News


Traffic drives 2016 priorities in Palo Alto

City Council's new priority list much like old one -- but with special attention to mobility

No one disputes the idea that traffic congestion is one of Palo Alto's most urgent and mystifying priorities.

But as the City Council approved its list of official priorities for 2016 on Saturday afternoon, the big question was whether the topic will stand alone or get tied together with related issues of housing and parking.

After a lengthy debate, the council decided by a 5-4 vote to go with the latter approach as it approved a priority list that looks much like the one from 2015. The main difference is that the city's top priority from 2015, which pertains to the "built environment," now specifies that there will be a "special emphasis on mobility."

In addition to that priority, which now reads "Built environment: housing, parking and livability with particular emphasis on mobility," there are three holdovers from 2015: infrastructure; healthy city and healthy community; and completion of the Comprehensive Plan, with special focus from the council.

Everyone agreed that those three remain pertinent in the new year, though the council debated whether "infrastructure" should now be de-emphasized or stuck under the "built environment" umbrella because the projects it connotes are already in the works.

The big point of debate was whether mobility should stand alone as a city priority, a change proposed by Vice Mayor Greg Scharff and supported by Mayor Pat Burt and Councilmen Marc Berman and Cory Wolbach.

"I think mobility is what people really want us to focus on and fix," Scharff said.

The comment was made minutes after City Auditor Harriet Richardson presented to the council the results of the latest National Citizens Survey, which showed rising angst in the community around the issue of transportation. Since 2010, the number of people who rated traffic flow on local streets as "good" or "excellent" dropped from 47 to 31 percent, while proportion giving these two ratings to "ease of travel by car" went from 66 percent to 44 percent. When asked about ease of travel by public transportation, only 26 percent gave the city high marks, down from 62 percent in 2010.

City Manager James Keene noted that these problems aren't unique to Palo Alto. Keene said he rarely travels to the East Bay now because the traffic has gotten so bad.

"It's not like we get out of Palo Alto and it's smooth sailing to Mountain View or Redwood City," Keene said. "The situation has gotten worse all over the Bay Area."

Burt concurred with Scharff's idea to make mobility a separate priority. Though he acknowledged that it's connected to other land-use issues, there is nothing unusual about different priorities having linkages between them, he said.

"When we look at the community survey and what we perceive as what's going on with today's community and subregionally, the top problem that's been identified is transportation," Burt said.

Making transportation a subset of the built community, he argued, would send a mixed signal.

"I just think it stands as its own priority and I think the community is going to question why we're not placing as one of our priorities the thing that's most important to the community at this time."

Berman and Wolbach also indicated that they would support a motion from Scharff to make mobility a separate priority. Schmid disagreed and argued that separating mobility from the other issues would obscure the reasons for why the traffic has gotten so bad.

"Is the problem transportation, or is the problem how we created that mobility issue?" Schmid asked. "It seems to me in our Comprehensive Plan we are trying to deal with the issue of development caps, jobs, housing, balances or imbalances and mobility as a manifestation of this deeper problem."

Tom DuBois, Karen Holman, Eric Filseth and Liz Kniss all concurred that the issue of mobility, while critical, is so intertwined with other land-use issues that they should be kept together and supported Schmid's substitute motion, which prevailed by a single vote.

Council members also offered their own thoughts on issues that should demand more attention from the council and staff. For Wolbach, housing ranked high on the list.

"You sometimes hear the idea that – we all know, we've always known that Palo Alto has always been a very expensive place," Wolbach said. "But according to our residents and their comments about housing costs, they are not impressed."

Wolbach cited the statistics from Richardson's presentation, showing the median household income increasing by about 20 percent between 2010 and 2015. In the same period, the price of a median single-family home went up by 60 percent.

"Housing costs have increased three times the rate of income in Palo Alto," Wolbach said. "If you're trying to switch from one residents in Palo Alto to another – maybe trying to downsize – that makes it very difficult to do that."

