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.