News

City gives new focus to transportation needs

New Office of Transportation signifies growing urgency of parking, traffic and rail issues

Last month, with little warning and no fanfare, Palo Alto's new Office of Transportation opened for business.

Once nestled inside the Department of Planning and Community Environment, the operation formerly known as the Transportation Division now stands on its own. Chief Transportation Official Joshuah Mello, who until recently was supervised by the planning director, reports directly to the city manager's office under the new structure.

The organizational change could have significant implications for the city. The small but increasingly critical transportation operation is responsible for executing on two of the City Council's four priorities this year: transportation and grade separation (the reconfiguration of railroad-track intersections).

It also absorbs an outsized share of public ire. In just the past few months, the Palo Alto council has been hit with five separate petitions relating to transportation: three from Palo Alto neighborhoods where residents want to make sure their homes won't be seized as part of the city's effort to redesign the rail crossings; a fourth from businesses in the Southgate neighborhood who allege the city's allotted an insufficient number of permits for employees in the area's new residential parking program; and a fifth, signed by more than 1,000 residents who are upset about the new Ross Road bicycle boulevard, which the petition disparages as "an accident waiting to happen."

In addition to facing urgent citizen petitions, the council has set the ambitious goal of selecting a "preferred alternative" for separating the railroad tracks from local streets at the city's four crossings by the end of the year. The city has recently hired a new consultant to push the effort over the finish line.

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Deputy City Manager Rob de Geus told the Planning and Transportation Commission on June 27 that, as evidenced by the creation of the Office of Transportation, "The city manager feels strongly that the City Manager's Office needs to be closer to transportation matters."

But the shift isn't merely managerial. It is a recognition by City Manager James Keene and some council members that the various transportation efforts need far more staffing and funding. The new structure creates a more direct link between the people implementing these projects and the officials approving funding. As Councilman Greg Scharff suggested at a May meeting of the council's Finance Committee, a dedicated transportation department would make it easier for the council to focus on traffic-related issues when setting the budget.

The change comes at critical time for the Department of Planning and Community Environment, which is charged with a raft of responsibilities beyond transportation: performing long-term planning, including the recently completed Comprehensive Plan update and the soon-to-commence North Ventura Coordinated Area Plan; reviewing proposed developments and zone changes; conducting code enforcement; ensuring historic preservation; and helping the council realize its new goal of producing 300 housing units per year.

The department is also short-staffed: Planning Director Hillary Gitelman resigned in April, and the key position of transportation-planning manager, which oversees (among other things) Palo Alto's residential parking programs and efforts to reduce traffic is likewise vacant. The last transportation manager, Philip Kamhi, stepped down in March to take a job with San Francisco BART. He was the third person to occupy — and resign from — that position in four years.

The work overload in the Transportation Division has gotten so heavy that in late March, Keene made a public plea for residents and council members to "moderate their expectations and ease up on parking-related questions." He also declared a hiatus on new initiatives, stretching at least until the end of the year, so that staff can focus on the transportation programs already in the works.

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"We anticipate that additional changes won't be feasible until we're able to augment staff and have more resources," Keene said.

By Palo Alto's standards, the decision to form the new office has been remarkably swift. The City Council never discussed — much less voted on — the change, which is also not reflected in the budget that the council passed on June 18, a week before it went on its July break.

The idea first emerged publicly on May 16, when the council's Finance Committee was reviewing the proposed budget for the Department of Planning and Community Environment and Scharff, the committee's chair, observed that traffic is a much bigger issue today than it was when he began his council tenure in 2009.

"It almost seems to me that transportation should be its own department at some point," Scharff said at the meeting. "The resources we need to put into solving transportation issues seem to be very important to the community these days."

Scharff also suggested that transportation could use far more funding and that residents would likely support a ballot measure that would devote more revenues to transportation.

"I think that's something the community really values and gets behind," Scharff said. "It's not amorphous; it affects people's lives in a huge way."

Councilwoman Lydia Kou, who also serves on the committee and who often disagrees with Scharff, concurred at the meeting that the city "may want to look at separating the departments." No one else on the committee commented on the idea.

For the Planning and Transportation Commission, the council's chief advisory panel on the two topics, the organizational shift came seemingly out of the blue. Both Chair Ed Lauing and Commissioner Asher Waldfogel told the Weekly they weren't aware of the change before de Geus announced it on June 27. Lauing said that, in general, he is hopeful that the reorganization provides "more traction on critical transportation issues."

"But we have not seen any game plan yet on what this might look like," Lauing added.

Waldfogel also said that he hopes that with the change, progress on transportation issues will move more quickly. He pointed to a downtown-parking study that commissioners discussed — and largely rejected — about a year ago, with the expectation that it would be updated and return to them. That has not yet happened, he noted.

"There's no question transportation has been under-resourced," Waldfogel told the Weekly. "I'm hoping this is a way to get a little more focus on it."

The change isn't the only one in the works at City Hall. Assistant City Manager Ed Shikada, who is set to assume the city manager's role in January, after Keene retires, said the city is also considering consolidating the Development Services Department with the Department of Planning and Community Environment. Development Services, which processes development applications and conducts building inspections, had been part of the planning department until about five years ago. The reunification would take advantage of the fact that Development Services Director Peter Pirnejad jumped ship earlier this year to become assistant city manager in Napa. His position, like Gitelman's, remains vacant.

Shikada told the Weekly that this would allow the city to hire one director to oversee both departments.

With transportation pulled out entirely, the change would create a "more manageable" Department of Planning and Community Environment, Shikada said. Combining Development Services and Planning would make it easier for project applicants to maintain their plans' momentum and "have clarity about what was approved"; it would also allow the department to better focus on housing.