After setting its priorities, the council set its attention to prioritizing the roughly 70 major projects on city staff's growing workload. To determine which projects should be ranked highest, council members placed green stickers on sheets of paper labeled with those projects they see as most important. Not surprisingly, transportation once again dominated the list.

After each council members distributed his or her 24 stickers, the top vote-getter was "grade separation" on rail tracks (submerging the rail tracks under the crossing streets, or vice versa), which received seven stickers. Projects that got six stickers were local transportation funding; traffic signal timing; the bike and pedestrian master plan; the implementation of the Housing Element; the Sustainability and Climate Action Plan; and the new public-safety building.

Comments

16 people like this
Posted by Resident (not Residentialist)
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 30, 2016 at 2:17 pm

This article is an excellent review of what was discussed and the priorities enumerated by the Council. The Council was respectful, civil and also focused on how to be productive, efficient and put less burden on staff. Watching their discourse made me proud to be a "Palo Alto" resident.


19 people like this
Posted by Longtime resident
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 30, 2016 at 2:40 pm

This is a regional problem and only the entire region can solve it. Not individual cities. Each neighboring city, throughout the Bay Area, has an impact that is harming others, in numerous ways, and thinking minds with common sense must discuss it, offering solutions that work for everyone.
ABAG - needs to take a back seat, for all the above to work well.


44 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 30, 2016 at 2:52 pm

We need to get rid of the ABAG goals which will only add more congestion to the region. I believe the Bay Area is due to get 2,000,000 more residents in the next few years.

If we can't get out of our driveways now and face constant gridlock, we're only looking at more frustration and economic paralysis as people stop shopping, going out to dinner, out to entertainment, visiting friends, etc.

And causing more pain to residents, commuters and visitors by taking away lanes on El Camino to make way for under-utilized buses is just SO stupid. Has anyone surveyed the merchants on El Camino?


21 people like this
Posted by Airplane noise
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 30, 2016 at 3:02 pm

Top vote getter had 7 stickers, six had 6 stickers, and 17 projects got 5 stickers, among which was airplane noise (part of the Healthy Cities priority) so it is something that came out as one of the attention getters from council, from among 70 important projects.


18 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 30, 2016 at 4:10 pm

> Wolbach cited the statistics from Richardson's
> presentation, showing the median household
> income increasing by about 20 percent between
> 2010 and 2015. In the same period, the price of
> a median single-family home went up by 60 percent.

There is a huge difference between income and wealth. While the US Census might be about to publish income-related data, it can not acquire data about the wealth of the residents of towns like Palo Alto. And let’s not forget that a lot of Chinese money has been invading the US housing markets, which contributes to the increase in housing prices.

Walbach’s offering might be true—but not all that useful.


31 people like this
Posted by PAUSD Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 30, 2016 at 5:00 pm

I am highly suspect over what is happening in the Planning and Transportation Department. Why has almost the entire department involved with Bike Safety and Planning been forced out?

Does this signify that growth is now going to happen at the expense of our neighborhood safety and have cars racing through our streets?

What type of traffic planning experience does the department have? The recent performance of our new Chief of the Transportation Department regarding the re-stripping of Middlefield, shows inexperience in working with the public and safe planning.

The current Planning Administrators do not live in Palo Alto, do not bike, and appear to have conflicts of interest relative to our children and family's safety. It is a disappointing trend and signals that growth and money mean more than keeping our streets safe for all.


18 people like this
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 30, 2016 at 5:45 pm

The problem is easily stated: too many cars from too many housing units trying to get to too many destinations. The solution is also easily stated: get rid of all the too manys.

The current situation is obviously unsustainable.


20 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 30, 2016 at 5:48 pm

Speaking of consistency --

Re adding housing and more office space, perhaps the Zero Waste folks and our Utility Dept. could ensure that none of the new occupants and workers use any energy, don't flush toilets, don't use any water, etc., etc. since we need to conserve water since we're in such a bad drought the city wanted to regulate our gardens!

Let's be consistent, right?

