News

Will Palo Alto's plans to speed up transportation projects spell traffic relief?

New work plan details bike- and scooter-share programs, Crescent Park road changes

If things proceed as planned, this will be the year in which Palo Alto reforms its byzantine parking programs, embraces bike- and scooter-share programs and helps traffic-weary Crescent Park neighborhood residents find some relief from the daily congestion on their streets.

The city will also complete a new garage near California Avenue and approve a new guidance system in downtown garages that can alert drivers to open parking spots.

And pending City Council approval, the city's newly established Office of Transportation will get an injection of resources. The city is now in the process of recruiting its next chief transportation officer, who will have the complicated job of advancing the council's long list of transportation projects, including the adoption of new requirements that new developments limit added traffic, the reorganization of the city's "residential preferential parking" programs and the expansion of the city's shuttle system.

These initiatives are all included in the city's transportation work plan, which the council's Policy and Services Committee discussed and endorsed on Tuesday night. The various items aim to address the council's 2019 priority of "transportation and traffic" — the only topic that has remained on the city's priority list for the past six years.

"I think the idea of creating the office just for transportation is definitely the good way to go, since the growth is going to happen and we don't provide enough resources for transportation," Councilwoman Lydia Kou said. "The fact that it's been a council priority ... for the previous six years shows how much we need to dive in and take it very, very seriously."

At the same time, Kou and committee Chair Liz Kniss urged staff to be cautious on some of its more ambitious initiatives, including potential changes to the particularly congested stretch of University Avenue in Crescent Park. Much like with the recent pilot project on Middlefield Road, which the city installed in response to residents' complaints about dangerous traffic conditions, the city is looking to create temporary road markings in Crescent Park and seek residents' feedback before the changes are made permanent.

Similarly, the two committee members called for staff to be careful about bike- and scooter-share companies. The council last month approved a yearlong extension to its pilot program, which allows any vendor to bring its services to the city. Kniss cited her recent trip to Santa Monica, where there is now an abundance of electric scooters on city streets.

"People do get around on them and they seem to be very effective, but people tend to leave them and then they end up on somebody's lawn or in the street," Kniss said.

In Austin, Texas, by contrast, the ride-share services do not result in the same kind of a mess on the streets, she said.

Chantal Cotton Gaines, assistant to the city manager, said that Palo Alto is learning from the experiences of other cities in creating its guidelines. Those that put a greater onus on companies to take care of their equipment in the early phases of the program, for example, tend to have more success, she said.

"We're being very meticulous," she said.

In addition to these initiatives, the council plans to review this year a new "transportation demand management" ordinance, requiring developers to create programs that encourage building tenants to use modes of transportation other than cars. The current schedule calls for having such a law in place by this fall.

The committee supported the plan, which will go to the council in August for approval. The delay was intended to give the new leader of the Office of Transportation an opportunity to weigh in and adjust plans as needed.

---

Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.

Comments

14 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on May 8, 2019 at 11:22 am

Traffic safety is just an important priority as traffic capacity and speed


14 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 8, 2019 at 1:15 pm

Where are the electronic signage on our garages that indicate vacant spots?

Where are the simplified methods of paying for parking, apps on phones and parking meters?

Where are the increased shuttle services? Where are the increases in public transport particularly ones that cross city and county borders and the Bay.

Where are parking lots and dedicated shuttles from highway off ramps? Or bus services to airports and the Coast?

There are lots of very practical ways in which to improve parking and traffic, but none are being done. Telling people who have no alternatives to not drive is not a practical solution. Finding alternative means (other than telling them to use bikes or rental scooters) is not providing alternatives.


9 people like this
Posted by Downfall
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 8, 2019 at 4:40 pm

"Kniss cited her recent trip to Santa Monica, where there is now an abundance of electric scooters on city streets."

The problem I have seen is that most of the rented electric scooters do not ride on city streets but on SIDEWALKS where they have no place among pedestrians. I am all for having the scooter companies come in but only if police commit to enforcing and ticketing those who ride on the sidewalk. I can't see the police ever doing this though as hardly anything seems to rise to the bar of necessary enforcement by the PA police theses days.

I am not sure what the appropriate place is for the scooters to travel but I would guess bike lanes?


9 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 8, 2019 at 9:33 pm

NO to preposterous shared, taxpayer sponsored scooters. NO to politicians who favor such nonsense over real-life situations we are in daily here.


6 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on May 8, 2019 at 10:03 pm

As far as I know, the rental scooters that I see in other cities are all owned and operated private for-profit companies. The only assistance from the cities is allowing them to ride in public bike lanes and park at public bike racks.


