News

Residents call for 'road diet' to curb accidents on Middlefield

Neighborhood petition requests fewer lanes between University Avenue and the Menlo Park border

For John Guislin and his neighbors on Middlefield Road, screeching tires and clanging metal have become increasingly familiar sounds in recent years.

Drivers making their way downtown or to Stanford University routinely use Middlefield as a thoroughfare. As they pass this residential area, many go beyond the speed limit, taking sharp right turns and, every once in a while, crashing into each other.

"Middlefield Road, from University to Menlo Park border, is four continuous blocks of driver mayhem," Guislin told the council on May 9. "We have a history of having serious accidents and dangerous conditions -- speeding, congestion, et cetera -- on Middlefield."

The neighbors have been lobbying city leaders for years to do something about the problem, with some success. Last June, the city added time-of-day turn restriction signs, which prohibit left turns onto Middlefield Road from Everett Avenue and Hawthorne Avenue during peak commuting hours. The city also restriped the street so that cars would no longer merge near the intersection of Middlefield and Hawthorne, where cars are often lined up to turn left. Now, the merging happens a few hundred feet south of the intersection.

But as Guislin and his neighbors testified earlier this month, the traffic woes have not abated. Andrea Lichter, who has lived on Middlefield for the past 30 years, said she has seen conditions devolve in dangerous ways.

"I'm in my home every night, and I hear near-crashes and I just cringe," Lichter said at the meeting. "I get so concerned and so upset, waiting to hear the impact. And quite often there is an impact."

She recalled an incident several years ago when a young man speeding north on Middlefield crashed his sports-utility vehicle through her fence and drove into her front yard. There was also the fatal accident that occurred in 2011, when a 25-year-old Stanford University scholar speeding south on Middlefield crashed his Saab into a tree and then a parked vehicle near Hawthorne.

Now, residents are proposing a more dramatic solution: reducing the number of lanes on Middlefield from four to two. They believe this solution, commonly known as a "road diet," will offer them the best shot at calming the traffic conditions. Earlier this month, 90 percent of the Middlefield Road homeowners along that stretch submitted a petition requesting the change.

According to the petition, the residents are requesting the change to "reduce the number of accidents, increase safety for pedestrians and bicyclists, increase traffic compliance with speed limit, improve traffic flow, improve safety of driveway access, and improve quality of life for residents." The petition states that more than 90 percent of cars go faster than the posted 25 mph speed limit and that, in some cases, they exceed 50 mph. In April alone there were six accidents, the petition states.

On May 13, four days after Guislin's presentation to the council, two more accidents occurred on Middlefield within an hour. Guislin followed up with an email to the council, with the photos of both accidents attached.

"It is bad enough hearing the crunch of frequent crashes and wondering if any of our family members were near the road or on the sidewalk at that moment," Guislin said. "We dread the day when a bicyclist or pedestrian is run over on the sidewalk by crashing cars."

Since then, at least two more accidents took place Willow Road in Menlo Park and University Avenue, according to crimereports.com. The site shows three accidents occurring on this stretch of Middlefield between May 11 and May 23, three of them involving minor injuries (there were no injuries in the two crashes that Guislin reported).

While the residents are calling for a road diet, the city is exploring other options to calm traffic. These include eliminating left turns entirely (rather than just during limited hours) by installing signage, adding a narrow median on Middlefield or installing a traffic signal. But as city officials warn on a special page dedicated to the project, any of these projects "could add traffic or increase congestion on other streets and will require careful analysis and input from residents on both sides of Middlefield."

That's not to say, however, that the road diet idea won't be explored. Joshuah Mello, the city's chief transportation official, said that right now the plan is to complete the pilot program with the left-turn restrictions (it ends next month), evaluate the data from the program and see what changes to make.

"We're going to look at the the results of the turn-restriction signage and see if it led to any kind of reduction in the number of collision and safety concerns out there," Mello said.

He noted that a road diet of the sort being proposed by the residents has been shown to be a "proven safety measure" for certain types of collisions. Once the pilot study is complete, it will be one of several solutions that will be evaluated.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, road diets are effective in addressing four-lane highways where crashes occur with high frequency, "resulting in conflicts between high-speed through traffic, left-turning vehicles and other road users." The administration, according to its website, promotes road diets "as a safety-focused alternative to a traditional four-lane undivided highway."

"The resulting benefits include a crash reduction of 19 to 47 percent, reduced vehicle speed differential, improved mobility and access by all road users, and integration of the roadway into surrounding uses that results in an enhanced quality of life," the administration's website states.

