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Redwood City El Camino Real Safety Fixes Still Years Away

Hazardous and uncomfortable conditions greet people walking and bicycling on or along El Camino Real in Redwood City. Photos: Dyett & Bhatia

Hazardous and uncomfortable conditions greet people walking and bicycling on or along El Camino Real in Redwood City. Photos: Dyett & Bhatia

Redwood City hosted the first of two scheduled community meetings on its El Camino Real Corridor Plan last month, aiming to lay the groundwork for redeveloping commercial parcels along the roadway and transform it into a Complete Street. After this study is finished sometime next year, a separate study funded by a grant from Caltrans will pay for a new design to rebuild a one half-mile segment of the street that spans the Woodside Road interchange.

“It’s ultimately going to consist of a set of roadway and streetscape improvements, which improve mobility, safety, and aesthetics,” said Project Manager Sophie Martin of consulting firm Dyett & Bhatia, at the November 16 meeting.

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Motorist Convenience Still Trumps Safety in South San Francisco

South San Francisco plans to install bike lanes that will disappear to preserve these parking spaces on El Camino Real, right next to a large parking lot and five-story structure at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center. Photo: Google Maps

South San Francisco plans to install bike lanes that will disappear to preserve these parallel parking spaces on El Camino Real. Photo: Google Maps

South San Francisco will rebuild a one-mile segment of El Camino Real this Spring with wider sidewalks, safer crosswalks, curb extensions, pedestrian refuges, bike lanes, and new street trees planted in both the medians and sidewalks. However, the bike lanes won’t be continuous–to preserve curbside parking, in places they will disappear. And some intersections will remain dangerous to cross.

Stretching from McClellan Boulevard to Chestnut Avenue, the $4 million streetscape upgrade is the most extensive to date of a series of Grand Boulevard Initiative Complete Streets projects spearheaded by SamTrans and the cities located along that hazardous, auto-oriented arterial street. The city will reduce the speed limit along its entire 2.5-mile segment of El Camino Real from 40 to 35 miles per hour. New speed limit signs are to be installed in mid-December, whether permitting. Read more…

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San Mateo’s Highway 101/92 Interchange Eyed for Expansion

Another set of ramps even higher than the Highway 101/92 interchange's existing flyover ramps is among the potential traffic expansions under consideration by San Mateo County planners. Photo: Google Maps

Another set of ramps even higher than the Highway 101/92 interchange’s existing flyover is among the potential traffic expansions under consideration. Photo: Google Maps

San Mateo County’s transportation agencies are forging ahead with environmental studies of new lanes, ramps, and overpasses to add to the already massive interchange at Highways 101 and 92 in the city of San Mateo. Building on four previous studies stretching back to 2001, a new $500,000 study completed in June analyzed 25 different traffic expansion projects to remedy the interchanges “deficiencies” in carrying huge traffic volumes.

“Here’s a list of four short-term projects for $14 million, or we could start making investments in longer-term solutions,” explained county Transportation Authority (SMCTA) Director Joe Hurley to the agency’s Board of Directors last Thursday. “Based on how you want to package them, you could go with a $146 million project or you could go as high as a $353 million project.”

The “solutions” identified as winners by SMCTA include widening the existing partial cloverleaf on-ramps to two lanes, building new “direct connector” overpass ramps or adding new Highway 101 frontage roads and on-ramps [PDF]. The potential of the proposed traffic expansions to fix safety hazards that motorists currently face in navigating the interchange was also evaluated.

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San Mateo County Bike-Ped Advisory Boards Seek Applicants

Bike parking and access to trains for people bringing bicycles on-board are among the issues discussed by Caltrain's Bicycle Advisory Committee. Photo: Andrew Boone

Bike parking and on-board storage are issues discussed by Caltrain’s Bicycle Advisory Committee. Photo: Andrew Boone

Deadlines are near for several Board and Committee positions in San Mateo County. Applications are due today for two vacancies on the SamTrans Board of Directors, while the City/County Association of Governments seeks volunteers to fill four vacancies on its 15-member Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (C/CAG BPAC), due Nov. 14. Caltrain is taking applications for six of the nine seats of its Bicycle Advisory Committee, due Dec. 2.

The San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans), which operates 76 bus routes, allows non-elected residents to serve on its Board of Directors, unique among the county’s major transportation agencies. Four “public members” are appointed by the five elected officials serving on the Board, who are themselves appointed by the City Selection Committee, composed of the Mayors of all 20 cities in San Mateo County. This committee of Mayors also appoints fellow city council members to the boards of Caltrain, the San Mateo County Transportation Authority (SMCTA), the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), and other county and regional agencies.

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VTA Measure B’s Bloated Highway Expansions Leave Transit Unfunded

Decades of failed highway expansions haven't discouraged VTA from seeking more. The agency would allocate $1.85 billion to highway projects if Measure B passes. Photo: Andrew Boone

Decades of failed highway expansions haven’t discouraged VTA from seeking more. The agency would allocate $1.85 billion to highway projects if Measure B passes. Photo: Andrew Boone

The Valley Transportation Authority (VTA)’s proposed 30-year Measure B half-cent sales tax is bloated with billions of dollars in highway traffic expansions. If Santa Clara County voters pass Measure B on November 8, $1.85 billion would be lavished on highway projects while less than half that amount would go to bus, light rail, bicycling, and walking improvements combined over the next 30 years.

