Traffic woes likely to drive Palo Alto's 2020 priorities | News | Palo Alto Online |


Traffic woes likely to drive Palo Alto's 2020 priorities

Council committee calls for more concrete goals next year

As the Palo Alto City Council sets its eyes on 2020, members are preparing for another year in which the city's transportation problems top their list of official priorities.

That's the indication from a survey that council members took in preparation for their annual retreat early next year. And it should come as little surprise to council watchers. Even though the council's guidelines set a three-year limit on priorities, transportation has been a glaring exception. It has appeared on the list, in one form or another, since 2013.

The list of ideas for official priorities was released on Tuesday night, just before the council's Policy and Services Committee was set to discuss the council's annual process for adopting them. Some suggested keeping all four priorities from the current year: climate change; grade separation; traffic and transportation; and fiscal sustainability.

For city staff, the priority-setting process is more than a conceptual exercise. City Manager Ed Shikada noted that this year the city had established a work plan for each of the priorities, which are defined as issues that receive "increased focus from the council" in a given year. The only item on this year's list that had a specific goal was "grade separation," with the council initially hoping to reach a preferred alternative on the redesign of the rail corridor by fall of this year (the deadline has since been moved to spring 2020).

Councilman Greg Tanaka suggested that the council set goals that are actually measurable and achievable. In prior years, priorities have been "generic, not specific, not goal oriented and aspirational," he said.

"I think staff can be more effective in general if they are given more specific and concrete types of goals," Tanaka said.

His committee colleagues, Chairwoman Liz Kniss and Councilwoman Lydia Kou, agreed and supported a motion recommending that next year's priorities be "more focused, in such a way that they can actually be accomplished."

The council's continued focus on traffic mirrors results from recent community surveys. When the 2018 National Citizen Survey asked residents what one change the city can make that would make them happier, 23% made comments pertaining to traffic concerns. Housing followed with 21%. No other issue had more than 10%.

Some council members proposed changing the terminology. One suggested "traffic congestion relief" be added to the priority list, while another recommended "transportation and mobility." A few also recommended keeping grade separation as a 2020 priority. The list of ideas released Tuesday did not specify which council proposed which priority.

Other proposed priorities were affordable housing and homelessness; climate change, particularly as it pertains to sea level rise; the reconstruction of Cubberley Community Center; and to "Make Palo Alto fun again."

While the committee gave little indication of what other priorities will appear on the list, its three members agreed that the 2020 priorities should be more tangible and achievable than those in the past.

Residents now have a chance to weigh in on what priorities the council should adopt for 2020. On Wednesday morning, the city put out an invitation through its Open City Hall platform for the public to submit their own ideas. The survey will remain open until Jan. 31, shortly before the council's annual retreat. To fill out the form, visit


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33 people like this
Posted by Barbara
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 11, 2019 at 11:47 am

Traffic Woes!! So, STOP BUILDING!

6 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 11, 2019 at 2:06 pm

Congestion from auto commuters is the number one problem that the city could do something about.

The city could do concrete things that would help relocate routine desk jobs to remote Eastbay work centers near transit centers/stops such as ACE stations (Fremont, Pleasanton, Livermore, Vasco, Tracy). Many areas would welcome the commercial growth, while Palo Alto needs to reduce the number of commuters from the East Bay.

The city could also start promoting the rebuild of the Dumbarton route railroad and restoration of train service, as has been proposed many times. There is a small railroad 3-way hub off Sycamore in Newark that would be the ideal location for a joint station with the Dumbarton service to the ACE route. The Dumbarton Rail proposal should have been acted on already. Web Link

25 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 11, 2019 at 2:26 pm

What gives???? Kniss famously statred at a city council meeting that she did not believe there was a traffic problem in Palo Alto ?!!!?????

12 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 11, 2019 at 4:40 pm

So what's new.

They have supposedly prioritized traffic as a problem for several years and no real measures have been implemented.

Making local residents walk or get on bikes is not a solution.

The problem is that people need cars when coming to work here in town or leaving town to get to where they work. Caltrain is not a realistic option for most people and there really are no other transportation options. VTA is cutting service in north county so they are worse than useless.

Shuttles are no good to anyone who has to work outside Palo Alto, even if they want to get to Mountain View or Menlo Park, the shuttles do not cross city boundaries.

1. Get someone from Google, or Stanford, or Apple, or Facebook, who know how to run a decent commuter service and get them to look at the Sunnyvale - Redwood City area, if not wider, to make some efficient service. We also need those workers who work in town but come from the Coast or the East Bay, to be able to use public transit, at least partially, to get them to their jobs.

2. Get satellite parking lots at highway off-ramps with dedicated shuttles to places where people work.

3. Use those same parking lots for airport shuttle buses to alleviate the need for a ride to and from an airport. For every person who gets a ride from a friend or family to catch a plane, that ride comes back needlessly. It is easier to give someone a ride to a shuttle at a satellite lot than all the way to an airport.

4. Get shuttles to our secondary school. Don't expect the school district to run school buses, but get our kids to school. We all know how much easier traffic is when school is out, so let's do more to alleviate school traffic.