14 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Ventura
on May 9, 2019 at 7:32 am

Liz Kniss is Chairing the transportation Committee! !!!!!! Are you kidding? This is the council person who said traffic congestion isn’t a problem in Palo Alto, you just need to know the back routes. No wonder this town can’t find any solutions when people on the city council have this kind of mindset


6 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Ventura
on May 9, 2019 at 7:32 am

Liz Kniss is Chairing the transportation Committee! !!!!!! Are you kidding? This is the council person who said traffic congestion isn’t a problem in Palo Alto, you just need to know the back routes. No wonder this town can’t find any solutions when people on the city council have this kind of mindset


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 9, 2019 at 11:12 am

Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown

>> Traffic safety is just an important priority as traffic capacity and speed

One way to improve safety and capacity while limiting top speed, and, reducing -delay- and end-to-end elapsed time, is by implementing synchronized lights. In its simplest form, at rush hour, with block/section-long congestions, all lights in a given direction are green at the same time, allowing the entire mass of cars to move forward at the same time. At quiet times, lights turn green in sequence at the speed limit, allowing cars to maintain a steady speed, and, not "rewarding" speeders. Reduced acceleration and braking saves energy and reduces pollution. Synchronized lights reduce end-to-end travel times while limiting top vehicle speeds. It has more-or-less worked in Los Angeles-- since the demand is basically unlimited there, the effect has been mostly to increase throughput.Web Link

Portland, OR, also has synchronized lights, and is testing smarter implementations that will provide much more adaptive levels of optimization at all times. Web Link

I know there was a plan to implement synchronized lights on University-- was that implemented? -- but, it should be done citywide, AND, coordinated with EPA, MP, and Mtn View as well.




Like this comment
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of University South
on May 9, 2019 at 11:32 am

Hey @Anon: All of the traffic signals operated by the City of Palo Alto are synchronized (i.e. coordinated) during peak hours. Coordinated traffic signals cannot fix overloaded streets. They only work when traffic is flowing, which is often not the case on University Avenue.


5 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 9, 2019 at 12:39 pm

Posted by Reality Check, a resident of University South

>> Hey @Anon: All of the traffic signals operated by the City of Palo Alto are synchronized

-All- of them? Really? Reference? If that is true, then, why did they make a special announcement about University Ave.?

"I think some of our reports of traffic are really exaggerated," Palo Alto Mayor Liz Kniss said during Monday night's City Council meeting.

Web Link



12 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 9, 2019 at 12:56 pm

If Kniss is behind an effort to speed up transportation projects it is not to relieve traffic, it is to remove a roadblock interfering with the continued mad orgy of real-estate development. Any expansion of transportation capacity will simply be used to justify more real-estate development.


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 9, 2019 at 1:03 pm

According to this report, it sounds like synchronization is a work-in-progress.

Web Link

It sounds like all or virtually all of the signals have been upgraded so that fully synchronized control can be done. It looks like certain corridors and segments have been done.


6 people like this
Posted by Open Up University Avenue
a resident of Downtown North
on May 9, 2019 at 1:17 pm

Even if it means removing a row of houses through eminent domain, University Avenue should be converted into a an 8 lane expressway with a diversion at Middlefield Road whereby Lytton and Hamilton are converted to one-way streets.

I reside near University Avenue and could care less if this were to happen as we are moving from PA to Ketchum, ID. A nice Chinese family made a CASH offer on our home and we couldn't refuse. Palo Alto has now become a residential haven for wealthy overseas expatriates and more will be arriving.

Will send you a postcard from Sun Valley!


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 9, 2019 at 6:36 pm

Posted by Open Up University Avenue, a resident of Downtown North

>> Even if it means removing a row of houses through eminent domain, University Avenue should be converted into a an 8 lane expressway

"Should"? Why? What moral principle dictates that?


2 people like this
Posted by Open Up University Avenue
a resident of Downtown North
on May 9, 2019 at 6:45 pm

>> "Should"? Why? What moral principle dictates that?

It's not a matter of morality but rather one of practicality.

Either that or place a moratorium on traffic.


2 people like this
Posted by dnftt
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 9, 2019 at 6:57 pm

Turning University into an express way doesn't help. As they said above, there's no where for the traffic to go. All you're doing is creating an 8 lane parking lot.

University Avenue lights sit on green except during rush hour when they are synced for 20mph. Given the speeding traffic on University, there is a prime opportunity here to make the lights timed permanently. Unfortunately the planning department is, yet again, choosing cars over residents.


1 person likes this
Posted by Michael
a resident of Mountain View
on May 9, 2019 at 10:05 pm

There is one city that got traffic right - California City. The secret to their success was building a huge town with no residents.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields


Don't be the last to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

Palo Alto's Taverna to expand next door
By Elena Kadvany | 5 comments | 2,117 views

A Power Play
By Sherry Listgarten | 13 comments | 1,976 views

Back Roads of California Wine Country
By Laura Stec | 2 comments | 1,854 views

Premarital and Couples: How to Stop an Argument
By Chandrama Anderson | 2 comments | 1,141 views

Piles of artwork
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 745 views

 

Vote now!

It's time once again to cast your vote for the best places to eat, drink, shop and spend time in Palo Alto. Voting is open now through May 27. Watch for the results of our 2019 Best Of contest on Friday, July 19.

Vote