Not everyone, however, is thrilled about the shift. When de Geus announced the new Office of Transportation to the Planning and Transportation Commission, Commissioner William Riggs expressed concern about the separation of land use and transportation staffing.

"They are intrinsically linked and, structurally, I fail to see the logic of the city manager because it does create a structural disconnect," Riggs said.

The concern is both philosophical and practical. As the commission's name implies, city leaders have traditionally accepted that land use has a huge impact on transportation and vice versa. The new structure, as Riggs implied, could undermine that linkage.

And practically, the planning department, which has traditionally supported the commission, no longer has in its purview dozens of programs that the commission is charged with vetting.

Shikada said staff is still looking at the best ways for the new Office of Transportation to relate to or interact with the various advisory bodies. He concurred that land use and transportation are deeply intertwined but noted that transportation also has deep links to Public Works and other city departments as well.

"Transportation cuts across lots of organizational divides and departmental responsibilities," Shikada said. "That's why it is important for us to be thoughtful in how it's looked at."

The discussion is set to heat up in the coming months. In June, the city began soliciting bids for a consultant who will be charged with making the transportation operation more effective, including recommending new staffing levels, the Weekly has learned. The City Council is scheduled to select the consultant shortly after it returns from its July recess, Shikada said.

The consultant, he said, will survey other cities and provide Palo Alto benchmarking data and "best practices" for transportation projects. The consultant will help "figure out how many people are needed to cover the volume of issues we have," including planning for a new rail design, bike boulevards, traffic-safety projects, parking management and traffic-reduction efforts. The consultant will also make recommendations on staffing levels in transportation functions; coach transportation staff on working within a council-manager organization, collaborating with other departments and managing community concerns; propose modifications to the Residential Preferential Parking program; and — perhaps most crucially — participate in ensuring the city has the resources it needs to support the City Council's preferred alternative for grade separation.

Concurrently, the city manager's office and, ultimately, the council will consider whether any changes should be made to boards, commissions or other advisory bodies that give residents a venue for weighing in on transportation projects.

While those answers are still months away, one thing is already clear, Shikada said: The city needs more funding for transportation.

"We know we don't have enough resources to do what we want in transportation, particularly on community engagement," Shikada said.

In the long term, city officials hope to get the needed funds by switching from free parking to paid parking in downtown lots and garages (and using parking revenues for transportation improvements) and by asking the voters to approve an employee tax, which would potentially help pay for the railroad reconfigurations. In the short term, it will be up to the new Office of Transportation to make its case for a greater piece of the pie — competing with its former department — come next year's budget season.

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City gives new focus to transportation needs

New Office of Transportation signifies growing urgency of parking, traffic and rail issues

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, Jul 13, 2018, 6:38 am

Last month, with little warning and no fanfare, Palo Alto's new Office of Transportation opened for business.

Once nestled inside the Department of Planning and Community Environment, the operation formerly known as the Transportation Division now stands on its own. Chief Transportation Official Joshuah Mello, who until recently was supervised by the planning director, reports directly to the city manager's office under the new structure.

The organizational change could have significant implications for the city. The small but increasingly critical transportation operation is responsible for executing on two of the City Council's four priorities this year: transportation and grade separation (the reconfiguration of railroad-track intersections).

It also absorbs an outsized share of public ire. In just the past few months, the Palo Alto council has been hit with five separate petitions relating to transportation: three from Palo Alto neighborhoods where residents want to make sure their homes won't be seized as part of the city's effort to redesign the rail crossings; a fourth from businesses in the Southgate neighborhood who allege the city's allotted an insufficient number of permits for employees in the area's new residential parking program; and a fifth, signed by more than 1,000 residents who are upset about the new Ross Road bicycle boulevard, which the petition disparages as "an accident waiting to happen."

In addition to facing urgent citizen petitions, the council has set the ambitious goal of selecting a "preferred alternative" for separating the railroad tracks from local streets at the city's four crossings by the end of the year. The city has recently hired a new consultant to push the effort over the finish line.

Deputy City Manager Rob de Geus told the Planning and Transportation Commission on June 27 that, as evidenced by the creation of the Office of Transportation, "The city manager feels strongly that the City Manager's Office needs to be closer to transportation matters."

But the shift isn't merely managerial. It is a recognition by City Manager James Keene and some council members that the various transportation efforts need far more staffing and funding. The new structure creates a more direct link between the people implementing these projects and the officials approving funding. As Councilman Greg Scharff suggested at a May meeting of the council's Finance Committee, a dedicated transportation department would make it easier for the council to focus on traffic-related issues when setting the budget.

The change comes at critical time for the Department of Planning and Community Environment, which is charged with a raft of responsibilities beyond transportation: performing long-term planning, including the recently completed Comprehensive Plan update and the soon-to-commence North Ventura Coordinated Area Plan; reviewing proposed developments and zone changes; conducting code enforcement; ensuring historic preservation; and helping the council realize its new goal of producing 300 housing units per year.

The department is also short-staffed: Planning Director Hillary Gitelman resigned in April, and the key position of transportation-planning manager, which oversees (among other things) Palo Alto's residential parking programs and efforts to reduce traffic is likewise vacant. The last transportation manager, Philip Kamhi, stepped down in March to take a job with San Francisco BART. He was the third person to occupy — and resign from — that position in four years.

The work overload in the Transportation Division has gotten so heavy that in late March, Keene made a public plea for residents and council members to "moderate their expectations and ease up on parking-related questions." He also declared a hiatus on new initiatives, stretching at least until the end of the year, so that staff can focus on the transportation programs already in the works.