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Comments

29 people like this
Posted by Why Not......
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2016 at 4:55 pm

TAKE DRIVING SERIOUS........ OBEY THE LAW ... problem solved.



39 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 24, 2016 at 5:35 pm

Whatever we do, do it to the entire length of Middlefield (at least within Palo Alto), not just the northern end of the street. Changing speed limits and changing road widths and changing turn policies are very confusing to already too distracted drivers. Realistically, the entire length of Middlefield suffers from dangerous driving, numerous collisions, and dangerous conditions for kids and families trying to reach the schools, churches, libraries, and shopping along this street. The whole street needs traffic calming. I would be very happy to see the whole length of Middlefield converted to 2 lanes (1 lane in each direction) with wide bike lanes and wide sidewalks and pedestrian crossing lights the whole way.


47 people like this
Posted by midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on May 24, 2016 at 6:50 pm

try living on alma then get back to me...
2 lanes on middlefield will only cause MORE problems.


29 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on May 24, 2016 at 7:29 pm

"For John Guislin and his neighbors on Middlefield Road, screeching tires and clanging metal have become increasingly familiar sounds in recent years."

That is what happens when people drive like idiots. That they text, talk on the phone or have their eyes glued to a navigation device only makes things that much worse. Reducing the number of lanes on Middlefield from four to two will only create much more congestion. That, in turn, will cause people to take detours through the neighborhoods. They won't drive any more safely there than on Middlefield.

Want to make people drive safely on Middlefield and elsewhere? Increased traffic law enforcement is the answer. Instead of building a bike bridge over 101, take the millions and hire additional PAPD officers.


30 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 24, 2016 at 9:04 pm

The problem is that Willow (and to a lesser extent, University) to 101 during rush hour is a dumpster fire. Ask Menlo Park to fix the flow on Willow and you might actually not have to do anything on Middlefield.

This is an example of how constricting flow has unintended consequences, so you better really think hard about considering giving Middlefield a "diet."


27 people like this
Posted by pacsailor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2016 at 11:31 pm

Isn't this ripe for police traffic control? This seems like a good revenue stream for the city of Palo Alto in the form of traffic tickets.


14 people like this
Posted by AllYouCanEat
a resident of Mountain View
on May 25, 2016 at 7:42 am

Two words. Speed Bumps!


16 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 25, 2016 at 8:00 am

Willow to 101 is slow because of the Dumbarton, not the road itself. You could make it eight lanes and it would still back up to the bottleneck.

The real solution for both cities is to get some of the downtown workers who have moved across the Bay in search of lower housing prices onto the Dumbarton Express. Since it can take the carpool lane, it can even be faster if you are going near Union City BART.

One bus can take 30 cars off the road. That's a block's worth of backup on Willow right there.

This is something the TMA could do if it gets funded.


25 people like this
Posted by Hopingformarketcrash
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 25, 2016 at 8:15 am

Middlefield is more dangerous and crowded because 101 is a daily nightmare. A significant number of drivers are looking for ways to avoid the freeway.


42 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on May 25, 2016 at 9:36 am

Make Middlefield 2 lanes instead of 4 and you'll be seeing a lot more cut through traffic in your neighborhoods. 1 car turning left would back up the road terribly. Its already pretty bad at times. "road diet" no thanks. Personally I think the speed limit should be raised to 35 mph to match the reality and intent of having some cross town thoroughfares that don't crawl. Saw this on an old discussion about speeds on Middlefield:
"Police are now prevented from using radar on Middlefield as well as portions of Embarcadero Road and Alma Street because of a California state law that prohibits the use of radar on streets where 85 percent of the traffic or more is traveling faster than the posted limit."


29 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 25, 2016 at 9:54 am

A 35mph speed limit is recklessly inappropriate for a street with so much pedestrian traffic, schools, churches, libraries, and homes. Raising the speed limit will turn the street into a killing zone. If car drivers can't behave themselves around pedestrians with the current 25mph speed limit, the city needs to crack down hard with both police enforcement as well as narrowing the lanes and other "traffic calming" engineering.


41 people like this
Posted by KP
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 25, 2016 at 10:36 am

I think it needs to stay the same...NO CHANGES!
Two of my kids have been hit by cars on the same corner of our block (10 years apart) on E Meadow and Middlefield.
It's the drivers, not the number of lanes or the speed limit. Quit changing our roads. The city already screwed up Charleston/Arastradero!


18 people like this
Posted by Jeff
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 25, 2016 at 10:53 am

Getting across University between Alma and Middlefield is already a problem. One left turning car can force traffic to wait through several lights until the pedestrians and cars let the car turn left. Turning Middlefield into a 2-lane road will make downtown north an island that is almost impossible to enter or leave at rush hour.

