Bike lanes proposed, fiber optics planned for University Avenue

City's three-year 'Upgrade Downtown' infrastructure project kicks off next week

The City of Palo Alto's multiple-year infrastructure and street improvement project, Upgrade Downtown, will launch next week with the digging of trenches on Hamilton Avenue. The three-year project includes replacing water and gas mains on key downtown streets, adding sidewalk ramps for people with disabilities, upgrading crosswalk signs to improve pedestrian safety and adding signage to direct motorists to parking garages.

The project will also add fiber-optic cable underground along University Avenue and, potentially, two dedicated bicycle lanes, also on University. The city is continuing to plan for a six-story parking garage at Waverley Street and Hamilton, city staff said during a series of public open houses this and last week.

The work will take place on a block-by-block basis to minimize problems with traffic and parking and on retail businesses, city Utilities Department spokeswoman Catherine Elvert said.

The project will start with water mains on Hamilton, Everett and Hawthorne avenues, followed in 2018 by gas- and water-main replacements on sections of Everett and Hawthorne and along University Avenue. Fiber-optic cable will be added to University Avenue at the same time, Elvert said. Street improvements, including paving, striping and the flashing pedestrian signals, will be added in 2018 and 2019.

The bike lanes on University and the parking garage have not been approved by the City Council, but if they are, the lanes would be striped in 2018, and parking garage construction would begin in spring 2019 and end in spring 2020, said Public Works Engineer Gloria Yu.

The bike lanes would create a much-needed, safe east-west route for cyclists, Elvert said.

To accommodate the bike lanes, the city would change diagonal parking spaces on University to parallel parking. The switch would make enough space to add a highly visible green-striped bike lane in each direction. Changing the parking configuration would remove 37 parking spaces, but parking spaces on side streets could be adjusted to add 15 parking places, transportation staff said.

Before proposing the University Avenue bike lanes, staff considered adjacent Lytton Avenue, but additions on Lytton would require the complete removal of parking, Elvert said.

The city currently is seeking public input on the bike lanes and the garage, both of which must be reviewed by the Planning and Transportation Commission and the City Council this fall.

A Palo Alto survey of downtown workers found that 24 percent would walk or bike to work if there were better paths, trails and sidewalks, said Jarrett Mullen, Planning and Transportation Department planner. A little more than half currently drive to work alone.

The garage would replace the 86-space parking lot behind CVS pharmacy with five stories of above-ground parking and one underground floor. The L-shaped structure would potentially create between 205 to 329 new parking spaces, depending on whether the garage has lifts — so-called "puzzle" parking that stacks cars, staff said.

The city currently has 4,389 parking spaces in downtown garages and lots and on the streets, Mullen said. The parking garage would also include about 1,500 square feet of retail space along Waverley.

The main streets included in the pipeline infrastructure project are:

• Hawthorne Avenue: Alma Street to Middlefield Road

• Everett Avenue: Alma to Middlefield

• Lytton Avenue: Waverley Street to Webster Street

• University Avenue: Alma to Webster

• Hamilton Avenue: Emerson Street to Webster

• Bryant Street: Lytton to Forest Avenue

• Emerson Street: Everett to Hamilton

Major streets to receive street improvements, such as pedestrian-signal upgrades and re-striping include:

• Middlefield Road: Palo Alto Avenue to Lowell Avenue

• Alma Street: Palo Alto Avenue to Melville Street

• Emerson Street: Palo Alto Avenue to Channing Avenue

• Hawthorne Avenue: Emerson to Middlefield

• Everett Avenue: Alma to Middlefield

Smaller sections of streets scheduled for upgrades can be found on the project's map web page at The city's website for the project can be found here. Suggestions and comments can be sent to or made by calling 650-329-2344.


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38 people like this
Posted by Yes to bike lanes
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 16, 2017 at 7:29 am

Commuters need a safe way to bike to work downtown. Bikes are banned from sidewalks. So, yes to bike lanes on University Ave.

17 people like this
Posted by Midlander
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 16, 2017 at 7:58 am

Midlander is a registered user.

A good, safe, East-West bike lane somewhere in downtown seems like a fine idea. But given how congested University is, it sure wouldn't be my first choice as either "good" or "safe"!

Lytton might still be a better answer, even if it does mean reducing parking. And I hope the city will also consider Hamilton or Forest.

The comment about mitigating the removal of 37 parking spaces on University by adding 15 spaces in side streets seems like a bit of a red herring. The 15 potential spaces in side streets should certainly be exploited. But that seems independent of what happens on University.

12 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 16, 2017 at 8:03 am

As long as the City is trenching Hamilton Ave, why not lay fiber optics underground at the same time?

24 people like this
Posted by membername
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 16, 2017 at 9:23 am

Instead of converting them to parallel spots, it's time to ditch street parking on University completely.

37 people like this
Posted by Tougher to get to 101
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 16, 2017 at 10:25 am

With University and San Antonio and Willow and Middlefield under construction, how will all the commuters get to 101 and Stanford? Let's make everyone's life more miserable. We all need to spend more time stuck in gridlock.

