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Survey shows mixed results in Middlefield 'road diet'

Original post made on Dec 13, 2017

Palo Alto's pilot program on a particularly hazardous segment of Middlefield Road has so far netted mixed results, according to a status report released by the city’s consultants on the project.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, December 13, 2017, 9:38 AM

Comments (36)

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Dec 13, 2017 at 11:32 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

This so-called road diet is a disaster for emergency response vehicles that no longer have access to a center lane.

Sooner or later a serious fire or death will result from the increased emergency response times - which are not even being monitored as part of this "study".


Posted by C-
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 13, 2017 at 12:05 pm

Good point Pete.

Maybe we can sell the fire trucks and ambulances for scrap and buy the first responders bicycles. Sure the victims of the crashes caused by this fiasco may die, but us survivors will be smug in the knowledge we are going to fix the planet by creating more traffic.


Posted by DC McGlynn
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 13, 2017 at 12:08 pm

Peter is correct .. having these road boulders in the middle of the road is plain stupid. Why not mark the roadway, erect the signs and police it with real live police personnel, on foot with a Motorola or 2 . We are overflowing with police in the mid peninsula and we cannot get one or 2 out of their cars to police this .. Insane .. (Palo Alto, Don't expect much from your new Police Chief extracted from Menlo Park !)

I expect in a real emergency the fire trucks would simply drive over these plastic annoyances, pity about the patient in the ambulance who will have to endure this.. Never thought of that, huh?

Still scratching my head about the Willow Rd. disaster and juvenile reaction from MP City !


Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 13, 2017 at 12:11 pm

I feel like the man who is heading up the department responsible for roads, is clueless about driving in this town and perhaps just generally clueless.

The streets are becoming impossible to navigate safely and it cannot all be blamed on drivers.


Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Dec 13, 2017 at 12:23 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I expect in a real emergency the fire trucks would simply drive over these plastic annoyance"

Stupidly the sign posts in the middle of the road are steel and cannot be driven over.


Posted by rmaydan69
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 13, 2017 at 12:53 pm

rmaydan69 is a registered user.

Thanks to the Weekly for publishing this so that we could see the report for ourselves. My original attitude was that if the restrictions improved safety, they were worth the expected traffic increase. This survey shows that safety has not improved. Based on my admittedly unscientific observations, the traffic bottleneck has worsened thanks to the lane reduction and the various turn restrictions involving Middlefield, Hawthorne, and Everett. Given the increase in traffic without any noticeable safety benefit, I hope that the city can end the trial early and improve the traffic flow on Middlefield.


Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 13, 2017 at 1:50 pm

"Given the increase in traffic without any noticeable safety benefit, I hope that the city can end the trial early and improve the traffic flow on Middlefield."

That would be the sensible course of action - which, of course, is why it won't even be considered by the ideologue now working to decrease the efficiency of the traffic flow in town. It is far more likely - indeed it is virtually certain - that the city will double down on this failed experiment making traffic on this vital thoroughfare even more nightmarish without any compensating safety benefit.

This won't change until we elect some Council Members dedicated to getting rid of these crazies who like nothing more to "experiment" with us as the guinea pigs.


Posted by midtown senior
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 13, 2017 at 2:30 pm

midtown senior is a registered user.

Yes, to most of the above.
Bicycle ideologue is a good term for our P.A. traffic "planners"
Sooner or later there's going to be a voter rebellion led by seniors, commuters, Uber and Lyft drivers, and major employers (whose employees are always late to work) and even financed by the manufacturers of self-driving cars. The Ross Rd. diet will squeeze bikes and cars together and the Ross/Loma Verde intersection already shows signs of difficulty for left-turning cars ... not to speak of the bike lane squeeze. Do we have to wait until some poor schoolkid is hurt or killed?


Posted by parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 13, 2017 at 2:44 pm

This project is a big fail for us because it completely ignores southern Palo Alto, where there are far more kids than in northern Palo Alto. We badly need safer street crossings and speed limit enforcement down here. Thank you.


Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 13, 2017 at 2:52 pm

Another EPIC FAIL for the traffic calming advocates. Vote the incumbents out next election cycle and replace with people who will undo these barriers.


Posted by Pat Markevitch
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 13, 2017 at 3:41 pm

The article mentions a survey. I live in the neighborhood and have never received a survey. As a matter of fact, when a project like this is proposed, the City only mails out postcards to residents within a 2.5 block radius of the proposed project. Did the survey only go out within the 2.5 block radius as well?

The vast majority of residents in the surrounding neighborhoods of this project were not notified by the traditional postcard mailer. The Department said there were community meetings but again, how would we know unless we had gotten the postcard?

It's time to remove or at least substantially reduce this politically motivated traffic trial.


Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 13, 2017 at 4:30 pm

One constant theme in remarks from both proponents and opponents of these road modifications is ongoing lack of traffic law enforcement. With a large number (60,000? 70,000? Anybody know the number? Reference URL?) of folks commuting to Palo Alto jobs by car, it would seem that there should be an appropriate number of traffic law enforcement officers out there. Anybody know how many police cars are on the road during busy times, and, how that compares to other cities? I have seen a lot more officers in some neighboring cities than Palo Alto, and, drivers seem to obey traffic laws somewhat more in those cities-- but, that is one person's observation. Anyone have solid numbers? I assume that the city council believes that these road modifications are cheaper than more law enforcement officers?


Posted by DC McGlynn
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 13, 2017 at 4:37 pm

Thanks Peter .. Wow .. are they metal in the center of the roadway? How dumb is that ? I thought those yellow columns were plastic. These center of the roadway signs (like Alma and Willow Menlo Park -- gets hit regularly) need to be flexible and not rigid. Is there any common sense left (we live in a near perfect climate, these will not be impacted by weather).

Perhaps we all need to follow the lead and get around by drone ..

Web Link


Posted by Reality Check
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 13, 2017 at 4:56 pm

@Peter: There was no center lane before this pilot was put in place. There were four completely gridlocked lanes, with no emergency vehicle bypass route. Now there is a center turn that is mostly free of traffic. Everything in that lane is mountable and/or breakaway. Why don’t you actually try talking to an emergency responder about this before throwing out a worthless red herring?


Posted by Peter F Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Dec 13, 2017 at 5:11 pm

“Why don’t you actually try talking to an emergency responder about this before throwing out a worthless red herring.”

As President of The MPFPD I talk to emergency responders every day.

The current configuration is a disaster.


Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 13, 2017 at 6:13 pm

@anon, another PA neighborhood
I was up in Millbrae/Burlingame today and noticed three police cars on the roads (near El Camino Real, cars not together). Coincidental to your comment, I noticed what appeared to be visible - routine - police patrols.
Everyone frequently mentions that radar guns may not be used by police on many PA roads owing to speed of average traffic over posted speed limits, but I haven’t seen addressed your specific question. It’s not all about speeding, there are other traffic rules needing enforcement...

I am likewise concerned with emergency services having optimum access to all areas within this city.


Posted by Len Ely
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 13, 2017 at 6:17 pm

Does anyone know how many of the 608,000+ residents responded to the "survey". I agree with the comment that Chris Corrao needs to do some driving around and look around. What may look good on piece of paper might not be so good in reality. Some of the things that have been done just don't make sense.


Posted by Len Ely
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 13, 2017 at 6:18 pm

68,000+ residents.


Posted by Hal Prince
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 13, 2017 at 7:21 pm

I live on Middlefield, and I used to see the aftermath of accidents quite frequently, more than once a month. Since the trial, I have seen only two accidents, both pretty minor. I believe the rate is way down.

The city report says that the accident rate and the speeds have not changed. I don't believe those numbers. Other people on my block share this opinion. A few of us would send out emails when we heard or saw a crash, so someone could go take a picture. Those emails have stopped.