Turning Middlefield into a 2-lane road without turn lanes would be a traffic disaster.


34 people like this
Posted by PA Drivers paying for their behavior
a resident of Barron Park
on May 25, 2016 at 11:10 am

Look, here's the deal. People in cars on PA roads have been driving like selfish lunatics for too long. Something needed to be done when it was clear the drivers had zero intention of driving like sane individuals, so they get to now wear a straight jacket (road diet). People will be safer and more will becoming if you continue your ways of speeding and playing games of cutting each other off. The ball is in your court drivers. Feel like fixing things yourself? Obey the laws of the road, insist on rigorous enforcement of them by the police and wonderful things will come your way. Don't do it, and you should expect be to remain frustrated.


57 people like this
Posted by Patrick
a resident of Mountain View
on May 25, 2016 at 11:17 am

Road diet will cause more traffic, then the people living on the road won't be able to get out of their driveway. Look at Charleston Road. It's a nightmare.

Speeding cameras and more police patrols, why can't we do that?


18 people like this
Posted by John Guislin
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 25, 2016 at 11:32 am

Middlefield residents are proposing a road diet but have not specified 2 lanes. We are open to considering 3 lanes including a center turn lane to avoid backups.
We are NOT proposing anything that would put more traffic on other neighborhoods streets. We assume existing turn restrictions will stay in place.
As for backed-up traffic: we already have it for hours each weekday. Backing out from a driveway into two lanes of single direction traffic is just about impossible. To back out into a single lane of congested traffic, you only need one courteous driver to let you in.
If you have ever seen the Dumbarton bus on Middlefield, you understand that the lanes are too narrow for it to remain in a single lane. To make the turn at the Lytton light the bus requires 2 full lanes and usually straddles the lanes all the way to the lane drop at the bridge.


17 people like this
Posted by Rational
a resident of Downtown North
on May 25, 2016 at 12:46 pm

While I like PA Weekly's attention to the issue, I want to emphasize John Guislins point. We are not proposing a solution ... The city's transportation team are the experts there. What we are taking a position on is no more 50 mph flying by our curbs (or stand still) and no more getting honked at just because we want to leave our house.

The correct solution will need to balance safety, quality of life for a residential street and traffic capacity. Creating left turning backups would be a really sad outcome that I am sure can be mitigated with for example turn lanes and center lanes.


12 people like this
Posted by cur mudgeon
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 25, 2016 at 12:53 pm

To the poster who complained that Middlefield is being used as an alternative to 101--maybe if the construction on 101 weren't ongoing, causing congestion, Middlefield would not be as attractive. Why is the 101 creek project taking so long?

As for the bicycle bridge, it would not be necessary if the nanny-state didn't close the undercrossing for six months of the year. Given the drought, when is the bicycle path under 101 ever underwater? Maybe for a few hours?


2 people like this
Posted by cur mudgeon
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 25, 2016 at 12:53 pm

To the poster who complained that Middlefield is being used as an alternative to 101--maybe if the construction on 101 weren't ongoing, causing congestion, Middlefield would not be as attractive. Why is the 101 creek project taking so long?

As for the bicycle bridge, it would not be necessary if the nanny-state didn't close the undercrossing for six months of the year. Given the drought, when is the bicycle path under 101 ever underwater? Maybe for a few hours?


2 people like this
Posted by Since you brough it up
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 25, 2016 at 1:48 pm

once the underpass goes underwater it requires scraping of all the mud and muck that accumulates, each time. Bet you hadn't thought about that.


11 people like this
Posted by Hawthorne Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on May 25, 2016 at 3:47 pm

"The city also restriped the street so that cars would no longer merge near the intersection of Middlefield and Hawthorne, where cars are often lined up to turn left. Now, the merging happens a few hundred feet south of the intersection."

So I'm turning left onto Hawthorne from Middlefield to go home and because this merge to one lane has occurred before the intersection, and as I wait for the mass of oncoming traffic to clear, there is an immense backup behind. Before the new striping, at least cars could pass. AND they ignore the striping and pass anyway.

Attempts to direct the traffic now shunts even more traffic to Hawthorne from Middlefield. Hawthorne is THE route between EC and Middlefield. You would not believe the speeds from intersection to intersection. Cars are coming so fast from MP on Middlefield, they are making dangerous wide right turns onto Hawthorne. We need speed bumps every 50 on Hawthorne.


4 people like this
Posted by Sea Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on May 25, 2016 at 4:12 pm

Let us get creative and block certain roads like in college terrace or like near UCBerkeley.

