report until August 7, 2015. Please submit comments by e-mail to PageMill280@countyroads.org or in writing to:

Transportation Planning
County of Santa Clara Roads and Airports Department
101 Skyport Drive
San Jose, CA 95110


10 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 23, 2015 at 12:40 pm

@maurichio and Move 'em Out

I agree with you and I have written many posts on many occasions on the subject. It seems to be falling on deaf ears, however, or maybe ears that only want to listen to property owners and developers for the continued building of big steel and glass boxy office buildings, disguised as mixed use (what a joke) and adding more commuting employees to our area. Oh, that new architectural design, I think, is called modernist, or something like that. I'm sure I'll get corrected if I'm wrong. But, we are supposed to start getting used to it and loving it. Sorry, I will die before I would ever start loving it.

All the plans for improving local shuttle transportation are good. At least it will help us local residents and maybe keep our cars from clogging up the expressways, streets and avenues, but it does nothing for those commuters driving long distances to work here.


17 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 23, 2015 at 12:50 pm

@Nayeli

You nailed it. I've spoken (written) about that before in posts. So many people who think others should be excited about giving up their cars would probably never take public transportation themselves.


2 people like this
Posted by Jay Ess
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jun 23, 2015 at 1:06 pm

Many many cyclists come over the Arastradero hill where Stanford just put in a million dollars for bikes. Then they go out Arastradero or up Page mill Rd to skyline. With a roundabout at the intersection of Page Mill and 280 off-ramp how will cyclists get across. The free running roundabout is not cyclist friendly.

Also there needs to be a bike lane on both sides of Page Mill for the brave commuter bikers. No real cyclist is going to ride on a two way bike path off road which will be dirty and weedy in a very short while. 2 way pedestrian and bike paths are a very dangerous mix. Dont let this happen.

We need good bike lanes to help relieve some of this congestion. Good markings will make the car drivers understand where to look for cyclists. there have been several deaths of cyclists due to turning trucks and cars. Enough!!!


1 person likes this
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Jun 23, 2015 at 1:26 pm

Why not build a seprate bike around the planned interchange instead of having bikes on what is headache of road.

Page Mill Road from 280 to the railroad tracks needs to be fixed.


Like this comment
Posted by June 24 Planning Commission Meeting
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 23, 2015 at 1:43 pm

Here's a chance to see Santa County Clara County Staff give a presentation on:

The Page Mill Road Portion of the County Expressway Plan

Attend the Palo Alto Planning & Transportation Commission meeting on

Wednesday, June 24, 2015 at 6 pm
Palo Alto City Council Chambers

The meeting is cablecast live on Government Channel 26.

The County is seeking input from the Planning and Transportation Commission.

This is a study session and there is no recommended action, according to the Planning & Transportation Commission Staff Report.

Here's a link to the Palo Alto City Staff Report:
Web Link

For more information from Palo Alto City Staff, contact Rafael Ruis, Project Engineer Rafael.Ruis@CityofPaloAlto.org

Email comments to the Planning and Transportation Commission: Planning.Commission@CityofPaloAlto.org

Planning and Transportation Commission members include:

Chair: Greg Tanaka
Vice Chair: Adrian Fine
Staff Liaison: Jonathan Lait, Assistant Director - 650-329-2679


17 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 23, 2015 at 1:58 pm

Different, but related.

I read Stephen Levy's latest post, "Is the Office Cap a "Blunt Instrument".
He left out a question mark but that's just my editing nitpicking habit about those things.

I posted several times. One poster, 'faux environmentalism' wrote a very long one, a tome of sorts, and I think I could have read 'War and Peace' almost in the time it took me to read it. lol! It was a lecture/sermon directed to all of us NIMBY's. How much better Manhattan is and how they're saving the world's climate change problem with their high density life style, and why we should adopt that same idea here in my town. I hope she/he will offer some really meaningful ideas for our community. Those didn't come close. We were once rural, farms/orchards and such, and then we became suburban, and now we're getting pushed into being urban. Stop it already. Enough is enough. We are just not urban folks!

What is wrong with me and others wanting our town to stay pretty much the same way we remember it and liked it decades ago? the reason we moved here. The young kids/adults with negative posts have a tough fight coming up if you want to change it very much from the way is was. My boxing gloves are on and I'm ready for a fight!


11 people like this
Posted by Kevin Ohlson
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 23, 2015 at 2:34 pm

Some posts here ask why: businesses locate here, or people choose to drive in cars rather than bike or take public transportation? I think the answer is somewhat obvious -- because there is no better alternative. Despite living 8 blocks from Caltrain, and working at a company where light rail stops, I make the 30-minute drive by myself nearly every day. Because door-to-door the trip is well over an hour each way using public transportation. Why do companies want to be here, despite the costs? Why do people want to love here, despite the costs? Probably for the same reasons you do -- no better alternative.


7 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2015 at 2:51 pm

I respectfully disagree with Nayeli and others who think that people will continue to use single occupancy vehicles out of choice rather than public transportation.

I worked once in an area where public transportation was efficient, clean and reliable, and I could get to work much quicker by using it than I could by driving, particularly as parking at work was non-existent and I would have had to pay plus still walk for 10 minutes (about the same as I did with my transit) after parking.

People will use public transport if it does a better job than their own car.

In many of the busiest areas, parking is a big problem in Palo Alto. If we can get some commuter parking lots near 280 (and 101) with efficient, clean, reliable shuttles with wifi that can get into downtown and other centers better than private cars, people will use them.

Google is using buses and so are other big companies. Unfortunately the small companies are unable to do this individually. This is where innovation can help. Reliable shuttles every 10 mins from out of town commuter lots will make a difference if they prove to be better than attempting to get all the cars into the downtown or other popular worksites/jobsites areas.

Also, I think free employee parking for work should be considered a perk.


13 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 23, 2015 at 3:12 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Jay Ess - 99.99% of the people who are commuting into Palo Alto via Page Mill aren't ever going to be commuting by bike, and if they were, they wouldn't be taking that route. Any money spent on bike lanes is a waste as far as reducing congestion - it is just a perk for recreational cyclists and few people who live in the hills.


