Viewpoint - June 4, 2008

Guest Opinion: No need for another bike tunnel study

by Steve Schmidt

In light of Menlo Park's anticipated $1 million deficit for the 2008-09 budget year, the recent City Council decision to spend $41,000 on a study for a bicycle under-crossing is a $41,000 mistake.

Another study is the last thing we need. Since 1994 this project has been identified in our general plan as a badly needed addition to the city's transportation infrastructure. Over the years several sites have been studied, all of which revealed well-documented costs and benefits.

Authorizing another expensive and redundant study appears to be another example of substituting words for action. Studying a concept is not the same as implementing a project. The city has recently added transportation staff that could dig up the history on this project and determine where the suitable locations are and the nature of their constraints.

In opposing the study, council member John Boyle contends that we should wait until the El Camino visioning is complete; resident Sue Kayton wants to wait for Caltrain to remodel before funding a study.

What's to study? Everybody knows that the tracks are a barrier for residents traveling between homes, schools, jobs and shopping. The tracks create insurmountable safety problems for school children and are a major cause of traffic congestion at Hillview Middle School and Menlo-Atherton High School. Twice a day, parents are justifiably forced to chauffeur their kids from home to school and back. One or more under-crossings will enable us to actually have bona fide safe routes to school and offer everyone more viable alternatives to driving around Menlo Park.

Let's not speculate on Caltrain's future plans in order to delay Menlo Park's progress. Caltrain's improvements, which are not likely to look much different than what we have today, can be designed in harmony with what we build. A developer will want to design an El Camino project around an under-crossing to take advantage of the pedestrian and bicycle access from either side of the tracks that will enhance the "European Village" ambiance.

Since 2002 Menlo Park city councils have alternately used the under-crossing concept as an election season political football or a green-washed talking point. It's time to stop fooling around and get something done.

I urge the four council members who voted for the $41,000 study last week to reconsider their votes and put our well-paid staff to work and accomplish something. Fourteen years is a long time to fulfill a fundamental element of the general plan. It is disingenuous for the city to conduct the 18-month Green Ribbon Citizens Committee exercise and then use a study so that no one has to reveal a position before the November City Council election.

Steve Schmidt lives on Central Avenue and is a former council member and mayor of Menlo Park.


Posted by Wow, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 4, 2008 at 10:27 pm

I do not know Steve personally, but I have seen him around town alot, and know he is an avid cyclist, and former member of the council. Though I do not always agree with him, I whole heartedly agree with him here. Replicating old work for the zillionth time seems a short sighted waste of money, and is classic government waste. Take the most recent studies, and go from there. Save the money for the construction, not another duplicate study. Well said Steve.

Posted by Joanna, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 5, 2008 at 1:54 pm

$41k for a bike study? Wow, someone's getting fleeced. How do I get that job???

I'll even undercut the current study companies. I'll study El Camino Real and Menlo Ave for a mere $35k. Any takers?

Posted by all over again, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 6, 2008 at 6:14 am

After watching the Tuesday council meeting, I just shook my head and burst out laughing. Here is the council having their serious discussion, noting that the proposed budget is forecast at over $1MM in deficit and the consensus is that we don't have to worry about that; it will all work out.

Nonsense. This is the same scenario when Jellins refused to make cuts some years ago and the next year had to make serious cuts because of the situation was getting worse and out of hand. Jellins certainly didn't was to get on the wrong side of the unions did he?

What is with our council? The hand writing is on the wall. There was no discussion that the forward looking budgets are all showing large deficits, year after year. Its tine now to fix the problem.

Staff loves to do studies and this council seems to be in love with studies. At least someone is in love with studies, because the number outlined is ridiculous.

Some years ago we hired a business development manager. He was supposed to bring in new business. Where is the new business? This year we hire an additional business manager. Boy we love to hire more people. Boy we don't get results.

I suppose our City is no worse than others around us, but we sure are no better either.

Maybe we should recall the whole council and start completely over. One thing is for sure, this group, although not beholden to the developers and land owners like the Jellins, DuBoc, Winkler crowd, certainly is not doing a satisfactory job.

Posted by truth, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jun 6, 2008 at 9:41 am

I said it to Joanna and I'll say it to you "all over again", if you think you have the business sense to do it better, grow some stones and run for the seat. In one little post you threw three councils under the bus and the city staff.

Joanna accuses me of being an apologist for this council.

I get sick of the folks who sit back and whine and complain under pseudonyms and do nothing to help our community. Nothing.

This city is in better shape than most cities across the entire Bay Area. The principles of finance and management have been time tested and we are in the position we are because of the time and effort of Jellins and past councils of Schmidt and this current council.

You guys have been pitching doom and gloom far too long and your voices fall on deaf ears because of it. That and the fact that you hide like insects when the light gets turned on.

Posted by Cassandra of Troy, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 9, 2008 at 7:01 pm

If the high speed bond issue passes this November, there will be four new bike tunnels under the tracks, all of them large enough for cars!

Posted by tom, a resident of another community
on Jun 10, 2008 at 8:09 am

Whoooosh! That's the sound of another very good point, this time being made by Steve, Wow and AOA, flying over Truth's head. $41K to re-study something that has already been studied to death is a waste of money. Add that money to the $15K that was paid to PG&E's favorite charity and the the $10K that is rumored to being considered to pay off a libel claim and suddenly you have $66K. See how fast money can be wasted? At about $50/pot hole, that would fix a lot of pot holes.

Posted by Cassandra is right, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jun 10, 2008 at 8:34 am

No need to do another study, but with the high speed train on the next ballot, no point in doing anything for six months. If that measure fails (despite the fact that lots of people with deep pockets that they want to fill with cash will be trying to get you to vote for it) then we can come back to the issue of bike tunnels.

Posted by truth, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jun 10, 2008 at 9:13 am


I think you can file papers in August if you want to run. Any takers? Obviously you all think you know better and those councils are all stupid, wrong and bordering on corruption. You are the fixer and the decider we all need!

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