"We anticipate that additional changes won't be feasible until we're able to augment staff and have more resources," Keene said.

By Palo Alto's standards, the decision to form the new office has been remarkably swift. The City Council never discussed — much less voted on — the change, which is also not reflected in the budget that the council passed on June 18, a week before it went on its July break.

The idea first emerged publicly on May 16, when the council's Finance Committee was reviewing the proposed budget for the Department of Planning and Community Environment and Scharff, the committee's chair, observed that traffic is a much bigger issue today than it was when he began his council tenure in 2009.

"It almost seems to me that transportation should be its own department at some point," Scharff said at the meeting. "The resources we need to put into solving transportation issues seem to be very important to the community these days."

Scharff also suggested that transportation could use far more funding and that residents would likely support a ballot measure that would devote more revenues to transportation.

"I think that's something the community really values and gets behind," Scharff said. "It's not amorphous; it affects people's lives in a huge way."

Councilwoman Lydia Kou, who also serves on the committee and who often disagrees with Scharff, concurred at the meeting that the city "may want to look at separating the departments." No one else on the committee commented on the idea.

For the Planning and Transportation Commission, the council's chief advisory panel on the two topics, the organizational shift came seemingly out of the blue. Both Chair Ed Lauing and Commissioner Asher Waldfogel told the Weekly they weren't aware of the change before de Geus announced it on June 27. Lauing said that, in general, he is hopeful that the reorganization provides "more traction on critical transportation issues."

"But we have not seen any game plan yet on what this might look like," Lauing added.

Waldfogel also said that he hopes that with the change, progress on transportation issues will move more quickly. He pointed to a downtown-parking study that commissioners discussed — and largely rejected — about a year ago, with the expectation that it would be updated and return to them. That has not yet happened, he noted.

"There's no question transportation has been under-resourced," Waldfogel told the Weekly. "I'm hoping this is a way to get a little more focus on it."

The change isn't the only one in the works at City Hall. Assistant City Manager Ed Shikada, who is set to assume the city manager's role in January, after Keene retires, said the city is also considering consolidating the Development Services Department with the Department of Planning and Community Environment. Development Services, which processes development applications and conducts building inspections, had been part of the planning department until about five years ago. The reunification would take advantage of the fact that Development Services Director Peter Pirnejad jumped ship earlier this year to become assistant city manager in Napa. His position, like Gitelman's, remains vacant.

Shikada told the Weekly that this would allow the city to hire one director to oversee both departments.

With transportation pulled out entirely, the change would create a "more manageable" Department of Planning and Community Environment, Shikada said. Combining Development Services and Planning would make it easier for project applicants to maintain their plans' momentum and "have clarity about what was approved"; it would also allow the department to better focus on housing.

Not everyone, however, is thrilled about the shift. When de Geus announced the new Office of Transportation to the Planning and Transportation Commission, Commissioner William Riggs expressed concern about the separation of land use and transportation staffing.

"They are intrinsically linked and, structurally, I fail to see the logic of the city manager because it does create a structural disconnect," Riggs said.

The concern is both philosophical and practical. As the commission's name implies, city leaders have traditionally accepted that land use has a huge impact on transportation and vice versa. The new structure, as Riggs implied, could undermine that linkage.

And practically, the planning department, which has traditionally supported the commission, no longer has in its purview dozens of programs that the commission is charged with vetting.

Shikada said staff is still looking at the best ways for the new Office of Transportation to relate to or interact with the various advisory bodies. He concurred that land use and transportation are deeply intertwined but noted that transportation also has deep links to Public Works and other city departments as well.

"Transportation cuts across lots of organizational divides and departmental responsibilities," Shikada said. "That's why it is important for us to be thoughtful in how it's looked at."

The discussion is set to heat up in the coming months. In June, the city began soliciting bids for a consultant who will be charged with making the transportation operation more effective, including recommending new staffing levels, the Weekly has learned. The City Council is scheduled to select the consultant shortly after it returns from its July recess, Shikada said.

The consultant, he said, will survey other cities and provide Palo Alto benchmarking data and "best practices" for transportation projects. The consultant will help "figure out how many people are needed to cover the volume of issues we have," including planning for a new rail design, bike boulevards, traffic-safety projects, parking management and traffic-reduction efforts. The consultant will also make recommendations on staffing levels in transportation functions; coach transportation staff on working within a council-manager organization, collaborating with other departments and managing community concerns; propose modifications to the Residential Preferential Parking program; and — perhaps most crucially — participate in ensuring the city has the resources it needs to support the City Council's preferred alternative for grade separation.

Concurrently, the city manager's office and, ultimately, the council will consider whether any changes should be made to boards, commissions or other advisory bodies that give residents a venue for weighing in on transportation projects.

While those answers are still months away, one thing is already clear, Shikada said: The city needs more funding for transportation.

"We know we don't have enough resources to do what we want in transportation, particularly on community engagement," Shikada said.

In the long term, city officials hope to get the needed funds by switching from free parking to paid parking in downtown lots and garages (and using parking revenues for transportation improvements) and by asking the voters to approve an employee tax, which would potentially help pay for the railroad reconfigurations. In the short term, it will be up to the new Office of Transportation to make its case for a greater piece of the pie — competing with its former department — come next year's budget season.

Comments

Tired of the assault on living here
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 13, 2018 at 8:28 am
Tired of the assault on living here, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 13, 2018 at 8:28 am
144 people like this

While I support making biking more feasible in Palo Alto - such as doing whatever possible to underground the train to create a bike Bahn (and maybe scooters and walkers) across town and other ways of completely separating bikes and cars, plus supporting programs to make “bike buses” (scheduled gaggles of bikes so that kids can feel safe biking where they want to go and so that they always follow the law), I am personally hoping someone will sue the City on behalf of the disablled with health-related disabilities.