14 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 23, 2015 at 3:34 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

@ Resident: I understand what you're saying, but I'm not sure if you understand what I meant. For many of us who do not receive subsidized transportation expenses for work, transportation is either/or and not both. Like it or not, most families will have at least one vehicle in their driveway. Some feel a need for two (given children). The expenses related to transportation (e.g., oil changes every three months, tires, insurance, monthly payments, etc...) will be there regardless of whether we choose to use public transportation or not.

If I had to consider the use of public transportation, it would be an additional expense on top of owning and maintaining vehicles (which we use for grocery shopping, traveling around the area, weekend excursions or traveling to friends and family members around the country). Moreover, public transportation is rarely the end-all. Yes, certain companies like Google and Facebook run shuttles to and from certain areas (like CalTrain parking lots). However, a person still has to consider getting to that parking lot or CalTrain station if they aren't located within walking distance of one's home.

I like what Google does: Web Link

I think that what Google does for its employees is commendable. Unfortunately, Google is the exception and far from the rule here in the Silicon Valley. If my workplace offered something like this, I would probably use it if it didn't add time to my commute or cost me more than gasoline to and from work (about $3.49 per gallon at ~35mpg for my car). If I worked anywhere between San Carlos or Sunnyvale, it would cost less than a gallon of gas to go to and from work each day. This is in contrast to public transportation that includes the price of a CalTrain ticket plus connecting bus fare.

Imagine that someone lives near El Camino Real, 101, or 280. They have to figure in the cost (in terms of time and money) to get to a CalTrain station and then the cost of the CalTrain ticket and then the cost of getting from the destination station to the workplace. I suppose that someone could use a bicycle for connecting locations, but even that is time-consuming, hazardous or a wet/sweaty thought. Unless someone lives in the city, free employee parking is pretty common throughout the peninsula (and many city employers provide parking vouchers).

You're right, though. People will use public transportation if it is better than using a car. For this to be true, it needs to be more convenient, cheaper and less time-consuming (because people value their time). Until then, most people will rely upon a vehicle that they already own or pay for.

In an ideal world, workplaces would have the money to operate like Google. However, even Google has a parking problem. I've been there are few times and spent 30 minutes finding a parking spot (until I discovered their valet system). This shows that -- even with Google's cutting edge campus transportation efforts -- most employees are still using their own vehicles.

Perhaps free city parking lots on city land (with 24/7 guards) located just off of 280 and 101 with free commuter shuttles would be a great idea -- but the money to build and operate them has to come from somewhere. It might also help if parking at CalTrain stations was included in the price of a round trip or long-term ticket. At least this might truly alleviate the parking problem in the city.


6 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Jun 23, 2015 at 4:03 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

People who complain transit isn't good enough or "realistic" and then say until that happens lets just blow $100m on what truly amounts to little in-the-scheme-of-things road widening "Band-Aids" here and there need to realize that is just self-fulfilling prophecy.

Instead, why not aggregate all those $100m ineffective road-widening Band-Aid project funds from around the region and invest in making transit "good enough" and "realistic"? Caltrain needs increased service because it's increasingly running at standing-room only levels. It is being electrified, but doesn't quite have enough to do replace all the diesel trains with quieter, faster, more efficient electric ones. Shuttles to/from Caltrain are great, but some money is needed for Caltrain service level increases and technology improvements so that those extra riders drawn by the new shuttles can find room on the trains to/from Palo Alto.

As long as we keep moaning how transit isn't "realistic" and blowing $100m here and $100m there on continued interchange and road widening projects which research has proven just draw more traffic until they are as full or fuller than they were before, we'll never make the paradigm shift to realistic transit that works for enough people to be an excellent and realistic alternative for enough people to really make a difference and improve our quality of life.

Time spent on the train is very nice and civilized -- especially when you can find a seat, so you can comfortably read, eat/drink (allowed on Caltrain), catch up on work or emails or just relax into a daydream or a nap. Try that while jockeying through stop n' go traffic trying to avoid hitting or being hit by other frazzled commuters.


8 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 23, 2015 at 4:10 pm

"I worked once in an area where public transportation was efficient, clean and reliable, and I could get to work much quicker by using it than I could by driving..."

THAT area is NOT THIS area. THAT area built its public transportation system in another era, when investments in public infrastructure were considered not only necessary, but noble. Here/today we have a very different regard for tax and spend.

Conclusion: unless you can make a very fortunate work-living arrangement, better keep your car.


1 person likes this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 23, 2015 at 4:13 pm

As a Reality Check, what is the $$$ outlay for making transit "good enough" and "realistic"?


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2015 at 4:21 pm

Nayeli,

I do get your point. I fully understand what you are saying.

Public transportation does have to be very much improved to get people to use it by choice. As I said in my earlier post, I did use it at one stage in my working career because not only was it quicker, but the cost I had to pay for the transit was more or less the same that I had to pay to park. Therefore, it was a good option for me.

When I was growing up, the two car family was not the norm. As a child, I was rarely in the family car on a day to day basis, I used the bus, rode my bike or walked to school and various other activities. When I was first married, as a couple, we shared one car and it was only when kids started kindergarten that a second car was necessary. I think for many couples, and even some families, a second car could be a zip car if there were decent transportation options.

The American car culture is already changing. Many people are not getting their licenses in high school. Many are not taking a car to college. Many single adults are using zip car. Car ownership is more than just the price of the car, the price of gas and the price of insurance, etc. For many people, parking the car even at home is taking up valuable space if it is not being used on a daily basis.

It may not happen overnight, but I do think better public transportation ideas will help to counter the drive to work mentality that many people insist is the only way. Innovative ideas will cost money, but then so will widening roads and building parking garages. I am all for developing efficient public transport and attracting regular commuters to use it. I think people are much more likely to start using it for their regular commutes, than for errands, evening or weekend recreation, or occasional medical appointments, etc. We are a people of habit. When the use becomes habitual, public transportation for commuting and other regular uses makes sense.

A couple going to a Giants game, or a Sharks game, find it much more economical and efficient to go by Caltrain. When it becomes equally economical and efficient to use it for other trips, the attraction of public transportation will become evident.


