News

Palo Altans disturbed by short-cutting tech buses

Noisy commuter, tourist coaches disrupt neighborhood tranquility, residents say

A seeming invasion of rumbling commuter buses and large shuttles on Downtown North streets has some neighborhood residents grumbling.

The sleek vehicles with their black-tinted windows have been skirting traffic-light ridden Lytton Avenue lately in favor of residential streets.

Measures to restrict traffic along Downtown North's Everett and Hawthorne avenues, including roundabouts and prohibited turns during peak commute hours, are not stopping the big shuttle buses, many of which are contracted by high-tech companies, according to some residents. Last Friday, a Bauer bus traveled down Hawthorne almost every hour until 6 p.m. And for two Saturdays in a row, tourist buses have stopped in the roadway to deposit out-of-town visitors anxious to take photographs of the neighborhood's vintage homes, residents said.

Janine Bisharat was working from home last Friday when the Bauer bus trundled up and down the road.

"I ran out then and stopped him and told him to stop driving down our neighborhood streets. I see their buses on Lytton all of the time, and that is the right place to drive their buses. I told him I called the police and he'll get a ticket," she said.

A spokesperson for San Francisco-based Bauer Intelligent Transportation did not return requests for comment.

But other residents agreed that the privately contracted buses and shuttles are a nuisance. And not all belong to Bauer. Some of them are unmarked, residents said.

"It is true, and it is plentiful. They zoom through here. One bus was so big the driver tried to turn onto Webster Street, but he couldn't make it around the corner, so he had to go straight," said another Hawthorne resident, who asked not to be identified.

She witnessed the tourist buses stopping in the street.

"The people got out and took pictures. Palo Alto has become a destination place," she said.

Palo Alto's police traffic team has not received any complaints about the buses, department spokesman Lt. Zach Perron said.

But under Palo Alto's municipal code, a vehicle weighing more than 7 tons (14,000 pounds) Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is considered a "truck" and must travel on designated truck routes, Perron said. Hawthorne is not such a route.

Exactly how heavy these commuter buses are is unclear. A limousine motor coach can weigh up to 25 tons, according to Motor Coach Industries (MCI), a bus supplier.

A 24-passenger 2016 Starcraft Allstar MVP shuttle bus weighs about 7.5 tons, and a 36-passenger 2015 midsized Starcraft vehicle weighs about 13 tons, according to online bus-sales websites.

Without knowing which specific vehicles the complaints are about, and without knowing their weight rating, Perron said he could not comment on whether the buses are violating the regulation. But he doubted that large buses could negotiate around some of the roundabouts on Hawthorne.

The side streets nearer to Middlefield Road don't have roundabouts, though, and residents noted buses can and do turn down those roads.

Perron said that anyone who wishes to file a traffic complaint can leave a voicemail on the Traffic Complaint Hotline at 650-329-2388 with the specific location, date and time of the disturbance, and the traffic team will investigate the issue.

Comments

37 people like this
Posted by synchronize traffic lights please
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 14, 2015 at 9:07 am

I live on Lytton ave, hence I use it all the time. If you want bus and commuter traffic reduced on Hawthorne and Everett, please please please synchronize the traffic lights on Lytton Ave. As it operates now, traveling from Middlefield to Alma, I`ll have to stop at every light (6) from Waverley to Alma.


11 people like this
Posted by Hawthorne Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 14, 2015 at 10:36 am

The big buses just roll over the low curbs of the roundabouts.
Generally, more speed bumps would help. Lots of heavy acceleration getting from one intersection to the next.


51 people like this
Posted by check your privileges
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 14, 2015 at 11:22 am

"'I ran out then and stopped him and told him to stop driving down our neighborhood streets. I see their buses on Lytton all of the time, and that is the right place to drive their buses. I told him I called the police and he'll get a ticket,' [Janine] said."

Wow. This is one of the worst examples of entitlement I've read in a while. Everett isn't a private road, and for whatever reason, nobody, except for PAPD or the DOT, can determine what vehicles may or may not drive on public streets. It is residential, but it is certainly not private, and there are no signs restricting shuttles or trucks to drive on those streets. Have the shuttles broken any laws? Are they speeding down the street and driving recklessly? No.

[Portion removed.]


