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Changes planned for hazardous south Palo Alto intersection

Original post made on Nov 14, 2019

The intersection of San Antonio Road and East Charleston Road is perhaps the busiest junction in south Palo Alto, and certainly among the most dangerous. On Wednesday, the planning commission backed a plan to address that.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, November 14, 2019, 9:17 AM

Comments (57)

Posted by Safety First
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2019 at 10:19 am

Oh, why don't they just get it over with and put spikes in the road with the words "cars and people must not move".

Not to make light of any attempt to make things safer, but our City's safety efforts usually have "disingenuous window dressing" written all over them where traffic is concerned.

(Still wondering when people with mobility problems who have to drive are going to sue over the idea that you have to make driving horrible and even dangerous in order to improve things for bikes and walkers.)

Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 14, 2019 at 10:38 am

This (non-student, since the spandex clad bicycle folks use children as an excuse) bicycle mania just has to stop! Charleston and San Antonio are now useless for most cross-town trips and I'm tired of congesting my neighbors streets to get to and from my house. And yes, I walk to the grocery store! :(

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2019 at 10:42 am

This all stems from the approval of building the JCC at such a busy corner without properly examining the ramifications. We were told things like evenings and weekends usage, and seniors don't use cars in commute times and they will probably use public transportation anyway.

1. The problem of parking for the JCC is so apparent that all the office buildings have signs saying no parking for JCC events. People do come for events and there is not enough parking.

2. Seniors may or may not use cars, but their visitors sure do and so do all the staff at the JCC.

3. The promised public transportation did not occur. I doubt very much if the seniors walk to coffee shops (long walk), Caltrain (even longer walk), and no buses. The only shuttles I see are for the after school care picking up kids from their various local schools. VTA is not interested in north Santa Clara County. Mountain View shuttles and Palo Alto shuttles both avoid this particular area. San Antonio is treated as a border wall and neither City take any notice of what happens on this thoroughfare or on either side of it.

4. Pedestrians around here have a long walk. Bikes are probably commuters and the number of bikes will increase very soon when the tunnel under 101 closes for good as soon as it starts raining.

5. San Antonio was always the best route for traffic from Los Altos to 101. Now with all the extra development on San Antonio it is unlikely that it is Los Altos residents causing all the increased traffic at this intersection.

When the JCC was approved, anyone who complained about the possible problems attached to having this large complex built was called names and not just NIMBY but worse. I don't care who or what the JCC is, but it has been a very big influence on the congestion in this area.

Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2019 at 11:05 am

look out below...
"the intersection was on the city's radar for near-term improvements"
You can expect "improvements" to make congestion and backups even worse than they currently are. The problem is insufficient road capacity combined with an intersection too close to the freeway ... city's solution will undoubtedly be to further restrict road capacity. That is the only solution that they ever can think of. Sure enough, sitting parked in a traffic jam is "safer" than being in an actual moving vehicle.JCC built right up to the curb with exit from their parking garage right at the intersection really limits the options. You have cars exiting from 101 north trying to get to the right turn lane from the left lane, cars exiting for 101 south trying to get from the right lane over to the left lane and cars coming out of the JCC garage just trying to get into the packed road. I don't see a lot of pedestrian or bike traffic in this area ... its not exactly a garden spot filled with amenities.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2019 at 11:14 am

"Since you asked", one big problem is that nothing slows down people coming off the 101 ramp at 50+ mph. My suggestion is to add a light upstream at the JCC parking garage exit, and make it a turn into the San Anotonio frontage rd onto the other side as well. Smart synchronization will force people to stop at the light unless there is enough queued traffic already, in which case it will synchronize for maximum traffic flow.

Of course, we could just cite people for speeding, but, apparently we can't afford traffic enforcement, so, instead, I suggest an automated solution that slows vehicles down to the speed limit.

Posted by Of course you can expect increased delays
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 14, 2019 at 11:15 am

More cars = more traffic, and we just keep piling cars onto the roads.
There's no way to make that many cars flow faster no matter what so it's best to protect those from the hysterical masses who keep smashing their multi-ton vehicles into things, like other cars.
No road work will change the fact that more cars = more traffic.
Now, if only there was some other group we could blame...LOL :)

Posted by Lennie
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 14, 2019 at 11:48 am

I read with interest the comment by "Of course you can expect increased delays". What caught my attention was his mantra "more cars = more traffic". This is obviously a true statement and really needs no discussion. However, there is another true statement that should be added to this discussion. More people = more cars = more traffic. I wonder if the people who are pushing SB50 and more high density housing in Palo Alto and the Bay Area ever consider these obvious concepts. This is so obvious that it goes without saying. If the high density supporters have their way many other intersections in Palo Alto will look just like Charleston and San Antonio with the associated high frequency of accidents.