13 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 23, 2015 at 4:23 pm

After perusing the comments, I can see why this is a problem with no solution.

Palo Alto Residents: "Why do companies put their divisions/offices in PA anyway? Why don't they move their divisions/offices to Morgan Hill, the East Bay, or some other low impact area (translation - get the traffic out of PA. I don't really care whether the solution is practical, just get these cars out of my city!) The problem is that, while moving companies to Morgan Hill, for example, my resolve traffic problems in PA, it shifts the problem elsewhere, & imagine what a Highway 101 commute would be like! Furthermore, do you really think that moving a company to Morgan Hill will magically cause employees to move there? Highly doubtful.

Commuters: "Public transportation or bike lanes?! What are you talking about?! I want to be able to commute in the manner to which I'm accustomed - alone, in my car. I deserve this. Don't ask me to park my car & commute by bus or train. What if I want to shop during lunch or I have to pickup my children in an emergency? The solution is building more lanes to accommodate my car, so that I can get to work as quickly as I please. Ok, it's only a temporary fix, but who knows whether I'll be working in PA by the time this all falls apart & the commute once again becomes unbearable. Just fix the problem so that I can get to work much more rapidly." Need I say more?

My point is that the current system isn't working & no one solution will please everyone. But I think it's time that we stop thinking only of ourselves & begin considering sustainable options that benefit the greatest number of people while attempting to maintain or improve (gasp!) our quality of life (including our environment). We're not all going to get what we want, & people in other countries do just fine with public transportation or bicycling. However, they've put much more thought into making public transportation &/or bicycling a viable option for many people. Perhaps it's time for Americans to shift the way that we think about commuting & find alternatives that are much more sustainable long term. This may involve moving outside of our comfort zones for a little while, but I'm sure we can adapt, assuming that alternatives are made viable for large numbers of people. Who knows, people may find they enjoy their commute even more.


2 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of another community
on Jun 23, 2015 at 4:28 pm

Reality Check is a registered user.

@Nayeli: including price of parking in train fare is unfair to majority who do not (or cannot afford) to drive to the station. Those who use a precious and scarce resource (parking stations) should pay for it. And, as it turns out, that pricing mechanism is also the best way to preserve that limited and precious resource for those who need or value that parking the most. Making it "free" by making all train riders pay for it whether they use it or not would ensure the parking lots fill up instantly every morning, leaving none for those who may really need and who would gladly pay for it later. Also, Caltrain monthly pass holders are allowed to transfer to/from SamTrans/VTA buses and LRT for no extra charge. Also, Caltrain allows riders who purchase monthly passes to also purchase discounted monthly parking passes. Caltrain's monthly passes allow unlimited rides between zones paid for on weekends and unlimited rides the length of the line on weekends and holidays. Also, when you drive your car somewhere, those miles (depreciation) and wear and tear (service/maintenance cost) you put on your car increase the cost well beyond the price of just the gasoline burned -- not to mention the added crash, traffic citation and parking hassle/cost exposure that comes with that trip. Most insurance companies charge lower premiums for cars not driven to work and driven less miles. So there's another cost beyond just gas burned. We won't get into the external costs (pollution, warming, congestion leading to calls for more parking, road widening / maintenance, policing, crashes & related costs, etc.).


9 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 23, 2015 at 4:51 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

@ Resident: I agree that it is easier and more beneficial to use CalTrain when going to a Giants game. We do this when we catch a game every now and then. This is because it costs and arm and a leg to park at AT&T Park. However, it isn't quite as economical or useful when going to a 49ers game at Levi's Stadium given the proximity to CalTrain or other means of public transportation.

As for the "car culture:" I don't know where you are getting your statistics. From what I have read, there have never been as many cars or licensed drivers on the roads as there are right now. The only time that it went down in recent years was in 2009-2010 -- and that was attributed to the economy.

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link

The auto industry indicated an increase in new vehicle sales for 2014 (which were higher than 2013, which were in turn much higher than 2012).

Web Link

Public transportation should be a viable alternative, but it will only be such a viable solution if it costs less than traditional driving (taking into account that people will still own the cars for purposes other than work commute). The cost of a CalTrain ticket (round trip) has now jumped to $18.50 a day for 4 zones' travel. In my vehicle, I could drive more than 185 miles for that cost (with gas at $3.49/gallon at ~35 mpg).

Yes, this doesn't account for parking, but most people do not pay for parking (unless they work in the city -- but many of those workers receive partially or fully subsidized parking expenses). In addition, this only accounts for CalTrain costs -- not connecting transportation or parking expenses (e.g., parking at CalTrain lots, buses to/from CalTrain, etc...).

If we are to be enticed by public transportation, it has to be a lucrative reason to do so. Since nearly every person over the age of 18 will own a car anyway...and since most of us do not pay for work-related parking...the cost of using public transportation has to be cost effective.


4 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jun 23, 2015 at 5:25 pm

Nayeli, I think you're missing Reality Check's point. Car travel isn't inherently faster or cheaper than any other method, and the reason it may be preferable for you or others in this part of the bay isn't by accident or chance; its the result of billions of dollars worth of investment in making it so. If the goal is to provide alternatives, or to get existing alternatives such as public transit onto better footing, the first step should probably be to not continue spending billions of dollars on making public transit less effective.


8 people like this
Posted by @Gale
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 23, 2015 at 5:45 pm

Gale, I'm really glad to see some honesty coming through in this discussion.

You wrote: "We were once rural, farms/orchards and such, and then we became suburban, and now we're getting pushed into being urban. Stop it already. Enough is enough. We are just not urban folks!"

I appreciate it when people just flat out say that they want something because it's what they personally like and they're asking for something for them. Thank you. Thank you for that. Where I get upset is when people start talking about things like "environmental impacts" as a reason not to develop when it's very well known that density is greener. So, I appreciate the forthrightness and I'm glad that you've really cut through the weeds. You just don't want growth. That's fine. I respect that position. But you yourself need to be conscientious of the fact that this is a selfish position that is good for you and bad for everyone else. It's worse for the environment, it's worse for commuters, it's worse for people who spend every penny on rent, it's terrible for the economy. Web Link That's all fine, but just own that. If you think your own personal preferences are more important than all of that, then own it. For every college grad that moves back in with their parents because rent is too damn high around here - they have you to thank. For every parent in Palo Alto whose kids move to a different state because they can't afford to live anywhere near their jobs in the Bay Area - again, that's you. For every grandparent around here whose only interaction with their grandkids is via skype- yup, you guess it....We keep going this way and a lot of people in Palo Alto will be declining and dying alone in their multimillion dollar homes. I'd rather see some apartments than be destined to be separated from my family by a plane ride, but hey, everyone's got their priorities.