PAUSD Parent,

Bike safety priorities haven't died but for once common sense prevailed when about 70 of us showed up to reject Mr. Mello's plan to ban parking on one side of Middlefield to make it a bike lane. The parents at the meeting all said they wouldn't dream of letting their kids bike on Middlefield, a concern echoed by adult bicyclists, Middlefield hasn't gotten any safer or less crowded since this was last proposed 15 or 20 years ago and was defeated then, too. Webster -- ONE street away from Middlefield-- is getting a bike lane which is pretty close to Bryant, another bike boulevard.

Immediately after the meeting , though, our transportation planning folks immediately deemed Middlefield safe enough to have a dotted line to permit passing!! This was over community protests because the same safety issues applied as when they were pushing for the bike lane.

Love the consistency!


18 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 30, 2016 at 5:58 pm

There are two sides to the traffic debate.

The one side is that there has to be efficient ways to move traffic around town without bottlenecks. Our expressways have to be efficient as should the major arteries. If traffic on these streets moves efficiently then this is where it will want to be. If we can get where we want to go on major streets, nobody will want to use residential streets as shortcuts.

When major arteries are gridlocked, traffic will look to side streets, residential streets, as short cuts. This is what causes dangerous behavior by motorists who can't get where they want to get.

Move traffic efficiently on our arteries. Get them to be the best option for getting to destinations out of town or where the commuters want to go.

After that, make the residential streets better for bikes and pedestrians. Get safe bike routes, cut down vegetation that takes up half the sidewalk and blocks sight lines for cars backing out of driveways, don't allow trash cans in street more than 12 hours before and after pick up days, don't allow cars to park half on half off sidewalk, and put up more bike racks in places with security cameras to deter bike thefts.


3 people like this
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 30, 2016 at 6:06 pm

Getting an electric car (or an electric bike) won't reduce population/congestion, but you will be happier/healthier!


24 people like this
Posted by Traffic?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 30, 2016 at 6:10 pm

Help me out - what exactly are the traffic problems in Palo Alto? It can't include 101 and 280- those have nothing to do with us. Our major arteries get a crowded for maybe a one hour period at rush hour - but hey, it's rush hour. You might wait two light cycles instead of one at the busiest intersections. Oh well. Getting to/from Stanford on Embarcadero/Oregon/Foothill is tough during commute hours, but everybody knows that and you just avoid that. Are there other serious problems that I don't know about? I drive around town I think typically of other people, and never find traffic to be even an annoyance.


27 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 30, 2016 at 6:49 pm

Weekends are about the only times when traffic flows freely because there's no commute and school traffic.

Otherwise:

Embarcadero gets jammed throughout the day but is worse during school pickup/dropoff times and during commute times. Only 3 cars get through the turn light at Newell so the turn traffic blocks the through traffic.

Drive down Middlefield from 7-9AM. It's gridlocked with buses, commuters and school dropoffs. Wait a few hours and there's school pickups. From 4PM-7PM it's gridlocked SOLID in both directions from Oregon to Embarcadero past University into Menlo Park because Menlo Park has eliminated right turns onto Willow.

Oregon backs up from El Camino to 101 throughout the day with the only "light times" being from 10:30 until around noon.

Sand Hill Road is often gridlocked from 280 to El Camino throughout the day.

East Meadow and Charleston from 101 to El Camino are solid from 4PM onwards forcing residential cutthrough's. The neighborhoods between East Meadow and Charleston have effectively become jughandles for people unable to cross traffic to go in their desired directions.

Yup, obviously we need to add more density and offices. Thanks ABAG.


2 people like this
Posted by Margaret
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 30, 2016 at 8:52 pm

Because we don't know whether we are a City or a Town how can we know the right kinds of solutions to these 'problems'?



7 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 31, 2016 at 1:37 am

The timer on the traffic light at Embarcadero/T&C/Paly should be adjusted from 8:00-9:00AM to allow more cars to drive through on a green light.