5. Get traffic to where it needs to go expediently. That means getting rid of bottlenecks.

6. Help those who need to park to do so rather than drive around in circles looking for parking. Get rid of the color zones and confusing permits/limits. Our garages need electronic signs with light system to let drivers know where the empty spaces are. Parking for upwards of 3 hours should be done by a parking app on our phones. The meters being talked about should be implemented and there should still be ways for parking for 30 minutes for free at a meter or have 30 minutes only parking at more locations.

7. Help those who work in businesses that actually serve us have ease in parking, people who work in health offices and similar useful service providers should be able to buy reduced permits. These permits should not be tied to one car but can be interchanged between a carpool group or a car that is on loan or belongs to a spouse while off the road.

8. Get shuttles to and from Caltrain stations that arrive before the train and waits until after the train has deposited passengers. These shuttles need to serve the Caltrain riders.

9. Do something about car break ins and bike thefts.

10. Coordinate properly with our neighboring cities on traffic issues. We all travel up and down the Peninsula to live our lives. No city is an island and our borders are not the Berlin Wall. Crossing say San Antonio should not be taken as an unusual action.

Lastly, make sure that the new pedestrian bridge over 101 is finished on time. Any delay will make more bike travel on San Antonio bridge and that bridge is dangerous for bikes. More than one summer without a safe crossing could claim lives.

10 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 11, 2019 at 6:34 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

1) Why is former Mayor Kniss the chairwoman of this effort when she doesn't think we have a traffic problem? What was the result of the special meeting held in response to the outrage over that statement? That meeting was packed and a special consultant was retained to present to that packed meeting. What was the end result?

2) PA passed an anti-idling ordinance as one step to deal with the traffic problem. How many anti-idling tickets have been issued and what revenues has the city collected? It should be a LOT of $$$$ since I see backed up idling cars all over PA and at most times of day. Oregon, for example was totally jammed this morning st 10:30 with every single car there idling,

10 people like this
Posted by limbo
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 11, 2019 at 8:52 pm

The same old "let's talk about the traffic issue, possible solutions, and then get mired in what impact the solutions will have to Palo Alto." Stuck in limbo forever just exacerbating the problem for everyone. It seems like the only thing Palo Alto residents do successfully is complain.

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link

6 people like this
Posted by Independent
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Dec 11, 2019 at 10:03 pm

Proposals to close Churchill Avenue will make our traffic problems worse! Do Embarcadero neighbors realize the City and its Caltrain committee are proposing that? And they don't even know if the Caltrain grade crossing at Palo Alto avenue may end up being closed too. Gridlock on Embarcadero. Gridlock in Palo Alto. Falling property values too. Used to be a nice college town.

5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 12, 2019 at 11:41 am

Closing Churchill will not only add to congestion, it will also add parking problems as all those Paly students and staff park in the residential streets and walk to Paly instead of parking on the campus.

9 people like this
Posted by limbo
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 12, 2019 at 12:40 pm

Palo Alto is not a town. It's a city, and those who yearn for the days of when Palo Alto was considered a "college town" are the ones who are holding it back. Until PA residents realize they can't have it both ways, the city will continue to circle the the traffic drain until that drain is complete plugged with congestion.

10 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 12, 2019 at 1:27 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Web Link

Read today's Diana Diamond blog and all the comments from people who want solutions to the very real and long-standing traffic problems that have consumed so much of our time and energy and taxpayer $$$$$$$$ for way too long.

4 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 12, 2019 at 3:17 pm

I oppose closing the Churchill Caltrain crossing and moving more auto traffic over to Embarcadero. This is a bad idea.

Like this comment
Posted by KissOff
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 12, 2019 at 11:08 pm

This is going to be a short meeting where we can Kniss our traffic problems away!

Personally, I prefer banning cars from a strategic grid of streets and allowing only small electric carts, bikes and other smaller electrical transport. It will allow for moving people much more densely and make for easier parking.

8 people like this
Posted by Nee
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 23, 2019 at 3:37 pm

What they should do: stop listening to NIMBY residents who still think it's 1976, implement speed limits that reflect actual use instead of legally unenforceable symbolic ones, stop removing usable lanes and installing concrete oddities, and realize that most people can't actually take advantage of biking everywhere.

What they will do: decrease the city-wide speed limit to 14 mph, and make every single road 0.67 lanes wide, and convert all of that newly safe-ified bike lane real estate into walking-only lanes, which are greener and safer than biking.

2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 23, 2019 at 4:33 pm

Then of course there is the bus situation. According to another article in today's news, we will have even less buses to get Gunn students home from school. This will put more traffic on Arastradero and Charleston in the pm commute. Just what we don't need in town.


8 people like this
Posted by Net-net
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 23, 2019 at 5:17 pm

Palo Alto needs to stop pretending they can solve our traffic problems by undermining our automotive transportation system which carries >99% of the passenger miles traveled every year.

Undermining our automotive transportation system is not good for the environment. It just forces vehicles to remain on the road longer to reach their destination, creating even more pollution.

Undermining automotive transportation in a hopeless failed attempt to force people onto bikes and trains is not a virtue, it is just virtue-signaling.

4 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 23, 2019 at 6:24 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Palo Alto worked long and hard to craft our tough anti-idling ordinance as to address our traffic woes. How special

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