You yourself acknowledge that this place was once an orchard. Why aren't you volunteering to demolish your house and turn the land back to an orchard? There's lots of people who lament that it's not an orchard anymore but I don't see them coming for your house. All I see is you coming for the houses of our children- the next generation. Why was it ok that orchards were paved over so you can live here but it's not ok for us to put up some apartment buildings on El Camino?? Why is "enough" actually "just enough for Gale"?


2 people like this
Posted by usual characters
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 23, 2015 at 5:51 pm

Gotta love seeing the usual characters out and about who claim that our community doesn't have the transit infrastructure to build new housing and who are also here claiming that money shouldn't be used for transit! Kudos gentlemen! What terrific hoodwinking you have played on us all! Why don't you just do us all a favor, quit with the lies and falsehoods you've been spreading about development and step right next to Gale to just tell us that all you really want is no growth at all, regardless of whether impacts are mitigated or now. That's the end game here, right?


7 people like this
Posted by Johnny
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 23, 2015 at 6:07 pm

Making the new lanes HOV would make it worse.
HOV lanes everywhere are a failed and discriminatory concept. They really function as a tax siphon because so many drivers violate them.

I find it hilarious and fitting that our "city officials" are at odds with the county. So one of their goals is reducing single-occupant vehicles? This is laughable/egregious. I want to see Marc Berman ride the bus to work. Coming up with faux environmenalist changes to coerce people to alter their lifestyle to be more "green" suffocates us worse than polluted air.
If all these "well-intentioned" regulations didn't serve to paralyze our economy and stifle innovation we may as well have hovercrafts by now.

Riding a car alone is an essential part of our high quality of life. For Chrissake.

Power in the hands of politicians with fantasy ideas is a dangerous combination.


8 people like this
Posted by Lulu
a resident of Los Altos
on Jun 23, 2015 at 7:20 pm

Stanford needs a Park and Ride
The biggest culprit is Stanford and the traffic going to/from campus. Stanford should build a park and ride at 280/Page Mill and bus their staff onto campus on Marguerite. This would eliminate a percentage of these cars.


9 people like this
Posted by Sea Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 23, 2015 at 9:49 pm

Please fix El Camino traffic first.


13 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 23, 2015 at 10:11 pm

"What is wrong with me and others wanting our town to stay pretty much the same way we remember it and liked it decades ago? the reason we moved here."

There is nothing wrong with it at all. Palo Alto was a lot better back then, at least I think so. We can't keep it the same, however, because it has already changed. The hippies in the 1960s, the yuppies in the 1980s, the tech boom in the 1990s, the recessions in the 2000s, all irrevocably altered the nature of our town as a whole. Just looking in the downtown area, there is a world of difference between now and 10 years ago. It seems like half the restaurants have come and gone, as have many of the shops. Then again, if you look at the downtown of 10 years ago, it was a lot different than the downtown of the 1980s. And so forth.

"The young kids/adults with negative posts have a tough fight coming up if you want to change it very much from the way is was."

But it has already changed, long since. We often don't see the changes from year to year because they are incremental. What you see as negativity, they see as something logical, positive and desirable. Stereotyping those who embrace change as young, and those who oppose it as old, isn't necessarily accurate.

"My boxing gloves are on and I'm ready for a fight!"

Is an endless fight really what you are seeking? Because it really would be endless. That is one of the reasons Palo Alto won't go back to the way it was. The Palo Alto of the early 1960s wasn't a battleground. In marked contrast, Palo Altans of today love to fight, as shown by the goings on here online and in the real world. The self-immolating, uber-censored Town Square is present day Palo Alto in a microcosm, unfortunately.

I really wish I would wake up tomorrow and find our city just as it was in 1973 or thereabouts. I still miss Zacks and that shop downtown that sold the leather goods. Failing that, the early 1960s would do just fine. It won't ever happen, though, because we can never go back. We can move forward to a better future if we choose. Wasn't that part of the ethos in 1961, that the world could change and become a better place? Just a thought, for what it is worth.


6 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 23, 2015 at 10:28 pm

@Johnny wrote:

"Power in the hands of politicians with fantasy ideas is a dangerous combination."

Power in the hands of politicians who are also landlords is another dangerous combination. The current system of restricted supply is very profitable for them, and they have little incentive to change it. Less true in some areas than others, but true for the Bay Area as a whole. It is time to do what is best for the teeming masses, the Average Joe and Jane.


8 people like this
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 24, 2015 at 8:20 am

SteveU is a registered user.

Vanessa Warheit,
What is wrong with that picture (and attitude) is that not everyone CAN ride a bicycle. Ever hear of the Americans with Disabilities Act? There is reasons there are all those curb ramps.

Ever herd a family of kids onto Public transit? Besides the hassle, the Cost and exact change (or try maintaining track of multiple Clipper cards), becomes significant

Ever work odd hours? Go take BART to Berkley for a 9PM job on Telegraph (near Asby). Right! It is an long uphill hike when you are lugging tools and equipment. Taxis are not a option for hourly workers. How about working Days in Morgan Hill! Need to stay just a little late (many places)?

Transit is run by bean counters whose job is to maximize revenue, not get people to and from WHERE they need to be, close to WHEN they need to be there. Add into this calculation is the Union scale pay a driver get to drive A bus, any bus which leads back to only running high volume routes, at peak times.

Auto insurance: I pay the same for 1 mile a week or 134 (that stays under typical 7K per year break point) miles.
The DMV gets their same fee for any miles driven.
Hard to pay additional to use public transit, when you already pre-paid for a cars usage.