Churchill is now a major cut-through street which should be blocked off in the mornings. Any way to get a timed gate? It could be right at the Paly parking entrance so cars can enter the parking lot but not cut through to El Camino. The cars come so close to the Paly students riding their bikes. Safety of our students should be priority over drivers' convenience.


17 people like this
Posted by Johnny
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 31, 2016 at 5:22 am

The only way to stop traffic is to curb overpopulation.

While we're at it -- raise the speed limit on Middlefield to 30 and abandon all "bike safety" programs. The road is for cars and car efficiency must be prioritized.

They've done enough for bikes. Palo Alto is a VERY safe town.


37 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2016 at 8:47 am

Traffic in Palo Alto would be easy to fix. First, we have to undo the mistakes of the past. We've spent 50 years forcing every building to come with tons of free parking - not just for residents, but also for employees. Even in the downtown, where employees pay for garage parking, the price is only $2/day, while each spot costs $60k to build.

Parking is actually really expensive to provide to employees, but are giving it away for free or for super-cheap. If employees had to pay what their parking spots cost the city or the developer, it would be far cheaper to commute by train or by bus. And if enough people switched, the buses would fill up and it would pay to have frequent service - making it pleasant and fast to take the bus, just like it's pleasant and fast to take Caltrain.

In short, charge market prices for parking (just for employees, not residents), and you'll fix traffic right away without costing the city a dime.


22 people like this
Posted by all ages and abilities
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 31, 2016 at 10:02 am

Cities serious about improving mobility and access are constructing low-stress bicycle networks. Palo Alto residents deserve an "all ages and abilities" cycling network.Palo Alto government doesn't seem set up right to deliver transportation infrastructure. It's time to break down the silos between planning, public works, and utilities and increase public outreach early and throughout transportation projects to better understand and meet the needs of our community.

Web Link
Web Link
Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 31, 2016 at 10:06 am

@Joe,
I agree. The cited data on incomes vs home prices is interesting but not helpful unless solutions are offered to change that dynamic. And I don't see why there would be difficulty in down sizing if the values of both the larger place and the smaller place increased by 60%.


17 people like this
Posted by Simplification
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 31, 2016 at 3:30 pm

It's a gross oversimplification to say that if we cut our population then traffic would get better. That's true for the school related traffic but not true of anything else (most civilized places have school buses it's insane that we don't!) Our population doubles during the day because of the number of people who work here. I know of many people who live in the east bay and drive all the way down university and then el Camino and then page mill to get to work at the Stanford research park. Then they drive to downtown or cal ave during lunch and then they turn around and go home in the evening. If those folks lived in Barron park or Ventura there is a good chance they'd be biking or walking to work instead. Not building housing here to accommodate them means they become traffic.

I used to live in Sunnyvale and I was part of the traffic. Then I moved to PA and I walked to work and my husband bikes to work. A lot of people want to make that switch- no one likes traffic and walking and biking is far healthier. There isn't enough housing here for people to do it though. Too expensive.


9 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on Jan 31, 2016 at 4:35 pm

Traffic? writes, "Help me out - what exactly are the traffic problems in Palo Alto?" Eastbound University Avenue backs up into Stanford Campus.

If we closed the 101 interchanges (University, Embarcadero, and San Antonio) then there would be MUCH less cut through traffic.

Simplification says, "Our population doubles during the day because of the number of people who work here." Clearly there are too many jobs in Palo Alto. The PACC should legislate much much less office space in town.

Johnny says, "The road is for cars and car efficiency must be prioritized." Huh? Roads existed many thousands of years before cars were invented.

Online Name says, "...by taking away lanes on El Camino to make way for under-utilized buses is just SO stupid." The VTA 22 and 522 buses are often,m if not always, quite packed - even mid-day. Maybe you'll ride it too some day.


20 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 31, 2016 at 4:50 pm

Glad to hear that airplane noise received city council attention. In my opinion, there are 2 major problems that are affecting our community and the quality of life here in Palo Alto 1. our residential streets becoming major arteries with cut through traffic and 2. airplane noise disturbance day and night.


