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Transportation vision shifts focus to bikes, parking

Original post made on Aug 29, 2013

When Palo Alto last adopted an official transportation vision, the Prius had just been unveiled in Japan; high-speed rail was something they did in France and China; a Professorville resident could still find a parking spot outside her home; and no one at City Hall was lobbying for a new bike bridge stretching over U.S. Highway 101 toward the Baylands. The updated version, which the city is preparing to adopt next year, shows just how much times have changed.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, August 28, 2013, 10:45 PM

Comments (25)

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Posted by parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 29, 2013 at 12:24 am

Not everyone can ride a bike, but bikes replacing cars will reduce congestion and pollution for even non-bicyclists. Also, bikes need much less (and much cheaper) space for parking. This transportation plan sounds great to me. We don't need and can't afford new roads.


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 29, 2013 at 12:48 am

Bikes are great, especially for the few people who live and work in Palo Alto, but bikes aren't a real solution to building office space without adequate parking.


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Posted by Hippo crits in City Hall
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 29, 2013 at 1:25 am

This is a lot of work and fanfare over a document that will be treated like little more than toilet paper when it suits the whims of the City Council.

Look at Maybell and how hard they have pushed the rezoning there. There is no way the lack of parking in the plan isn't going to seriously negatively impact the park and nearby school and rehab center for disabled children.

The previous zoning would have called for a minimum of 104 cars, yet the planned development has only 47 parking spots for 60 units, residents, employees, and visitors. There is literally nowhere else to put excess parking in the neighborhood, especially since there already is a lot of overflow parking from PAHC's existing affordable development next door, where they already don't have enough spots for the residents. The closest place is the parking in front of Juana Briones School (the OH side) and park, which is so sparse, the families who use the long-time rehab center for disabled students from across the county often end up in competition with school families for the parking.

But we're told the seniors living there will not have children in the schools and won't have cars. Are you a senior? Come to Clemo (not by car) and walk to all of your grocery and medical and other needs for the next month. Do you think it's a good location for senior apartments? Be sure to bring your bike and strap your walker to the handlebars.


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Posted by PaloAlto
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 29, 2013 at 1:38 am

This sounds like a valid use case for transportation demand management tool, TransitScreen, a real time multimodal display promoting all transportation alternatives around a given location. That way residents and visitors have instant access to multimodal data (Caltrain, Bay Area Bikeshare, buses, rideshare, carshare) so he/she can make an informed decision how best to avoid using a single occupancy vehicle (SOV).

www.transitscreen.com


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2013 at 7:27 am

Even if it costs $600K for another special election—it would be worth it to allow the electorate of Palo Alto to vote on the questions of: 1) Dismissing the Transportation and Planning Commission, 2) Rejecting any transportation element that focuses on bicycles.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2013 at 7:42 am

Why spend the time and money on a "transportation vision" when the city is just going to ignore it when the next developer juices them with a new out of compliance project? This transportation plan is just pieces of paper with no real significance.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2013 at 8:03 am

Without putting a moratorium on new construction, as an emergency
measure, in response to growing traffic gridlock, and a possible
water supply emergency due to drought, this transportation plan is simply a "dog chasing its tail" and is an insult to the community.
It has the appearance of let's try to appease the residents so
that we can continue the game here, since there are more huge
projects in the wings that we want to push through. The City simply
has no credibility. Following a moratorium on new construction the City needs to review all zoning and FAR's including residential which
are too high, and state that minimal aesthetic standards relating to all public actions and private projects will be enforced.





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Posted by 35 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 29, 2013 at 10:19 am

Californians have always been in love with automobiles. We live in a car culture. Although the vision is a noble one, it won't change the fact that people will continue to rely on cars for their primary source of transportation and no effort at legislating bicycle or public transportation use will ever change that.


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Posted by Mac Clayton
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 29, 2013 at 10:35 am

To "35 year resident."

I'm a Californian and a car guy. My first was a 1959 Triumph TR 3. Now I have a sports car that sits in the garage. My primary means of daily transportation around Palo Alto and Menlo Park--for shopping, work, everything--is my bike. I've never been happier leaving the car, and traffic, behind. Kudos to the city for making that a better and better experience.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 29, 2013 at 10:51 am

The city is not legislating that you give up your car. The lack of privately funded parking is taking care of that. What the city is doing is creating alternatives for you, including safer bicycle routes and safer bicycle parking around town. This is tremendously cheaper for the city than paving new streets and building new parking garages with your tax dollars.

Even if you do not bike, if your neighbors do, there will be more room on the roads for your car.


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Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 29, 2013 at 10:56 am

Like it or not, "35 Year Resident" has a handle on reality. And "Resident" is sadly right about the lack of City credibility.


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Posted by Carol Muller
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 29, 2013 at 11:03 am

As a regular bicycle commuter, I can see lots of ways to improve my cycling route, and I'm pretty sure other cycling commuters would say the same... for instance, I know which intersections and traffic lights are not bike friendly, where (illegally) parked cars regularly block the bike lane, where new stop signs have been installed that limit cycling efficiency, etc. One thing I've wondered for some time is whether we really need two lanes on Homer and Channing, now that the PAMF is long-relocated from that neighborhood... why not make them each one lane, with a well-marked bike lane, and really concentrate on those as cycling-friendy "boulevards"? This would work especially well now that the Homer Ave. bike/pedestrian tunnel finally has (hurray!!) a sensible cycling accommodation for going eastbound on Homer.

It would be great to have a way (perhaps an open forum, or even better, an online forum with suggestions/responses, etc.) to share these direct experiences with the City's transportation planners -- it's not always clear to me how many of our planners and decisionmakers have direct experience with regular commuting...