13 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 14, 2015 at 11:28 am

"Perron said that anyone who wishes to file a traffic complaint can leave a voicemail on the Traffic Complaint Hotline at 650-329-2388 with the specific location, date and time of the disturbance, and the traffic team will investigate the issue."

No they won't. The perpetrators are long gone by the time Perron might get around to listening to the message. This is simply a lame way to duck the job we are paying him to do.

If they Perron is serious, he will get up from his desk and come see for himself. We'll even put out a chair for him.


17 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on Aug 14, 2015 at 11:35 am

@CYP I don't live on Hawthorne, but I think Janine might have a legit beef. Read, "But under Palo Alto's municipal code, a vehicle weighing more than 7 tons (14,000 pounds) Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is considered a "truck" and must travel on designated truck routes, Perron said. Hawthorne is not such a route."


1 person likes this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 14, 2015 at 11:37 am

Hmmm is a registered user.

So what's the deal with the designated truck routes? I see signs in some places, but not in others that appear to be used as truck routes. I'm guessing the onus is on the drivers to know what the designated routes are if their vehicle is deemed a truck?


12 people like this
Posted by traffic control
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 14, 2015 at 11:39 am

doesnt do any good to file a traffic complaint. they have no interest in this matter. but, you can be sure they will give out tons of parking tickets when the new parking regulations go in. more increased tax revenue motivates everything they do. the city has totally screwed up all the lights in Palo Alto--including Lytton and Oregon Expressway to name two.


5 people like this
Posted by check your privileges
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 14, 2015 at 11:41 am

@Mike

I'm pretty sure a shuttle buses, like the ones Bauer has in its fleet, weigh under 7 tons.


11 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto native
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 14, 2015 at 11:47 am

We live on West Meadow and have noticed a significant increase of activity for the unmarked white busses used to transport tech employees. Shouldn't they be using Oregon Expwy and San Antonio Rd instead?


11 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 14, 2015 at 12:01 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Palo Alto Native - why do you think that they should be using those main thoroughfares instead of your neighborhood streets? From where do they pick up people in the morning and whaat are the evening destinations? Individuals homes, bus stops or parking lots? I've seen them on some of East Palo Alto's main streets, also.


18 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 14, 2015 at 12:24 pm

I have seen those Bauer buses. They are jaw-dropping big. I stopped in my tracks when one was turning off Middlefield, couldn't believe what I was seeing.

Uncivilized to run such a vehicle in a small city.


1 person likes this
Posted by cm
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 14, 2015 at 1:08 pm

I know that this is a different problem, but ...

It is impression that big rigs are not allowed on University Ave, but I've seen a number of them using the street without regard to the laws. Once I even saw one going eastbound near Waverly, and a policeman going westbound on University did not do anything about it.


8 people like this
Posted by check your privileges
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 14, 2015 at 1:10 pm

@cm

That's because they weren't breaking any laws. PAPD isn't like NYPD or LAPD to go exercise their authority just because they can.


23 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 14, 2015 at 1:15 pm

Steve Jobs home and his neighbors have been enduring tour buses ever since he died. Chinese tour buses pass each day. Some of the buses let the passengers off the bus so they can take take pictures, videos and trespass on private property. I wish the city would crack down on these buses.


2 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 14, 2015 at 1:24 pm

Trucks may deviate from a truck route for a delivery.


7 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 14, 2015 at 1:35 pm

I live on Everett, and these buses don't bother me nearly as much as the loud motorcycles that come roaring through at 6:30AM.

BTW, the 7 ton limit refers to gross vehicle weight, which is the vehicle plus its maximum load. A Hummer H2 has a 4.3 ton gross weight.


11 people like this
Posted by ChrisC
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 14, 2015 at 1:38 pm

It would be nice if these buses could at least be ticketed for any traffic violations. I got stuck behind one on El Camino going south. I thought it was just stopped to pick up or let off, but when it started up, it stopped again just a bit father with no signs of picking up or dropping off. It just sat there blocking the entire right lane. I was finally able to get around as were other drivers behind me, but what the heck it was going just stopped there is beyond me, Maybe texting?? Looking at GPS for next stop? I saw it in mirror as it started up finally and watched it go really slow, blocking traffic, for a mile or so behind me. I began to understand the ire that was reported from San Francisco over these buses.


22 people like this
Posted by Gethin
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 14, 2015 at 1:44 pm

Gethin is a registered user.

