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Alma Plaza to get new traffic signal

Original post made on Jan 9, 2012

Seeking to make life easier for shoppers at the city's renovated Alma Plaza, Palo Alto officials are planning to install a new traffic signal near the entrance to the plaza.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, January 9, 2012, 9:41 AM

Comments (32)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 9, 2012 at 9:55 am

How does one traffic signal equate to a $5,000 annual maintenance expense?


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Posted by Joey
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 9, 2012 at 10:10 am

Will the light be synchronized with the East Meadow light?


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Posted by kongjie
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 9, 2012 at 10:17 am

kongjie is a registered user.

@Marrol
Eucalyptus elves are required to polish our PA traffic signals. Those little fellers ensure that each lens is at its most brilliant. What with the lattes and egg salad sandwiches, their daily maintenance runs close to $14/day. The good news is that they eventually spontaneously drop dead on the job, so there are no retirement costs.


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Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 9, 2012 at 10:17 am

"Staff estimates that the new signal would have no impact on traffic flow on Alma Street"
How did they come up with this statement. If this light will be 600 feet from the East Meadow intersection and will have two phases (exiting the plaza and entering from southbound Alma, what will happen to traffic coming north on Alma that has a green light at East Meadow. AS Joey asks will the light be synchronized?


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Posted by Steve Rock
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 9, 2012 at 10:23 am

"no impact on traffic flow on Alma Street, which currently flows at the highest possible level during the morning and evening commute hours"
This presumably is one way of saying that traffic is backed up for a long time on Alma at the traffic signal at Meadow.
There is a very long merge lane on Alma going south just south of Alma plaza for traffic coming out of Alma plaza. This has always been empty. Just south where this merge lane ends, there is a very short left hand turn lane to go onto Meadow. Since the traffic at rush hour is always backed up at the Meadow light, cars that want to make a left turn cannot get into the left hand turn lane and miss a signal cycle. If a train comes along, the left hand turn misses a cycle also. This makes turning onto Meadow a very long process and many people avoid this by turning left from Alma before Alma plaza and go through the neighborhood streets.
I suggest as part of this project, the city decrease the length of the merge lane and increase the length of the left hand turn lane on Alma going south.


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Posted by Enough!
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 9, 2012 at 10:34 am

There's shopping at Alma Plaza?


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Posted by Sherry
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 9, 2012 at 10:35 am

One can only hope that a more educated engineering and planning is done so it's not another T&C fiasco!


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Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 9, 2012 at 10:43 am

Okay, if you look at the report it states:
" The fiber optic
connection will allow the City to monitor and manipulate traffic signal operations remotely
from the City's Traffic Operations Center located at the Municipal Service Yard. The hardwire
interconnect cable will ensure that the new traffic signal operates concurrently with the East
Meadow Drive traffic signal. "

Of course, we will see how it works in real life, since traffic tends to back up a bit at the intersection during rush hours, so not sure if there will be room for cars turning onto SB Alma to fit in. Be we shall see.


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Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 9, 2012 at 10:49 am

I predict that this is going to turn the "flow" into something like the mess currently available at the Town & Country El Cam/Embarcardero corner.

I can't imagine that we need another light just yards from East Meadow's light.


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Posted by WhyDon'tWeSync
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 9, 2012 at 11:11 am

I do truly hope they do the job right in coordinating these lights with the existing ones. Alma is one of the few roads that actually flows pretty well. Yes it gets overloaded at rush hour and the train issues don't help, but it does flow. Adding a second light 600 ft from the current one that is already impacted by rail signals is an invitation to a fiasco. Please please please make the whole system work together.


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Posted by Julian
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 9, 2012 at 11:25 am

@ kongjie

Thanks for the laugh! Good way to start the week, especially after hearing about how the city is going to screw up traffic in a new place.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2012 at 11:34 am

> I can't imagine that we need another light just yards
> from East Meadow's light.

This light is intended to reduce the number of possible traffic accidents that might occur for folks turning into/out of the shopping center. It is not otherwise needed to deal with Charleston flow.

> "Staff estimates that the new signal would have no impact
> on traffic flow on Alma Street"

This is most likely true. However, having hard numbers would help to cement the point. There is virtually no traffic on Charleston most of the day. There is a fair amount of traffic backup at the Charleston/Alma light from say 4:30PM to 6:15(ish). The only way this light could have an impact on Charleston would be if there were more cars turning right (to the north) onto Alma that would queue up, because of a Alma Plaza light, and cause a back up on cars trying to turn right on to Alma. But this is virtually an impossibility, with the exception of having traffic flow stopped for a long time when an accident occurs at the location of this new light.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by West Meadow Dr resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 9, 2012 at 11:44 am

We have enough traffic as it is. At certain times of the day I can barely get in/out of our driveway.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 9, 2012 at 11:45 am

Geesh - pessimism and sarcasm are Palo Alto's new official colors.

Everyone knows the problem with the T&C/Paly intersection is the fact that there is a separate (student) cross-walk that is not synchronized with the rest of the signal lights in the area.