There is no single PERFECT solution. To me, Google did the right thing with their buses. Other companies that provide Bike storage and worker Showers. Those all help.

Obstructing other things does not. We need solutions for ALL.

Parting thought: Why are car dealerships still being allowed in Palo Alto?


23 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 24, 2015 at 8:34 am

mauricio is a registered user.

@usual characters-per your request, I'm stepping right next to Gale, and if it had been clear before, I'll say it right now:we want no more growth.

To use your own words, stop spreading lies. Reading your comments, a person from afar would think that Palo Alto has been frozen in the Harry Truman era. The truth is that Palo Alto has gone through a tremendous growth wave, overly densifying and urbanizing in the last few decades. Even residents who moved away in the 1990's would hardly recognize parts of the town. Downtown has become an office park, there are housing developments along High St, on the land once occupied by PAMF, around California Ave and elsewhere. Even if we adhere to a small percentage of the vision of PAF and Steve Levy, we will become a very dense and urbanized city, and our chosen way of life will be forever gone. Everything has a saturation point and limited capacity. We have reached and moved beyond them. So yes, the developers and their enablers have had there way for decades, and it's time to stop. Here, i just said it.


4 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 24, 2015 at 9:09 am

@@Gale Johnson and @Kazu

I am not a 'no growth' advocate. I'd like to characterize myself as a supporter of 'smart growth'. You can see in some of my recent posts that I am in favor of more housing, in fact enough to house all those workers who are now commuting long distances, primarily by car. In fact I really extended my thinking by suggesting increasing height limits for housing units and building enough Channing House size units to take care of all the housing needs. But, the big question remains, would those units be affordable? Would making them available bring down rental prices? An interesting question to pose to those commuting workers would be "What rent can you afford that would entice you to move to PA to live and be near your workplace?"

But, I also conditioned my idea with the need to keep the cap on building more offices until the housing imbalance is corrected.

I'm in a writing class, Life Stories, at Avenidas. I've written over 50 stories. One recent one is titled "My Town Has Changed...And It's Still A Changin'. I had the pleasure of being invited to have coffee with Jay Thorwaldson (PA's iconic newspaperman) when he was in town earlier this year. We did a lot of reminiscing about our shared 50+ years in PA. My story tells about that and I acknowledge in it that we can't turn back the clock, change is inevitable. And that nostalgia is contagious, so don't get too near me.

In one part of my story I describe seeing the Grateful Dead perform at El Camino Park (across from Stanford Shopping Center) back in the '60's. They were just getting started and it was a free concert. Lucky me. I took my camera that day and have pics of them on stage just a few feet away. Interesting, their Fare Thee Well (sans Garcia)concert coming up is sold out and ticket prices were in the $560-$850 range.

Another one of my stories is titled "Tis Better To Give". It's kind of a spoof. I talk about giving and receiving, but that it is a universally held belief that it is better to give ADVICE than to receive it. And that seems to be why all us posters do it and are so good at it.


10 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 24, 2015 at 10:27 am

Slow Down is a registered user.

I'd like to see negative growth for Palo Alto - policies that encourage businesses to relocate to nearby urban center like Oakland, San Jose and San Francisco. Those are the only locations that have serious shot at dealing with public transportation. Doesn't matter what kind of "-ist" you are, urbanist, residentialist, environmentalist, more suburban development in Palo Alto makes no sense.


4 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 24, 2015 at 10:50 am

They should go back to the original plan - a signaled intersection. You can set the lights to all-red during off hours...which can be triggered green by the first car that slowly approaches the stop line.

Expanding the road from 4 to 6 lanes will not solve the problem. You're still going to have a bottleneck when Page Mill crosses Foothill Expwy and heads down the hill towards ECR.

If you want to expand the length of the right/left turn lanes at the Page Mill/Foothill intersection, that may help a bit.

But it seems awfully silly to expand and then contract --- just keep it as is.

As stated on other threads - it makes no sense to unabashedly expand commercial/office space in PA when there is a such huge housing imbalance. But before adding the desired housing, someone has to come up with the multi-millions of dollars to expand the utilities capacities, purchase new land and then build schools to absorb the new headcount, expand safety services (sites, headcount, benefits, equipment), etc. And that should be paid for by those who want to build the new housing.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 24, 2015 at 10:55 am

I just want to point out to those who fear public transportation to say that of course public transportation will not suit everyone. Those who have flexible work hours or work places, those with young children, those with some types of mobility problem, are not the likely the candidates. Public transportation is much more likely to suit those who work at approximately the same hours at the same place. It may not even suit them for every day, but quite possibly 3 or 4 times a week. Those most likely would I expect to find using and enjoying the benefits of a suitable, efficient, cost effective, reliable transportation system could be DINKY (double income, no kids yet) and empty nesters.

I think the return of the single family car will come soon particularly with the influx of Zipcar, Uber, Shudder, and who knows what the next one will be.

Don't think 20th Century, think for the future.


22 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 24, 2015 at 11:11 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Palo Alto has had a period of tremendous growth for several decades. The developers and urbanists have had their way for many years now. They tipped the balance and Palo Alto, once a suberbian semi rural college town became a city that is noisy, gridlocked during rush hour, dense. We don't have the infrastructure capable of serving a dense city and not the land to expand the existing infrastructure. The growthers make fun of those claiming they want to turn us into another Manhattan, but they keep praising Manhattan and bring up as the model of modern, green living, because their vision is frightingly Manhattan-like.

We need a period of negative growth in which businesses, especially high tech companies, are encouraged to move to either local urban centers (San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland) with the infrastructure capable of sustaining them and their workers needs, or further away. "Smart growth" is just a code word for more developer friendly damaging growth.


17 people like this
Posted by cross walker
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 24, 2015 at 11:38 am

tell the county to stay out of palo alto. they have already done enough damage to Oregon Expressway. what a disaster and a total waste of money that fiasco turned out to be. and, 9 months of waiting while their construction crews stood around and watched one person dig a hole. traffic was backed for an hour at times trying to get from El Camino to 101.


4 people like this
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 24, 2015 at 11:43 am

SteveU is a registered user.

@Resident
I don't fear Public Transit. I fear the folk who are running it. Their thinking is calcified. Long term plans are all they know. We almost need demand based transit.