Anyone can drive down a public road, as often as they want, any time they want whenever they want unless very specific restrictions are in place, such as a tonnage limit. Janine and others do not own these roads, they are not for their private benefit, and any idea that they have a special right is a ridiculous sense of entitlement.

Running out and telling a driver they will reported and get a ticket is nonsense, no law of any kind has been broken just by driving down a street - who do you think you are?

The buses indicate that ridesharing is taking place. In other words one bus may equal many cars not on the road and many parking spaces not needed. If fact the increased use of buses is a benefit to our community, not a detriment.


27 people like this
Posted by Unmarked for a Reason
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2015 at 1:57 pm

Those large, white unmarked double decker buses are Google buses. We see more of them since the new Google buildings were renovated.

The reason they are unmarked is because people from SF to SJ had been throwing rocks, fishing weights, and raw eggs at the previous Google buses.


8 people like this
Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2015 at 2:47 pm

> an invasion

Anyone got any idea exactly how many busses constitutes an "invasion"?


13 people like this
Posted by Sneaky buses
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 14, 2015 at 3:30 pm

City rules:
Web Link

"All trucks making deliveries or pickups west of Middlefield Road must come from through or local truck routes west of Middlefield.
10. All trucks making deliveries or pickups to the Middlefield Road multiple delivery zones must use Oregon Expressway 24 hours a day. All trucks making deliveries or pickups to other sections of Middlefield Road may use any through or local truck route, but must remain on the through or local truck route to the point nearest their destinations.
11. All trucks making deliveries or pickups to Stanford Industrial Park must come from El Camino Real, Alma Street, or Page Mill Road or from Bayshore via San Antonio Road between Bayshore and Alma without using any restricted streets between Bayshore and El Camino Real.
C. Weigh – In: Any police officer shall have the authority to order any commercial vehicle not on a through truck route to a public or private scale to determine if it is in compliance with this section of the Code."

So call the cops. Take a photo and call the cops. The Google buses have been cutting across Charleston a lot lately.


20 people like this
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2015 at 3:38 pm

[Portion removed.]
If the buses are larger than the law allows, then they should be ticketed. Otherwise they are not breaking the law ( upsetting a palo,alto an with a sense of entitlement is not against the law).
Sneaky busses-- what do trucks have to do,with this discussion.

Anyway, this is another in a long list of " major" problems that the residents have to deal with on a daily basis. It is a wonder that people have not fled from the city due to all the terrible things happening here ( airplane noise, train noise, traffic, busses, tourists, no mom and pop stores in town etc).


5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 14, 2015 at 4:39 pm

The [portion removed] tour buses allow their occupants to trespass on Steve Jobs property. They sneak into his backyard all the time. Wouldn't you think the bus operators and the riders would have respect for private property? Nope, they don't care or show any courtesy. Luckily there is now a full time guard in the neighborhood, protecting PRIVATE property from the rude tourists that are breaking American trespassing laws.


9 people like this
Posted by Downtown resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 14, 2015 at 4:40 pm

I like Janine's approach, but would modify it further. Stand in front of the bus like a Tianamen Sq protester. Do that enough and the driver will find another route. If the driver calls the cops they would then have to deal with the 7 ton GVW issue rather than ignore your voicemail. Or better yet, call the cops on your cellphone while blocking the vehicle, which would again force the police to deal with the issue. And I doubt you would be cited if they instead told you to scram and you cooperated. Brings back fond memories of anti-logging protesters back in the 1990's.


8 people like this
Posted by Downtown resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 14, 2015 at 4:47 pm

PS: @CYP: throwing stones from Crescent Park eh? Please stop judging when you don't know what it is like to enjoy this type of bus traffic near your kids bike routes.

Perhaps we will get your sympathy once all the downtown workers who are displaced by the new B.S. parking plan shift to parking in your neighborhood and scootering to work downtown. Would be interesting to see if you then complained to your developer neighbors and friends about their overbuilding downtown without providing adequate parking for their employees.


17 people like this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 14, 2015 at 7:19 pm

As a driver in a personal vehicle (compact car), I have been blocked by luxury commuter busses of the Google type as well as the Bauer type, with a noticeable increase of such events in recent times, on local city streets.

The original notion of G busses & LinkedIn busses and etc. shooting down 101 made sense and I don't begrudge them. But what about increased traffic on small, local, narrow, residential city streets? That is a different matter.