No way to live life with danger. The residents deserve better.

Respectfully


24 people like this
Posted by CM
a resident of Downtown North
on May 25, 2016 at 4:58 pm

The problem is that the city of Menlo Park uses Palo Alto roads for commute traffic. They have no roads that go from 101 to El Camino anywhere in their city. We have University, Embarcadero and Page Mill. People get off at Willow and cannot get to El Camino without cutting through the Downtown north neighborhood or going farther north and driving down Ravenswood.

It is past time that Menlo Park step up and do their part and connect Willow to El Camino. Stanford is getting ready to build a massive project on the empty land along ElCamino where the road would connect. This should be required before any building starts since this massive project will only bring more traffic. To force Menlo Parks hand we should block off all left turning traffic from Willow until the connection in completed.


34 people like this
Posted by But, But...
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2016 at 5:40 pm

I hate to say it ( not really) but ALMA has gotten WAY worse than most of Middlefield--and it doesn't clear up all day. As soon as the hours-long morning rush is finally over, the lunch rush starts. Once that ends, the first wave or afternoon rush starts and goes on for hours.

The relentlessness of traffic on Alma is stultifying and suffocating (literally--we are choking on the smog)

This town is too small to be a work destination for over 100,000 people! Especially with Google running two shifts!

Why the heck don't the companies build where the workers can afford to LIVE--and end the commutes? Cheaper to build in those places anyway!!!


12 people like this
Posted by Be careful what you ask for
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 25, 2016 at 6:08 pm

CM has it backwards. The problem is that East Bay commuters traveling to Palo Alto perceive University as difficult and congested. When they get on the Dumbarton, they choose to take Willow to Middlefield rather than use University through East Palo Alto to get into Palo Alto. Maybe prohibiting right turns from northbound Middlefield to Willow would solve the downtown north problems?

In reality, introducing more congestion onto that stretch of Middlefield is going to backfire, and the people who will feel the pain most acutely are those who want the diet: the neighbors. Hawthorne and Everett are already speedways between Alma and Middlefield, with cars usually gliding right through stop signs. Instead of Middlefield gridlock, the whole neighborhood will be gridlocked.

Poor conceived idea.I'd rather see some real traffic enforcement. In particular, go after drivers who are texting or driving dangerously. Palo Alto now has the most entitled, ie worst drivers around.


4 people like this
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on May 25, 2016 at 6:55 pm

SteveU is a registered user.

Yea KP

We have traffic problems because of all the pattern meddling with adjacent streets. (Yes, Charlston)

More Houses, More Businesses. More CARS per Household than there were when Middlefield was a major route in the 60;s when I moved here.
It does not take a Phd to understand that REDUCING lanes, ADDING Stop signs/lights adds to congestion (and frays tempers).

One Way streets with LESS stops, left turns, moves traffic in many cities.

Of course, ENFORCEMENT of existing laws is something PA PD does not seem to do. 2 in 10 Make a Full Stop at the Corner intersection.
Cell Phones held to ears: Common
Headphones/ 2 Earbuds: Common
Speed: 35+ common, 45+ frequent (it is a 25 zone)


12 people like this
Posted by Middlefield North Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on May 25, 2016 at 6:57 pm

Sorry, "Be careful", but I think CM has it right. The root cause of most of the problems along this stretch of Middlefield is Willow Road traffic wanting to get west, but being sent down Middlefield North to Lytton due to a lack of any more direct alternative. That is a many-decades-old issue unlikely to change soon.

In the meanwhile, speaking as a resident asking for the road diet and affected by the conditions on Middlefield daily, a road diet would not introduce congestion. The congestion is already there. The goal is to mitigate the many negative effects of the congestion.

Keep in mind as well that Middlefield North traffic is bimodal -- when it's not congested, people speed. The road diet proposal attempts to address both aspects of the problem.

Yes, it would be nice if there were more enforcement, and we residents have asked for that repeatedly. We have even offered our driveways for them to park in. But apart from PAPD's limited resources to patrol, they tell us they consider enforcement along this stretch to be excessively dangerous!

The claim that a road diet would cause neighborhood gridlock is a red herring. Nobody is asking the existing restrictions of turns to be lifted, so there will be no opportunity for new cut-through traffic.


17 people like this
Posted by Be careful what you ask for
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 25, 2016 at 7:18 pm

The traffic on Middlefield is not "Menlo Park traffic." It's East Bay<->Palo Alto traffic that is using Menlo Park roads! Blame Menlo Park for providing a better route than Palo Alto does.

