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Community Forum: Can downtown Palo Alto have growth without gridlock?

Original post made by Community Forum on Aug 12, 2013

Subject: Can downtown Palo Alto have growth without gridlock?

People in Palo Alto enjoy the city as a great place to live, work and play. But steady growth in the downtown area over the last 15-20 years has created challenges especially around parking and transportation.

Is it possible to have growth without gridlock? Other places have wrestled with similar issues and developed innovative and environmentally sustainable new solutions. Palo Alto Green Planning Action is hosting a community forum to learn from a panel of professional transportation experts who are shaping the best practices of managing growth without gridlock.

Are these practices relevant to Palo Alto and other nearby communities? Multiple cities on the Peninsula are facing similar issues so we're inviting people to attend in nearby communities as well.

Date: Saturday August 17, 2013
Time: 1-2:30p
Location: Avenidas Senior Center - La Comida
450 Bryant Street Palo Alto (short walk from Palo Alto Caltrain)

Panelists:
Brodie Hamilton, Director Parking & Transportation, Stanford University
Wendy Silvani, Director, Silvani Transportation Consulting
Gary Heap, Transportation Engineer, City of San Mateo

We hope you can join us and look forward to the dialogue!

RSVP: Web Link

Adina Levin
Friends of Caltrain

Elaine Uang
Palo Alto Green Planning Action

Comments (15)

Posted by pavoter, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 12, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Of course it makes sense to focus on Downtown, but I think this question could be applied to Palo Alto as a whole. The referendums are largely about high-density, over-building, and traffic congestion, and while Maybell is at stake for the moment, these high density building trends are a problem for many different areas in Palo Alto.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2013 at 12:43 pm

The gridlock could be eased with better parking solutions.

Why not have parking meters on downtown streets, with each residence allowed one or two exemption stickers which they could use for their own cars or for guests. Redwood City has meters for small change.

Why not have pay per hour machines at all downtown lots and garages. There is no reason to expect free parking for more than one hour during the business day and making it easier to park rather than harder for occasional all day parking should be the aim.

Why not have free parking lots in the Baylands with frequent shuttles to downtown.

We need to use the facilities we have at present rather than invent new ways to make it harder to park. The people wanting to park are not going away, they will still need to park. So making it more comprehensive would suit everyone and probably help to make traffic move around town rather than circle for non existent parking space.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 12, 2013 at 5:09 pm

When I think of traffic gridlock in Palo Alto, I think my recommendation is to ensure major thoroughfares (major roads) operate efficiently to move motor vehicles.
This means designating such routes, making them have good road surfaces, visibility, speed/throughput, timing of traffic lights, appropriate and safe crossings for bikes and pedestrians but making sure traffic CAN MOVE across the city. Reducing speed limits, putting in obstacles, constantly resurfacing/roadworks, poor light timing, reducing lanes are all the WRONG THING to do on these thoroughfares.


Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 12, 2013 at 5:21 pm

I agree anonymous, with your comments. The mindset in palo alto is to narrow roads, with the dream that cars will magically disappear. Almost every main thoroughfare in palo alto-- middlefield, arastedero, embarcadero, el camino real has been targeted for narrowing. I also,understand that some of the biking zealots want to narrow alma to. 1 lane in each direction.
I would also be wary of anything that the so- called " green" people are involved with.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 12, 2013 at 9:41 pm

Can ANY part of Palo Alto have growth without gridlock? Better yet, how about, Can Palo Alto have growth without over crowded schools, gridlocked roads, overcrowded parking, overcrowded shopping, overcrowded fields and community services, dangerous routes to school, etc etc etc.

The only answer to this question is to answer this question before more growth is allowed: put a moratorium on all new building until a comprehensive plan is approved, and prioritized, that addresses these important issues. Until this infrastructure need addressed, there should not be any further growth.


Posted by Pro growth?, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 12, 2013 at 10:07 pm

Looks to me as though these people running the forum want growth. Maybe they are the 'growth near traffic centers' people. For sure the Stanford traffic person is working for growth. The campus is unrecognizable since a few years ago. And they will be submitting another monster project for 27 University Ave.
Menlo Park residents are saying stop as well. Someone on this board said Stanford is metastasizing. It is an apt metaphor.


Posted by Misery, a resident of Professorville
on Aug 13, 2013 at 8:35 am

Palo Alto has become a miserable place to live and work, due to all the traffic gridlocks and congestion. We are anxious to move elsewhere and be rid of the frustration.


Posted by Judy, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 13, 2013 at 12:36 pm

I think it's high time the downtown section of University Avenue was redesigned into a pedestrian thoroughfare only, much like those in major European cities. If a large section of central Rome can be designated pedestrian only certainly downtown University Avenue can.