I use it when possible (when I avoids many of the limits outlined). I also use my bike for some trips.

We need NEW ideas on how to solve these needs;
eg.
The bus becomes full, a second one shows up quickly (not in an hour or next scheduled run) from a local pool. When extra bus then empties, the regular bus waits and the passengers merge onto it and the extra returns to the pool.

We have instant fare box data (clipper) that can be used to manage rider traffic, so lets get transit into the 21st century and meet the NEEDS of the community.
ONE SIZE does not fit all: times, routes, local events. We need near instant flexibility.


3 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jun 24, 2015 at 11:43 am

@mauricio

I'm curious if you think simply saying something makes it a true statement:
"Palo Alto has had a period of tremendous growth for several decades."

When did the majority of Palo Alto's growth occur? How much did Palo Alto grow between 1970 and 2000? Because, if you look at any kind of objective measurement, the complete opposite of your statement is true.


18 people like this
Posted by Tim Buck II
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 24, 2015 at 11:45 am

"They should go back to the original plan - a signaled intersection. You can set the lights to all-red during off hours...which can be triggered green by the first car that slowly approaches the stop line."

Don't forget to install a bevy of cameras to record the resulting demolition derby, as drivers step on the gas with certain knowledge they will be the first car to the line. Two cars crossing the same intersection at the same time = crash.


The real solution is fewer jobs here.


2 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 24, 2015 at 6:19 pm

@ Robert: Not speaking for Mauricio...but I wouldn't doubt that he is refering to the tremendous growth in commercial/office space in PA - not residential.

@ TBII: Perhaps my description is not perfect. I refer you to how the signal lights work at the intersection of Channing & Newell (no crashes as you describe). Speeding up to the line does not work as there is still a set-delay between the sensors and the control box. The light is set to red in all 4 directions --- if a car slows down for the stop, really slows down, the light will turn green before you reach the stop line. But if you're going faster than 5mph, you will have to stop as the light will still be red when you get to the stop line.


9 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 24, 2015 at 7:02 pm

I drive by this traffic regularly.

1. More vehicles need to pass down Page Mill past Foothill. The clear solution here is a grade separation.

2. There are dangerous backups on I-280 itself because of the stop sign and the shear number of vehicles. The stop sign has to be replaced by something which will push more vehicles off the freeway. Then there needs to be some place for these vehicles to either drive off or sit. So more lanes.

3. If Arastradero was two lanes in the Palo Alto direction, this would take more of the traffic from Page Mill.


4 people like this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 24, 2015 at 8:23 pm

Back to the idea posted here of roundabouts: NO!
I consider myself lucky to have survived recently when driving through the two sizable ones when you head north out of Boston Logan Airport. Never again (I'm back to taking the bus on that route).
If we could figure out quality public transit I'd be all for it here - but it just doesn't seem to work in NorCal. Look at the silly light rail system.


18 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 25, 2015 at 6:04 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Yes, I was referring to the tremendous growth in commercial/office space in PA - not residential. Having said that, in the period between 2010 and 2013, Palo Alto's population increased by 3.5 percent. Robert may consider this inconsequential, but I don't.


18 people like this
Posted by PatrickD
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 25, 2015 at 6:42 pm

DO NOT WANT.

City council allowed VMware to build _four_ enormous parking garages on their campus and it barely made any concessions to alternate forms of transportation. There's still no easy way to bike to the tech park, particularly since the Veteran's Hospital has been under construction for almost four years.

How about a pedestrian underpass under the Caltrain/Alma close to Matadero and a connector to the tech park that doesn't involve people having to climb Hannover with its dangerously inadequate bicycle lanes?


33 people like this
Posted by Outta Room
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 25, 2015 at 7:01 pm

Many, many more people work in Palo Alto than live here. All those extra people and their cars jam our roads, pollute our air, and use up our water ( as well as other utilities). There is simply no more room for more people or buildings in Palo Alto due to natural boundaries of the mountains and the Bay. Not to mention limited resources.

Builders of office and business developments should realize this, large corporations ( Google, Apple, VMWare, etc) should realize this also. They should use their. Rains and build where their employees can afford to live and won't have to commute. One would think they would WANT to build where there is room and the land to build on is far, far less expensive, reducing overhead.

Developers should be forbidden to build at all during this drought, but should not to build at all in a place without sufficient space, or where employees cannot possibly afford to at least rent, or anywhere that employees will be forced to commute more than ten miles to.


Like this comment
Posted by LAH resident
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jun 25, 2015 at 9:22 pm

These people are separated from reality.

"we're looking at TDM (transportation-demand management) and strategies for reducing car trips (and) reducing traffic."

Reducing car trips. I know Palo Alto would like everyone to walk or bike to work and for all cars to be burned, but if you're coming from 280, you're not coming from a place within biking distance.

And anyway, as someone who lives up Page Mill Rd, I know that what Page Mill needs more than anything is more bicycles.

P.S. If you want to fix the transportation problem in the bay area then there needs to be some central management to overcome decades of ridiculous nimbyism and actually finish the bart system.


14 people like this
Posted by Paco
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 25, 2015 at 9:34 pm

Council member Marc Berman adds to the conversation the hateful statement that if we add more lanes to Page Mill Road that " it will make it easier for "them" to get to work easier." This borderline racist statement I assume is in regards to the predominantly minority based commuting workforce who make a living working in Palo Alto but who are unable to afford to live in Palo Alto. What a pity that we have council members blurting out such ignorant statements.


12 people like this
Posted by Big Al
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 25, 2015 at 9:52 pm

Interesting to see LAH resident talk about NIMBYism and the need for central authority. One of the problems with solving the 280-Page Mill issue is that LAH doesn't want a traffic light that might inconvenience their residents. That has led to the stupid proposal for a roundabout. If a higher authority could just override LAH and put in a light it would make a solution much easier. It is mindboggling that 8000 LAH residents can cause so much danger and trouble for so many other people.


12 people like this
Posted by Johnny
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 25, 2015 at 9:54 pm

I don't think its racism but that comment by Marc Berman really made me angry.
Allowing people to get to work faster and easier is a bad thing because they drive their own car alone? Who voted for this clown?
I'm disgusted. We really need to bombard Marc's mailbox with complaints over his vile comment.
Maybe we can get the guy fired! That would be ideal.