Ever since I've lived here, the Palo Alto traffic mindset has favored congestion. The theory is apparently that if you make traffic miserable enough, people will stop driving in your city. Well, no. People have to get to work in downtown Palo Alto and Stanford -- they can't afford to live in Palo Alto -- and making their lives even more miserable will just result in more road rage, and yes, more cut-through traffic from people heading east through the neighborhoods. That is not prohibited as far as I know, only the westbound turns from Middlefield at certain hours.


27 people like this
Posted by Middlefield North Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on May 25, 2016 at 7:27 pm

The traffic on this stretch of Middlefield is throttled northbound by the single lane at the Middlefield bridge, and southbound by the stoplights at Lytton and University. Whether Middlefield itself has one or two lanes in each direction does not affect its throughput, only the shape of the parking lot.


14 people like this
Posted by Driver1
a resident of Community Center
on May 25, 2016 at 10:33 pm

I think road diets are a bad idea. People are going to go where they need to go, so if you reduce the road's carrying capacity, it will just take longer, increasing the hours of congestion. No one has mentioned the fact that drivers sitting longer in their cars increases pollution and decreases productivity.

As many people have said, bad driving is the problem, so *that's* what needs to be controlled: (1) If radar can't be used, have regular, visible patrols giving tickets to the bad guys. (2) Investigate other means of measuring the speed of cars--this is a pretty high-tech place, and there are many ways to do it. (3) Many of the dangerous situations result from things other than speed. Have officers observing and ticketing these. (4) If all else fails, go to speed bumps, but make them legitimate 25 mph bumps (i.e., you can drive over them at 25 with no problem, but faster is not so nice).

Overall, I would say that making people's commutes worse is not the way to make things better. (BTW, I'm retired, so I don't commute :-)


8 people like this
Posted by Be careful is right
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 25, 2016 at 10:37 pm

I agree that most of the Middlefield (and Willow) congestion is East Bay commuters to Palo Alto. Folks from MP who want to cross west know better routes which I won't list here because I'm sure those neighbors don't want to see more traffic either. Middlefield/Downtown North would be far down my list of route preferences.

Personally I think it would be worth exploring a grade separated road connecting Willow to Sand Hill (which I believe was proposed many, many years ago). I think the Downtown North and Linfield Oaks folks would hate it though.


3 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on May 26, 2016 at 8:26 am

I am Downtown North, and I think that is a good idea. Being NIMBY never works in the long run.


2 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 26, 2016 at 9:04 am

"Personally I think it would be worth exploring a grade separated road connecting Willow to Sand Hill (which I believe was proposed many, many years ago). I think the Downtown North and Linfield Oaks folks would hate it though."

Haha. They don't like people having a good time near their neighborhood (BBQ smoke - THE HORROR!). No way they would accept that. :-)


12 people like this
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on May 26, 2016 at 9:31 am

They tried this ten years ago in Midtown for a week. The backup went clear into Mountain View. They should have fired the guy who cooked this up. Probably didn't...


17 people like this
Posted by Be careful what you ask for
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 26, 2016 at 9:51 am

Stanford is building a 400,000 square foot complex on El Camino, just across the train tracks from the point where Willow ends at Alma. Ignoring the Linfield Oaks and Downtown North neighbors, I doubt Stanford will want to give up their land so that a road can be punched through. And whether such a road would help at all is highly debatable.

The real problem is a lack of viable public transit apart from a woefully inadequate single line train. It's "too expensive" to fix that problem, so it's not happening. We're just a few years away from becoming as gridlocked as LA, though I've found that drivers there are much more polite than those around here.


8 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Native
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 26, 2016 at 1:11 pm

I was driving my child to a tutor Wednesday at 5:45PM and we were backed up on Middlefield Road. Cars were lined up from Charleston to the Mitchell Park Library. We had to wait through two red lights.

In my pipe dream, no one would be allowed to drive on the Palo Alto roads unless they were Palo Alto residents. I'm guessing we'd have little traffic; the commuters are killing us.

Time for eminent domain for Menlo Park.


9 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on May 26, 2016 at 1:32 pm

@Palo Alto Native

You've hit the nail on the head; its always someone else's fault.


13 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2016 at 1:37 pm

This all comes down to the fact that there are too many bottlenecks and not enough free flowing arteries around town. We don't need any more bottlenecks and we do need a better system of efficient arteries. Middlefield is an artery and those who purchase homes on an artery should be aware of that at the time.

It is about time that the law was challenged which allows bikes on all roads that are not freeways. Encouraging bikes to use residential streets is a good idea but at the same time we should ensure that our busy arteries are not turned into bike thoroughfares which slow down the efficiency of that artery.