The City has quietly been declaring war on people with mobility problems, for years. New housing, deemed “stack and pack” for its chimney-like qualities, shut out people with mobility impairments from even visiting, much less living there. Rules intended to make car usage unnecessarily time consuming, difficult, untenable, do the same. The disabled are already less likely to be employed, the direction of Palo Alto development seems intent on shutting them out.

The changes designed to make car travel difficult especially hit the disabled hard, including people with fatigue. It can make the difference between being functional and being shut in at home. Small case in point: the stop sign in front of Juana Briones. It was installed to ostensibly slow people down by making it impossible to navigate the turn. So many people accidentally hit the sign and the curb, that theCity eventually got tired of replacing the sign and moved the island to a more reasonable place where it is humanly possible to navigate the turn. But the first change didn’t just make the turn unnavigable, it suddenly made life in what was a quiet place, suddenly extremely challenging so someone with health challenges, because of being confronted with an unnecessary obstacle course - which was designed with the explicit intent of making life hard for the driver. Being confronted by those at every turn, literally, is absolutely draining. (George Jaquettetake note. There are examples of the City experimenting on us like this all over town. Safety should not be an experiment where we wait and see if people get hurt or killed.)

The City says it’s doing this for bike safety. But when it has an opportunity to do something real, such as to ensure developments aren’t underparked so that, for example, they could make one side of El Camino Way no parking and dramatically increase bike access and safety on the important cross-town route, they just studiously avoid even talking about it. Another thing they do is make new developments build right up to the street, making it impossible to ever expand the width of sidewalks to create a separated bike and or pedestrian (or robot) way such as on Hanson. Our sidewalks are such unpleasant obstacle courses that especially those with disabilities would avoid or even be excluded. Development REQUIREMENTS made it impossible to ever expand the sidewalks to make them walkable or separated for other modes of transportation, or even just easily navigable for someone with fatigue or mobility problems.

People should be suspicious of any rhetoric that has causes once conscientious persons to overlook the environmental impacts of overgrowth and to dismiss the way these changes are ruining life here for the disabled or even shutting them out. It won’t happen, that element is as blindly obsequious to developers as the religious right is to rightwing plutocrats (local LWV longtimers, yes I mean you too). So I do hope someone sues. At least it would open up the untrustworthy way the City makes decisions and perhaps for actual safety scrutiny in areas that are already too impacted.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 13, 2018 at 8:51 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 13, 2018 at 8:51 am
62 people like this

Transportation is a big problem along with parking, but public transportation needs to be part of the equation. We need to be able to get regular commuters including school kids to their destinations efficiently. Shuttles and bus routes that snake everywhere is not going to work well. Now that it is summer it is so apparent that without school commutes, traffic moves more efficiently. Let's get shuttles to the schools even if we have to outsource to private operators to do this. We need to get parking lots at off ramps with dedicated shuttles to business areas and this needs to be done early until late to enable shift workers be part of the scheme.

So much of the traffic around downtown and Cal Ave is caused by drivers circling looking for spaces, or even Uber drivers circling until they get their next customer. Can we get more 30 minute parking spots so that those of us trying to do some quick errands at lunch time can drop off tax documents or pick up a prescription and find convenient parking.

Lastly, where are all these signs about how many vacant spaces are in the garages, and where are the apps to enable someone to pay for occasional 1/2 day or even full day parking easily? It is a nightmare for visitors to town to find more than 3 hour parking with all the different signs, zones and colors. Some of these visitors are business people who have meetings that are time sensitive and simplifying it will help them to get in, get business done and get out as expediently as possible helps them as well as the rest of us trying to live our lives.

Don't blame outsiders for cut through traffic. I'm not an outsider and I don't need an app to know that it is always better to find a side street rather than navigate Middlefield, Oregon, etc. in commute hours. We need to make our arteries efficient for moving traffic. All these narrowing and traffic calming on major arteries pushes me and others into the neighborhoods. I would much prefer to drive the arteries, but they are so clogged that I just don't bother at busy times of the day.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 13, 2018 at 9:34 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Jul 13, 2018 at 9:34 am
75 people like this

"But the shift isn't merely managerial. It is a recognition by City Manager James Keene and some council members that the various transportation efforts need far more staffing and funding."

How much more money do they need for road furniture, giant Botts dots, bollards and road signs telling cut-through drivers THIS IS A RESIDENTIAL AREA as if all the houses weren't a clue. This is nuts.

When will they finally coordinate the shuttles with the school times? Too cheap and too sensible for them to bother with when they can instead keep lecturing US about getting out of our cars?

When will they finally get to fixing the El Camino /Embarcadero intersection where cars routinely get stuck in the middle of the intersection? The former transportation czar started seeking "input" from "stakeholders" years before he left lo these many years ago.


Developer Mafia
Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 13, 2018 at 9:40 am
Developer Mafia, Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 13, 2018 at 9:40 am
44 people like this

Build build build, then when we reach critical mass, throw your hands up and say "What can we do?"


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 13, 2018 at 9:42 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Jul 13, 2018 at 9:42 am
39 people like this

PS: What is the purpose of the raised barrier on Churchill right before the RR tracks?

Re mobility issues for the disabled, I saw a young guy in a wheelchair struggling to get beyond an orange curb ramp with raised dots to proceed down the Charleston sidewalk, I got out of my car and pushed him up over those silly dots. Even with me pushing, it was still a struggle.