Posted by Livesonsanantonio
a resident of The Greenhouse
on Nov 14, 2019 at 11:57 am

I live on San Antonio, and have to travel on it to go anywhere at all by car. I first hand witnessed the aftermath of the accident.

"Anon" has it right for the recent accident; people come off of 101 at high speed and don't slow until traffic forces them to. They pedestrian crossing at San Antonio and the 101 exit is a joke; a third of the times traffic has stopped to let me cross, it's been my own wife. The accident was absolutely caused by excessive speed from the bmw heading 'west' (aka south, coming from 101) and then running the light.

Traffic from the JCC had nothing to do with it; before the J, there were businesses there which contributed a higher percentage of the traffic. Almost all of the traffic through that intersection is people heading to the highway (physical north, logical east) or people heading from the highway to elsewhere (that is, past middlefield... many past central or even to el Camino)

The double right from San Antonio to Charleston is probably a bad idea... but the biggest problem is speeding by people coming off the 101.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 14, 2019 at 12:08 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Maybe the city can start by fixing the traffic light timing problems? The yellows are ridiculously short all over town and it's impossible to avoid getting caught in the middle of an intersection unless you stop on a green light which will just get you rear-ended. The timing's so weird you often have all 4 corners stopped dead with no through traffic at all.

Fixing the light timing should be the most cost-effective option.

Posted by Carl Jones
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 14, 2019 at 12:14 pm

Carl Jones is a registered user.

See this link for a partial diagram of changes at that intersection.
Web Link

Slowing "east" bound 101 traffic exiting onto "south" bound San Antonio would be a good thing, whether speed bumps, traffic light, narrowing roadway, or what.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2019 at 12:21 pm

This thread is about the improvement of the intersection, not one particular accident so yes I think the JCC and traffic it produces is important to examine when discussing any alteration.

However, I have a question which I couldn't discover from Googling.

Is this intersection completely in Palo Alto or is any part or any one corner in Mountain View? Is this a city street or a county street? Does Mountain View have any say or jurisdiction on what occurs at this intersection.

It is a very strange intersection not only because of things already discussed but that there are in effective two straight on roads as well as a right turn for traffic coming from 101. I have followed traffic that turns into that other straight on from both the straight section and also the right turn lanes. I agree that not much traffic wants to do that particular manoever, but when a vehicle does it can cause confusion for other road users.

Once again, this is not about the recent accident, but it is something that could potentially cause problems and may have caused confusion to drivers in the past.

Posted by You're doing it wrong
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 14, 2019 at 12:50 pm

It is illegal to enter an intersection if you cannot go all the way through it, regardless of the light signal color.
The problems people see are, once again, caused by impatient drivers breaking the law, in this case, grid-locking traffic.

It's not the timing of the lights, its the people going into an intersection that they cannot exit from. That's illegal and is yet another ticket-able offense that we cannot afford to enforce.

Posted by red light camera for safety please
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2019 at 12:54 pm

Tell me again why we can't have red light cameras? Other cities do. They work as a deterrent.

Egregious red light running - which this city has in spades - is deadly especially for the great number of bicyclists and pedestrians in our community.

My children bike to Gunn. Whenever I think of them crossing Middlefield, Alma and El Camino at rush hour, I tell myself that the odds of them arriving safely are high. It is really hard to do this while simultaneously witnessing speeders, texters, red light runners, and other terribly selfish and stupid driving all over town.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 14, 2019 at 12:56 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

How are you supposed to know you when the light's going to change and that you might not make it all the way through??

Posted by Green Acres parent
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 14, 2019 at 1:02 pm

A bike route is only as good as its weakest link.

The current patchwork of bike lanes and bike paths isn't suitable for commuting by bike. The Charleston and San Antonio intersection doesn't have a bike lane so cyclists who want to commute along Charleston have to either take alternate routes, ride on the sidewalk, or ride with traffic. The latter is too risky for most.