“We have no intention of leaving them stranded at the curb,” said Silicon Valley Leadership Group President and CEO Carl Guardino of “non-choice” VTA riders who don’t own a car, during a debate Wednesday afternoon on Measure B at De Anza College’s Student Senate. “That’s why half of a billion dollars is for lifeline service and core transit service to meet their needs.”

While $500 million for better bus and light rail service might sound like a lot, that’s the amount Measure B would invest over 30 years, and it’s just 8 percent of total revenues. This is only half the investment needed only to restore bus service to 2001 levels [PDF]. Just $250 million over 30 years, or 4 percent of revenues, would go into fixing hazards faced by people walking and bicycling.

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Palo Alto to Add Smart Bikes to Bike Share System

Palo Alto University Avenue Bay Area Bike Share

Palo Alto plans to replace these Bay Area Bike Share bikes with 350 new SoBi “smart bikes” in June 2017. Photo: Andrew Boone

On Tuesday evening, the Palo Alto City Council directed staff to continue contract negotiations for replacing the city’s existing 35 bike-share bikes with 350 new SoBi “smart bikes”. Unlike today’s Bay Area Bike Share bikes, SoBi bikes are equipped with an on-board lock so they aren’t dependent on fixed docking stations to operate. Customers can find the bikes using a GPS-based phone application, and can finish a rental by locking the bike to any city bike rack.

“The SoBi hubs are just designated locations, they’re just bike racks,” said Bikes Make Life Better co-founder Amy Harcourt by phone. “They give you the visibility and accessibility of bike share stations but with the flexibility to lock the bikes somewhere else, and at a lower cost.” Harcourt’s firm maintains a 50-bike SoBi bike-share system for the city of San Mateo, unveiled for Bike-to-Work Day this year on May 12.

Under the proposal [PDF], Palo Alto would buy its 350 SoBi bikes for $1.16 million, which would be maintained by bike-share company Motivate in exchange for all rental fees and advertising revenues earned from the system. Motivate will also operate an expanded 7,000-bike Bay Area Bike Share system in San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, Berkeley, and Emeryville, and plans to offer the same membership for renting bikes in Palo Alto as in those cities.

In early September, Motivate announced that it had secured a $50 million sponsorship deal with Ford Motor Company for its 7,000-bike system. As in the five other bike-share cities, Palo Alto’s SoBi bikes would “in all likelihood” also be branded as Ford GoBike, according to Chief Transportation Official Joshua Mello.

Bay Area Bike Share will be rebranded Ford Go Bike in 2017 when the system expands to over 7,000 bikes. Photo: Ford Motor Company

Bay Area Bike Share will be rebranded Ford Go Bike in 2017 when the system expands to over 7,000 bikes. Photo: Ford Motor Company

The city envisions expanding the bike-share system by another 350 SoBi bikes (for a total 700-bike system) in 2018 using an Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) Bike Share Capital Program grant.

“It would be $420,000 per year for another 350 bikes. It’s $100 per bike per month,” reported Mello to the City Council on the operating fees the city would pay on the second 350-bike installment. Unlike the proposed agreement between Motivate and Palo Alto, last year’s deal between Motivate and MTC doesn’t require any up-front or ongoing costs to the five participating cities.

Excluded from that deal as well as the current Bay Area Bike Share pilot program, the city of San Mateo struck out on its own, purchasing 50 SoBi bikes and securing a three-year operating contract with Bikes Make Life Better. Currently branded as Bay Bikes, San Mateo is still seeking a sponsor to earn advertising revenue and offset the system’s modest costs.

A SoBi bikes docking hub with large advertising panel. Photo: Social Bicycles

A SoBi bikes docking hub with large advertising panel. Photo: Social Bicycles

Palo Alto staff concluded that a SoBi “smart bike” system like San Mateo’s would cost less than expanding the city’s existing 35-bike “smart station” system under the current agreement between Motivate and MTC. The flexibility for customers to be able to lock the bikes anywhere (within a specified zone) also appealed to city planners.

Uninterested last year in operating its regional 7,000-bike system in “low density” areas, Motivate’s May 2015 agreement with MTC allows the company to remove the pilot Bay Area Bike Share bikes from Palo Alto, Mountain View, and Redwood City entirely. But landing Ford Motor Company this year as title sponsor for the expansion encouraged Motivate to reconsider abandoning the high-tech region. Ford opened its Research and Innovation Center in Palo Alto last year to develop autonomous vehicles, and the auto manufacturer is eager to re-brand itself as a high-tech “mobility company”.

Palo Alto staff plan to continue negotiations with Motivate and present a final contract for approval by the City Council in December. If approved, the initial 350-bike system would launch in June 2017.