What purpose do those orange dotted ramps serve??


Yellow Dot Mafia
Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 13, 2018 at 9:49 am
Yellow Dot Mafia, Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 13, 2018 at 9:49 am
24 people like this

Those yellow dots on sidewalk ramps are put there to cause people to slip and slide on rainy days. Near as I can figure anyways.


Resident
Old Palo Alto
on Jul 13, 2018 at 10:00 am
Resident, Old Palo Alto
on Jul 13, 2018 at 10:00 am
84 people like this

It’s time for Palo Alto residents to take back their city. The majority of the city council and city staff don’t care about what is best for the residents. They do not have our best interest at heart. They are more concerned about catering to special interest groups, developers, and padding their own political coffers. I am beginning to think the council is our enemy. Palo Alto residents can no longer assume the council will make good choices for us. [Portion removed.]


City Council Mafia
Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 13, 2018 at 10:03 am
City Council Mafia, Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 13, 2018 at 10:03 am
56 people like this

I bet the sentiment on City Councils being more interested in developing rather than preserving a good quality of life is felt all over the Bay Area.


Resident
Old Palo Alto
on Jul 13, 2018 at 10:22 am
Resident, Old Palo Alto
on Jul 13, 2018 at 10:22 am
16 people like this

The yellow sidewalk dots are there to break the eggs in our grocery carts.


Judith Wasserman
Registered user
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 13, 2018 at 10:53 am
Judith Wasserman, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
Registered user
on Jul 13, 2018 at 10:53 am
7 people like this

Oh ha ha - really. The yellow dots are there so blind people can tell when they are entering a street. Unfortunately, they have unintended consequences but are part of the Americans with Disabilities Act and can't be changed w/o Federal legislation.

On another subject - PLEASE don't merge the Development Center with Planning! The DC finally got to work reasonably well; if you put it back in Planning it will only get dysfunctional again. Better to get two really good managers, although with all the flack the staff gets from the public in Palo Alto, who would want to work here?


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 13, 2018 at 11:02 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Jul 13, 2018 at 11:02 am
18 people like this

Interesting albeit odd explanation for the yellow dots although we already gave sound-emitting signals for "walk" etc.

Now please explain the purpose of the new raised metal lane divider on Churchill before the RR tracks. It separates sthe east-bound and west-bound lanes. It's not at an intersection. They dug a deep trench to install it so it had to be expensive.


parent
Gunn High School
on Jul 13, 2018 at 11:34 am
parent, Gunn High School
on Jul 13, 2018 at 11:34 am
25 people like this

We really appreciate all that Mr. Mello and the city are doing to make transportation in the city safer and more orderly, especially for kids walking and biking to school. Speeding has gotten way out of hand in recent years. Part of this was because of the lack of police enforcement and part of this was the design of our roads which had made car driving more important than pedestrian safety. The city's new focus on improving safety, at least on neighborhood roads, is very encouraging.


Brad
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 13, 2018 at 11:54 am
Brad, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 13, 2018 at 11:54 am
37 people like this

[Portion removed.] This is a complete exercise in inefficiency. You want to create less traffic by creating only bike or car lanes on Louis? [Portion removed.] What was wrong with the bike lanes that are used for bikes and the car lanes used for lanes? [Portion removed.]


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 13, 2018 at 12:04 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Jul 13, 2018 at 12:04 pm
69 people like this

@Parent, you think having cars get stuck in the middle of major intersections because of all the bollardsis making people safer? You think forcing cars on Middlefield to have to back up to let cars make their turns from N Cal Ave is making people safer? You think putting giant Botts Dots on the exit ramp from Embarcadero to Alma that forces cars to swerve back into traffic is making people safer? You think narrowing the roads so drastically that buses don't fit in their lanes and force cars to go around them in the wrong lane is making people safer?

I could go on but maybe you'll get the picture.


Questions Mafia
Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 13, 2018 at 12:27 pm
Questions Mafia, Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 13, 2018 at 12:27 pm
96 people like this

"you think having cars get stuck in the middle of major intersections because of all the bollardsis making people safer?"

Yes, if those cars were coming right at me at a high rate of speed prior to them getting stuck it would likely save my life.
Whew, that was a close call!


Gale Johnson
Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 13, 2018 at 1:04 pm
Gale Johnson, Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 13, 2018 at 1:04 pm
36 people like this

Departments, Commissions, Committees, Divisions, et al? Yes, it does take a lot of people to staff all those entities, and newly created ones, so we better go on a hiring spree, and soon! Right? Career politicians and government employees love to hear that. How will that affect the current budget and future pension obligations?? "Uh, er, well, (stutter...stutter) we'll figure that our later", which translates into taxes of some sort on us residents.

I would be curious to know the real reasons why so many people have fled City Hall for other jobs elsewhere.

Ah, yes, the answer lies in hiring a new consultant. If things go awry then they will be the ones to blame. CC's hands will be clean. Is the fact we have to hire another new consultant an admission that we blew it and wasted money on all the previous ones we hired in the past?? No sitting CC member who was involved at that time will ever admit to it.

I enjoyed all the comical comments on the yellow dots. This website needs some of that humor.

@Resident of Old Palo Alto

I agree with you, and many other residents, that John Mello hasn't done much to improve our transportation/parking issues, so far. In fact, some are worse under his direction. But, he has worked under and submitted to the direction and pressure of the bike lobby. They wanted bike boulevards...so he figured out a way to give them bike boulevards. Pissed off a lot of other people, including residents in those areas, but he gave the lobby and CC their bike boulevards. I've watched him speak at CC meetings. Very articulate, and presents things very well. He's doing exactly what he was hired to do. I think his background and training were in very different communities and situations than Palo Alto.