At a minimum, the city should make it official that bikes should use the sidewalk. Mountain View did this on Nita Ave so there is precedent. They should also put up plastic pipes (or at least turtles) to keep Charleston traffic out of the bike lane as it turns the corner heading east approaching Fabian Way.

Finally, an observation as a driver using this intersection. Drivers turning right from southbound San Antonio onto Charleston in the outside turn lane usually cross the dotted line separating the two turn lanes. It's just too tight for the average driver. The result is that cars in the two turn lanes have to be staggered, reducing flow. If you're reconfiguring this intersection, I'd recommend a single turn lane for smoother flow and fewer accidents.

Posted by Greeeeat
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 14, 2019 at 1:07 pm

The city is going to fix this intersection? If it's anything like the way they "fixed" Charleston (south of Middlefield) - we can expect corruption and massive incompetence. Ridiculous islands, really high curbs, roads that zigzag and are not straight (they don't align from one part of the intersection to the next) and basically making removing lanes to make it single lanes and increasing congestion.

Not sure which idiots are in charge of the design and layout of the city streets but this is just a massive waste of tax payers money and the changes have only added to congestion and make traffic gridlock worse throughout the city.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 14, 2019 at 1:35 pm

Yes, I also think “improving” roads so you make a zig-zag and remove a lane for sections does NOT make sense.
This intersection deserves serious attention now for safety for all, and improved traffic flow.
Fact: there IS increasing traffic (see new, huge developments on San Antonio Rd.!)

Posted by resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2019 at 1:46 pm

Let's be realistic here. The main problem at that intersection, perhaps the only real problem, is unsafe speeds and red light running by drivers on both Charleston and San Antonio. Unsafe speed and red light running go hand in hand since a speeding driver is less likely to ignore a red light. We wouldn't need a new intersection design if the police did their job and strictly enforced existing speeding and red light laws. On the other hand, if the police are unwilling to do their jobs, then reducing lane widths or even reducing the number of lanes is a proven way to lower driving speeds and increase the number of drivers obeying the stop lights.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2019 at 1:59 pm

Posted by Carl Jones, a resident of Palo Verde
(thanks for the link)
>> Slowing "east" bound 101 traffic exiting onto "south" bound San Antonio would be a good thing, whether speed bumps, traffic light, narrowing roadway, or what.

For the record, San Antonio is almost directly north-south at that point, and, the exit from 101 is correctly labeled as San Antonio Rd South. At the intersection with Charleston, San Antonio is almost aligned north-south and Charleston almost aligned east-west. Further to the southwest, things get wonky, so that San Antonio, Charleston, and Middlefield form a semi-triangle, greatly confusing the directionally-challenged. Why did "they" do that? "Lost in the mists of time."

Posted by trust
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 14, 2019 at 2:22 pm

I don't trust the city planners to make the intersection safer without creating other hazards. The sharp angles of the curbs and jut-outs and garden beds on Arastradero attest to the problem with only trying to slow traffic without making it also safer. Right now there at least 15 sawhorses with reflecting lights along Arastradero that warn cars about the pointy curbs that appear. They are an eyesore and I don't see how they can ever take those down. The road is pretty dark at night and it's hard to see without them that suddenly the road narrows to barely more than a car width.

Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2019 at 2:33 pm

> how are you supposed to know when the yellow is going to turn red?

There are standards for yellow phase timing:
Web Link

• If the posted speed limit is 25 (or less) mph the minimum yellow interval is 3.0 seconds (this includes both right and left hand turns).
* If the posted speed limit is 35 mph the minimum yellow interval is 3.6 seconds.
• If the posted speed limit is 45 mph the minimum yellow interval is 4.3 seconds.

East Charleston has a speed limit of 25 mph.
San Antonio has a speed limit of 35 mph.

It couldn't hurt to put it to the Transportation Department to document the timings for this intersection. It also couldn't hurt to hear their explanation as to why these specific timings were chosen.

Posted by Fred
a resident of another community
on Nov 14, 2019 at 2:38 pm

There's just too much reliance on the automobile in the South Bay. End of story.

The traffic problems at Charleston and San Antonio will inevitably creep outwards to Middlefield, Central Expressway and all the other neighborhood streets nearby over time.

Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties have a long history of eschewing any kind of transportation solution that isn't widening freeways and thoroughfares.