9 people like this
Posted by Johnny
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 31, 2016 at 5:26 pm

"Huh? Roads existed many thousands of years before cars were invented."

Then I demand to ride my horse-drawn carriage down Alma. Cars be damned.


7 people like this
Posted by New Paradigm Needed
a resident of another community
on Feb 1, 2016 at 10:55 am

Policymakers then and now ought to read "Erosion of Cities or Attrition of the Automobile" from Jane Jabobs brilliant 1961 book, "The Death and Life of Great American Cities". She describes the feedback loop dynamics that lead from solving traffic congestion by adding more road space and more parking to then adding yet more road space and more parking and so on in a vicious, downward spiral.


14 people like this
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 1, 2016 at 10:59 am

SteveU is a registered user.

Roads existed long before cars. General taxes paid for those roads.
Then some smart person invented the Gas Tax to shifted the Tax burden to Cars and trucks (because they used the roads).
Every year a Car OWNER pays Use Tax as part of the registration renewal, excise tax at the pump, to fund road projects.
(note thae Electric only vehicles pay no fuel tax and the revenue to maintain the lifestyles of the road bureaucrats is jeopardized as we shift away from fossil fuels)

What does the owner of a thousand dollar bike pay? Sales Tax: ONCE.
Yet these same folk demand dedicated, well maintained bike only lanes.
It is time for a new way to fund that is paid by the folk who USE the resource.


16 people like this
Posted by Chip
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 1, 2016 at 11:19 am

Adding housing will always increase vehicular traffic. Adding office & commercial space does the same. The result is detrimental to the quality of life for existing residents.

10 days ago on a Thursday, at 1:15 pm, it took 6, yes SIX, traffic signal cycles to get through the green left turn arrow from southbound El Camino onto Alma at the county line. Occasionally, even those of us who live in precious Palo Alto do have to leave town, for a decent large supermarket if nothing else. The Menlo Safeway is patronized by many of us who can't satisfy all requirements at Whole Food or mid-town's store.


8 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 1, 2016 at 11:24 am

A big problem when solving local issues is always that voters want to have their cake and eat it too.

The disruptions of changing grade on rail crossings would be enormous, very expensive,, and will impact adjacent home owners greatly, including unsightly structures. Yet it would greatly improve local traffic flow on the long term.

Accepting higher density housing is also needed to support the incredible local economy, but people still want to imagine they are living on a farm.

Visit the midwest and witness how the centers of towns have mostly died, as the local residents have not been proactive enough to keep business, retail, and culture drawn to the historic centers. Witness how San Francisco has become an incredible magnet for young dynamic people, but how the housing prices have skyrocketed to the point that another important sector of the population is being driven out. It is in the greater interest of the community to enable the economic vitality as long as possible, at the cost of forsaking some of our suburban utopia.

We can look to places like Switzerland for ways to cope with this dilemma. they have limited space, just like here on the peninsula, and a booming knowledge, engineering,and finance economy.

IN Bankok, they built a huge elevated railway to preserve the town's vitality.

This is all very expensive, and a few naysayer activist can erect big obstacles to progress.

I vote for progress, with substantial cost and community evolution. Redwood city has done this; we can too.


21 people like this
Posted by HRM
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 1, 2016 at 11:29 am

One thing I have to say about cyclists on the road is their lack of consideration for motorists. yes, that is correct. Two cyclists can ride side by side taking up an entire lane, happily having their conversation and holding up traffic behind them. Should the motorist say anything to the said cyclists, then the motorist is vilified. Not only that, they rarely stop at traffic signs, blowing right through even though the motorist is already in the middle of the intersection. The morning rush hour is a nightmare with the kids on bikes. Parents, please monitor your kids and make sure they obey the rules of the road. Riding on the sidewalk and then jumping off in front of a car is not safe and yes, you parent, your kid is very likely to be doing tis.

Please note I have biked all over this city and am aware of how blind some motorists can be. They too make it dangerous.

