Early results of Dumbarton corridor study indicate improved traffic flow | News | Palo Alto Online |


Early results of Dumbarton corridor study indicate improved traffic flow

Bicycle and pedestrian path, expanded bus service among ideas eyed for 2020

For those locked in traffic as they cross the Bay over the Dumbarton Bridge every day, the time it will take to improve traffic flow by making major changes to the vehicle bridge and the nearby abandoned rail bridge may seem like an eternity.

But an early presentation on a Facebook-sponsored $1 million study of the Dumbarton transportation corridor suggests these changes may be expedited.

According to the presentation, given Aug. 2 to the governing board of the San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans), it could be feasible to:

• Increase the frequency and number of destinations of transbay buses by 2020.

• Convert a traffic lane on the road bridge to either an express lane or a shifting lane that matches commute direction by 2025.

• Rebuild the abandoned rail bridge and activate a rail shuttle across the Bay to connect Redwood City to Union City by 2030.

These timelines, of course, assume such projects can be funded in time. Estimated costs amount to more than $1.8 billion by 2025, plus another $295 million to expand the rail service from Newark to Union City in the East Bay.

The timelines also assume that the many jurisdictions and agencies that would be involved in the projects are on board. That includes Caltrain, Union Pacific, the Alameda County Transportation Commission, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Caltrans, the State Transportation Board, and the cities the routes would pass through.

By 2020

One change being considered to reduce traffic along the Dumbarton corridor is building a bicycle and pedestrian path along the Dumbarton rail right-of-way. However, SamTrans principal planner Melissa Reggiardo said that project is not currently being recommended because the right-of-way is not wide enough to accommodate that and other potential uses of the corridor.

Another change that could be implemented by 2020 is to expand bus service across the Dumbarton bridge. The board could add 17 shuttles, Reggiardo said, and offer routes that go north to Menlo Park and Redwood City, and south to Mountain View and Sunnyvale.

Doing so could increase the number of transbay transit riders by 34 percent. Currently, only about 1,000 people ride the Dumbarton Express (the transbay bus) daily, and not all of them are crossing the Bay, SamTrans spokesman Dan Lieberman said.

The study recommends that changes be made to improve traffic flow on the roads that approach the bridge on both sides.

2025 to 2030

The study also recommends the board look further into rebuilding the abandoned rail bridge into a two-track rail line that would run from Redwood City to Newark by 2025, and then to Union City by 2030.

The transit agency researched the option using the rail bridge exclusively for buses, but did not recommend this approach if the vehicle bridge would have express lanes added that buses could use.

An overpass for public buses and private shuttles that would connect directly to U.S. Highway 101 was recommended for further research.

The study estimates that with the proposed changes, about 5,600 people would take the train, 12,700 would take the bus, and 5,000 would take private shuttles across the Bay each day.

Public meetings

The draft of the study is expected to be released prior to public meetings set for Tuesday, Aug. 15, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Union City Library at 34007 Alvarado-Niles Road; and Wednesday, Aug. 16, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the East Palo Alto library and city hall at 2415 University Ave.

People can comment on the study's recommendations for 30 days after the report is released by speaking at one of the meetings, or by submitting comments by phone at 650-508-6283; by email to reggiardom@samtrans.com; or by mail to: Melissa Reggiardo, San Mateo County Transit District, P.O. Box 3006, 1250 San Carlos Ave., San Carlos, CA 94070.


Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.


9 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 15, 2017 at 11:17 am

Annette is a registered user.

Good for FB for funding that study. Question: why no mention of water-based options? Seems to me that whenever there have been transit strikes in SF that effect BART and other land-based transit options, the ferry service is augmented with great success. Why not enlist ALL the resources of the area?

4 people like this
Posted by Cyclist
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 15, 2017 at 11:25 am

Bicycling not recommended in the plan because we don't have 3 additional feet of right-of-way and clearly need both rail and bus.


2 people like this
Posted by commonsense
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 15, 2017 at 11:45 am

Great idea if all these groups can work together. 20 years and who knows how many HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS before it's over on high speed rail to LA vs. 1.8 billion, eight years and for something helpful.

1 person likes this
Posted by respondent
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 15, 2017 at 1:44 pm

@Annette Ferry service in the South Bay would require frequent dredging. That means a cross-bay channel plus a north-south channel for initially deliver the ferries to the south bay. That might be why it was not considered. Or maybe, as you suggest, an oversight.

The Wikipedia article on the SF Bay says "Large ships transiting the bay must follow deep underwater channels that are maintained by frequent dredging as the average depth of the bay is only as deep as a swimming pool—approximately 12 to 15 ft (4–5 m). Between Hayward and San Mateo to San Jose it is 12 to 36 in (30–90 cm)."