We need to start designing entire communities around pedestrians, cyclists, and public transportation, and omit private cars from the plan entirely. Let the people who insist on cars move farther and farther away from the urban core of the Bay Area.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2019 at 2:43 pm

Posted by trust, a resident of Green Acres

>> I don't trust the city planners to make the intersection safer without creating other hazards.

Look at the web link posted above. What they are proposing makes perfect sense and should have been done that way all along. I have no idea why they set up the second turn lane to also go straight into the frontage road on the other side. Makes no sense.

>> The sharp angles of the curbs and jut-outs and garden beds on Arastradero [...] The road is pretty dark at night and it's hard to see without them that suddenly the road narrows to barely more than a car width.

It sounds like your headlights are misaligned or the low-beam covers are oxidized or something similar. I'm a senior and my eyes can see the curbs just fine. If you can't see curbs there must be some kind of problem with your headlights.

Anyway, back on topic: The proposed change is simple and makes sense. No more proceeding south on San Antonio and going straight onto the frontage road.

Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2019 at 2:59 pm

> There's just too much reliance on the automobile in the South Bay. End of story.

How absurd! End of story!

Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 14, 2019 at 3:04 pm

Just add some traffic "furniture", more curb restrictions and planters, some bike signs, and a few traffic circles, and make it a twin for Ross Road and everything will be all right.

Posted by Jeff
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 14, 2019 at 3:05 pm

I use this intersection daily, at many different times. There are multiple problem areas at this intersection. For clarity, since San Antonio is virtually due north/south here and Charleston is virtually due east/west here, I'm going to refer to direction of travel by cardinal points.

Northbound traffic on San Antonio isn't too bad-- unless you are trying to make a right (east) turn on Charleston, in which case many people cut through the gas station. Once you clear the intersection, two lanes converge into one lane, which then has to dodge traffic from people exiting 101 to go north on San Antonio (towards the bay)-- this merge is far too short to allow for the volume of traffic heading towards Shoreline/Google, often gets impacted by the traffic light on the bay side of 101, and many drivers (I'm looking at you, bus drivers) exiting 101 don't yield to traffic on San Antonio.

Westbound on Charleston can be impeded by traffic trying to turn left into Ace Hardware (ex-OSH) and the restaurants and gas station. Traffic can stack up here and impede drivers trying to go straight (west) on Charleston. Straight-through traffic can use both westbound lanes, so anybody trying to make a right (north) turn to go towards 101 usually has to wait. Adding a center left-turn lane for Ace and the fast-food places might help, and making the westbound lanes left/straight/right-only instead of left/straight/straight+right may help.

Eastbound traffic on Charleston is a big problem. The light at Fabian way can really foul up the flow of traffic, as that intersection is frequently jammed, and cars turning left onto Fabian frustrate drivers trying to travel east-- so they go into the far right lane and race through that intersection, trying to get to San Antonio. The lane to turn left (north) onto San Antonio is woefully short, and daily I see drivers cross over the double-yellow lines in order to get around straight-through traffic and make their left turn (potential head-on collisions with westbound traffic is a daily sighting). Many times people trying to get into the JCC or Moldow residences stop to make their left turn and further aggravate the situation. Additionally, many Uber & Lyft drivers drop passengers at JCC/Moldow and then make a U-turn to rejoin the eastbound flow on Charleston. Making a much longer left-turn lane on westbound Charleston as it approaches San Antonio, better controlling traffic on Fabian, as well as enforcing a NO U-turn law in front of the JCC/Moldow will all improve this flow.

