News

Commuters get green light on Alameda

The avenue of the fleas — the Alameda de las Pulgas — may be becoming more of a royal road for commuters through West Menlo Park as they acclimate to the new traffic-light timing.

Since October, Alameda traffic from 7:30 to 9 a.m. and 4:30 to 6 p.m. has been treated to longer green lights between Santa Cruz and Valparaiso avenues. The county acted in response to residents' complaints of cut-through traffic on parallel arterials such as Altschul and Cloud avenues.

Meanwhile, drivers entering the Alameda from side streets may find themselves queuing more often.

With the new timing, a passage uninterrupted by crossing pedestrians or slow traffic would allow a platoon of vehicles traveling at the speed limit to see four green lights, said Lisa Ekers, the road operations manager for the San Mateo County Public Works Division.

"Things have to resettle as the drivers relearn their timing and speed," Ms. Ekers said. "People will eventually learn the pace that gets them through all the greens."

The impact, so far, on cut-through traffic? "None whatsoever," said Mike Maletic, a Cloud Avenue resident who represents the Val Avy Group, a loose collection of about 40 households between Valparaiso and Avy avenues who complained to the county.

"We're never been really sold on the idea that improving the flow on Alameda would solve our problem," he added.

Asked to comment, Ms. Ekers replied that people's views may differ and that she has heard the opposite, that traffic is down on Altschul and Cloud.

Give it six months, she added. Public works will evaluate traffic volume and speeds then and make adjustments as necessary.


School impacted

Discontent with the new timing is evident at La Entrada middle school on Sharon Road a fifth of a mile west of the Alameda.

PTA member Kristin Smith, in a recent letter to Supervisor Rich Gordon (reprinted in the Dec. 5 Almanac), described vehicle queues backed up to the school while waiting for the light to change; pedestrians, including children, crossing against red lights; and impatient drivers giving up and driving through extended red lights when the Alameda is empty.

"My biggest concern is for the students trying to get to school," she said. "My son has seen students crossing the Alameda on red lights, and I have seen many pedestrians cross on red lights since the timing was changed."

Assistant Principal Pattie Dullea said the school continually advises students to cross the street safely. The morning vehicle queues on Sharon Road are complicating student drop-offs, including for the buses, she said.

In her letter, Ms. Smith asks Mr. Gordon to change the timing back to what it was before.

Mr. Gordon, in an interview, described the matter as a cost-benefit analysis seeking the greatest good for the greatest number of people. "We will try to fully understand what is the impact on Sharon (Road) and if there is any way to tweak that to make it better," he said.


Rush hour

Cloud Avenue, by Mr. Maletic's back-of-the-envelope calculations, should have 200 trips a day but endures 1,400 according to a county estimate, he said.

Inappropriate speed and belligerence from cut-through drivers is a common problem, he said. He sometimes cruises his street at 18 to 20 mph to set an example, but drivers try to pass him. "I feel we have the right to have neighborhood traffic, not 35 to 40 mph traffic," he said. "We really want a safe place for our kids to be in the street without being hit."

The 3-foot-high plastic yellow and green men sticking their warning flags into traffic have been tried, but they are stolen or run down, he said, adding: "I'd need to have about 15,000 of those."

Some commuters even avoid traffic counters. He said he has seen people drive up onto his lawn or even turn around to avoid tripping one.

Ideally, the residents would like their roads closed to commuters or maybe made into one-way streets, but "we're not really sure which way," he said.

Comments

Posted by LLOYD HUFF, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 13, 2007 at 6:10 am

I GREW UP ON CLOUD AVENUE IN THE 1950'S WE OF COURSE NEVER HAD THAT PROBLEM ALL OF US KIDS COULD PLAY AND RIDE OUR BIKES IN THE STREET WITHOUT THE CONTINUAL FEAR OF BEING RUN OVER BY SPEEDING MOTORIST.

POSSIBLE SOLUTION- PUT A PATROL CAR ON THE STREET, NOBODY LIKES A BIG FINE OR AN INCREASE IN THIER INSURANCE PREMIUM OR TIME SPENT IN COURT. IF THAT DOES'NT WORK BUILD SIGNIFICANTLY HIGH SPEED BUMPS.
FINALLY, FOR ANY SPEDDERS READING THIS- GIVE THE REST OF US A BREAK AND SPEED AROUND THE HOUSE IF YOUR IN A HURRY NOT OUT IN THE STREET.


Posted by All cost, no benefit, a resident of another community
on Dec 13, 2007 at 12:38 pm

Sacrificing safety, especially that of children, for convenience is never a good deal. Mr. Gordon's cost-benefit analysis is flawed. How many children's lives is he willing to give up to save a bit of time for adults in cars?


Posted by go bears, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 13, 2007 at 9:18 pm

Gordon's just trying to lead all the commuters into the former MP mayor Steve Schmidt
led mega intersection at Sand Hill/Santa Cruz to feed the Stanford development monster. All of the adjacent residential streets in the Sand Hill/Santa Cruz/Alameda are feeling the pain because their clueless elected "leaders" don't live in the area (Gordon lives in Menlo Oaks near the VA, east Menlo, and Schmidt still lives in the Willows, east Menlo) so how can you expect them to have any day to day, first hand appreciation of the problem. Of course, they have this "regionalism" infection that is fashionable today but lacks the intuitive local planning insight. What they have done is give nearly unlimited development options to Stanford at our expense. Until you understand that the Almanac panders to the likes of Schmidt and Gordon you will not appreciate how we have been sold out to Stanford.


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