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Posted by parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 29, 2013 at 11:09 am

@Carol - there is a "bicycle improvement request" form on the city website: Web Link
I have been submitting my suggestions there for years. Many of the things I suggest do actually appear on the street (sometimes years later).

Also, the article says the city will be taking public comments on the new transportation plan, so this is a good time to organize and send in everything you have.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2013 at 11:52 am

What about the shuttle?

Why do some kids get free rides to school and others get none?

Why can't the shuttle be expanded so that all kids get a ride to school and why must it be free? School traffic is a big part of the morning commute and parking around our schools is horrendous at pickup time for those who live near the schools.

The shuttle should be much more available to those who regularly travel around town and it should charge a fare.


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Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 29, 2013 at 12:29 pm

California state law requires cities to periodically update their plans and include a Transportation Element. Now and in the future, these MUST include accommodation for bicyclists and pedestrians in the plan. Palo Alto may be one of the first, but soon every city will be producing similar plans (although most are unlikely to be as good).


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Why do you think the City Council will ignore this - they won't. Bicycles are the Holy Grail of the future. This element gives Council the right to narrow down from 4 to 2 lanes with bicycle paths all collector and arterial streets. Don't forget the bicycle lobby in PA is much stronger than the auto lobby.


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Posted by Willing but unable to financially
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 29, 2013 at 2:14 pm

I drive a car every day - not because I want to, but because I cannot afford public transportation. Several trips could be EASILY done by train, with both originating and ending points being walking distance to/from a train station. However, the two stops I would travel are double the cost of the six stops someone else would pay - simply because I have to travel across a zone line. $10 round trip for two stops is ridiculous, driving a car is far cheaper. I keep trying, but have not found a reasonable alternative!!


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Posted by RobertN
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2013 at 12:40 pm

The bicycling improvement form is good for spot improvements, or maintenance issues, but not for long term improvements.

Currently transportation staff is working on elements of the Bicycle / Pedestrian Transportation Plan, adopted in 2012. There are community meetings coming up for bike boulevard projects from that document planned for Maybell and Matadero/Margarita (two separate projects.)

A bike/ped project not in the current BPTP document is difficult to get city resources to develop, so it is all a very long, slow process. To get involved, keep track of issues coming before the Planning commission, and you can join the Bicycle Advisory Committee (PABAC).


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Posted by Lisa Van Dusen
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 1, 2013 at 6:00 pm

My main suggestion and concern is safety. I believe that Palo Alto is not being sufficiently bold in its "bike path" planning. We need bike paths that are separated from cars - actually separated. Follow the creeks, dedicate a whole lane, but sticking lanes next to rows of parked cars where the lane is so narrow and so close to both parked cars and moving cars is a recipe for disaster, especially when you throw senior drivers, distracted drivers etc. into the mix. It is only going to get "more so."

I am eager to ride my bike more but don't want to be fearful when I do. It is equally perilous for the car drivers.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 2, 2013 at 4:28 pm

> … the new element includes … a new goal to "minimize noticeable increases in traffic from NEW DEVELOPMENT IN RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBORHOODS, through traffic mitigation measures." (Capitalized highlight is mine.)

If new developments in residential neighborhoods follow the zoning laws, why would there be a noticeable increase in traffic? Or is the city planning more PC zoning in residential neighborhoods?

> "…the bicycle lobby in PA is much stronger than the auto lobby."
True. (1) There is no auto lobby. (2) The bicycle lobby (Palo Alto Bicycle ADVISORY Committee) was created by the PTC to give advice to the Transportation Department and reports to the chief transportation officer. This is why issues sometimes go first to bicyclists in special meetings held just for them.

As far as I know, staff doesn't consult with drivers.

In July, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released a study indicating that if the love affair with the automobile is on the decline, it's a slow one. "Two in three Californians who work full- or part-time drive alone to work. Far fewer carpool (14%), use public transportation (8%), walk (4%), or bike (3%) to work."
. Web Link

Until we have some realistic public transit choices (NOT HSR), cars are still going to be the preferred mode -- and maybe the only workable mode -- of transportation for most people.


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Posted by tradeoffs
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2013 at 7:23 pm

There are issues of safety when the City actively promotes more bicycle use on narrow already congested streets, which is what the City is doing, and at the same time approves more and more high density office development. These are not complementary policies as the City suggests but conflicting policies. The City simply does not acknowledge the tradeoffs inherent in more and more office development. For the City Council and staff it somehow all works
together, not because it does, but because they want it to.






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Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 2, 2013 at 9:49 pm

Having a Bicycle (and Pedestrian) Advisory Committee is a requirement to receive certain categories of government funds. Almost every city in the area has one, as does the County. This is not a lobby, it is a legal requirement.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 3, 2013 at 10:12 am

Bicycles in this area with all of the car congestion is a really bad mix.

Whether you like cars or bikes is irrelevant, because though some can ride bikes not everyone can and not every trip is a bike trip ... i.e. if you have passengers or need to carry something large.

The argument that bikes can replace cars to any significant extent is simply foolish. Foolish and dangerous because whatever we do with bikes there will still be a lot of congestion, a lot of frustration which causes people to make jerky or not well thought out moves and puts bikers and pedestrians at risk.

It's great that people ride bikes, but the city cannot plan for bike use, we simply need to demand that houses and businesses include parking space - period. Not to is completely negligent.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2013 at 12:23 pm

The City's mantra of more development at any cost to the quality
of life, character of the City,aesthetic values, neighborhoods, safety,environment is the problem. That is the starting point for trying to understand everything else like promoting more use of bikes on narrow congested streets.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2013 at 12:38 pm

The City has put a turn left only sign at Churchill and Alma to protect kids riding and walking to school in the mornings.

Are they going to ban cars from turning into other streets during commute time for the same reason?


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