The biggest problem is with the southbound traffic on San Antonio, as it heads away from 101. The pedestrian/bike crossing is a tragedy waiting to happen-- virtually no drivers stop for a bike/pedestrian, as they are exiting at freeway speeds. The traffic exiting 101 south has to struggle to get over to the left lane if they want to make a left turn and go east on Charleston; in doing this they contend with the volume of traffic coming from Google/Shoreline (who are often trying to get over to the right lane to make a west/right turn on Charleston). Once you make it into the correct lane, those people wanting to turn left find that the left-turn lane is woefully short, and so traffic backs up here. People wanting to go straight find their path frequently blocked by left-turning traffic. People going both straight and wanting to turn right have to watch for cars exiting the JCC (here, I want to pointedly declare that, in my experience, JCC traffic exiting the parking garage has never caused me any fright or near-miss). Right-turning traffic trying to go west on Charleston need to be careful: if you are in the inside turn-lane you may be prevented from making a right by somebody wanting to go semi-straight towards the frontage road, and if you are turning right from the outside turn lane, you have to then try to avoid cars making too-tight of a right turn (and then, if you don't want to make a right turn on Fabian, you have to merge left into a lane that is itself two lanes converging into one lane). Chaos. Making the left-turn lane longer, or even adding a left-turn lane will help, but the simple fact is that the distance on San Antonio between 101 and Charleston is just too short. Palo Alto needs to work with Mountain View to improve access to southbound 101 from the Google/Shoreline area, and construction along San Antonio can't be allowed to negatively impact traffic flow.

In any event, after seeing what traffic "calming" measures around town has produced, I remain skeptical that city planners will reach a solution that works for residents.

Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 14, 2019 at 3:58 pm

Good summary @Jeff. For further clarity, define "inside" and "outside" on those right turn lanes. My own thinking is probably inside-out.

Posted by Reader
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 14, 2019 at 4:40 pm

What did Mountain View do to improve traffic after they put so many large buildings on San Antonio Rd?

Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 14, 2019 at 7:03 pm

Palo Alto needs serious traffic and transportation design, not minor changes to a single intersection. Every change executed seems to be an attempt to decrease traffic on a street or intersection that is considered a problem, which is obviously going to make traffic there and elsewhere worse, not better. As Jeff has very ably pointed out, the problems at San Antonio and Charleston come not just from the intersection itself, but from street design and sources and destinations of traffic up to several blocks away. The whole area needs to be redesigned at once, not with the intent of punishing people that are perceived as causing the problem, but with sympathy for needs of all travelers in the area. It's going to take intelligence and vision. [sigh.]

Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 14, 2019 at 7:16 pm

It would be interesting to see how much traffic on San Antonio is cut-through traffic from other cities. Cut-through traffic is only going to get worse now that Mountain View has begun constructing a mini-megalopolis around San Antonio & El Camino.

With that in mind, Palo Alto should not spend resources to pay for bad decisions made by residents of other cities. If we're going to redo Charleston & San Antonio, it should be in a manner that benefits residents, not for the benefit of cut-through commuters. It might make sense to rework San Antonio to one lane in each direction, with separated bike lanes, and turn lanes where appropriate. Another idea is to close San Antonio to vehicle traffic at the 101 overpass (make the bridge ped / bike only). Let's see the plans and vote on it.

Posted by Jeff
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 14, 2019 at 7:41 pm

@musical: sorry for any confusion, by "outside" I mean the lane closest to the curb, "inside" is the next lane over.

Posted by He Must Go
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 14, 2019 at 8:24 pm

Guys your all really missing the fact that this is not the only intersection in town that needs major improvement. Lets talk about the grade separation at the multiple train crossings which just keeps getting kicked down the road. This cities leadership is so piss poor it reminds me of all three branches of government in Washington.
Someone asked who has a say about this intersection it’s all Palo Alto's problem. Mountain View starts further down the road on Charleston.
Another question was what did Mountain View do at San Antonio & El Camino the City of Mountain View added lanes from the Cal Train overpass all the way to El Camino. They didn’t need to go to the residents of the city to get it done they made it a condition of the development before it was completed. Wow a proactive city that gets it.
Instead we get San Antonio between Middlefield & Charleston down to one lane most days while Randy Popp gets his way again dictating all the terms of his development project for Marriott, meanwhile no improvements anywhere in sight. Keep up the bad work Transportation Committee.

[Portion removed.]

Posted by Parent
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 14, 2019 at 9:03 pm

I now work near the golf course and find myself sometimes traveling on Embarcadero toward Stanford. Imagine my shock to find two lanes in both directions, NO bike lanes, and traffic moving at a reasonable flowing clip. What is this?! They have residential, schools, fire station, and retail.... Apparently bikes in north palo alto are able to find routes other than embarcadero?! Shocking. Compared to Charleston/Arastradero - which has hmmm.. residential... schools... fire station... and retail! Yet Charleston has been choked down to one lane each direction, planters in the middle, all these weird merges and turn lanes, random jutting out cement curbs (which are already covered in tire skid marks, because, they're stupidly sticking out in to lanes of travel), parking spots in the middle of the street... I mean just wondering when they're going to choke off the flow of traffic on Embarcadero to match what we face on the daily parking lot that is Charleston/Arastradero. Fair is fair, right? Whats the plan?