Love how you've changed the Middlefield lights to triple the time needed to get to Menlo Park.

Thanks SO much, PA.

30 people like this
Posted by midtowngrl
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 16, 2017 at 6:43 pm

how about putting those bike lanes on lytton or hamilton?? sheesh. there is too much traffic on university already!

32 people like this
Posted by free fall
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2017 at 6:27 am

This plan is more of the same - more signs,more paint - uglier and less safe streets for everybody
all at the same time. This while the City continues its massive overdevelopment policies. Palo Alto is in a free fall plain and simple.A time-out should
have been called a long time ago and the game ended
but it turned out we were still in the first quarter.

14 people like this
Posted by Sarah
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 19, 2017 at 12:37 pm

It doesn't matter how many bicycle lanes you add, bicyclists will continue to break the law and ride on the downtown University Ave. sidewalk. I pointed out the "walk your bike" sign to a guy who was riding his bike on the sidewalk, and he didn't seem to understand what it meant to walk his bike. Perhaps there should new signs posted that show bikers walking their bikes (so they know how it's done) with threat of a fine for those breaking the law. I'm sick of dodging bikers on the busy sidewalks.

19 people like this
Posted by Fewer Parking Spaces??
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 19, 2017 at 10:16 pm

"To accommodate the bike lanes, the city would change diagonal parking spaces on University to parallel parking. The switch would make enough space to add a highly visible green-striped bike lane in each direction. Changing the parking configuration would remove 37 parking spaces, but parking spaces on side streets could be adjusted to add 15 parking places, transportation staff said."

Fewer parting spaces AND switching to parallel parking???? More circling looking for fewer spots?? More backups waiting for people to try to parallel park??

That should really help facilitate through traffic on one of the 3 direct routes to 101. Not.

Is this costly boondoggle part of a plan to "revitalize" downtown or part of a "traffic reduction" plan? And/or an excuse to spend many more millions of dollars on "wayfinding" systems? I get so confused how all this works when the city keeps shoving in more commuters and more offices and more under-parked buildings.

19 people like this
Posted by Community Killer Initiatives
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 20, 2017 at 7:42 am

Seems like this is a very good plan to destroy the last of the retail at University like the developer-centric Council did at Cal Ave, It smacks of being payback for whatever goodies Kniss got that she wouldn't specify in her large election freebies category from tech companies. Wonder why the Weekly hasn't asked for details yet. Fiber in the City's retail center before large swaths of residential areas even have undergrounding? This sounds like Palantir quite literally entrenching itself downtown. Even Google is making plans to expand in San Jose. San Jose has the more affordable homes their highly paid workers want right out of the box. Facebook moved when it needed to expand. Palantir should not be getting free fiber to dig in downtown. There are parts of San Jose that woukd quite literally be more beautiful if the cityscape were built up. Here, it's throwing away the beautiful hills we are so blessed to have.

Putting the elf striping on University will not make anyone around town bike to work, it will put the last nail in the coffin of downtown retail, along with those ~40 lost parking spots. University isn't a commuter street, or, at least, Council shouldn't be making it into one. I answered yes to that, too, but it would take separate dedicated routes with dedicated signaling like in the Netherlands. Council didn't ask. They require developments build up to the roads for maximum claustrophobia and minimum flexibility for creating walking and biking routes in the future, and they refuse to create walkable sidewalks anywhere, even Arastradero (which lost a whole lane of traffic and somehow didn't gain either walkable sidewalks or a seoarated, signaled bikeway).

19 people like this
Posted by How Much $$$$$????
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 20, 2017 at 11:02 am

How much is all this going to cost?

WHY are they planning this massive restriping, especially on Middlefield where residents already told Mr. Mello we don't want it2 years ago? Why are they pushing to restripe all the strictly residential streets in Old Palo Alto?

Why are we spending lots of money for those infuriating roundabouts with their 8-feet long concrete barriers on each side on strictly residential streets? Those cost $100,000 years ago!

Aren't we running a deficit? Couldn't this money be better spent? What happened to improving the shuttle and reducing class sizes?

11 people like this
Posted by Neilson Buchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 21, 2017 at 11:40 am

Short-term parking capacity in commercial core will be reduced permanently by at least 22 parking spaces in the commercial core. This change is underway without full discussion with adjacent residential neighborhood leaders who are still struggling to understand the impact of the new parking permit program started on April 1.

Due to staff and Council vacation schedules simple analysis and discussion with Council will likely be delayed for several more weeks. More later.

6 people like this
Posted by mj
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 21, 2017 at 1:19 pm

Switch priorities. Before spending on this project fast track the new police station and make sure it is fully funded. If the current police station is not earthquake safe and the big one hits, many more people will be hurt and needing coordinated help than the number of bike injuries that will occur. Then do the the downtown upgrading and fiber optic for Palantir.

