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Why are 30 people allowed to gridlock El Camino every day?

Original post made by Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood, on Feb 10, 2013

Menlo Park is the only jurisdiction south of Highway 84 that devotes one of the three lanes of ECR to parking - allowing about 30 people to create gridlock for thousands of others.

ECR traffic moves smoothly through Atherton and Palo Alto but comes to a standstill in Menlo Park. And just look at the problems that a handful of parked cars cause to traffic turning onto ECR from Ravenswood.

Why is this good public policy? Has anyone computed the cost in lost time and gasoline from the self inflicted bottleneck?

And the cost to change it - a can of paint and some no parking signs - cheap.

Comments (71)

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Posted by pedestrian
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 10, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Please don't change the Menlo Park part of ECR into a race track like in Atherton where pedestrians are regularly getting mowed down. Safety first.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 10, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

With the number of traffic lights in Menlo Park and the protected pedestrian crossings that they provide there have not been and will not be "pedestrians ... regularly getting mowed down."


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 10, 2013 at 3:29 pm

pedestrian:

the problem in Atherton with pedestrians and ECR are unprotected cross walks. Most of the intersections, especially in down town Menlo are light controlled and thus protected. Pedestrian vs auto collisions are highly unlikely under those conditions. The parking needs to go, as do the dedicated right turn lanes.


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Posted by painter
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 10, 2013 at 4:06 pm

Peter, while I don't disagree with you much on the thought, I find your 'cherry-picking' of data to be disingenuous.

" the only jurisdiction south of Highway 84"

Just a block north of 84, RC has a 2 lane stretch. As does Belmont.

That said, I'll be happy to bring the paint.

On top of that, it's time to look at a 2 story parking structure nearby.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 10, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

No cherry picking involved - I specified both the domain and the data.


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Posted by Adina
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 10, 2013 at 8:21 pm

I think some folk are greatly overestimating the benefit we'd get by widening El Camino.

ECR is in between the 101 and 280. If ECR gets a little faster, more people are going to stay on ECR instead of going out to the freeway and the capacity is likely to be used up instantly.

The region - for that matter, the country - has plenty of multi-lane arterials in the middle of residential and commercial areas, where you need to get into a car to be able to cross the street. Is that what we want for Menlo Park?

How many of El Camino's trips are actually very short trips - 1-2 miles, local errands with someone driving alone in a car. How many of these short errands could be replaced by walking or biking?

It is stressful to deal with the traffic, but how much of the traffic is "us"? How much could we prevent by driving a bit less?


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Posted by painter
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 10, 2013 at 8:59 pm

Adina asks a lot of rhetorical questions, but makes only one claim: "If ECR gets a little faster, more people are going to stay on ECR instead of going out to the freeway"

Possibly, to some negligible degree. I can't imagine it would be a noticeable amount.

Peter: yes, you picked the domain. Cherry-picked it at a point a block away from another 2 lane stretch - that's all I meant.


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Posted by Adina
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 10, 2013 at 9:11 pm

@painter, the questions aren't rhetorical. Before deciding what to do with El Camino, the city needs to study the issues. Two topics for study include "induced demand" related to El Camino's location, and how short trips would be affected by making it easier or harder to walk and bike.

The concept of "induced demand" has been studied repeatedly; new road capacity leads to more driving. There is plenty of evidence against the "intuitive" concept that more road capacity improves congestion.

Web Link


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 11, 2013 at 9:04 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The issue with ECR and Menlo park is not induced demand but locally restricted capacity given than ECR both north and south of Menlo Park is three lanes.

Using Adina's logic ECR in Menlo Park should be reduced to one lane and then traffic would go elsewhere.


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Posted by additional facts
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 11, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Painter is right, there are other sections of El Camino that are similar to Menlo Park's 2 lanes in each direction with parking. Peter, stick to facts.