I'm also skeptical of the claim that the speeds haven't changed. I wonder exactly which speeds they are measuring. Certainly in front of our house, there are no more cars racing to pass on the right before the narrowing of the street at the creek. The whole block seems dramatically safer.

The crosswalk at Lytton is a huge improvement. I used to see kids darting across Middlefield's four lanes at that intersection. Now you step into the crosswalk, and traffic stops. When the crosswalk at Hawthorne is finally painted, people will be able to cross Middlefield safely at every intersection this side of University.

The barriers preventing left turns onto Middlefield at Everett and Hawthorne now cause a number of cars to turn right, then make an immediate U-turn. I did some counts a few months ago, and found that the U-turn rate was pretty consistently 10% at that time. People who do this would probably claim that the U-turns are harmless, and U-turns are certainly better than crashes, but they do create a hazard for cars backing out of driveways, as I discovered myself just yesterday.

The left turn barriers have decreased traffic coming onto Middlefield from Everett and Hawthorne, since more cars are now going to Lytton to make the left turn at the light there. I noticed this when I was counting the U-turns. Before the trial, cars would be lined up at the Hawthorne intersection, waiting to turn left across two southbound lanes (hence the accidents). The line on Hawthorne would sometimes stretch more than a block. After the trial, I never see a line of cars at that intersection. If you live on Hawthorne or Everett near Middlefield, I am guessing that you have noticed this change. I suspect it means that there are fewer cars trying to cut through Downtown North as a whole.

Every traffic change has its tradeoffs, but we had a very serious safety problem here, and the problem seems largely gone. I'm very grateful to the city for paying attention to the problem and trying to do something about it.


Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 13, 2017 at 9:04 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

A quote from a famous movie is what comes to mind: " The needs of the many outweigh the needs of a few ". If this " traffic calming " idea works so well, why not apply it all over the city? Boulder, CO did the same type of experiment and it was not liked at all.

Web Link

Time to get real. The quote above must apply. I guess that people will die based on the delay these " traffic calming " cause for fire and rescue to arrive. But this is what the " feel good " city council cares about..


Posted by back to the beginning
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 13, 2017 at 9:24 pm

This isn't "mixed results", it's clear data.

The numbers show no safety benefits and 30% increase in traffic on neighboring streets.

There is absolutely no reason to continue with this "experiment".


Posted by Rational
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 13, 2017 at 9:25 pm

I definitely don’t understand how seeming experts are making a comment that this configuration is WORSE for emergency vehicles than previous. Agree the plastic bumps are “bumpy”, but for the example patient brought up earlier — how about avoid the bump but just sit in the gridlock and see what happens? At least the Center lane (reclaimed from useless space) gives an option to make progress toward the hospital.

Re: accidents, this part of the report just boggles my mind. There hasn’t been accidents of the type that ended up with cars overturned on sidewalks or on front lawns. I am sure the City and the consultants will look into this.

Re: capacity due to lane reduction: if you have a 1/2” faucet, putting a 12” pipe feeding it is no help. That’s what we had before with Both Willow and Lytton intersections throttling traffic flow. So we right sized the pipe and created safety for pedestrians, bikers, residents (who can now exit their driveways). Traffic models before and counts now prove that level of service did not reduce. The shapes of backups changed, I get that. But overall, more good has come out of this.

Is there a hidden issue at play here? Maybe people don’t like that they can’t turn left from Everett and Hawthorne — but those are the same people who want to ban the right turns from Middlefield on these streets for their convenience.

So let’s be fair here folks.
1. Safety before convenience.
2. Convenience needs to be balanced between various stakeholder groups.

The design can be improved I am sure. But the situation before was dangerous and unfair to people living on Middlefield which is a designated residential artery.