11 people like this
Posted by Barbara Feldman Gross
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 21, 2017 at 1:20 pm

Why lose 37 spaces on University Ave.? The core street of our downtown.
Why not add safe bike lanes on Hamilton and Lytton Avenues?
University Ave is the 101 connection - bikers could be directed to use parallel streets.
Palantir can no longer be made to be the villain of the downtown. The have reduced their workforce and changed their business model - although they were invited to the White House to participate in the tech discussion with the president.
Amazon is now the larger employer in the downtown, Univeristy Circle and across 101 into East Palo Alto

Common good and civil discourse is to what we aspire. Let's make suggestions- listen to ideas - and come to compromise.

11 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 21, 2017 at 1:50 pm

Downtown provides about 14% of our sales tax revenue and this construction's supposed to last for 3 years. Expect more utility rate increases to offset the loss.

I'm so honored to buy Palantir its new fiber-optic system.

Given the loss of parking spaces when we've got a known parking shortage, I'm wondering if PA officials, CC and CoC members and consultants are getting friends-of-family stock in Uber, Lyft and the $3,000 bike rental company.

20 people like this
Posted by So Silly, Thoughtlrss and Wasteful
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 21, 2017 at 6:23 pm

University Avenue is much, much too busy for bicyclists to ride in, even on weekends. It is plain and simply very dangerous!

My next door neighbor was hit by a car on Waverley as she approached University on her bike. Even the side streets are too busy because people are trying to get to University!

This is a case of very bad judgment as well as a waste of money: put the bike lanes on another parallel street, such as Lytton. Even Hamilton is too congested for a bike lane, due to people looking for parking so they can visit University!

Surely this thoughtless stupidity will get the city embroiled in more lawsuits!

4 people like this
Posted by Bike lanes on Homer
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 22, 2017 at 6:01 am

Why not make Homer the east-west bike boulevard? Homer is a one-way street with two lanes, not very busy. Convert the street to a one car lane in the center with bike lanes on each side and you get a really nice, simple, safe solution, without touching the parking spaces on University. Bike lanes on University seems a really bad idea from all points of view, especially safety.

7 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 22, 2017 at 6:41 am

^ Bikes going the wrong way on a one-way street is a recipe for trouble.

2 people like this
Posted by Carla Talbott
a resident of another community
on Jun 22, 2017 at 7:44 pm

My late husband, Ross Eversole, did several smaller projects with the City back in the latter 80s/early 1/2 of the 90s (trying to remember) and tried and tried to talk them into a Fiber Optic ring around the town but they were too tight and/or short-sighted to go for it then, even though P.A. is the heart of Forward Thinking Silicon Valley. HA! They dragged their feet and hemmed and hawed and never could get their act together as other forward facing cities were already doing by installing Fiber Optics. It was rather mind-boggling how provincial things were in supposedly such a forward place. I lived in P.A. from 1970-2008 and went through the worst of the Flood of 98 since I lived on Sierra Court, which got about the worst of it.

2 people like this
Posted by Pat Markevitch
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 23, 2017 at 12:02 pm

Putting bike lanes on University is a bad idea. Hamilton is better since is already has parallel parking. Lytton already is striped for bikes. Both are safer for bikes and no parking spaces would be taken away.

6 people like this
Posted by student
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 15, 2017 at 11:25 pm

Totally in support of a bike path on University! As a key street of our downtown, we need to make it easier to access. As for those who want to transfer the bike route to Hamilton or another subsidiary, why demote the cyclists to a less interesting experience? Bicyclists' destinations will continue to be on University because that's where many amenities reside. Also, countless studies have shown that more cyclists and pedestrians on the street = more $$ for commercial enterprises. Losing a parking spot to bicyclists is an economic advantage.

Imagine if University Ave were completely closed to cars. What an intimate and community-building downtown experience that would be! Don't get me wrong, that is fairly unrealistic here, considering that it is a major throughfare to 101, but what if the route to the highway weren't our main street? University is only one step down from a Main Street that doubles as an Interstate.

I find the addition of a parking garage in addition to the extension of slow transportation infrastructure a little disjointed, especially if it is free parking. Providing more opportunities to park downtown will only encourage more cars to flock to the streets, just like widening freeways begets more cars maintaining or worsening traffic. When there are fewer (low-cost or free) parking opportunities and biking and walking infrastructure is improved, there will be vastly higher rates of walking and cycling. (I know this isn't Copenhagen or Amsterdam, but the principle has been replicated in other places, too.)

Regardless, I am VERY excited for the prospects of this plan to come to fruition--a true embodiment of improving this town's quality of life!

Recommended reading to anyone interested in some of these principles: Jeff Speck's "Walkable City" and Janette Sadik-Khan's "Streetfight." Peace!

3 people like this
Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 16, 2017 at 10:48 am

It sounds like there are some pieces of a really good plan here.

Kill parking on University altogether, and you will see much better throughput and safety.

Build a new deck, so that there is still a net increase in parking spaces.

Charge for parking, manage demand and turnover through price instead of people hunting for spaces.

Build better bike routes, so more people can patronize downtown businesses without having to drive.

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

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