Yes, using Adina's logic making El Camino 1 lane would move traffic elsewhere. But she's not suggesting that.
Making it safer for bikers and pedestrians would decrease cars! Making it less safe would mean fewer bikers and pedestrians. Our climate and flat terrain make it ideal for biking and walking, at least within town. But it has to be safe, too.
How about tackling grade separations instead? Easier east-west connectivity might help smooth north-south traffic.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 11, 2013 at 4:07 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"there are other sections of El Camino that are similar to Menlo Park's 2 lanes in each direction with parking. ""There are stretches of El Camino in Redwood City with only 2 traffic lanes plus parking on each side." - So what?

Most of the southbound traffic on ECR in MP comes onto ECR at or after highway 84 and all of ECR between 84 and MP is three lane. And nowhere south of MP is ECR constricted to 2 lanes by parking.



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Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 13, 2013 at 9:44 am

I have lived in MP for 20+ years. In driving the Peninsula at various times MP seems to have the most congested part of El Camino. It's much easier for me to drive through more populated cites such as Palo Alto and Redwood City than Menlo Park.

I have learned what times of day are better to drive through the city than others based upon the traffic. In addition to the congestion, I am aware that traffic signals aren't always coordinated to facilitate the flow of traffic.

If eliminating parking on El Camino would improve flow, I'm all for that. As for where to park, I rarely have problems parking downtown. Palo Alto on the other hand, even with parking structures, has a sizable parking problem.


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Posted by Jim Long
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 13, 2013 at 12:27 pm

I would be for it but only if it meant less bottlenecks crossing ECR at Valparaiso and Ravenswood. Because those crossing lights often are not long enough to clear any backup the situation just snow balls. Maybe I'm wrong but even when I lived near ECR I never took it to get through town so suspect the ECR problem (which I rarely see) is mostly non-MP folks while the MP folks spend needless time waiting to cross and polluting non-ECR downtown. My 2-cents.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 13, 2013 at 12:31 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"if it meant less bottlenecks crossing ECR at Valparaiso and Ravenswood"

Yes, it would because right now the turning cars can only turn into two lanes. If the parking were removed there would be 50% more capacity at these intersections.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Feb 13, 2013 at 1:55 pm

El Camino Real is a main arterial highway. It is specifically intended and designed to allow a lot of cars to pass easily over larger distances. El Camino Real is the only real thoroughfare alternative to the 101 and 280 freeways.

Frustrating drivers by reducing lanes and forcing them onto other roads always results in unintended consequences, especially for nearby neighborhoods. Ask the residents within Menlo Park and Atherton who endure significant numbers of drivers cutting through their neighborhoods every morning how this is working out for them.

Not everyone can use a bicycle or public transportation. So if we can't use El Camino Real for its designated purpose, what can we use?

To Mr. Carpenter's original point, we are restricting traffic for the benefit of 30 parking spaces that are (a) rarely used at that hour and (b) terrifyingly unsafe. Great decision...


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Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Feb 13, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Peter Carpenter said: "Yes, it would because right now the turning cars can only turn into two lanes. If the parking were removed there would be 50% more capacity at these intersections."

That is only partly correct. While it is legal to turn left into any available lane, it is only legal to turn right into the rightmost lane. While this law is not always obeyed or enforced, planning and designing must be done with the law in mind. Accomodating illegal behavior will only encourage it.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 13, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The parking lanes impede left turns onto ECR from westbound traffic and that is the vast majority of the cross traffic at these intersections.

Right turns COULD be made into more than the right turn lane IF each of the approaching lanes permitted right turns - in that case the traffic in the second lane from the right would turn into the second lane from the right on ECR.


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Posted by Scholar
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 13, 2013 at 4:14 pm

I find that the parked cars are a dangerous thing in themselves as an obstruction, because when you are driving along you have to anticipate them and go around them and you have to give them a wider berth when someone gets in and out on the driver's side of them. If the parked care were not there, driving would be safer. Getting out of the parking lots of businesses along that road would also be easier and safer if there were no parked cars blocking your view of oncoming traffic when you are pulling out. It's a tight roadway along there. I suspect drivers tend to jump lights and pay less mind to pedestrians in that situation because they are more anxious to get through.