3 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 26, 2015 at 12:45 am

"Many, many more people work in Palo Alto than live here. All those extra people and their cars jam our roads, pollute our air, and use up our water ( as well as other utilities). There is simply no more room for more people or buildings in Palo Alto due to natural boundaries of the mountains and the Bay."

There is plenty of room. Most of the buildings in Palo Alto are three stories or less, with many just a single level. The solution is to build up. Office buildings, and especially housing. The housing needs to be built close to the office buildings. Build them to the sky!

Page Mill Road can be widened, so why not? Highway 101 was widened, and it didn't bring hordes of new people to our town.

"Not to mention limited resources."

You mean like Hetch Hetchy? That is the same limited resource used by San Francisco. Perhaps a bit limited now, but not in most years.


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Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 26, 2015 at 11:18 am

mauricio is a registered user.

"There is plenty of room. Most of the buildings in Palo Alto are three stories or less, with many just a single level. The solution is to build up. Office buildings, and especially housing. The housing needs to be built close to the office buildings. Build them to the sky!"

This is in a nutshell the problem and danger with the pro growth-pro development crowd. Although they ridicule others who suggest they want to Manhattanize Palo Alto, this is exactly their plan.

We live in Palo Alto because it is NOT Manhattan, Los Angeles, San Francisco or San Jose. If they have their way, all that would be left of this town is its name.

Having a moratorium of all development will put pressure on businesses to relocate and or move some of their operations to areas with available land and far more affordable housing prices, areas that also need desperately economic development. This would be a win/win situation.

Palo Alto has run out of space and there's no more room. We need to keep saying it out loud, especially to the developers, their politician enablers and the growthers who never see an inch of dirt they don't desire to develop or a height limit they don't want to surpass.


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Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 27, 2015 at 1:10 pm

@mauricio wrote:

"This is in a nutshell the problem and danger with the pro growth-pro development crowd. Although they ridicule others who suggest they want to Manhattanize Palo Alto, this is exactly their plan."

That would be interesting news. Do you have evidence of said conspiracy, or was that just hyperbole? It is highly unlikely that 1,000 foot buildings will be built in Palo Alto, but I think you know that. We do need to ditch the height limits on buildings in some areas. Do you think it is ridiculous to have high-density development in certain districts, or would you prefer the low-density development that is currently spreading out into the neighborhoods? Look at the office building on the corner of Hamilton and Cowper. Why restrict it to three levels when it is next to a 13-story high-rise? That makes no sense at all. Equally bad are the numerous teardowns nearby, in which beautiful single family dwellings are replace with two, no-yard, much less beautiful townhouses. Would you rather have downtown high-rises or these low-rises slowly creeping into your neighborhood?

"We live in Palo Alto because it is NOT Manhattan, Los Angeles, San Francisco or San Jose. If they have their way, all that would be left of this town is its name."

I live in Palo Alto because it has lots of good restaurants, beautiful women, a low crime rate, great neighbors (at least in my neighborhood) and because one or more of my family members has lived here for 85 years. I also accept that change is inevitable, and that things will go far worse for Palo Alto if we do not plan for it. Or are you claiming that Palo Alto is the same as it was 45 years ago? Because its not, even though some folks wanted to keep it that way. I was one of them.

"Having a moratorium of all development will put pressure on businesses to relocate and or move some of their operations to areas with available land and far more affordable housing prices, areas that also need desperately economic development. This would be a win/win situation."

'Imagine it, wave a magic wand and therefore it will come true' might be a pleasant notion, but it is also completely unrealistic. Strangling the supply will not reduce demand one bit. It will keep rents, both commercial and residential, and house prices very high. That is good for some of the landlords, but bad for everyone else and Palo Alto as a whole. Not to mention our obligations to ABAG. We are going to plan for 2,000 new residences by freezing development? Sure, whatever you say...

"Palo Alto has run out of space and there's no more room. We need to keep saying it out loud, especially to the developers, their politician enablers and the growthers who never see an inch of dirt they don't desire to develop or a height limit they don't want to surpass."

Space is only two-dimensional on a map, it is three-dimensional in the real world. Sticking our fingers in our ears and saying lalalalala wont't change that, and won't address any of the challenges our city now faces. The anti-growthers present no-growth as a solution, when in reality it poses a threat to Palo Alto's standard of living. Their idealized fantasies are counterproductive and unworkable because they are based purely on emotion and devoid of logic and reason. Our future is not the black-and-white, all-or-nothing scenario you have posited.


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Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 27, 2015 at 1:40 pm

@Gale Johnson wrote:

"I am not a 'no growth' advocate. I'd like to characterize myself as a supporter of 'smart growth'. You can see in some of my recent posts that I am in favor of more housing, in fact enough to house all those workers who are now commuting long distances, primarily by car. In fact I really extended my thinking by suggesting increasing height limits for housing units and building enough Channing House size units to take care of all the housing needs. But, the big question remains, would those units be affordable? Would making them available bring down rental prices? An interesting question to pose to those commuting workers would be "What rent can you afford that would entice you to move to PA to live and be near your workplace?""

Although my opinions differ from yours in some respects, I agree with you 100 percent on what you wrote there (and on some other things, too). People are being presented with two choices by special interest groups: Zero growth or absolutely unfettered development. The problem is that they accept that those are the only two alternatives. Your 'smart growth' is a very sound and well reasoned solution, at least I think so. Affordable housing becomes much more tenable with such an approach. Requiring a certain number of units be earmarked as affordable would be part of the development planning and requirements process. My take is that density is the solution, not the problem, because it allows us to house more people on a given plot of land. Conversely, it allows us to house a given number of people on a smaller area of land. Oh yeah, and perking... gotta have plenty of parking.

"But, I also conditioned my idea with the need to keep the cap on building more offices until the housing imbalance is corrected."

The need for balance makes perfect sense. If developers were able to come up with a a workable scheme to build more office space, yet still achieve the employment / residences balance, would you be in favor or opposed? And how about future developments having office space and housing in the same building? There is no guarantee that every single person in a building would work there, but a lot would almost certainly do so.