It seems some of these busses stop at random places to pick up employees (I have seen over in Cupertino), a TOTAL change from when I lived there.

Wear and tear will increase on our city streets with these heavier vehicles.

Seems like it would be worth finding out definitively what the city's laws are for commercial busses (and their weights, special license requirements, etc.) as I have also been surprised to see them on Charleston/Middlefield, etc.

When I moved here, I remember the movers telling me that their medium sized moving truck was forbidden to use Embarcadero, required to go on Oregon, except when I advised that it was NECESSARY for the delivery to go on Embarcadero to get to my new home, close off 101, and they agreed to do that. They said the police would stop other commercial traffic on Embarcadero.

Well, over time, we see more and more large commercial vehicles on Embarcadero (from 101 side). A lot go up to Stanford. I wish they would take 280 to Page Mill Expressway and go into campus from THAT side, for a change.

So, I also thought that Oregon/Page Mill EXPRESSWAY was the route for larger commercial vehicles, UNLESS NECESSARY (not out of convenience or preference) to go on Embarcadero, which is a quite narrow roadway.


11 people like this
Posted by easong
a resident of another community
on Aug 14, 2015 at 8:59 pm

Making Oregon Expressway a "real" expressway, with fully timed signals from El Camino to 101 (including Middlefield), would encourage traffic to move there. As for downtown, short of installing barricades on the backstreets there is no way to discourage traffic through those neighborhoods. University is frequently impassable thanks to pedestrians leaping into crosswalks, allowing only one or two cars to pass per light cycle at peak hours. Lytton or Hamilton are generally better, but better light timing on these streets would help keep many through vehicles off the residential streets. It's called traffic engineering -- try it!


18 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 14, 2015 at 11:35 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

Wasn't all the construction and new signals over the last year on Oregon E. supposed to bring synchronized lights and improved flow? As of now it is worse, and you are guaranteed to miss every light unless you are at least 20mph over the speed limit.


11 people like this
Posted by Tell It Like It is
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 15, 2015 at 9:17 am

What a sorry town this has become.
Go ahead and stop the buses, or make them take less convenient routes for the riders. Force the occupants into their own personal cars so you can have even more cars on the roads and parked on your streets. Get over it, or move somewhere else. Spend your energy on something more important like saving the Buena Vista.





10 people like this
Posted by Sammy
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 15, 2015 at 9:41 am

I have to agree. The tech buses are becoming an issue on Hawthorne and Everett. The cut through traffic of fast speeding cars and these huge buses, that are often times double parked, are creating very unsafe streets in our neighborhood. It's not only the tech buses, but we get quite a few tour buses that are simply too big to parallel park or make turns on our small streets.


5 people like this
Posted by Bah
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 15, 2015 at 10:07 am

I truly feel sorry for the posters on this forum who have nothing better to do in their lives than make snarky comments about people who are expressing concern about an issue that affects them directly. If the issue doesn't affect YOU, wouldn't it be a bit more civilized to be thankful you aren't bothered by it, and simply move on to another item of interest to read?

I wonder what personal issues drive the need to denigrate others for no good reason.


3 people like this
Posted by Alice Schaffer Smith
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 15, 2015 at 11:03 am

Suggestions supplemental to those above:

Post no truck or bus notices
Narrow the passages into these streets (unless that restricts firetrucks, of course).

Call Google, or whichever companies have private buses and speak to the corporate transportation manager.


8 people like this
Posted by Fou du vélo
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 15, 2015 at 11:53 am

We see these buses all over town in Mountain View and because of their size they are a serious hindrance to cyclists. When loading/idling, they often block the bike lanes if not the whole right lane or even the whole street. It is also quite nerve-racking to bike to the right of these over-sized buses -even in a well marked bike lane-. Many of our streets are simply not designed for such large vehicles.


7 people like this
Posted by Horace
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 15, 2015 at 1:29 pm

"If the issue doesn't affect YOU, wouldn't it be a bit more civilized to be thankful you aren't bothered by it"

It does affect me: so long as those buses are driving on their streets they aren't driving on mine. If those NIMBYs get their way, the buses might move over here. Then you can bet I'll raise holy thunder


2 people like this
Posted by Tell It Like It Is
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 15, 2015 at 2:12 pm

This would be a better place if we ALL rode buses.
Why are you fighting the planes, and the buses, and the trains ?.
These are good things, and we should all be encouraging their use.
Please get on board with the rest of us and use public transit and and stop fighting a good thing. You seem to fight the things that don't immediately benefit you - at the expense of the rest of us.