Stating that he doesn't live in PA just points to the fact that most of our city staff members don't live here, because they can't afford to. That's what is so sad about all these discussions.

And the only way to solve that problem is to destroy the quality of life so many of us long time residents have enjoyed for many years. But today's NIMBY's, us long time residents (don't worry, we'll be gone in 10 years), will be replaced by the modern day NIMBY's, the cash rich foreigners and tech lotto winners who will buy our single family R-1 zoned homes and fight tooth and nail to maintain the same quality of life in our neighborhoods that we enjoyed. Good for them. Fight on you new NIMBY's, but please reach out and meet your neighbors, become good neighbors, and friends, and host a block party to show your appreciation...just like we did when this was a family focused neighborhood.


Lazlo Toth
Old Palo Alto
on Jul 13, 2018 at 1:52 pm
Lazlo Toth, Old Palo Alto
on Jul 13, 2018 at 1:52 pm
36 people like this

Once again, unfortunately, the City Manager convinces the City Council to create yet another layer of management and additional city departments to buffer his lack of management skills. Maybe the problem is the city council have hired a city manager without any managerial skills and who continues to shift his responsibilities by delegating or creating additional management and city department positions. The City Manager and City Council have chosen a path that is financially unsustainable in increased employee costs and offers no benefit whatsoever to the residents of Palo Alto.


White elephants
Old Palo Alto
on Jul 13, 2018 at 2:07 pm
White elephants, Old Palo Alto
on Jul 13, 2018 at 2:07 pm
63 people like this

Online Name said
>How much more money do they need for road furniture, giant Botts dots, bollards and road signs telling cut-through drivers THIS IS A RESIDENTIAL AREA as if all the houses weren't a clue. This is nuts.<

It points to the City Manager rewarding certain suppliers. Add gallons of green paint, and signs, signs, signs to the list of overspending.And fancy new signs in and around city hall.
I don't think it is nuts. I think it is corrupt.

Those expensive bollards are a visible indicator of the irresponsible spending. They make a right-turn more difficult and sometimes use up a parking space. Somebody made a huge profit on those white elephants.


Matt
Professorville
on Jul 13, 2018 at 2:23 pm
Matt, Professorville
on Jul 13, 2018 at 2:23 pm
24 people like this

None of our leaders can agree on anything... except that we need to spend more money to "study" the problems and add more staffers to continue studying the problems.

Welcome to Bureaucracy Paradise.


Car Mafia
Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 13, 2018 at 2:25 pm
Car Mafia, Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 13, 2018 at 2:25 pm
5 people like this

If the solution does not result in me being able to drive alone in my car, when and where I want, without needing to move my foot off the accelerator, then I don't want to hear it.


Roll up your sleeves...
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 13, 2018 at 3:48 pm
Roll up your sleeves..., Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Jul 13, 2018 at 3:48 pm
19 people like this

The entire Bay Area is struggling to manage traffic from rapid growth while in many parts of the country they have much higher unemployment rates and bigger financial problems than we have. Traffic is not just a Palo Alto problem. It is a Bay Area problem. Roll up your sleeves, as my grandma used to say, and let's work together to solve problems. Be part of the solution.

That said,

What are the new barriers on Churchill for, you ask? That is a safety project built by CALTRAIN within the Caltrain right-of-way. It is not a City of Palo Alto project. It is designed to prevent drivers from weaving through the train crossing arms when they are down. Yup. There really are people who do that (deserving Darwin awards). I have seen it. I learned this by attending a community meeting that I read about in the Weekly.

Why do we have those raised yellow dots on the intersection ramps if we have audible signals? ADA compliance. It is required. Again, this is not the City of Palo Alto being stupid. It is the city complying with federally mandated requirements. It is not true to say that we don't need the bumps because we have audible signals for the blind. We have audible signals at some signalized intersections, but not all intersections are signalized, ergo they have no audible signals. I learned this by making a polite inquiry of staff.

You can do this this too. Instead of shooting insults at staff and Council and other citizens, you can work toward solutions. Being rude to the people who serve us only drives the best staff out of town. My grandma, a fountain of wisdom who led an amazing and productive life said, "Being polite costs you nothing and reaps mountains of good will."

I don't know what I think about the Transportation reorg yet. I felt that the Planning & Transportation connection was working until Hillary Gitelman arrived. She has left. However, I can see that Transportation also touches Utilities and Public Works. It might be useful to connect these departments more closely through the city managers office to break down departmental silos. Maybe it's worth trying.

Come on, friends. This is our town. Let's work together. BTW. I ride a bike and walk a lot. Does that make me part of the evil "bike lobby?"Or does it just make me a citizen who walks and rides for exercise and to reduce my carbon footprint? I do want to be safe, and I like the new traffic safety projects.


P. A. Ford
another community
on Jul 13, 2018 at 3:51 pm
P. A. Ford, another community
on Jul 13, 2018 at 3:51 pm
16 people like this

"Build build build, then when we reach critical mass, throw your hands up and say "What can we do?" "

Keep building until somebody thinks of something, then build more while everybody debates it.


NeilsonBuchanan
Registered user
Downtown North
on Jul 13, 2018 at 5:20 pm
NeilsonBuchanan, Downtown North
Registered user
on Jul 13, 2018 at 5:20 pm
10 people like this

The first step is for the new city manager to deal with the $4 million budget cut that seems to be expected by Council and its finance committee.

The second step is allocation of resources to the city departments responsible for our city's hottest spots. Allocations must be done in harmony with operating and capital budgets.