Just curious, but have you ever thought of writing the occasional - or regular - column for one of the local newspapers? You have thought-provoking things to say, along with workable and adaptable solutions. Maybe the Post would be amenable? Just a thought, as your missives really are worthy of a better venue.


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Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 27, 2015 at 3:51 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Kazu, I keep saying no MORE growth, not no growth. We have had a great deal of growth, downtown is practically an office park and any additional growth would change PA forever into a very urban, very dense metropolis. if that's what you want, you are in the wrong place( Los Angeles also has many beautiful women). As far as ABAG, don't make me laugh.

You keep commenting as if PA has been frozen in the 1940's and not allowed to change in the last 70 years. The truth is that it has been allowed to change, and change dramatically, and many councils (and staff) were filled with development/developers enablers, including the present one. But the growthers don't believe in any real limit on development and densification. When you listen carefully to PAF members, they really see PA as a future hip urban metropolis, not different from Manhattan. If we allow more height, it would take them and their supporters a very short time to go the 'if we can have 8 stories, why not 16 or 32' route. You can bet on that.

Some companies are already doing the right thing and moving operations elsewhere, where there is more space and much housing costs allow their employees to own and rent, and have much shorter commutes. This trend will continue, it's reality and not fantasy, because space is extremely limited and extremely expensive, and they have very few other options.


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Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 27, 2015 at 5:03 pm

@mauricio wrote:

"Kazu, I keep saying no MORE growth, not no growth."

What is the difference between the two?

"We have had a great deal of growth, downtown is practically an office park and any additional growth would change PA forever into a very urban, very dense metropolis."

It already is urban, and has been for a quite some time. It is the *City* of Palo Alto. Downtown is the perfect place for additional growth because it is already the most developed part of town.

"if that's what you want, you are in the wrong place( Los Angeles also has many beautiful women)."

No, I am in the right place. It is going to happen, likely sooner rather than later.

"As far as ABAG, don't make me laugh."

Yeah, I know. Those pesky laws, why should we follow them? We are better than everyone else, and therefore above the law. Just ignore things we don't like and the problems will go away.

"You keep commenting as if PA has been frozen in the 1940's and not allowed to change in the last 70 years."

That is the exact opposite of what I have said.

"The truth is that it has been allowed to change, and change dramatically, and many councils (and staff) were filled with development/developers enablers, including the present one."

OK, and? Change did not happen merely for change's sake. There were internal and external factors driving the changes. They have not gone away, so expect more change. It is a great opportunity to evolve Palo Alto for the betterment of all.

"But the growthers don't believe in any real limit on development and densification. When you listen carefully to PAF members, they really see PA as a future hip urban metropolis, not different from Manhattan."

Have you ever been to Manhattan? If you have, then you must know how silly and overwrought that sounds. If not, then you might want to go sometime. Then you will see that it is not anything like Palo Alto or anything Palo Alto will become.

"If we allow more height, it would take them and their supporters a very short time to go the 'if we can have 8 stories, why not 16 or 32' route. You can bet on that."

Sure, why not if a good case can be made for it? We already have a number of buildings that are quite tall, so similar buildings nearby would be a good fit. Your assumption that building an eight story building will automatically lead to 32 story buildings is guesswork at best. Or do you have some proof of that claim?

"Some companies are already doing the right thing and moving operations elsewhere, where there is more space and much housing costs allow their employees to own and rent, and have much shorter commutes."

They move out and are replaced by others. The demand for housing in Palo Alto continues unabated.

"This trend will continue, it's reality and not fantasy, because space is extremely limited and extremely expensive, and they have very few other options."

No, that is fantasy. Any place with high demand and limited space is a prime candidate for redevelopment. The stick-our-heads-in-the-sand approach is nonviable, which is why it was never used in the past.


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Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 27, 2015 at 8:47 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

But you will always make a good case for more height, more density, more development, more offices, won't you. I have been to Manhattan numerous times, and I have no doubt that Palo Alto would resemble it if we listen you and fellow growthers. At some point the millions who want to iive in Palo Alto will realize that the only way to buy in would be the way I bought in. A family wanted to sell an existing house, i made an offer, they accepted it.
You live in fantasy if you think we will give up our chosen way of life to become another tacky urban jungle. It's not going to happen.


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Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 29, 2015 at 11:15 pm

@mauricio wrote:

"But you will always make a good case for more height, more density, more development, more offices, won't you."

Of course not. Do you seriously think clones of the Chrysler Building, the Met Life Building or any of the others would fit in in Palo Alto? And why do you think Palo Alto would grow to resemble Manhattan? Why not Paris or Vienna?

"I have been to Manhattan numerous times, and I have no doubt that Palo Alto would resemble it if we listen you and fellow growthers."

Why? That statement sounds more like hyperbole and fear mongering than anything else.

"At some point the millions who want to iive in Palo Alto will realize that the only way to buy in would be the way I bought in. A family wanted to sell an existing house, i made an offer, they accepted it."

You are forgetting all the families who wanted to live in Palo Alto, and so built houses on what had been agricultural land. Not to mention all the fine folks who live in condominiums. So you're statement is incorrect.

"You live in fantasy if you think we will give up our chosen way of life to become another tacky urban jungle."

Who is the we? Not me, that's for sure. I don't particularly want to give up my chosen way of life, and realize that Anti Growther contingent is its greatest threat. Again, the notion that we must either be frozen in amber or turn into Manhattan is just fear mongering and histrionics, with a dab of delusional on the side.

"It's not going to happen."

It has always been happening, and isn't going to stop. An increasing population is an ironclad guarantee. The question is do we let growth happen haphazardly or in a planned and beneficial manner. The latter is the only way to protect your neighborhood and chosen way of life.


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Posted by bjd
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 20, 2015 at 12:19 pm

Since there is a petition opposing a traffic light here, I thought I'd put one together in favor of the modification,
Web Link

There is also a proposal to create a roundabout at this intersection, but I believe this would be more dangerous for bikers, and would prefer Caltrans stick to their plan of adding lights with well-tuned timers and sensors.


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

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