And please, please, please, do not put in a suicide lane in the middle of Middlefield. The only reason the one on Alma works is because we have sidestreets and driveways only on one side of the street because of the train tracks. Otherwise, it would be a much worse system that Alma already is. Showers Drive in Mountain View, outside Target, has a suicide lane and I feel it is a deathtrap waiting to happen. Trying to turn left when there is an oncoming vehicle heading for me in the same lane is terrifying!


12 people like this
Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on May 26, 2016 at 3:34 pm

Road diets are a horrid idea. I think they are reamed up by the Marquis de Sade. A road diet on a major connecting street, eg Arastradero, has created a traffic nightmare in Barron Park.
Causes of problems mentioned:1 police do not patrol streets for speeders and bad drivers. A few tickets would go a long way to solve street problems. 2. Drivers have too many distractions and do not pay attention. I saw a car nearly hit a bicycle yesterday. The cyclist was riding properly and missed being hit by swerving into the other lane. 3. Too many cyclists on major roads. Cyclists on neighborhood streets is good, but they are a hazard to all when on Alma, El Camino, Middlefield, Page Mill, or Embarcadero.
No road diets. Eliminate all the construction that balloons into streets. Insist that construction projects keep on their property and not block the road--any road.


16 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on May 26, 2016 at 4:08 pm

"I was driving my child to a tutor Wednesday at 5:45PM and we were backed up on Middlefield Road. Cars were lined up from Charleston to the Mitchell Park Library. We had to wait through two red lights."

[Portion removed.] I have to wait at four red lights minimum on my way to work, and often more. People commenting here seem to think horrendous traffic and clueless drivers are specific to Palo Alto. They are not, and the rest of the Bay Area in in pretty much the same state. The astronomical cost of housing and the terrible traffic are the result of a lack of regional planning.


11 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 26, 2016 at 4:28 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

"The astronomical cost of housing and the terrible traffic are the result of a lack of regional planning"

Actually, they are a result of overpopulation. Aren't you the one who wants to add to the current Bay area density? Expect the mess you described so well to get worse. More people=more traffic, more clueless drivers. The Bay area is not the New York metropolitan area, so even if we spent the many billions required to create their level of public transportation(not happening in the next few decades), let alone western Europe's system, you will not get Bay area drivers out of their cars.


22 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on May 26, 2016 at 4:57 pm

"Actually, they are a result of overpopulation."

No, they are the lack of planning for increasing population. To expect the population of a city to remain unchanged is silly. Of course the population of Palo Alto is going to increase. To stick our heads in the sand NIMBY style and not plan for the change is not terribly bright. If you want proof, look what that approach has gotten us so far.

"Aren't you the one who wants to add to the current Bay area density?"

In certain key places, density should be greatly increased. Certain parts of Palo Alto are among them. Build ten or fifteen story apartment and condo complexes near Caltrain stations instead of two and three story complexes that are increasingly spreading out into the one and two story neighborhoods. If you don't believe me, look 2-4 blocks south of University Avenue. If that process continues, we will have infinitely worse traffic than need be and rapidly disappearing nice, shady single-family-dwelling neighborhoods. The zero-planning, stick-our-heads-in-the-sand approach has only resulted in the Palo Alto version of urban sprawl. Build the office towers near the housing towers. People commuting into town would have every incentive to take Caltrain. Residents in the housing towers commuting out of town would have every reason to do the same.


2 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 26, 2016 at 5:54 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on May 26, 2016 at 6:09 pm

[Post removed.]


20 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on May 26, 2016 at 6:53 pm

Palo Alto is becoming a populated city, and we should prepare for it. We should realize the traditional model of every person owning a car and hitting the roads is unsustainable. We can't just increase the amount of free space for drivers to blaze a two-ton hunk of metal at 50 mph through human dwellings. Looks cities like London and Paris, where transportation is largely metro based and extremely pedestrian friendly, with relatively few cars. Even though they're incredibly populated cities, the result is highly fluid and convenient transportation. We might not be at the point where a subway is necessary yet, but our population isn't going down any time soon, and reducing cars on the road is the virtuous way forward. "Road diets" is definitely a versatile tool in the long run.


15 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on May 26, 2016 at 7:00 pm

I like Kazu's thinking—we are facing a burgeoning population and need to deal with it in clever, efficient ways. Take a critical look at things and take bold and innovative steps. Kanu had a lot of correct ideas; build housing near offices, don't polarize sections of the city into strictly residential or business areas. We have trains; use them. etc. As FDR said, "It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something."


20 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 27, 2016 at 5:55 am

mauricio is a registered user.

So now Palo Alto is compared to London and Paris? What's next, Mexico City and Beijing ?