Traffic has never been great in this city, but it is abysmal at the moment. Not just during rush hour but also during lunch hour. To Traffic ? who doesn't seem to find the traffic a problem at all. Trying commuting from one end of Palo Alto to the other during the hours of 4:30 - 6:30pm and again in the morning around 8 - 9am. Try driving up El Camino during evening rush hour from Sunnyvale. Do you know you make each light expect the major ones like Grant Ave, Shoreline and San Antonio but as soon as you hit Palo Alto just after San Antonio, the speed reduces to 25mph (mind you speed limit is 35 mph) and you get caught at almost all lights from there on with plenty of backup.

To the person who said this is a regional problem and not an individual city problem, you might be correct but Palo Alto is that city that creates backup into other cities, namely Mountain View.

Public transportation is designed to fail in Santa Clara county, so until that is overhauled and competent people are hired to make it usable and more efficient we can forget about it.


22 people like this
Posted by Barb
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 1, 2016 at 11:31 am

Palo Alto Planning and most of its citizens have blinders on when it comes to what the true planning issues are. sUccessfully urban planning does not start with a micro view of a specific problem like parking, bikes, or community art..... come on folks....zoom out a bit and look at , or read and gain insight about how other progressive, successful urban areas have mitigated and dealt with these issues in an note grated, big picture way! Increasing demands for greater density, services, traffic mitigation, cost of living issues, and climate change are regional issues. The development of the entire El Caminno corridor from Sunnyvale to San Carlos has been done without any regional proactive oversight , and this development has been totally swayed by the planning departments of each cities narrow, self serving focus to maximize tax revenue, ensure fat pensions are sustained, and thus neglected the more important quality of life issues for the existing residents of the communities. gIven the intellect and educational level of most of the evident who do own here and vote......I'm shocked at the ignorance of focusing on the piecemeal issues ............it is quickly becoming an area many no longer wish t live in due to traffic, densit, lack of urban planning addressing quality of life for existing residents, economic availability for seniors and those who work here. the planning department continues to allow developed to max out every square foot of build able space.....without addressing regional traffic impact, environment al concerns of water , pollution , etc.......


4 people like this
Posted by Kerry
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 1, 2016 at 3:52 pm

I concur with Resident above:
""Churchill is now a major cut-through street which should be blocked off in the mornings. Any way to get a timed gate? It could be right at the Paly parking entrance so cars can enter the parking lot but not cut through to El Camino. The cars come so close to the Paly students riding their bikes. Safety of our students should be priority over drivers' convenience.""

Paly students should have priority over drivers going to work and using Churchill to access El Camino.This intersection was never intended to connect TWO major arterial routes (Alma and El Camino). . Embarcadero has an underpass and heads right into Stanford. Figure out a plan for Embarcadero, Page Mill, and San Antonio to be the major arterials in town. Embarcadero definitely needs to have something done.......it is ridiculous the 6 - 10 minute wait times getting through the intersection of Embarc. and El Camino!!


8 people like this
Posted by Commentator
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 1, 2016 at 4:30 pm

"Accepting higher density housing is also needed to support the incredible local economy..."

Including your own Community Center neighborhood? I thought not.


6 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on Feb 1, 2016 at 5:09 pm

Johnny writes, "Then I demand to ride my horse-drawn carriage down Alma. Cars be damned."

Go for it! I believe you are allowed to do it.


9 people like this
Posted by rose
a resident of Mayfield
on Feb 1, 2016 at 6:55 pm

Hardly a word here about population growth. It's happening and it will continue exponentially. We must provide public transportation in Palo Alto that is coordinated with all the communities in the Bay Area. It must be fast and frequent -- only then will people get out of their cars. They do it in NYC, they do it in Europe, so let's read the writing on the wall and get busy. Build it and we will ride it. Make it fast, frequent, and economical. It's a no brainer.