Posted by Drives too fast for conditions
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 15, 2019 at 5:05 am

Yes, I agree, it's very difficult to speed through these roads. Now I have to slow down, sometimes even as slow as the speed limit.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 15, 2019 at 7:59 am

Online Name is a registered user.

@Joe, when you said "> how are you supposed to know when the yellow is going to turn red?" you're twisting my words. I didn't ask about when the YELLOW is going to change. I noted that the yellow light timing was ridiculously short and that there was no easy way to know when the GREEN was going to change to yellow and -- by extension -- immediately to red.

Changing the light timing would obviously help.

@Joe, feel free to stop at all GREEM lights; your body shop will love you.

Less preaching and more cost-effective common sense traffic design would be useful, esp. since all the traffic problems will get worse as ABAG and Weiner gear up to force the Bay Area to digest another 3,000,000 residents.

Posted by DJ
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 15, 2019 at 9:52 am

Something needs to be done at the intersection of Charlston/Renstorff/101 south bound entrance at the morning and evening commute hours. why do many cars on Charston getting onto 101 South bound stop at the Renstorff corner getting unto west bound Charlston? I can see many people think they are doing a favor by letting this traffic to go through, then there are right turn cars that block that 101 entrance, further exacerbating the situation. People, there are no stop signs at the intersection - just go through the intersection without stopping please!

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 15, 2019 at 10:49 am

Posted by Parent

>> Yet Charleston has been choked down to one lane each direction,


Web Link

Unfortunately, the effects of queueing are not always obvious. Section 11.2.5 (Provide Auxiliary Through Lanes) of the following document explains that multiple through lanes increase capacity at a signalized intersection even though the overall steady-state flow requires only a single lane.

In cases where the merge back into a single lane extends to the queue from the next intersection, then, it makes sense to keep the multiple lanes all the way through. People need to understand that when traffic is queued up for multiple signal cycles, driving faster to the back of the queue won't get you from your starting point to your destination any faster. In Palo Alto, the intersections of Foothill and both Arastradero and Page Mill are both congested at rush hour, as is most of the length of Page Mill, and, ECR and Arastradero and ECR and Page Mill. These intersections are congested-limited at rush hour and traffic is queued for several signal cycles.

Posted by Jeff
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 15, 2019 at 11:19 am

The bottom line is that the current roads were built decades ago and NEVER designed with the capability to handle the massive volume of traffic they are currently struggling to accommodate. As my father used to say to me "Middlefield Road literally ran through the middle of [farm] fields." Without multi-city, county, and state coordination AND a complete recalibration on housing and mass-transit options, this will never get better.

Posted by What city has ever beaten traffic?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 15, 2019 at 12:33 pm

Has any major metro area or city, once mired with traffic because of too many cars for the roads to handle, EVER fixed it to get cars flowing again without reducing the number of cars using the roads?

What magic to people think they have that will make traffic flow again in PA and why hasn't it ever worked anywhere? Discussions on reducing jams without seeking reduction in the amount of cars on the road might as well be tales of hot to trap unicorns and hobbits.

Yes, I'm sure it's all just as simple as re-timing the lights, and unicorns like skittles so use that as bait. Hobbits will eat anything.

Posted by Carolyn
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 15, 2019 at 1:41 pm

Making room for peds and bikes will slow everyone down and the area will be safer for all. Accommodating only cars makes for a horrible, unlivable urban environment. I am not sure the "goal" of any city improvement should never, ever be to get cars from one place to the other faster. Don't make me get out my #OKBoomer.

Make it safe to get out and about by alternate methods for those willing and able. I never drive in this area, I just bike with a small trailer for all my errands and kid drop offs. Fitness the fun way and one less car clogging the roads for those that have to/need to drive.

Posted by Stanford, 2021
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 15, 2019 at 1:59 pm

"Don't make me get out my #OKBoomer."
Why would you admit to thinking EVERYONE born between a certain number of DECADES has the same views? It's an ignorance tag, similar to #MAGA, but if you think it, claim it, own it and you'll be judge accordingly.

