Peninsula Transportation Alternatives has moved!

Peninsula Transportation Alternatives is growing and so we’ve moved to our very own website – With our own site we can provide additional services that will help us all work more effectively together to provide safe, convenient transportation alternatives for the San Francisco Peninsula.

This old version of the site will remain as an archive, but no new information will be posted here, and comments have been disabled. See you on the new website!

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Palo Alto considers update to transportation in its comprehensive plan

On August 29, the Palo Alto Planning and Transportation Commission considered revisions to the transportation element of its comprehensive plan.

Palo Alto has been a strong role models in the region for environmentally friendly transportation planning supporting biking, walking, and transit. The new draft plan has valuable new provisions bolstering these goals, including
* an explicit goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions
* concentrating development near transit
* incorporating multiple modes of transportation in planning and goals
* adding standards for “Level of Service” for multiple modes of transportation, not only vehicles
* strengthening the city’s policies regarding Transportation Demand Management
* incorporating Safe Routes to School policies.

The revisions to the Comprehensive Plan continue and strengthen Palo Alto’s policy to refrain from the harmful practice of using automotive level of service as the pre-emininent metric and road-widening as the pre-eminent tactic to measure and address transportation capacity. The consideration of multi-modal level of service, and the clarification that there are goals that can over-ride auto LOS are beneficial.

One of the notable features of the plan includes a commitment to work cooperatively with neighboring jurisdictions and agencies to implement policies. Everyday travel routes cross jurisdictional boundaries, so this willingness to work on collaborative solutions will help make Palo Alto an effective leader and achieve more powerful results.

There are several improvements that would help Palo Alto achieve its goals further.

* Explore options to enable Transportation Management Associations to get more results from Transportation Demand Management policies. These organizations allow multiple businesses to invest together to support a TDM program. Currently the region’s largest employers – Stanford, Google, Facebook – have achieved impressive results with their TDM programs, achieving over 50% nondrivealone more share (Stanford) and over 40% (Google, Facebook) respectively. By allowing smaller businesses and residential developments to buy into TDM, the benefits of TDM can be brought to a much wider range of Palo Alto transportation users and provide a much greater level of congestion relief, lower parking demand, and environmental benefit.

Oregon is a pioneer in implementing TMAs. For example, th Lloyd District in Portland successfully reduced drivealone mode share from 80% to 40% over 15 years with the use of a TMA for multiple employers.

* More robust multi-modal measurement and analysis. Palo Alto is currently planning to conduct a web-based multi-modal transportation survey. This is a good first start toward having an accurate understanding of transportation, and therefore toward targeting policies to achieve the goals. Palo Alto should have a goal of accurately measuring transportation use in all modes.

* Mode share goals. It is excellent that Palo Alto is incorporating its Greenhouse Gas reduction targets into the Transportation Element of the Comprehensive Plan. In order to make progress toward this goal more transparent and easier to integrate into core transportation and land use planning processes, it would be useful to translate this Greenhouse Gas goal into its equivalents in VMT and Mode Share. By measuring and stating a goal in terms of mode share, Palo Alto can more easily target and evaluate its policies. For example, Palo Alto could measure transportation mode share in the downtown area and set a goal to reduce it from 65% drivealone to 50% drivealone during the plan period. (numbers are hypothetical).

* Goal-setting. There are several other techniques used in nearby jurisdictions that Palo Alto may also wish to consider measure results.
* Trip time measurement. With the Charleston/Arastradero project, city staff used corridor trip time rather than intersection delay to evaluate results. This is a valuable technique that could be used for other corridors as well.
* Auto Trips Generated. San Francisco is in the process of revising its planning process to focus on an “Auto Trips Generated” metric. New developments that increase ATG pay into a fund that can be used for multi-modal improvements.

* Parking management. The section on Parking describes the various goals and options relating to Palo Alto’s ongoing process to study parking solutions in the downtown area, with the ability to add policies based on those solutions. However, the section on Parking also starts with a detailed description of today’s “zone parking” system. It might be more clear if there was a sentence indicating that this exiting policy could potentially be modified as a result of the ongoing study and policy revisions.

These improvements could help Palo Alto achieve its mission of strengthening multimodal transportation.

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Share your thoughts online about the proposed Bay Trail design

You can comment online about the proposed design for the Bay Trail segment to complete the gap near Facebook.

The MidPeninsula Regional Open Space District gave a presentation yesterday in Menlo Park about the proposed design to fill the gap. The proposed new trail segment is about .6 miles long. It will connect to the segment that Facebook has promise to build parallel to University, will run for about half the distance on what is currently a construction access road used for the SFPUC Hetch Hetchy project. The remaining connection will have sections of paved trail over dirt, and boardwalk over wetland.