The third step is telling citizens what is not going to be managed. Polite withholding the budgetary realities cannot continue.

Fourth step is citizens' response to whatever the new city manager and council decide to fund and defer.

These four steps can be completed in less than 45 days, IMO.

There is one easy decision to make. The Council must reverse its intent to fund 100% of the downtown garage at Waverley/Hamilton. And it must not create another give-away Parking Assesment District on invaluable city property. Some citizens feel that the need for a new garage has shifted since capital plans were formulated 10+ years ago.

Furthermore, current city garages are NOT optimally utilized and managed. Deferral of this garage can put $10s of millions into more productive use. Otherwise Josh Mello and his team will continue to spin their wheels and spin yarns about transportation solutions.

Josh is a capable fellow but he is helpless without serious increases in staffing and funds for modern tools to manage parking and traffic.

New taxes and fees here and there are already encountering the dreaded PA Process of additional studies and delays. It is time for Ed Shikada to show his stuff.


Resident
Midtown
on Jul 13, 2018 at 8:12 pm
Resident, Midtown
on Jul 13, 2018 at 8:12 pm
24 people like this

@Roll up sleeves

"BTW. I ride a bike and walk a lot. Does that make me part of the evil "bike lobby?"Or does it just make me a citizen who walks and rides for exercise and to reduce my carbon footprint?"

Want a cupcake?


Randy
Greenmeadow
on Jul 13, 2018 at 8:30 pm
Randy, Greenmeadow
on Jul 13, 2018 at 8:30 pm
52 people like this

Josh has been with the city for a while now. He has presided over one costly blunder after another. I really don't see how rearranging the deck chairs in city hall, or throwing more tax dollars at the transportation department is going to solve anything. After participating in so many rail corridor meetings, I never got the impression that the transportation dept had a clue about what to do. That seems to be as far as those meetings ever got. Cynical? Maybe, but I don't think much has changed since those meetings. Josh, where the is that south PA bike bridge?


Wayne Martin
Professorville
on Jul 13, 2018 at 8:56 pm
Wayne Martin, Professorville
on Jul 13, 2018 at 8:56 pm
9 people like this

> I would be curious to know the real reasons why so many
> people have fled City Hall for other jobs elsewhere.

In 2017, there were 87 terminations. One of those terminations was due to death of the employee. Twenty-three were what appear to be retirements, with each termination showing at least 18 years of service. There were twenty-two terminations with less than one year of service. These less-than-one-year terminations were spread across all of the departments.

The City’s employee data provides no information about terminations, other than the termination date. Whether any of these terminations were for cause is not discernable from the data.

As to the other forty terminations, they show no pattern of years-of-service, although the most of the terminations, in the aggregate, were in the utilities and police departments. Please keep in mind that about 30% of the City’s total employee base is hired by the Utility.


Resident
College Terrace
on Jul 14, 2018 at 7:31 am
Resident, College Terrace
on Jul 14, 2018 at 7:31 am
31 people like this

How is Transportation not under the umbrella of DEVELOPMENT AND PLANNING?
Transportation wil do whatever it likes without having to conform to proper city development and urban planning? How utterly ridiculous.

So tired of the corruption that is happening politically around us. Now we have it at the city level too? Suddenly some young dude who used to report to the city planning and development director is no longer doing that and reporting directly to city manager? Transportation doesn't work under the umbrella of development?

So transportation can do whatever ridiculous idiotic idea it decides upon and it won't conform to city development plans.

It'll be "shocking" when this set up and organization fails on a massive level.


not your civics class
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 14, 2018 at 8:57 pm
not your civics class, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 14, 2018 at 8:57 pm
12 people like this

There are two things going on here. This is not
what you normally expect from govt -that it serves the public interest.It has nothing to do with that. First the staff has its own agenda - to cover the streets with as much paint,bright yellow laddered crosswalks on residential streets,etc, sign clutter,dots, bollards,spending large amounts of money. What they are doing has no relationship to standard traffic engineering practices and actually leads to more dangerous conditions and degrading of neighborhoods and streetscapes in a
horrific outcome. Secondly,the pro-development City Council majority allows it and welcomes it
because it gives the appearance of dealing with the traffic issues, so there is no moratorium on new office construction or down-zoning. More office on the way. We can deal with the growing traffic is the message, just be patient,give it a chance and get informed as to how it works.And
now some organizational changes are on the way too.And we'll build more transit oriented housing
even though there is no real transit system.



Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Jul 15, 2018 at 7:29 am
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Jul 15, 2018 at 7:29 am
17 people like this

"Scharff also suggested that transportation could use far more funding and that residents would likely support a ballot measure that would devote more revenues to transportation."

Once again a politician is counting on voter memory being short. We already voted to give more revenue to transportation. Measure B passed in 2016 and we all pay 1/2 cent more in sales tax - and will for THIRTY years. Palo Alto needs to do what it must to tap into that mother lode. I kinda doubt voters will ante up even more $ for transportation until they see some evidence that $ is being spent wisely and that existing funding sources are being used for the intended purpose.

Further to above comments about rail, we are late getting in line for Measure B money for grade separation. Both Scharff and Mello should have facilitated timely application. And this is not the only such example. Remember SB1, the gas tax?

Quebec has a motto, "Je me souviens" (I remember my history). We would do well to adapt that same motto - for both large issues such as transportation and smaller issues such as campaign promises.