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Posted by Long time resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 13, 2013 at 5:38 pm

I agree with Peter Carpenter that 30 people shouldn't be able to slow traffic to a near halt at certain times of the day and make it unsafe for thousands. Why has the Town removed parking spaces in front of some businesses along El Camino and not these 30? Most all the businesses can accommodate parking in the back of their buildings and it is much safer for everyone. I also agree with the Scholar's remarks. Those of us who have lived here for awhile take the back residential streets in an effort to avoid the congestion. This is not desirable for the neighborhoods and is a negative consequence to not correcting the problem. Let's get this corrected now! The solution is a simple one to accomplish.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 13, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Idea - Why doesn't the city designate the ECR parking spaces as Temporary No Parking for 30 days and see what happens?


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Posted by mom
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 13, 2013 at 6:27 pm

It is frightening to think of traffic right next to the narrow sidewalks we have in Menlo Park. If the sidewalks were wider, I would not be so fearful. Our children should not be walking, even if we're holding their hands, right next to a lane of traffic. This is our downtown, and it has to be safe and manageable for our families.

In my experience, the terrible traffic is only at certain times of day, and not every day. There are times there is not much traffic congestion at all. The lights to allow cross-traffic are another matter.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 13, 2013 at 6:44 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" the narrow sidewalks we have in Menlo Park."

This is a red herring - Menlo Park's sidewalk are not narrow and they meet all of the state and federal standards for sidewalks.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Feb 13, 2013 at 8:56 pm

While I disagree with mom, there is a potential solution that could accommodate everyone.

First, why not try Mr. Carpenter's idea of a 30 day trial period? To accommodate others, the city could designate the parking spots for through traffic during rush hours only just to see if that works.

Why not try it?


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Posted by Long time resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 13, 2013 at 9:47 pm

As stated before, the sidewalks are standard size all along the El Camino... even in the sections where the parking spaces have already been eliminated. People regularly walk along those sidewalks without added concerns or problems. There is no need for a 30 day trial period when it is clear that safety and the flow is going to be greatly improved while also eliminating the need for cars to cut through the neighborhoods to try to avoid the delays. Let's do what is right without more procrastination.


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Posted by Steve Schmidt
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 13, 2013 at 10:08 pm

I'm inclined to think that the vision of ECR as an expressway is a lost cause. With the Stanford ECR development first in line to be followed by other significant traffic generators, six lanes are not likely to perform any better than four do now. It would be more realistic to widen the now inadequate sidewalks, add bike lanes, make safer and more numerous pedestrian crossings of ECR, have at least one under-crossing of the Caltrain tracks for bikes and pedestrians and protect the adjacent neighborhoods from ECR's spill-over traffic.
For a change, let's reward those road users who don't contribute to the congestion.


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Posted by Long time resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 13, 2013 at 11:04 pm

I am by no means visualizing the El Camino as an expressway! Any improvement and alleviation of congestion is a positive and particularly more so now than ever, if the development on the Stanford property along the El Camino meets with the expected approval of the City. I also don't accept that the standard size sidewalks that are along the El Camino in Menlo Park are considered inadequate for Menlo Park or elsewhere. I think that what Mr. Schmidt describes as a solution is what a City might consider doing if the City were being designed from scratch today. The reality however is that Menlo Park is not in a position at this time to implement such costly and time consuming changes. The City should not continue to put off its responsibility of addressing the issue or providing some of the easy, inexpensive relief of congestion and neighborhood spill-over traffic that have been suggested in this Town Square forum!


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Posted by Amy
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Feb 14, 2013 at 6:34 am

I have to wonder if it's really the parking that slows things down, or the need to allow for longer lights so pedestrians can cross?