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Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 9, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Why is it going to cost tax payers $5,000 a year to maintain this signal light? Does every traffic signal in town have the same maintenance cost? Very hard for me to believe.


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Posted by LEDs-A-Lot-Better-Than-A-IED
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2012 at 12:56 pm

> traffic light at Alma Plaza ..

This light came out of the "revolt" that occurred when the large shopping center expansion was proposed. It is nothing new .. although the 5K/year for "maintenance" is .. with LEDs being used for traffic lights these days, which are supposed to have upwards of a $100K hours of lifetime .. so with low power costs, and long life ... just what is the City doing for this $5K?


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Posted by rem
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 9, 2012 at 12:59 pm

rem is a registered user.

WELL, I see we got took to the cleaners AGAIN.

John McNellis, the plaza's developer should be paying for the "signal" NOW and FOREVER... Other NO SIGNAL!!!!!


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Posted by Another crazy idea
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 9, 2012 at 1:05 pm

So this is the most ridiculous thing I have heard since the other light right by Paly High and T&C. Can our transportaion team not think of another option, what the hell do we pay them for? It was a shopping center along time before and there was no light. Really I think all our city does is put in light and or reduce lanes. Welcome to traffic hell


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2012 at 1:15 pm

I agree that the new Alma Plaza will require some traffic reconfiguration but I don't think just putting in another stop light is a good idea for many reasons.




A much better idea would be to make the Meadow/Alma intersection a "super intersection" with one light configuration to prevent traffic getting stuck twice or large amounts of traffic getting between the lights and preventing other traffic from moving when they have a green light.




This should have been done at Town and Country with a six way light configuration at the intersection of ECR and Embarcadero with T&C and Paly both moving their exits to the corners to enable a six way configuration super intersection.




I am glad to see that the Mitchell Park light will no longer be one of these two separate light configurations, which only caused confusion and frustration although on a much smaller level


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Frank
a resident of Ventura
on Jan 9, 2012 at 1:21 pm

> Can our transportaion team not think of another option

You were thinking of maybe a bridge overpass or an under pass? That would cost a bit more.

> It was a shopping center along time before and there was no light

True enough, and I would occasionally shop there or have Pizza. It was difficult to leave (turning left on Alma) at certain times of day and there's more traffic now.


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Posted by Besides
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Traffic on Alma is typically 10 mph over the speed limit. Alma could use more lights to slow the traffic down


 +   Like this comment
Posted by neighborly
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Jan 9, 2012 at 3:03 pm

A little off the subject. The Alma Plaza shopping center is already looking terrible.

How come the structure that is going up is built right up to the sidewalk? It already is an eyesore.


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Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 9, 2012 at 3:14 pm

"It already is an eyesore."
And the derelict, abandoned shopping center that the "neighborhood leaders" and "friends groups" prevented from being developed was not an eyesore??? We could have had a nice dedicated shopping center, but thanks to DJ, JH and LF this is what we got.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 9, 2012 at 5:12 pm

I agree with "neighborly" -- it is an eyesore and very imposing with it's footprint pushed all the way to the sidewalk. I can only hope the plans for external design (stone, or??) will offset the hunky, cement look currently shown. Svatoid -- it's not a matter of comparison to the abandoned center, but rather if it's build to blend and or add architectural interest to the neighborhood. Not looking good so far, but will reserve judgement until the job is complete.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 9, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Obvious solution - overpasses at Meadow and Charleston.


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Posted by Not a problem
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 9, 2012 at 5:40 pm

Not sure why neighborly is upset. Weren't the plans with illustrations available to the public?


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Posted by Allen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 9, 2012 at 5:52 pm

I can buy the no impact on traffic flow as it will just ask a few cars to stop a bit early to leave space for cars to slip into Alma from the shopping center. This can clearly be done within one of the cycles of the signal at Meadow. But $5000 a year? If a single traffic light is about 20 cents a day and say there are 6 lights (2 in each direction) and say 60 cents for the controller per day so let's round up to $2 a day for the lights. Add some bulb replacement and let's say $1000 a year. Maybe the other $4000 is to replace the pole when some drunk knocks the damn pole over.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 9, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Developer wants traffic light and tells city to make it so.

It is done.


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Posted by Chris
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 9, 2012 at 8:35 pm

My guess: the $5k/year includes electricity, insurance (for repairs after traffic accidents), and perhaps a budget for replacement/upgrades when the service life of the light ends.


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Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 10, 2012 at 12:53 pm

A traffic light system is more than a few lightbulbs. There are sensors to detect traffic and controllers to switch the lights based on sensor input. The sensors are exposed to the elements and subject to damage and failure, and the controllers must meet extremely high standards for reliability and fail-safe operation. To make sure they meet those standards requires periodic testing. They are costly systems to install and maintain.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by No Improvements
a resident of another community
on Jan 11, 2012 at 4:19 pm

The best approach in Palo Alto is to never make any changes or improvements. Just assume that the year is 1959 forever. That way the old timers won't get mad.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Not a Fan
a resident of Southgate
on Apr 10, 2012 at 10:51 pm

Definitely not a fan of the "building right up to the sidewalk" style of building. See this in Sunnyvale too.


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