I agree with your viewpoints but stay smart and don't fall into the traps of the ignorant.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 15, 2019 at 4:14 pm

One other thing to look at is the likelihood of anything making backups onto 101. When we get backups on the highway such as University NB and other bridge/concert/Facebook/Google backups there are escalating problems and likelihood of more accidents on the highway.

I would suggest that traffic leaving the highway is not going away, and will not turn into pedestrians, bikes, or even public transport. It would be wrong imo to do anything that would make backups onto 101.

Posted by Penny suggets
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 15, 2019 at 5:38 pm

I thought the Palo alto way of dealing with this would be to reduce to 1 lane in each direction, add road furniture, bulb outs and traffic cicrles.

Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 15, 2019 at 6:04 pm

"We can't improve our city because it will cause freeway backups" is asinine. Closing freeway on / off ramps is also an option.

Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 15, 2019 at 6:13 pm

Even if you have a green light you cannot enter an intersection unless you know you can clear it. This is the premise behind "Don't Block the Box" and also the law.

If you can't clear the intersection, wait for the next light.

Whomever designed Arastradero/Charleston needs to be fired. Now.

We need to empower the City Council and remove the "Strong City Manager" political system we have now. It is too easy for one incompetent employee to make poor decision, like Arastradreo/Charleston, that negatively impact the City as a whole.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 18, 2019 at 8:16 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

From where I am sitting the problems start way back on Charleston. You come around the bend heading east and there are left hand turners stacked up at Fabien. They do not put on their left hand turn indicators so you don't know until you are trapped in the inner lane. Charleston at this intersection changes from east/west to north/south. People then try and go around the left hand turners while there are more coming around the bend who do not see them. The bend in the road creates a blind spot.

At this point the people coming from San Antonio are required to merge into one lane starting at the Fabien intersection to travel west on Charleston. The distance from Fabien to San Antonio is further mired by people who are trying to turn into the JCC entrance - another blockage that is occurring while people are trying to get in to the left hand turn lane to get onto San Antonio and the freeway.

Meanwhile people who have been to the gas station are coming out and I have seen them try and enter Charleston and cross over to the left hand turn lane while cars are stacked up at the light. They expect to cross Charleston and expect people to accommodate them while they execute this maneuver. So Charleston traffic that has a green light is now blocked by a side ways car trying to cross over to the left hand turn land.

And I had an accident at the major intersection when I turned right with the signal and the car in the right hand lane saw their error and slammed into me to get into my lane to keep going on Charleston. A girl friend to the car leaser that looked like a bat mobile - very expensive car. He was teaching her how to drive.

1. We need a left hand turn lane at Fabien for the people coming from west Charleston.
2. We need a right hand turn only sign at the gas station so people are not trying to enter Charleston and make a maneuver against traffic that is trying to travel with a green light.
3. We need to create a second lane on Charleston traveling west so people are not trapped at the Fabien intersection trying to get out of that lane and/or merge into one lane on Charleston
4. At Louis Road there is a planting in the middle of the street that "protects bicycle people trying to cross over with a flashing hazard light" that is available. However people coming around that bend are busy trying to merge into one lane.
5. People on bikes do not activate the flasher and try and cross outside the lanes to create further confusion.

As a side note many employees of the JCC park on residential streets and leave their car trash, wrappers, plastic food trays on the side of the street. Many of their cars have no front license - a DMV violation - so you know they are coming from the east bay and trying to avoid paying for the Dumbarton bridge toll. You are not going to stop car traffic because the people are coming a distance to get here.
I will add another problem here - the car app that tells people where to go has multiple people then turning onto Louis Road - sometimes about 10 cars at once who are also dodging people crossing the street. That backs up people coming around the bend. Or you have the alternate problem when about 10 cars are on Louis trying to turn left on to Charleston - so big back-up on Louis. And conflagration due to large number of cars entering Charleston from Louis. That car app has to be readjusted.

Posted by But most of all
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 18, 2019 at 9:56 am

We need a reduction in the number of cars on the road or all other ideas will be rendered moot. We'd end up spending millions but still would get no traffic relief.

Posted by MoreTrafficCircles
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 18, 2019 at 1:59 pm


Perhaps this problem can be solved with:

1. Adding micro-traffic circles (see Meadow)

2. Narrowing the road (see Ross)

3. Shuffling stop signs and adding Bollards (see Louis & Amarillo)

4. Narrow bike corridors (see Arastadero near Briones Park)

But seriously, are these projects placed online with their stated goals somewhere? Are the results tracked after the projects are completed? What about unintended outcomes?