9 people like this
Posted by Teddie
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 1, 2016 at 10:35 pm

Stick your head in the sand... population is going to continue to rise. Palo Alto's density is 2,500 per Square Mile surely you don't think it's going to remain the same indefinitely. How do all those crowds get around NYC or Paris with densities 30x that of us? With more people will come more options and guess what fewer people driving their own cars. Problem solved.


8 people like this
Posted by cm
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 1, 2016 at 11:53 pm

Population growth, housing growth, development and business growth are all choices. If we elect a city council with enough backbone we do not have to grow. Obviously if cities around us choose to grow we will have to deal with their traffic on some of the larger streets but we can be an example of sustainability. We can keep our population stable, discuss population control and look for ways to live sustainable lives reducing our carbon footprint and looking for ways to provide our own energy, food and take care of our own pollution. Palo Alto always claims that it wants to be known world wide for our innovations - what the world needs is a beautiful example of how to set limits and not destroy the planet. The first limit to set is the number of people. If you can't control this number you can't do anything about all the other problems that are destroying our quality of life.


15 people like this
Posted by Decker Walker
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 2, 2016 at 8:47 am

More people means more cars. Since I moved to the area in 1967 Palo Alto has approved dozens of high rise buildings for housing but not one new or widened street and no significant public transit project. Tinkering with speed limits, stop light timing, and parking rules strikes me as a laughably inadequate response to traffic congestion. Address the fundamental problem: more building (housing or business) requires more transportation infrastructure.


6 people like this
Posted by xPA
a resident of another community
on Feb 2, 2016 at 1:33 pm

>>Wolbach cited the statistics from Richardson's presentation, showing the median household income increasing by about 20 percent between 2010 and 2015. In the same period, the price of a median single-family home went up by 60 percent.

"Housing costs have increased three times the rate of income in Palo Alto," Wolbach said. "If you're trying to switch from one residents (sic) in Palo Alto to another – maybe trying to downsize – that makes it very difficult to do that."<<

I don't understand the logic used by Wolbach. Please explain.


15 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 2, 2016 at 3:21 pm

How about providing school buses to bus the kids to school and then back home? That will cut traffic drastically, esp. since the city hasn't gotten around to syncing the shuttles we're already paying for with school opening & ending times.

Either fix the timing of the shuttles or get school buses! Too simple?

Some of our problems are self-made logistical ones.


11 people like this
Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 2, 2016 at 3:37 pm

The school district, not the City, used to operate school buses. They stopped doing that in the early 90s to "save money". It saved money for them and dumped the traffic problem on everyone else. If you want to bring back school buses you need to pester PAUSD, not City Hall.


12 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 2, 2016 at 3:40 pm

Ok, Donald, that's fair. Maybe parents with school age kids could take up that battle.

But maybe the city could work on its shuttle timing?


2 people like this
Posted by Commentator
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 2, 2016 at 5:38 pm

[Post removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of University South
on Feb 4, 2016 at 9:14 am

School buses. There's a great idea that everyone should be able to get behind. It's not cheap for the district, but it's cheaper overall than a thousand parents each shuttling their own kids to school. Think of all the gas and time that's wasted!


12 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 4, 2016 at 10:24 am

If the school buses were discontinued to "save" money in the 1990s, I'd like to see a cost comparison of how much the school district "saved" and how much the city spent on all its traffic/congestion/parking "planning" efforts.

How much would it cost to coordinate the shuttle timing with the school bells? Less than all the consultants and studies, I'm sure. It would however take some common sense.



2 people like this
Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 5, 2016 at 8:18 am

We see many cases like the school bus issue, where one organization saves money at the expense of another, with a move that can be counterproductive in the big picture. The problem is that each group has to look out for its own interests and they have not reason or motivation to work together. Should we have the schools run by City Hall so they can coordinate on everything? I can see problems with that, too.

As far as the shuttle bus schedule, the top priority is connecting with Caltrain. After that the Embarcadero shuttle tries to serve Paly students, and last I checked was quite full with them. There are a couple that serve Jordan, also. As far as I know the schedules have been coordinated with the schools as best they can.