Posted by Janice Hough
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 13, 2017 at 9:29 pm

Thought Palo Alto had learned with the original traffic calming mess in Downtown North when they blocked the streets.
A number of people above make good points about the snarled traffic and danger with emergency vehicles, and Middlefield now tends to back up much of the day.
Extending turn restrictions for additional hours would have been simple. Now, by placing steel barriers, it means that even during off-hours, Downtown North residents must drive several blocks at least out of their way to turn left on Middlefield resulting in a small but regular waste of gas, and more importantly, additional idling at lights on Lytton at the same time the city tries to enforce anti-idling laws.
The barriers need to go. Again.


Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 13, 2017 at 9:33 pm

Unfortunately Ross Road is not marketed as a pilot but a done deal. As the work is progressing and now Colorado is impacted it is getting more and more difficult to avoid the street furniture. Even for cars that don't use Ross, the obstacles on arteries can't be avoided for those who want to get out of the area to Middlefield, Bayshore, Fabian, etc. This area will become flooded with drivers using alternatives to having to avoid the obstacles. I hope they do plenty of surveys and traffic counts on all the side streets to see just how much extra traffic all the side streets now experience.


Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Dec 13, 2017 at 10:24 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"At least the Center lane (reclaimed from useless space) gives an option to make progress toward the hospital. "

Wrong. Because of the permanent obstacles in the center lane it is NOT usable by emergency vehicles.

In the old configuration there was always room for cars to move aside to permit emergency vehicles to pass by - that is no longer possible.


Posted by Rational
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 14, 2017 at 6:00 am

“In the old configuration there was always room for cars to move aside to permit emergency vehicles to pass by - that is no longer possible.”

Really? Have you actually seen the old road config? The roadway is 40 feet wide (narrower than University Avenue) but had four lanes. When traffic was stopped in both directions ... often the case ... there is no way an emergency vehicle would weave through. As a matter of fact, a standard bus (Dumbarton Express, for example) does not fit in the lanes we had here. So I think basic geometry has you there.

I saw one collision right in front of my house where no one could move. The fire engine parked a block away, and the firemen walked over. About 30 minutes later they orange coned enough to get the tow truck in. No one moved at all on the block.

Maybe the barriers should be redesigned to allow emergency vehicles — because one of the problems I think the City tried to make better was emergency acces. But the old config isn’t the solution.


Posted by back to the beginning
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 14, 2017 at 8:23 am

"But the old config isn’t the solution."

No, but the new one is no better for safety and pushes a ton of traffic onto neighboring streets.

Going back to the old one significantly improves that traffic situation on neighboring streets with no downside over the current one.

It's a no-brainer that then need to revert and start again.


Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 14, 2017 at 8:48 am

What CC seem to forget is that traffic has to go somewhere, it doesn't just disappear. Sometimes where it disappears to makes the solution worse for some even if it makes it better for others.

The article talks about how the idling cars are bothering the elderly residents. That just doesn't sound pleasant for them. The Ross Road fiasco appears to be putting more traffic on Louis outside Palo Verde elementary school. Putting more traffic outside school zones can't add to safety. Making cars idle outside a senior facility can't add to quality of life.

What CC seems to forget is that getting traffic moving efficiently makes life easier for all of us. Putting in bottlenecks prevents efficient movement of traffic.

We need clearways so that traffic will choose to use the arterials rather than side streets. For once, please let's have the traffic engineers do what they are supposed to do which is make traffic flow efficiently where it is supposed to be and where it makes sense. Not outside senior centers and elementary schools.


Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 14, 2017 at 9:05 am

Their entire goal is to destroy modern civilization's dependency on driving cars! Henry Ford envisioned an industrial society where everyone drove cars and transported themselves in a vibrant economy.

The new bureaucrats in government want to reverse Henry Ford's vision.
Its a War on Cars. Its a real movement with a lot of zeal behind it.
Climate change is such a big and immediate threat they will stop at nothing to fight the scourge of "single-occupant vehicles".
The problem is is that they are blaming other people and legislating, always virtue signaling and spewing drivel about greenhouse gases and whatnot. This method can't possibly help the environment. No matter how many laws they come up with, it won't stop climate change (but it will make some lawyers rich).