Posted by Won't matter
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 18, 2019 at 2:26 pm

No road addition or road addition removal will matter until some cars come off the road.
Let's discuss how we can do that since that's the only way to fix traffic.
We simply have too many people trying to use a limited resource.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 18, 2019 at 2:30 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Won't matter, how about declaring a moratorium on office construction and tabling ABAG'SA new goal to add another 3,000,000 households to the SF Bay Area in the next few years?

Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 18, 2019 at 4:19 pm

Won't matter, the planet adds a billion new people every decade.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2019 at 5:02 pm

How about efficient improvement of public transportation, making it useful for commuters as alternatives to solo driving - even if people could only use them a couple of days a week, it would help overall.

Posted by Won't Matter
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 18, 2019 at 5:06 pm

@Online Name: " how about declaring a moratorium on office construction and tabling ABAG'SA new goal to add another 3,000,000 households to the SF Bay Area in the next few years?"

OK, I'm with you on the moratorium, but that will only lock us in to what we have now. I'm not OK with traffic as it is today.

We need ideas on how to fix the current state, not hold it steady, gridlocked quite literally. Figuring out how we can reduce the current amount of cars trying to use too little of avail space right now is the key.
That's the topic nobody really wants to try and talk about though. I know I like my car, but hey, if other people are willing to skip driving some trips, I want to help them with removing any obstacles that might prevent them from doing so. That clears more road space for me.
It's only logical really.

Posted by Bikes do help
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 18, 2019 at 6:48 pm

The problem with suggesting the fact that bikes help reduce the number of cars on tyhe road is that some loon always shouts you down and call you part of some secret organized bike club, subverting our society with their destructive ways.

Unapologetic, I ride a bike for most all my afternoon in town trips weather permitting.
I'm actually DOING something and no, I don't belong to any secret bike mafia. Build more bike infrastructure because it works to get more people out there, exactly as it did me. 5 years ago I was 100% car. Should I ditch my bike trips to add to the 4PM traffic or should I try and get more to join me and get more cars out of traffic at that time? You tell me.

Posted by Lee
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 18, 2019 at 7:10 pm

Not obvious to most is a core fact: The root cause of traffic is the housing crisis, and it was a half-century in the making. In the initial decades, sprawl partly relieved housing shortages near jobs. Yet all the while, sprawl inexorably created more and more traffic until we reached where we are today.

It isn't the fault of working folk, who suffer a poisonous lifestyle driving many hours a day to a town where the residents resent or at best ignore them. This situation was the fault of those who approveded jobs but refused to allow housing for the folks working those jobs... the essence of inept or even corrupt urban planning.

Palo Alto has ample space that can be built out in east Embarcadero and by flipping commercial properties to residential in the Stanford Industrial Park. Neither of these is close to nimbys, and should be easy to get approved. Oh wait, this is Palo Alto we are talking about here... fat chance.

Put SB50 on next fall's ballot and I guarantee it will pass... it's polling at over 60% now. It will reduce traffic, contrary to what nimbys say, if generous numbers of affordable housing close by jobs are reserved for former commuters, and aren't gamed by the entitled. Palo Alto finally won't be able to get away with adding thousands of jobs while having a laughably low number of building permits open at any given time.

Causing suffering is never excusable, and is at its most inexcusable when those causing it are willfully blind.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2019 at 8:34 am

Posted by Lee, a resident of Mountain View

>> Not obvious to most is a core fact: The root cause of traffic is the housing crisis,

The root cause of traffic is over-development of office space and the re-purposing of existing space to ever denser software-developer cubicle farms. Too many jobs, too many auto commuters. The irony is that with modern tools, people can work from anywhere in the same time zone just like they are in the next cubicle. In fact, often enough, people in adjacent cubicles participate in work conferences from their desks because it is easier and more productive for everyone to have their tools handy. The reason employers locate all their jobs here is because of the giant hire-fire labor pool at hand. Software developers can work from anywhere.

Posted by Capt. Kirk
a resident of another community
on Nov 19, 2019 at 1:58 pm

Just build a monorail and be done with it. The future is today, people.

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