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San Mateo County Drafts Business As Usual Transportation Plan

C/CAG hopes to ensure roadway widening "improvements" such as this one proposed for Woodside Road near downtown Redwood City are eligible for funding through Plan Bay Area 2040. Image: Caltrans

C/CAG wants widening “improvements,” such as this one proposed for Woodside Road near downtown Redwood City, eligible for funding through Plan Bay Area 2040. Image: Caltrans

Note the ‘call to action’ at the end of this post.

City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County (C/CAG) officials unveiled a draft update of the agency’s Countywide Transportation Plan [PDF], the first since 2001, at three community meetings last week. The new plan calls for billions of dollars in highway expansion projects [PDF] over the next 25 years while it ignores many potential transit and active transportation upgrades.

A complete draft of the plan was written in early 2016 by C/CAG planners in consultation with staff from other transportation agencies, including Caltrans and the San Mateo County Transportation District (Transportation Authority, Caltrain, SamTrans), prior to taking any public input. The agency hopes to approve a final version as early as December.

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Santa Clara Proposes New San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail Detours

Santa Clara closes a 1.2-mile segment of the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail to the public during events at Levi's Stadium, forcing people walking and bicycling on a two-mile detour. Photo: Andrew Boone

Santa Clara closed a 1.2-mile segment of the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail to the public during events at Levi’s Stadium, forcing people walking and bicycling on a two-mile detour. Photo: Andrew Boone

On Tuesday, the Santa Clara City Council approved a proposal [PDF] to build new detours of the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail, over two years after the construction of Levi’s Stadium has resulted in ongoing closures of the trail “to limit security breaches” on days with stadium events over 20,000 attendees. Despite objections from both the public and council that the stadium should pay for the improvements, city staff intend to seek up to $4 million in public grant funds instead.

“Fixing this problem should not be shouldered by any taxpayers. It should be shouldered squarely by the 49ers,” said Santa Clara City Clerk candidate Deborah Bress at the meeting. “This is a residual part of the construction of the stadium.”

The trail closures have forced people walking and bicycling on a confusing two-mile detour on city streets and through parking lots that includes heavy bus traffic. Now the city is proposing to construct a slightly shorter detour including a new path on the east side of the creek as a short-term fix for $1 million and a new undercrossing of the trail under the stadium’s pedestrian access bridges as a permanent solution for $3 million. Read more…

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SamTrans Pushes Both Transit and Traffic Expansions for Dumbarton Bridge

Bicyclists approach the Dumbarton Bridge from the west. Photo: Jun Seita / Flickr

Bicyclists approach the Dumbarton Bridge from the west. Photo: Jun Seita / Flickr

SamTrans officials presented an update on the agency’s Dumbarton Transportation Corridor Study at two community meetings this week, fielding questions from residents on ways the agency is hoping to provide better transit service over the Dumbarton Bridge. Facebook donated $1 million to the agency in January for the transportation study, which it hopes can expand commute options for its workers and cut traffic near the company’s Menlo Park headquarters on Willow Road.

While the long-envisioned Dumbarton Rail project to rebuild a cross-Bay rail bridge to carry passenger trains between Redwood City Caltrain and Union City BART is still alive in the study as a long-term (2030) option, a more frequent and expanded Dumbarton Express bus service tops the agency’s list as the most effective improvement that can be funded and implemented within five years.

“The cost of the [rail] bridge rehab ranges from $330 to $348 million in 2011 dollars, which would be up using 2016 dollars,” said Principal Planner Melissa Reggiardo at Monday’s community meeting in Newark.

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San Mateo County Highway 101 Expansion Moves Ahead With Express Lanes

Options for Highway 101 in San Mateo County include widening it from 8 to 10 traffic lanes to install standard carpool lanes or express lanes, or converting an existing lane into an express lane. Image: TransForm

Options for Highway 101 in San Mateo County include widening it from 8 to 10 traffic lanes to install standard carpool lanes or express lanes, or converting an existing lane into an express lane. Image: TransForm

San Mateo County’s effort to expand Highway 101 from eight to ten traffic lanes moves ahead next month when an $11.5 million update of the project’s environmental review begins. County transportation officials had planned since 2009 to expand the highway with standard carpool lanes, but agreed last year to consider installing Express Lanes as well, an option favored by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC).

Express lanes are free for buses and carpools, but charge a toll to solo drivers during congested hours to ensure the lane remains free-flowing, and have been installed on Highways 680, 880, 580, and 237. If built on Highway 101 in San Mateo County, express lanes would someday extend for 58 miles from San Bruno through San Mateo and Santa Clara counties to Morgan Hill.

“The idea here is that we would create a more reliable travel time within that lane and that overall we increase the person throughput,” explained San Mateo County Transportation Authority (SMCTA) Deputy Project Manager Leo Scott to the agency’s Board of Directors in May when the express lane options were announced.  “We only expect more trips later, and with limited right-of-way, the best use of [Highway 101] is to get more people in fewer vehicles.”

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