Menlo has retail on both sides of the street, I can't think of a stretch of ECR that has so much foot traffic.

Maybe that is slowing things down?


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Posted by mom
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 14, 2013 at 9:10 am

For those of you who think the sidewalks are not narrow, how about trying to push a stroller along the stretches where El Camino is also narrow? How about trying to keep a couple toddlers safe?
It's one thing to deal with parked cars, and quite another to deal with moving traffic.
As I understand things, wider sidewalks are coming some time in the next several decades in the places where new development might happen. But I could be wrong about that.
With all the scientists and geeks around, why can't the traffic be modeled in some way? We could learn that other things like what could be gained by improving east-west connections.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 14, 2013 at 9:23 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Some definitions:

"An arterial road, or arterial thoroughfare, is a high-capacity urban road. The primary function of an arterial road is to deliver traffic from collector roads to freeways, and between urban centres at the highest level of service possible."

"Expressway :Controlled-access highway, the highest-grade type of highway with access ramps, lane dividers, etc., for high-speed traffic"

Some facts:
" Route 82, referred to by local residents almost always as "El Camino," runs through a number of cities on the Peninsula, including Palo Alto (passing by Stanford University), San Carlos, San Mateo, Burlingame, and Millbrae, and it is a central artery of the Peninsula communities through which it passes."

Over 95% of ECR between San Francisco and San Jose is 6 lanes - the exceptions being four lane sections in Menlo Park, redwood City and Belmont.

If four lanes of traffic perform poorly now then those same four lanes will be even worse if more traffic is added.

Opinion: Menlo Park should stop being a bottleneck for ECR simply to provide parking for 30 cars and to provide right turn lanes which contribute little to move traffic along.


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Posted by No Easy Solutions
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 14, 2013 at 9:27 am

@Amy. Sections of ECR near California at PA has a lot of foot traffic and is probably very similar to MP's stretch of El Camino in terms of buildings and businesses. However, traffic seems to flow fairly well through PA there. If you look at Google maps street view comparing the two, you'll notice that they have three lanes for cars and space for street parking and bus stops, plus a narrower median.

When three lanes of traffic are funneled into two lanes, you're going to get congestion. This is what is happening on ECR in downtown MP.


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Posted by mom
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 14, 2013 at 9:34 am

I mis-spoke. The sidewalks also are very narrow around Middle and south.

This is the middle of our town. I think safety of our children and other residents should always have a higher priority than the expedience of people who choose to congest El Camino by driving.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 14, 2013 at 10:18 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The sidewalks also are very narrow around Middle and south."

This section of ECR is 3 lanes each way with no parking - and hence irrelevant to this discussion.


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Posted by mom
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 14, 2013 at 10:48 am

But that is where I've learned how frightening it is to be so close to traffic. Try it and you'll see.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 14, 2013 at 10:51 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Mom - I suggest that you start a new topic (which is very easy to do) on the subject of sidewalk widths. It may or may not be an important issue and it will be interesting to see that facts and opinions which emerge.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 14, 2013 at 11:09 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I have started a new topic on the sidewalk width issue.


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Posted by mom
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 14, 2013 at 11:12 am

Peter - I am concerned about El Camino traffic and the interplay with pedestrian safety. Perhaps I should be more clear. Even a wide sidewalk right next to traffic lanes is frightening to a mother. From what I understand, even wider sidewalks on El Camino downtown won't be all that wide or all that far from traffic.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 14, 2013 at 11:18 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" Even a wide sidewalk right next to traffic lanes is frightening to a mother."

Then I suggest that you avoid those sidewalks since the only other alternative would be to ban any traffic next to a sidewalk and that, done city wide, would greatly reduce the capacity of the current streets.


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Posted by Paul
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 14, 2013 at 12:19 pm

It mothers held their childrens hands instead of cell phones, there would be less of a negative experience. It is what the mother knows about herself that makes it frightening.