12 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 27, 2016 at 1:52 pm

"So now Palo Alto is compared to London and Paris? What's next, Mexico City and Beijing ?"

Well, in checking with other threads, apparently the suburban sprawl that built Palo Alto Eichlers is "historic" on par with those cities. That's why we need to freeze our neighborhoods to what was an idyllic, mostly white time of Palo Alto.


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Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 27, 2016 at 4:31 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


33 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 27, 2016 at 6:41 pm

"reducing cars on the road is the virtuous way forward"

"Virtue" can only be applied to individuals. Arbitrary government actions are not virtuous. They target a specific issue while ignoring the destructive effects of one-size-fits-all solutions that conveniently ignore reality.

Why don't you lead by example and ride your own bike everywhere and stop begging the city to reduce our daily efficiency (and then raises taxes some more to do it)


5 people like this
Posted by happy driver
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 27, 2016 at 6:46 pm

It's true that crossing a double lane of traffic seems difficult. But there's a right way of doing it! I have this exact problem every morning when I cross two lanes of northbound traffic on Alma on my way to the Univ. Ave. railway underpass. Step 1: Wait until the traffic slows down (because of the traffic light). Step 2: Get the attention of one decent driver in the nearest lane and pull in front of them, but >stop< before crossing the second lane. You are now blocking traffic in one lane. Step 3: carefully watch and wait until you see a clearing in the second lane or you get the attention of a second driver who will stop and let you through. It sounds complicated, but it works fine.

I find that drivers fall into two main classes: those who are oblivious and unhelpful either because they are preoccupied or thoughtless, and those who try to be decent, cooperative and situationally aware. Enough of the second category make driving possible. It's a matter of courtesy - which I'm trying to believe is contagious. I'll concentrate on driving my own car in an intelligent, cooperative manner, and let the good example do its work. An occasional honk of the horn may be needed for educational purposes :)


4 people like this
Posted by shooting fish
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 27, 2016 at 9:01 pm

They could first try enforcing the left turn only restrictions before doing something more drastic. I see Downtown North residents ignoring those signs every morning.


8 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 27, 2016 at 10:03 pm

No, no changes except for speed bumps. If you moved there, learned to deal with it.


11 people like this
Posted by Sundai P
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on May 28, 2016 at 10:44 am

Where is the police when all this is happening? There are some seriously distracted drivers using cell phones and it's making Middlefield VERY DANGEROUS. [Portion removed.]


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Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on May 28, 2016 at 1:13 pm

"Getting across University between Alma and Middlefield is already a problem. One left turning car can force traffic to wait through several lights until the pedestrians and cars let the car turn left."

Pedestrians jaywalking through red lights and preventing cars from turning right on a red doesn't help matters. Are people so incredibly stupid that they don't know what the walk/wait signal means? The truth is that they are incredibly self-centered and just don't care, just like the drivers on Middle field and everywhere else in Palo Alto. The same goes for the cyclists who routinely blow through red lights and stop signs.


14 people like this
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 28, 2016 at 1:53 pm

"Build ten or fifteen story apartment and condo complexes near Caltrain stations ... Build the office towers near the housing towers. People commuting into town would have every incentive to take Caltrain. Residents in the housing towers commuting out of town would have every reason to do the same."

Why not try to foist that mess on Vallejo or Stockton or anyplace else that needs to enhance its economic activity?


"Being NIMBY never works in the long run."

That is the only way it ever has worked.


4 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 28, 2016 at 4:25 pm

"Why not try to foist that mess on Vallejo or Stockton or anyplace else that needs to enhance its economic activity?"

Uh, we are in the center of economic activity. You suggesting that we put even more gas-burning, climate-change inducing vehicles on the road?

Nice going.


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Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on May 28, 2016 at 5:52 pm

"Why not try to foist that mess on Vallejo or Stockton or anyplace else that needs to enhance its economic activity?"

Then we would have the same traffic problems we have now or worse. It is better to have people who are now driving to work walk or bicycle instead. People commuting to Palo Alto aren't going to move out of the area just to please you

"That is the only way it ever has worked."

So then everything is fine now, no traffic, affordable residential and commercial rents. What are you complaining about then?


11 people like this
Posted by Bean
a resident of another community
on May 28, 2016 at 11:17 pm

Middlefield runs through many other communities--what are the rates of car accidents and other incidents there? True, it isn't the same road in those other communities--it's a one-lane street in Atherton, then two lanes again in Redwood City, and it splits in Mountain View--but those cities also have traffic. The biggest difference from Middlefield in Redwood City and Mountain View versus Middlefield in Palo Alto is that Palo Alto pretends that Middlefield is a residential street, needing lights at almost every block in downtown and again in Midtown, then a 25mph speed limit throughout.