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Posted by Marge
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 5, 2016 at 9:34 am

Looking at the Embarcadero shuttle schedule at Web Link I see that there are stops at Paly at 8:12, 8:37 and 9:02 which seem to fit tthe bell schedule quite well. There is also a special run to Jordan in the AM and from it in the PM. It looks to me like the shuttle has been synced to the school bell schedules.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2016 at 11:38 am

The shuttles to Paly do not serve students south of Oregon. In fact there is nothing to help Paly students who live south of Oregon.

Gunn is served by VTA rather than shuttles.


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Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 5, 2016 at 12:07 pm

I agree that the shuttles don't serve all students well, but they aren't designed to be school buses. They are to get commuters to and from the train station. They happen to be used by many students, and the schedules and routes try to accommodate them without interfering with the shuttle's main purpose. The complaints here were not about the service area or coverage, but were saying that the schedule doesn't match the school's, which is not correct.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2016 at 12:28 pm

Donald, you are quite correct on the information you have given.

However, this thread is about transportation. It would make sense to look at this from a local need. I am not sure of how many people need a shuttle to get them to the Caltrain stations. I am not sure how well the shuttles serve this need. If it is good, then that is great, no criticism. My impression was that the shuttle was designed to get people to downtown for shopping and eating, or for seniors. If this serves these people well, then that is good.

There is of course the need to get our students to school. The backwards thinking idea that curtailed school buses back in the 90s or whenever, is now reaping one of the big problems we have which is getting 2000 students to each of our high schools in a timely, efficient manner. 4000 high school students plus their support staff, make up a big part of our morning commute traffic, let alone the younger students' commutes.

Improving shuttle service to our secondary schools would be a great help. I don't see why our shuttles should be "free". I would imagine that improving the shuttles to cater for school students and charging a modest fare would in fact make a big difference to traffic around town.

This does not in any way mean that we should adjust what may be a well working shuttle service for other needs.

What it does mean is that "somebody" should invoke shuttles to suit the needs of the schools. I doubt that this means PAUSD should buy a fleet of school buses to do that. I don't believe school districts should be in the public transport business and at the same time I don't think school shuttles should be for students alone. What I think it does mean is that a private bus service, shuttle service, should be invited to tender for a service that meets school needs. In the same way that Stanford has the Marguerite, and Google have their buses, we need a better option for school students in town and we also need to investigate how we can get commuters other than Google or Stanford to use a service that meets the needs of a professional commuter - not just a lower income ridership that cannot afford to run their own vehicle.


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Posted by Marge
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 5, 2016 at 3:41 pm

School buses are not like other buses. There are many laws and regulations to make them extra safe for children. They have special construction requirements, flashing lights, etc. The drivers go through extra screening and training. There are special laws about how the buses operate and about how drivers operate around them. Should we give up on all those and start sticking kids on Google buses with strangers? That might be OK for high school, but I don't think it is going to fly for elementary age children. If you want kids to get to school on a bus it should be a bonafide school bus.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2016 at 4:09 pm

Wow, what entitlement. School children need special buses with special flashing lights.

What nonsense. Most school buses don't have seat belts, don't even have seats that support them safely in an accident. Why on earth should all traffic stop for a school bus? Children should learn that once exiting a bus they have to be careful and don't run into a street. Other children in other countries manage fine on regular buses. They share the buses with other passengers and learn how to behave because there are other adults. If parents are concerned about how they get off the bus or whether a driver will be specially screened then they can ride the bus with their child.

As I said above, any shuttles we have for schools should be for secondary students and anyone else. I don't think it makes sense to have dedicated shuttles for any group in the community. I am definitely not advocating for buses to neighborhood elementary schools.

It's parents who think it is not safe for a child to walk to school or ride a bike to school who are already driving their kids to school and making the extra traffic when really these kids should be able to get themselves a mile or so by bike or walking. We don't need this type of traffic. Get the school kids out of cars and teach them some independence.


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