On the other hand, water depth doesn't matter for hovercraft, but I don't know if those are a reasonable alternative. Probably more noise, less energy-efficient but faster than ferries. Maybe worth considering.

2 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 15, 2017 at 4:07 pm

One option that seems to be missing in the Weekly article is having FaceBook, and other of the large tech companies, move/open some of its operations to the East Bay. It's really not clear how these large campuses really increase the effectiveness of the individual worker in this facilities.

With high-speed data networking readily available to these companies, interaction can be achieved via these networks.

3 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 15, 2017 at 4:55 pm

Annette is a registered user.

@respondent - thanks for the info re ferry service and dredging. As I read what you wrote I also thought of hovercraft. That would be kinda cool; like the Shotover Jets in New Zealand. Not so good on a rainy day, though.

Seriously, I have a vague recollection of a boat option for getting to Big Game many years ago. It seems that with all our cleverness there should be a way to incorporate the bay into the commuting equation w/o doing irreparable harm.

3 people like this
Posted by Another option
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 16, 2017 at 5:55 am

Have they considered Hyperloop instead of heavy rail?

1 person likes this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 16, 2017 at 6:04 am

The reason that Palo Alto lost it's yacht harbor was because of the constant requirement for dredging. You can't move dirt that is contaminated with engine oil from one place to another so that puts a squash on dredging. The lower part of the bay- it is too shallow to support a ferry service. Redwood City is the last stop to support a ferry service. The continual rearrangement of the lower bay in order to prevent flooding and salt flats has changed the way the bay originally worked.
Hurry up with the bridge for rail. That option has always been there and is such a good idea.

1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2017 at 6:56 am

My thoughts are that hovercraft ferries should not be dismissed.

I have been on them and they are fast and need very little infrastructure to support a service. I am no engineer but from what I have heard, modern hovercraft are a lot more environmental friendly as well as quiet than they used to be. I would imagine that a decent service with parking lots and support shuttles could be up and working relatively quickly.

3 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 16, 2017 at 10:58 am

Marie is a registered user.

The time frame for these improvements are ludicrous given the immediate need. Really? It would take three years to add additional buses? Maybe that is because existing bus service is underutilized today. What is really needed is high quality private transit that can easily adjust to actual demand rather than more empty busses adding to global warming and using up taxpayer $ with no measurable impact on reducing traffic. If there was ever a public utility that would benefit by going private, it is bus service.

Oh and even if busses are electric, most additional electricity is generated by coal or natural gas plants, both of which increase global warming. Palo Alto is trying to switch everyone from natural gas to electricity (which will increase costs to residents and revenue to Palo Alto). It makes no sense to add empty buses fueled by natural gas. Of course, it doesn't make sense anyway as additional demand for electricity is being met primarily by new natural gas plants. The fact that we buy only "green sources" doesn't change the fact that electricity is fungible and at the margins, new demand is being met by natural gas and coal. Until we come up with better ways to store energy generated by solar and wind (which I hope will be soon - microgrids look promising), switching from gas to electricity is futile and a waste of money.

1 person likes this
Posted by Mark Silverman
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 16, 2017 at 12:08 pm

Simple solution.

A helium-inflated/electric-powered blimp service across the bay. Park and fly with shuttle service to and from the terminal/landing strip.

Relaxing and picturesque. Less gridlock and more time to peruse one's thoughts.

4 people like this
Posted by Mike Morris
a resident of another community
on Aug 16, 2017 at 4:30 pm

I live near Marsh road. To much traffic, noise, accidents everywhere, us 101, el camino, willow rd etc,. trains won't make anything better. Caltrain ridership is down, but they got $675 million the make it a big electric train, probably with no more restrooms on board,or drinking on board when it becomes electic. More people taking Über, carpools, ride share etc. but the officials want more money. Stop the crazy development of Facebook, this company is nothing but a Carpetbagger, enjoying the fruits of the democrat controlled state.

1 person likes this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 16, 2017 at 8:08 pm

My husband commutes over the Dumbo to Fremont for work - a reverse commute. Not bad except for bridge toll - we have Fastrack.
Thanks, Mark Silverman, we love your idea.
I recall some sort of car/helo once upon a time...?

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Los Altos's State of Mind opening NYC-inspired pizza shop in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 16 comments | 8,478 views

Wait, wait – we’re working on it
By Diana Diamond | 19 comments | 2,641 views

My Pet Peeves
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 7 comments | 2,066 views

Premarital and Couples: Here Be Dragons!
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,420 views

Goodbye toy stores
By Cheryl Bac | 10 comments | 1,387 views


Short story writers wanted!

The 34th Annual Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest is now accepting entries for Adult, Young Adult and Teen categories. Send us your short story (2,500 words or less) and entry form by March 27, 2020. First, Second and Third Place prizes awarded in each category. Sponsored by Kepler's Books, Linden Tree Books and Bell's Books.

Contest Details