Creating a bottleneck on Middlefield isn't going to make traffic disappear--it'll all go onto side streets (probably Louis in the south and Emerson up north), which actually are residential neighborhoods.

These are hardly new conditions. Unless you bought a house on Middlefield back when it actually was in the middle of the field, it's been a two-lane thoroughfare. Congratulations! The city is booming and the thoroughfare is being used. Stop complaining about people using the road the way it was designed.


7 people like this
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 28, 2016 at 11:54 pm

"People commuting to Palo Alto aren't going to move out of the area just to please you"

Good planning is not achieved by personal attacks. One must recognize that people move away or come in responding to market forces, per their own needs, not to please me or even you. Like, living close by Caltrain is no advantage if you work in Fremont. And it flat out makes no sense to pay Palo Alto real estate prices to abide in a fifteen story concrete hutch if you work elsewhere.

The Palo Alto uber alles hubris is totally naive. There are many liveable areas close to the jobs outside of Palo Alto. Get out and look around.


8 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 29, 2016 at 2:33 pm

"And it flat out makes no sense to pay Palo Alto real estate prices to abide in a fifteen story concrete hutch if you work elsewhere. "

Palo Alto prices *are* the issue. And just because you don't want to live in a condo or apartment near transit doesn't mean others wouldn't either.

"The Palo Alto uber alles hubris is totally naive."

Indeed. Coming from your residentialist attitude, a totally ironic statement.


6 people like this
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 29, 2016 at 5:39 pm

"Palo Alto prices *are* the issue. And just because you don't want to live in a condo or apartment near transit doesn't mean others wouldn't either."

Ironic statements from someone claiming residence in Old Palo Alto, arguably our priciest neighborhood.

Or maybe not so ironic. Proponents of condos or apartments near transit, always located at a safe distance from their own neighborhoods, consistently advocate them for other people but not for themselves.


4 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 29, 2016 at 9:25 pm

"Ironic statements from someone claiming residence in Old Palo Alto, arguably our priciest neighborhood. "

Not ironic at all. I think the prices are ridiculous around my block as much anyone else. It's all illusory - even if I "cashed out" I'd still have to pay a stupid price to stay in this area.

"Or maybe not so ironic. Proponents of condos or apartments near transit, always located at a safe distance from their own neighborhoods, consistently advocate them for other people but not for themselves."

You know Old Palo Alto is bordered by Alma, Oregon Expressway, Embarcadero and Middlefield, right? We all don't live on Waverley and Santa Rita. Density near where I live - I'd welcome that. Especially if helps build a case for Cal Ave to be a Baby Bullet stop. And if we can get better restaurant options on Cal Ave.

But what I find funny is that we have more housing diversity than those Eichlers that are supposedly "historic."

I've lived in much denser areas with nicer people. Bring it on.


4 people like this
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 30, 2016 at 12:14 am

"I've lived in much denser areas with nicer people. Bring it on."

Yes, living in a prime, very expensive neighborhood can be a heavy burden for some people. I'd sympathize with you if I could. Have you considered East Avenal?


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 30, 2016 at 12:11 pm

Please people -- READ and SIGN !! IT IS IMPORTANT and the main reason why there are accidents. WE MUST make it a law to abolish loud music in cars or any music. We do not need to be assaulted by someone elses loud music. IF its loud enough to hear it, it is an assault. turning it down is not an option, the excuse will be: WE THOUGHT IT WAS LOW VOLUME!! NO, it must be outlawed and enforced that music listeners wear earphones/headphones.

Web Link


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Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 31, 2016 at 9:53 am

"Yes, living in a prime, very expensive neighborhood can be a heavy burden for some people. I'd sympathize with you if I could. Have you considered East Avenal?"

Some of us actually think deeply about region-wide concerns rather than spend all our time worrying about how our little world is changing from an idyllic mono-ethnic suburb based on petroleum car culture.


4 people like this
Posted by @Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 31, 2016 at 11:03 am

"Some of us actually think deeply about region-wide concerns...."

Does you deep thinking include adding housing to Atherton? Woodside? Portola Valley? Los Altos Hills?


4 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on May 31, 2016 at 11:07 am

I fail to see how reducing the number of lanes on Middlefield from 4 to 2 will help to curb the recent rash of traffic accidents. What I think is needed are more traffic controls, such as stop lights or stop signs. We have, for example, stop light at Litton, University, Hamilton and Homer, but not Forest. Guess where the accidents occur?


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

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