Big government and climate change alarmism -- the sense of panic -- may be more dangerous than climate change itself. look at the rampant delusion going on. Man-made disaster, indeed!


Posted by Amie
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 14, 2017 at 9:10 am

LOVE LOVE LOVE the Middlefield changes! From the slower traffic, to less noise, to fewer cars landing on lawns because of serious speed accidents, to the increase in bike/ped activity - yay, I can cross the street safely with my always-distracted dogs!

I am absolutely thrilled with the whole thing. And now with Menlo Park looking at changes to Woodland, we will hopefully all be able to walk/ride to the gorgeous Willows Market (which I do at least daily) safely and easily.

Traffic is NEVER going to get "better" and flow faster during peak hours through here. That is a dream. We can either do nothing and complain or try and make it safer for bikes and peds and try and get at least a few folks (like me) out of their cars for trips.

Thanks Palo Alto, great job! Make these changes permanent.


Posted by Carolyn G
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 14, 2017 at 10:08 am

I live on this stretch of Middlefield and worked with other residents and the city to plan the new configuration:
• The configuration addresses a very serious safety problem. The accident rate was appalling, and the types of accidents (many cars on sidewalks and front yards) horrifying. I know that the official counts do not reflect this (many of the accidents were not reported to the police), and we are working with the city to clarify this. We have the documentation that shows how dangerous the situation was. It was horrible.
• The city employees were wonderful partners in addressing the situation. They listened carefully to our complaints, reviewed our documentation, created multiple alternatives, and provided many opportunities for the community to give input, responding thoughtfully to the input.


Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Dec 14, 2017 at 1:40 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"They listened carefully to our complaints, reviewed our documentation, created multiple alternatives, and provided many opportunities for the community to give input, responding thoughtfully to the input."

Too bad they never extended that some opportunity to the first responders who must use this primary response route every day.


Posted by data mining
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 14, 2017 at 5:22 pm

" I know that the official counts do not reflect this (many of the accidents were not reported to the police), "

The comparison is the official count before the install and the official count after. This is an apples to apples comparison of actual, not subjective, data and there was no improvement.

The data also shows that the changes have pushed a significant amount of traffic onto side streets.

The data shows the test to be a complete failure by any objective analysis. Things may have improved for *you* but has made it worse for seniors. However, the real issue is that it has not dealing with the original safety problem and there is no value in it remaining.


Posted by AP
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 15, 2017 at 12:31 am

Where are all the Palo Alto police hiding? I never see them help with traffic. It seems beneath them. Even when the lights are out at intersections like Arasterdero and El Camino, you never see a cop directing traffic.



Posted by DTN Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 16, 2017 at 10:01 pm

DTN Paul is a registered user.

The sooner those idiotic barriers go away, the better. Can we have our lanes back?


Posted by DT North
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 20, 2017 at 11:52 pm

The barriers are lame but they are there because people wouldn't obey the no left turn signs. Now we are stuck, thanks to those inconsiderate people, not being able to make this turn when it is totally safe, i.e. 11 at night, 6 am, on a low traffic Sunday etc. So, those of you who hate those barriers, you can thank the same people who drive in the bike lane to pass through traffic and drive into oncoming traffic to get to the left turn lane etc. When they had the no left turn but no barriers, we could not make a right turn either because the street was blocked up for people making an illegal, never ticketed left turn. And I don't care what the survey says, I used to hear and see crashes, cars flipping upside down, etc nearly weekly. there is none of that now. Yes, Middlefield is terribly backed up all the way to Embarcadero and Middlefield to 101 via Willow can take a half hour at rush hour but that is because there are too many of us working here and having a faraway commute. I feel for those people. We are not all lucky enough to be able to live where we work.


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