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Posted by mom
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 14, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Excuse me guys. I don't hold a cellphone. Cheap shot.
You are totally dismissing the legitimate concerns about the fact that traffic and pedestrian safety are related. This is my town not yours.
You seem to want want to increase traffic and don't give a hoot about safety concerns.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 14, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Please take the sidewalk discussion to the other topic.

Thanks


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Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 14, 2013 at 1:36 pm

ECR has been a congested mess for many of the 35 years I've lived here.

I asked at City Hall 20 or 25 years ago the same question Mr Carpenter asks now, & was told that MP must allow ECR parking for any ECR retail business which has no access to off-street parking, e.g. The Menlo Clock Shop. The lot behind the theater offers parking for the adjacent businesses & restaurant but not the clock shop.

Would giving the Clock Shop a back door for rear-parking solve the problem? Perhaps there isn't a contiguous point where that could be done.

If this is truly the reason why ECR is gridlocked at many times of day, let the City buy the Clock Shop & close it (for a parklet?) and let ECR be 3 lanes in each direction. Or condemn it via 'eminent domain'.

It no longer matters what time of day I use ECR to get to Palo Alto or Redwood City, it's a mess and getting worse. Our former mayor, Steve, is an avid cyclist. I understand his preference for grade separation & dedicated bike lanes, but most of us need cars to get to our places of business or other necessary destinations. Try getting to PAMF without using El Camino. Encinal to Middlefield to Embarcadero? NO. I got stuck in the Encinal school pick up traffic the other day & needed 10 minutes to get from Felton closest to the school to the signal at Middlefield. Pedestrians have quite a few choices for navigating Menlo without using ECR but motorists don't.




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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 14, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"was told that MP must allow ECR parking for any ECR retail business which has no access to off-street parking,"

Why? Is this a legal requirement or a policy decision? Frankly I think it is BS.


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Posted by Poorly Play by Menlo Park
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 14, 2013 at 1:56 pm

The largest contributor to the ECR problem is the inabilty for motorists to travel directly across ECR at Sand Hill. Palo Alto did a masterful job surrounding the Stanford expansion over the years by offloading their unwanted traffic straight through Menlo Park.

Simply ridiculous that Menlo Park rolled over on this issue, especially when the town had 'bargaining power' with the expansion of Sand Hill Road to four lanes. That project could not have been completed were it not for MP's agreement to widen the bridge over the creek! In their infinite wisdom, our town leaders gave PA the bridge expansion WITHOUT the ECR/Sand Hill intersection allowing PA traffic to run straight across ECR forcing traffic down our beloved downtown...


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Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 14, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Yes, Mr. Carpenter, it does sound like BS. I hope it was, because I'd like ECR 3 lanes wide in each direction.

As far as Valparaiso traffic, also a mess, that was created by the decision to convert Encinal to an elementary school & put all MPCSD middle schoolers into Hillview. Valparaiso cannot handle the combined traffic for Hillview, Sacred Heart-St. Joseph and Menlo Schools. The need of resident homeowners to travel to places of business has been very negatively impacted.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 14, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I just found some fascinating history:

Publication Date: Wednesday, April 10, 2001


El Camino: Should parking lanes be traffic lanes during rush hours?
By Alan Sissenwein

Almanac Staff Writer

Menlo Park Transportation Commissioner Reg Rice is not a man who's easily discouraged.


For about 10 years, Mr. Rice has been advocating a plan that he believes will ease traffic flow on El Camino Real. It calls for using parking lanes along El Camino as traffic lanes during peak commute hours.

Existing right-turn-only lanes along El Camino, such as a northbound lane approaching Ravenswood Avenue, would have to be converted to through-traffic/right-turn lanes, Mr. Rice said.

During commute hours, El Camino would effectively be expanded from a four-lane to a six-lane roadway, and Mr. Rice argues that this would result in improved traffic flow on El Camino, leading to less cut-through traffic on the city's residential streets.