Meanwhile central London has banned private cars altogether, you ride public transportation to get around. Vienna also has turned several streets into pedestrian only. Many of these pedestrian only areas are quite crowded. Retail does not loose business, they gain it.

Wake up America you're way behind. Palo Alto should lead the way.


Posted by Yes, we can, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 13, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Judy is correct, and Palo Alto, the very center of Silicon Valley, is out of touch and way behind. It is losing its charm and livability as a result. Major European cities learned these lessons decades ago, and have thus retained their pleasant charm and livability.

Palo Alto, among other places, has become a tense and miserable place to live ( or work, for that matter.....try to get put of the city limits in under an hour). Stanford has added much to the traffic gridlock--try to get off their campus during rush hour in less than an hour!

Why can't the offices and businesses keep their traffic and congestion out of the residential areas, and quit using them as shortcuts across town?


Posted by curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 13, 2013 at 4:33 pm

"Retail does not loose business, they gain it."

True, but unlikely. Retail is not the Keenan/Baer vision for Palo Alto. Office is. Pedestrian malls are not optimal for office buildings, and therefore they won't happen here.


Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 13, 2013 at 5:24 pm

"Palo Alto has become a miserable place to live and work, due to all the traffic gridlocks and congestion."

And meanwhile people are paying high prices for the homes n order to live here.
People in palo alto confuse cars on the streets with " gridlock and congestion" . And yes I know cars are evil and even one additional car trip in palo alto is too many or so says a former failed council member.
However the only place where we may have gridlock is at Town and Country and I do not understand why the city does not correct it or why they do not admit their mistake and reverse the arastedero road diet.
Sure there are times when main streets have a lot of traffic ( and of course some people think that is bad). But that is their purpose. Without a real public transportation system people will continue to drive cars.
Palo also is not rme, London or Paris. And to say there is " gridlock and congestion" in palo alto is a grave misrepresentation reality.
But, misery, enjoy your new home


Posted by Traffic Solution? Ride a Bike or Walk, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 14, 2013 at 4:45 pm


For those that want to be able to get from the Stanford campus down University Avenue during rush hour without getting stuck in any traffic...It ain't going to happen - unless you are riding a bike or walking. That's the reality that we find ourselves in. The sooner we all come to terms with that the sooner we can set about coming up with other alternatives to the single occupant automobile. From the autocentric comments on this board I feel like Palo Alto has gone back in time to 1960's! Get with it!


Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 14, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Riding a bike or walking is feasible for only a few. Those that commute serious distances probably drive. Many local residents drive due the child related issues, errand running, time issues-- the list goes on. Palo alto has no real public transportation system and it is not Rome, London or Paris.
Stanford however, as usual, is a leader in this area-- they have carpools, local shuttle busses, buses to the east bay etc.
Palo alto and this area will remain auto centric, even with the council paying lip service to the walkable neighborhood concept


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2013 at 6:22 pm

If we want to have growth, then we have to accept that these new residents/workers will need to travel around town.

Accepting that fact, then we have to change our mindset. The place for growth needs to be near 101, 280, and where we can build without causing gridlock.

If we want to bring more people into downtown or other congested areas, then we need to rethink our parking and transportation strategies. People arriving by car need to park. People may not need to park all day every day. People may need to visit downtown for meetings, social and business reasons, and for recreation. These people will need to park or they will not come and our businesses will lose out.

As a result, we need to get cars parked efficiently. Parking meters on downtown streets, pay per hour machines at all city lots and garages, and out of town parking with efficient shuttle service all make sense.

Promoting transit and bicycle usage is fine, but it is only part of the picture. Promoting transit has to be regional rather than just a Palo Alto issue. Offpeak fares, multiple usage for one fare, family fares, all day passes at one cost, free parking at Caltrain lots after 3.00 pm, etc. etc. are all things that can be done at the regional level.

Improvements to the shuttle so that all school kids can use them for school would take a big burden off our commute roads. We need to improve the shuttle and charge a realistic fare rather than giving some kids a free ride to school while others get nothing.

Overall, we need a regional transit authority with regional solutions. We need to stop looking at this issue city by city and start working with our neighbors in the Bay Area to solve this 21st century problem. We need 21st century solutions for this, not last century mentality.


Posted by Not an issue, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 14, 2013 at 6:31 pm

You make some very good points, resident. Unfortunately, palo,alto lives by a last century mentality. We constantly hear how wonderful things were 20+ years and how terrible things are now. Of course people ignore how the pst 20-30 years have added great value to their property. As you state , traffic is necessary and expecting everyone to walk, bike r take public transportation is not a realistic goal


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