Some of the comments at last night’s meeting included adding pedestrian extensions for birdwatchers, so they can stand and observe wildlife out of the way of joggers and cyclists; considering how to accommodate people at different speeds (without asking cyclists to walk), and avoiding 90% and sharper turns for bike safety.

There will be another in-person meeting to look at big pictures of the design and give comments, at East Palo Alto City Hall, Monday night 9/24 at 6pm.

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Monday 9/10 and 9/24 – public design review for the Bay Trail Gap

On Monday September 10 in Menlo Park, and Monday September 24 in East Palo Alto, there are two upcoming meetings to review the design for the Bay Trail missing link near the Dumbarton Bridge.

Located near Facebook and the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge, the design for the Bay Trail segment will need to balance the goals of wildlife protection, people walking for recreation, and people riding bikes for enjoyment and commuting. If you care about this Bay Trail segment, and how the design will balance these goals, please come to one of these meetings:

Monday, Sept 10, 6-7pm
Arrillaga Family Rec. Center
700 Alma Street Menlo Park

Monday, Sept 24, 6-7pm
East Palo Alto City Hall
2415 University Ave, East Palo Alto

See the invitation for more information

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San Jose’s New Buffered Bike Lanes Benefit Everyone

San Jose has just done something unheard of in Silicon Valley – the city converted car lanes on several blocks of 3th, 4th, 10th, and 11th streets in downtown, all busy one-way streets with 3 lanes in each direction – a total of 8 miles [1] – to extra wide bike lanes separated by painted buffers from the remaining two lanes of vehicle traffic. What’s going on?

Buffered Bike Lane on 4th Street in San Jose

San Jose’s new wide buffered bike lanes provide much more physical separation from vehicle traffic and parked cars than typical bike lanes.

San Jose City Council member Sam Liccardo explained in his most recent blog post, Why Bikes Matter, how the innovative new bike lanes will benefit everyone, not just bicyclists, by making streets safer, improving health, and boosting local businesses.

San Jose City Council Member Sam Liccardo

San Jose City Council Member Sam Liccardo is a strong supporter of bicycling.

The new buffered bike lanes are just the first examples of one of the most exciting elements of what the city’s Bike Plan 2020 (adopted late-2009) calls “Primary Bikeways”, which will comprise a network of enhanced cross-town bikeways (bike paths, lanes, and routes) featuring bike boulevards, green bike lanes, urban trails, and physically separated bike lanes. Similar to how our network of freeways and expressways provide convenient routes for high volumes of motor vehicles, Primary Bikeways are designed to support greater numbers of bicyclists of various skill levels. San Jose hopes to double its existing network of bikeways to 500 miles by 2020, investing over $20 million of funds to be provided mostly by federal, state, regional, and county grant programs [2].

Is it worth it? Of course bicycling would become more convenient, but how does that benefit everyone else? What about residents who might never even ride a bike?

San Jose Bike Plan 2020 Bikeway Network Map

San Jose plans to construct a connected network of 500 miles of cross-town bikeways to support greater numbers of bicyclists of a variety of skill levels.

Less Traffic Congestion, More Available Parking
A comprehensive, city-wide network of such high-quality bike lanes would reduce traffic congestion and free up vehicle parking spaces because many residents who currently drive would feel safe bicycling on city streets. Motorists and pedestrians also benefit from better bike lanes because providing a safe, comfortable space on the streets for bicycles results in fewer bicycles on the sidewalks (which are a hazard for pedestrians) and in vehicle lanes (which block vehicle traffic and inconvenience motorists).

Car AccidentFewer Traffic Accidents
Converting vehicle lanes to wide buffered bike lanes also makes our streets safer for everyone, since these “road diets” have been consistently shown to reduce average vehicle speeds, and each 1 mph of speed reduction results in about 5% fewer traffic accidents [3]. Speeding is a factor in about one-third of all traffic fatalities, killing over 10,000 Americans every year (the leading cause of death for those under age 35), and costing over $40 billion dollars per year [4].

Better for Local Business, Higher Property Values
Reducing traffic volumes and speeds (and therefore, noise), also increases sales for local businesses since the streets become more pleasant and attractive places for shoppers to visit and spend time (and money). Residential property values also increase because such streets are more desirable places to live [5].

Valencia Street Walkable Bikeable

A more pedestrian and bicycle friendly Valencia Street in San Francisco (since a road diet in 1999) has reduced traffic accidents while improving sales for local merchants.

Cheaper Transit and Road Maintenance
More pedestrians and bicyclists also increases transit ridership, since residents who walk or bike often include the bus or train in their trips. This helps reduce public subsidies needed to operate transit systems. More walking, bicycling, and transit use also saves public dollars spent on fixing streets, since there’s less wear and tear on street surfaces and fewer car accidents that damage public infrastructure and require police and fire services.