Mr. Rice said he is the only member of the Transportation Commission to favor this plan, and three of the five City Council members oppose it.

Mr. Rice's idea has become part of the platform of the Menlo Community Association, a local political group that backed candidate Christina Angell-Atchison in her unsuccessful bid to oust Councilman Paul Collacchi last November.

The roadway itself is administered by Caltrans.

Uncompleted study?


But Mr. Rice argues that the question of whether his idea would work has never been tested. He cites a 1989 Caltrans letter to show that Caltrans reduced traffic lanes along the El Camino from six lanes to four lanes between Santa Cruz Avenue and Oak Grove Avenue in the 1980s.

The letter states that the city and Caltrans had a cooperative agreement under which they would gauge traffic levels on El Camino during an 18-month period after the lane reduction, and then compare those results with traffic levels before the lanes were reduced.

They would then have judged whether the four-lane or six-lane configuration was preferable. The letter notes that some preliminary studies were carried out, but does not mention a final study.

Greg Bayol, Caltrans' chief of public affairs, said he could find no record that a final study had ever been undertaken, and suggested that a final study was probably never undertaken. He said the final study may have been overlooked after Caltrans was saturated with work in the wake of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

"We were scrambling," he said.

Menlo Park officials also said they did not know if such a study had taken place, and said tracking down the documents, which might be stored off-site from City Hall, would constitute a project of its own.

With no evidence available that the final study ever took place, Mr. Rice argues that the city and Caltrans should implement his idea on a trial basis to see if it would remove cut-through traffic from residential streets.

He noted that such an experiment would be similar to the trial narrowing of Alameda de las Pulgas between Ashton and Avy avenues that took place last summer to judge the feasibility of a streetscape plan.

"They definetely ought to do it, and then take account of what they find," he said.

The council's position


But a majority of council members -- made up of Mr. Collacchi, Mary Jo Borak, and Steve Schmidt -- said they did not want to undertake such a study.

"If you increase the number of lanes, you probably add other traffic," said Ms. Borak, who said the extra lanes would attract vehicles from U.S. 101.

Mr. Collacchi voiced a similar opinion.

"I have no interest in widening El Camino Real," he said. Mr. Schmidt said that removing parking from the downtown area during peak hours would aggravate the area's existing shortage of parking space.

"We don't want to do anything to reduce the downtown merchants' prosperity," he said.

Mayor Nicholas Jellins and Councilman Chuck Kinney were more receptive to the idea.

Mr. Jellins said that Mr. Rice's idea may be a possible solution to cut-through traffic.

"I think a study should be considered," he said.

Mr. Kinney said he had no fixed opinion on the issue. He said that he would first like to hear what the downtown merchants and the city's Chamber of Commerce would have to say about it.

"I wouldn't be opposed to the Transportation Commission taking a look at it," he said.




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Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 14, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Interesting. Good work, Mr. C.

It's time for MP to reconsider this issue.


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Posted by Steve Schmidt
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 14, 2013 at 3:07 pm

The decision to prevent Sand Hill from connecting to Alma/Palo Alto Avenue was made by Caltrans and the City of Palo Alto. Those parties alone have the power to change the configuration. Palo Alto was happy to dump all that Stanford traffic into Menlo Park to protect Gary Fazzino's North Palo Alto neighborhood. Palo Alto was also delighted to get additional sales tax revenue from the Stanford Shopping Center expansion and housing credit for 600 + units at Stanford West, the two main components of the Sand Hill projects of the late 90's.


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Posted by David Roise
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 14, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Two points. First, this thread was started by Peter Carpenter to promote his view that parking should be removed from ECR in Menlo Park. 'mom' raised the valid point that she wouldn't feel safe walking along ECR if the parking lane is removed. While the focus of the subsequent discussion was on sidewalk width, the underlying point is that she, and others, don't feel safe walking on a sidewalk if cars are driving right next to them at 35 mph (or, in reality, much faster). How could anyone who has actually been in that situation seriously disagree? Even if passing cars don't typically drive up on the sidewalk, the perceived lack of safety will discourage pedestrians from using the sidewalk or will at least make their experience a lot less pleasant. How is that not a valid argument for keeping a parking lane along ECR and thus worthy of discussion in this context?