6 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 15, 2015 at 2:14 pm

@Bah wrote:

"I truly feel sorry for the posters on this forum who have nothing better to do in their lives than make snarky comments about people who are expressing concern about an issue that affects them directly. If the issue doesn't affect YOU, wouldn't it be a bit more civilized to be thankful you aren't bothered by it, and simply move on to another item of interest to read?

I wonder what personal issues drive the need to denigrate others for no good reason."

So nobody is allowed to disagree with with a complainer? That is playing the victim, not being denigrated. Sure, there are buses going through da hood. And? We have VTA buses going through here, too, and have had for a long time. I never heard anybody complain about them. As long as the buses and cars are obeying the law, they have every right to be there. How is a Google bus any different than a VTA bus? I think companies that provide bus service for their employees are to be commended. It is a lot better than having all those people driving their cars through our neighborhoods.

[Portion removed.]


5 people like this
Posted by Bah
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 15, 2015 at 2:51 pm

@Kazu wrote:

>> "So nobody is allowed to disagree with with a complainer?

Nonsense. You're complaining about people whom you don't know but have decided you are competent to label them "complainers." Congrats on joining the ranks of the "complainers."

>> "That is playing the victim, not being denigrated."

People are discussing an issue that concerns them, which does not qualify as "playing the victim." Look it up.

Negatively labeling people and ridiculing them is denigrating them. (Even if you think they deserve it.)

Maybe the snarky comments and attitudes are driven by a frustrated need to exert control over others where one cannot do so in real life. Maybe being rude while hiding behind anonymous names is the only way some people can feel in control.

Practicing nice is so much more rewarding.


6 people like this
Posted by No sense
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 15, 2015 at 2:52 pm

It's funny to read all the complaints about the tech buses without any attempts at solutions. Janine, Is moving the buses to Lytton really a solution? I suspect that the residents of Lytton would think not. And the obvious alternative to the buses would be a drastic increase in the number of cars driving down your streets. Would you like to have your street lined up with cars all day so that you can't even pull out of your driveway (if one bus per hour is driving down your street and the buses carry 70 riders then you'd have 70 more cars per hour traveling down your streets - is that preferable?). Do you really want to discourage the use of public transportation? [Portion removed.]


6 people like this
Posted by Step down, Bah
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 15, 2015 at 3:06 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


17 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 15, 2015 at 3:12 pm

If objecting to overreaching by corporations with unlimited funds who are pushing us around is to be called whining, we need more. Many more. And louder.
More accurately, we are alert citizens trying to keep our town civilized, and not bowing down to stupid initiatives, like oversized buses, and mindless corporate power.

They could have used good judgement and used smaller, less offensive buses, but they apparently don't have much common sense.

Objecting to stupid administrators sounds like good citizenship to me, in the best American tradition.


4 people like this
Posted by Be Kind PA
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Aug 15, 2015 at 9:49 pm

Be Kind PA is a registered user.

@No Sense said:

>> "if one bus per hour is driving down your street and the buses carry 70 riders then you'd have 70 more cars per hour traveling down your streets - is that preferable?"

Um, no, unless all 70 of those people take that same route every day, and I'm betting that's not the case. Buses pick up passengers gradually, getting fuller as they get closer to their destination (in the case of corporate buses where every rider is heading to the same place). Maybe they fill to the max, maybe they don't (I'm betting they don't). So, no, a bus with a max capacity of 70 people is not equal to 70 cars driving down a non-thoroughfare, residential street. It is likely that very few cars (if any!) would replace the bus.

The planned route for thoroughfare traffic is on Lytton. People who bought or rented homes there knew that when they did so. These buses now spilling over onto non-thoroughfare is unfair and most likely illegal, as that is NOT the purpose of those streets when the residents bought and/or moved there.

The solution is quite clear in everything I read in this thread - force the buses to use the roads that were intended for their size vehicle and purpose.

For what it's worth, I think a case could also be made for designating pick-up spots that were near major freeway arteries so the buses did not have to travel residential areas at all.


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

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