Lower Transportation Costs
Being able to walk, bike, or use transit for more trips would also reduce transportation costs, since many residents could spend less on gas and car insurance, and some individuals and families could own fewer vehicles or even choose to live car-free, as many younger workers, especially those living in or near downtown, are choosing to do. In fact, per capita vehicle ownership peaked nationwide back in 2007 and has been dropping ever since [6].

Improved Health
Making streets safe and comfortable for walking and bicycling also improves our health by enabling more residents to get exercise without even thinking about it – while walking or bicycling to work, shopping, or entertainment destinations. This helps reduce our alarmingly high and still increasing rates of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease, and the high health care costs associated with treating those diseases.

Will It Work?
But will enough residents actually choose bicycling to make it worth the investment in the required bikeway infrastructure? After all, currently only about 1% of San Jose residents normally ride a bike to work. The experience of other cities shows that constructing a great bikeway network is actually very cheap compared to other transportation investments, and it doesn’t take much to get a lot more people bicycling. Back in 1990, only 1% of Portland, Oregon residents normally biked to work, but that figure has jumped to about 8% now [7], which equals about 50,000 residents. Portland has spent about $60 million on bicycle-related street improvements in that time, which the city estimates is equivalent to the cost of just a single mile of new urban highway [8].

Portland Tweed Bike Ride

Bicycling has increased eight-fold in Portland, Oregon over the last 20 years with the gradual expansion of the city’s cross-town network of safe and comfortable bikeways.

Other large cities, including San Francisco, Seattle, Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and New York have also seen substantial increases in bicycle use. San Jose is just beginning to join the ranks of these and other bicycle-friendly cities by installing innovative bikeways that are safe and comfortable for many more residents.

If San Jose’s Bike Plan 2020 vision of 500 miles of cross-town bikeways is actually constructed, everyone will benefit  from safer and quieter streets, cleaner air, and lower transportation and health care costs – even those who may never ride bike at all.

1. New Bike Lanes Introduced to Downtown Streets, Kim Diaz, San, August 13, 2012.

2. San Jose Bike Plan 2020, Tables, Final, Table 4, Bicycle Facilities: Past Expenditures & Future Financial Needs, City of San Jose, November 19, 2009.

3. Speed, Speed Limits and Accidents, D.J. Finch, P. Kompfner, C.R. Lockwood, and G. Maycock, Transport Research Laboratory (, Report 58, 1994.

4. Traffic safety facts, 2008: speeding. Report no. DOT HS-811-166, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, US Department of Transportation, 2009.

5. Traffic Calming has Positive Economic Effects on Small Businesses and Property Values, East Arlington Livable Streets Coalition, July 25, 2009.

6. Highway Statistics, State Motor Vehicle Registrations, Table MV-1, Federal Highway Administration. Monthly Population Estimates for the United States: April 1, 2000 to December 1, 2010 (NA-EST2009-01), U.S. Census Bureau.

7. ‘Youth Magnet’ Cities Hit Midlife Crisis, Conor Dougherty, The Wall Street Journal, May 16, 2009.

8. Portland Mayor Sam Adams says Portland’s spent on its bike infrastructure what it would normally spend on a single mile of highway,, 2012.

Posted in Bicycling, Planning, San Jose | 2 Comments

Santa Clara County trail funding moves forward

Today, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors approved a timeline and process to allocate $10.4 million in Trail funding. The money was originally provided by Stanford as mitigation in the 2000 General Use Permit agreement with Santa Clara County.

The top two projects recommended by Supervisors Kniss and Cortese were the Bay Trail gap near the Dumbarton Bridge, and the Adobe Creek bike/ped bridge over 101. Palo Alto is likely to submit more projects, and Stanford is rumored to be submitting an application for a jogging trail around the perimeter of campus.

The deadline for projects to apply for the funding is September 6, projects will be posted publicly on September 10, and the public hearing for allocating the funds is October 9.

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Tuesday the Santa Clara Supervisors could move Bay Trail funding forward

In June, the Santa Clara Board of Supervisors delayed a decision about the process to invest $10.4 million in trail funding. The money was dedicated to spend on trails back in 2000 to compensate for the Dish Trail spur extensions that were closed for campus expansion.

The Bay Trail Gap near Facebook is one of the top projects proposed for the use of the money, as is the Adobe Creek Bridge over 101 in Palo Alto.

On Tuesday August 7, after a few months of delay, the Supes are once again considering how to spend the money. They are planning to vote – not yet on which projects to fund – but on a process to review projects and make a decision by October 9.

For full details, see the

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