Second, Adina's point that removing the parking lanes will ultimately have no impact on traffic congestion due to "induced demand" is spot on. (See also Web Link for more details on the concept.) Despite Peter Carpenter's straw man argument about reducing ECR to one lane, I haven't seen anything to convince me that congestion wouldn't be just as bad within a short time of removing the parking. Until we figure out a fair way to charge each road user for the cost of their contribution to traffic congestion, there won't be a simple solution to this problem. (Look up "tragedy of the commons" and "traffic congestion" while you are on Wikipedia.) In the meantime, I would prefer to encourage more pedestrians to use the sidewalks along ECR by keeping things the way they are.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 14, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" How could anyone who has actually been in that situation seriously disagree?"

Easy - I and many others do it all the time and there is no data to show that it is hazardous.

" removing the parking lanes will ultimately have no impact on traffic congestion due to "induced demand" Menlo Park's section of ECR is a bottleneck on an otherwise 6 lane ECR;
on what basis does Menlo Park exert the authority to be the toll keeper for ECR?

It is time to get CalTRANS to enforce its 1989 that required the city to study the impact of the parking within 18 months or the parking would have to be removed.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 14, 2013 at 6:31 pm

Mr Roise:

unless I've missed something in my 19 years in Menlo Park, with the exception of some octegenarian crashing into some trees near Watkins, I can think of no cases of cars jumping curbs and running down people on sidewalks in Menlo Park.

With all due respect, if someone feels "unsafe or endangered" walking on a standard sidewalk next to a 35 mph street, they have a problem. I would presume they are a memeber of the current generation of risk averse people that want the world to be all sanitary and perfectly safe.

Sorry, but I don't think we should be modifiying traffic and lane configurations from what has shown to be a perfectly safe configuration because of the perceptions of people that clearly are extremely risk averse to the point of paranoia.


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Posted by John Fox
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 14, 2013 at 7:09 pm

What is most interesting in these discussions is the assumption that the number of lanes on El Camino is the single factor which influences congestion and traffic volume flow on El Camino.

The impact of the cross traffic from Ravenswood ( our class D service intersection), plus Valpariso/Glenwood. Oak Grove, Middle and Sand Hill/Alma might be as significant. I think that the need to stop the El Camino traffic to merge in the significant numbers of vehicles from Ravenswood/Menlo ( and other cross streets) is a big part of the delays and congestion. Changing the lane configurations will probably change where the cars are stopped but might have very minimal impact on the actual time to travel in an automobile on El Camino.

I think that the proponents of lane changes really should be asking these questions from traffic engineers, and looking at simulations of capacity and various configurations, rather than asserting " more lanes are great". It isn't such a simple configuration.

I think the impacts on the pedestrian and bike users ( especially cross traffic) will be very negative, and there may be minimal changes in the actual delays and patterns.

Looking down the metaphorical road, with the increased development, general increases in traffic density it is in everybody's interest to encourage alternates to single vehicle travel on our streets. Those who are so hostile to pedestrian and bike transportation,and who insist on driving themselves 6 blocks to the drugstore, and demand multi-story parking garages, etc. are getting the benefits in less congestion from their neighbors who bike and walk. Instead of attacking the cyclists and pedestrians the "more lanes good, less lanes bad" crew might want to think about the benefits they get from transportation alternatives.



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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 14, 2013 at 8:32 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Why can I travel faster through Palo Alto on ECR from the Menlo Park border to Foothill, a considerably longer distance, than I can go from the Atherton border to the Palo Alto border on ECR? Both segments carry the same amount of traffic but in Menlo Park it moves much slower.

