What Describes How Most Councilpersons Manage Traffic in Their Towns?
Bold Leadership Help Us Reach New Heights.
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Everyday Life on the Peninsula
On Oct 22 the Palo Alto City Council held a study session focused only on traffic. Citizen response was robust and clear – The City must do more!
This issue is dedicated to local transportation solutions, i.e. solutions within the control of city councils. We will also focus on land use decisions which balance transportation with housing and jobs.
Viable solutions can evolve to reduce the traffic burden on residents and commuters only if councils set priorities and allocate resources.
Respectfully, Editors Neilson Buchanan and John Guislin
What is Council Leadership?
This issue starts a 6-month a case study of Palo Alto’s council leadership. Palo Alto’s study session on Oct 22 may offer a 2019 learning opportunity to all city councils on the Peninsula. We hope so.Traffic and transportation need leadership by example.
Getting Going: 3 Ways in Palo Alto
#1 Bias for Action
Traffic congestion, safety issues, spillover cut-thru traffic, etc. are everyday realities in Palo Alto and many peninsula cities.
Each year Palo Alto conducts a scientific survey of residents’ opinions. Traffic is consistently rated as major concern. Palo Alto is commuter town. Only God know what commuters must think!
One neighborhood assumed leadership and challenges the status quo.
Palo Alto Online
#2 Mayoral Mea Culpa
On July 30 Mayor Liz Kniss stated during a Council meeting “…I think you’ll find that the traffic is not as overwhelming as you might think.” This resulted in national news, regional TV coverage and startled citizens. She quickly apologized and her apology was accepted. Mayor Kniss, the Council and staff scheduled a special Town Hall Traffic Study Session.
#3 Neighborhood Voices
Citizen leaders from multiple neighborhoods took proactive action. No pitchforks….no flaming torches. One neighborhood conducted a formal citizen survey with Survey Monkey. Another neighborhood convened face-to-face meeting and followed up by email. Another individual deployed technology and surveyed traffic in front of his home. Other neighborhoods are looking at their hot-spots and will communicate to city staff.
Palo Alto Weekly
Double Quick Action? Or Double Talk?
Will Palo Alto Council Blaze a Trail and Respond to a Heavily Attended Townhall Meeting on Traffic
Residents Sound Off
For Palo Alto residents exasperated by worsening traffic congestion, the city offered some hopeful news: Help is on the way…..expect delays. Many argued for moratorium on commercial development. Some came armed with surveys, data sets and anecdotes. One citizen installed a camera at his house for car counts and documented 33% increase from 2013 to 2018. Close to 100 residents participated and over 30 testified. Another resident made the case for halting commercial development until city solves traffic problems. He said the city of Palo Alto is transitioning into a corporate-office park.
Palo Alto Weekly
Ed. Comment: Palo Alto has a snarl. Transportation Department is not staffed or funded to address its problems. The new comprehensive plan is not funded adequately. The City Council is in lame duck status until January and a new city manager has just begun to organize his senior staff.
When might the new city council set new, funded priorities? A good target date is the first council meeting in April. For the record, the Oct 22 audience was polled to see if the business community was in attendance. Less than a handful were interested enough to attend the town hall meeting.
NBC Bay Area TV Taking Mayor to Task
ABC 7 TV Citizens create survey to spotlight traffic
Boom and Bloom of a Lifetime
Scary: Economic Known Unknowns
Boomtown mentalities understandably drive most Peninsula City Councils. Profound economic success creates greater and greater imbalance with housing, traffic and incomes. Many leaders, not all, are dazzled by dollars just like King Midas. Google the timeless story of desire and atonement.
Most councils struggle with quality of life policies when development opportunities dominate Council and staff time.
If the economy sours, all blooms are off.
What’s next for Palo Alto? Only time will tell! Necessary ingredients to manage traffic are not in place. City budgets are not aligned for transportation management. A new city manager has just been promoted. City transportation department is not fully staffed. On January 1 the City Council shrinks from nine to seven. Three new council persons will soon be seated for 4-year terms..
There is a bigger question. Can city councils learn from each other?
Worst of the Worst
Roads in the Bay Area were the worst in the nation and accounted for high costs to drivers. Road congestion alone costs Peninsula residents $1,475 a year.This does not include costs resulting from deteriorating road conditions or accidents.
The full report on 2016 road conditions can be found here
Ed. Comment: The issue is not simply roads. The issue is massively imbalanced transportation, jobs and housing aggravated by every city council’s land use decisions.
Waves of Jobs Predicted
“Santa Clara County is the high-flying part of the Bay Area,” said Robert Kleinhenz, an economist with Beacon Economics. “The South Bay has a remarkable job market.”
One trend has clearly emerged this year: Santa Clara County’s economy has galloped ahead of the nine-county region’s two other major urban centers during the last 12 months.
Ed. Comment: Job surge is real and it makes instantaneous impact upon Peninsula traffic….and housing, schools, demand for services, water, utilities, etc.
Over the Top Office Growth
Silicon Valley’s tech boom has fueled an appetite for office buildings that is poised to propel the region to its best leasing market in years, new research reports indicate.
The demand for office space appears to exceed the supply of completed properties, according to separate reports from commercial realty firms Cushman & Wakefield and Colliers International.
Ed. Comment: Office markets are going through the roof. New leases with higher density create instantaneous traffic.
Everyone is on a Dangerous Ledge
Jobs Zoom Past Housing Supply
The Bay Area is a hot place to build cubicles, conference rooms and office suites. But don’t look for as many hammers pounding out new homes, condos and apartments.
The region is expected to open 18.2 million square feet of office space in 2018 — tops in the nation and more than New York City and Dallas combined — while home, condo and apartment construction has grown only modestly.
San Jose Mercury News
Ed. Comment: What are our government leaders and Tech Titans thinking? We see no plausible mid-term scenario for over-heated construction industry to match housing development with demand.
Furthermore, the basic laws of economics in a gold rush apply. Construction costs are zooming far ahead of the CPI. Therefore, housing is more and more unaffordable. We welcome expert opinion to the contrary.
November Will Bring Fall Colors and New Features
We are gearing up our commentary post-election. Two newsletters a month will be leveraging your local newspapers’ best articles.
We will step up humor in these challenging times. And we will prescribe a drop or two of satire.
Aggravate the Comfortable
Comfort the Aggravated
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Editors, Neilson Buchanan and John Guislin, are unpaid, private citizens on the SF Peninsula and have no ties to developers or government organizations.