Mark
Midtown
on Jul 15, 2018 at 8:51 am
Mark, Midtown
on Jul 15, 2018 at 8:51 am
7 people like this

Some may find this analysis interesting:

Web Link

Executive Summary:
-------------------------
With amazing and tragic consistency, a significant factor in over two-thirds of the fatalities appears to be pedestrians not following the safety rules of the road. Certainly motorists bear responsibility for being attentive and reactive to the actions of others on the road, but two things are lost in the demands of Vision Zero proponents to curtail motorized traffic: A fair analysis of what the numbers are really telling us and the notion of personal responsibility.

Most pedestrian fatalities occur outside of sanctioned crosswalks, exacerbated by visibility issues during dusk or night time hours and often by pedestrian actions. While some large metro areas like New York City are budgeting significant sums of money for reconstructing streets, the emphasis of that spending often is on reducing car lanes, lowering speed limits, and adding speed cameras to deter drivers from, well, driving.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 15, 2018 at 11:50 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Jul 15, 2018 at 11:50 am
15 people like this

""Scharff also suggested that transportation could use far more funding and that residents would likely support a ballot measure that would devote more revenues to transportation."

Once again a politician is counting on voter memory being short. We already voted to give more revenue to transportation. Measure B passed in 2016 and we all pay 1/2 cent more in sales tax - and will for THIRTY years."

This voter's memory isn't short.

1) Maybe some of that money can go toward outreach improvement since many of us have been waiting for years for responses to specific complaints and comments.

2) We're paying that sales tax which our politicians strongly urged us to support but which I believe is still going into escrow because the county belatedly discovered that our shuttle service duplicates their bus service.
So essentially we're already paying more for nothing,

Maybe Mr. Mello could put that costly shuttle to use and shuttle the kids to/from school since the schools have well-defined times?


Resident
Community Center
on Jul 15, 2018 at 1:19 pm
Resident, Community Center
on Jul 15, 2018 at 1:19 pm
2 people like this

I agree that more meaningful outreach is needed on transportation projects, especially over the last two years with the new council majority being led by Scharff. However, the reason that the Measure A dollars are in escrow is over a anti tax lawsuit not having to do with the local shuttle.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 15, 2018 at 5:13 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Jul 15, 2018 at 5:13 pm
13 people like this

Resident, Web Link Lawsuit puts VTA sales tax increase in limbo

And Web Link

And another article on the duplicative service from July 2016
Web Link

"Amid ever-increasing local gridlock, a booming economy and a growing population, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) has floated a concept plan that would cut all bus lines that circulate within Palo Alto, leaving just two that connect the city to San Jose.

VTA officials say they must make changes system-wide to increase ridership and revenues. One way to do that, they say, is to improve service along popular routes and trim bus lines with lower ridership. But the potential cuts have dismayed Palo Alto residents, who say service in town should expand, not contract."

"Ironically, the City of Palo Alto's efforts to boost its mass transit service through the Palo Alto Shuttle and burgeoning transportation-management agencies that encourage workers to use Caltrain may also be contributing to the demise of VTA service in the city, at least from VTA's viewpoint. "


Resident
Community Center
on Jul 15, 2018 at 6:03 pm
Resident , Community Center
on Jul 15, 2018 at 6:03 pm
7 people like this

@Online
Both things are true. The city has had an ongoing beef with VTA over their declining support for bus service in Palo Alto.
And Measure A spending is held up currently by the anti tax lawsuit. The two are occurring separately.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 15, 2018 at 6:47 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Jul 15, 2018 at 6:47 pm
7 people like this

@Resident, ok but isn't the anti-tax lawsuit related to "broken promises" about what services were to be delivered? Also, didn't the VTA decide that Palo Alto didn't need more bus service because it already had the shuttles which was cutting into VTA ridership? If PA and VTA had/have an ongoing beef about bus service, why did our leaders advocate so hard for us to pass the sales tax measure?

Also, do you have an update on what's happening? I didn't find any but know we're still paying the sales tax.


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Jul 16, 2018 at 10:48 am
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Jul 16, 2018 at 10:48 am
9 people like this

Like Online Name, it is also my understanding that we are paying the tax. Anticipating resolution of the lawsuit, PA should have its "ask" prepared so that we can avail ourselves of some of the revenue we are creating. There have been numerous news stories about how we are behind neighboring cities in that regard.


Heaven Help Us
Old Palo Alto
on Jul 17, 2018 at 1:12 pm
Heaven Help Us, Old Palo Alto
on Jul 17, 2018 at 1:12 pm
6 people like this

The infrastructure decisions regarding the electrification of trains passing through Palo Alto will make or break this town. Bad decisions could destroy the livability of Palo Alto. [Portion removed.]


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 17, 2018 at 5:01 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Jul 17, 2018 at 5:01 pm
10 people like this

@Heaven, fortunately anyone with access to a search engine knows who's making those decisions, who chairs the Rail Transportation Committee and which city employees and officials are managing the various consultants making their decisions.


Robert Neff
Registered user
Midtown
on Jul 18, 2018 at 11:56 pm
Robert Neff, Midtown
Registered user
on Jul 18, 2018 at 11:56 pm
3 people like this

The barriers being put at all the railroad tracks are for safety, to prevent cars from going around the crossing barriers. It's CalTrain's work, at all 4 grade crossings in Palo Alto. Also, at eastbound Charleston crossing Alma, the stop line for the intersection is to be moved back to the West side of the tracks (like Mary in Sunnyvale.) CalTrain doesn't like cars queuing too close to the tracks.


Physics Mafia
Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 28, 2018 at 5:39 am
Physics Mafia, Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 28, 2018 at 5:39 am
Like this comment

There is no fix for "Too many cars" except to get the numbers down to "Not too many cars"
Simple as that, so who's first? Oh yah, the other guy ;)


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