Simply because ECR in Palo Alto has six lanes rather than four. Any traffic engineer will confirm this simple fact.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 14, 2013 at 8:37 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Correction:

Why can I travel faster through Palo Alto on ECR from the Menlo Park border to Page Mill...


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Posted by David Roise
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 14, 2013 at 8:51 pm

Menlo Voter:

With all due respect, you are missing the point: removing parking on ECR will not decrease traffic congestion but will make being a pedestrian or bicyclist anywhere near ECR less pleasant. If walking and biking near ECR is less pleasant, fewer people will do it, and traffic will be worse as a result.

Your reference to "the current generation of risk averse people" leads me to believe that you must be a member of some previous generation that enjoyed taking risks. Perhaps you should just rev up your Edsel and head on down the road. That would leave the rest of us to work on solving 21st-century problems with other than 20th-century approaches.

I am still waiting for someone to provide convincing evidence that traffic won't immediately back up in three lanes instead of two if the parking lane on ECR is opened up. As John Fox points out, the relative lack of backup in other sections of ECR is probably more a function of the lack of stoplights and cross-traffic in those locations than the number of lanes. (That's probably the reason you can get through Palo Alto faster than Menlo Park.) I am also certain that induced demand would quickly negate any improvement in congestion on removal of the parking lane, notwithstanding Peter Carpenter's brilliant "bottleneck" analogy, but I am happy to listen any reality-based arguments to the contrary. (The whole point of the "induced demand" problem is that you can't solve a bottleneck by making a bigger bottleneck.) Anyone?

By the way, I am really tired of all the stupid pseudonyms in this forum. I respect Peter Carpenter for at least taking credit for his comments, even though I generally disagree with them. The rest of you are just cowards.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 14, 2013 at 8:59 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I am also certain that induced demand would quickly negate any improvement in congestion on removal of the parking lane,"

Fine, let's test the hypothesis.

Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online

Idea - Why doesn't the city designate the ECR parking spaces as Temporary No Parking for 30 days and see what happens?

******
Not willing to test it? Then you must be very uncertain of your position.


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Posted by Familiar
a resident of another community
on Feb 14, 2013 at 9:06 pm


All this discussion is THE larger regional transportation issues. Forget MP. They are just a tiny part of the issue.

The initial solution is with Stanford. All future solutions depends on Stanford.

Every year a new Stanford Grad or Undergrad student endures a few months of long lines of AM traffic and feels inpired to bring this topic up. The fact is, every road to Campus is gridlock every weekday morning and before sports events, and has been for decades. A single collision on El Camino or Sand Hill Rd. will back up traffic onto Dumbarton Bridge or on I-280 from Hwy 92 and El Monte. When Stanford is out of session, traffic is noticeably less and actually bearable at most times of day.

- Stagger campus AM start times and work schedules. End old tired work patterns.
- More satellite admin offices and classes off campus - closer to staff and students.
- Get students and staff out of their cars. Bikes, train, housing alternatives.
- Start a free / low fare regional distance bus transit model, like Google or Facebook.
- Make the campus a "No-Vehicle" zone inside Campus Drive. Bikes and Peds only.
- Add green power people movers and moving sidewalks across campus to transit hubs.
- Establish Stanford satellite parking structures along freeways within 5 mi. of campus.
- Add a Stanford exit at Alpine Road on a new connector road to Campus Drive.
- Reconsider the 1970s Sand Hill Expressway connecting to US 101 and DB bridge.


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Posted by long time resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 14, 2013 at 10:19 pm

Please don't loose sight of the fact that the standard size sidewalks that are in place in those sections of the El Camino where we already have three lanes have not proven to be unsafe and they are used by young and old pedestrians alike. It's coming across, loud and clear, that there are a few folks who don't want to see any attempt to improve the Menlo Park traffic flow or cut-through traffic in the neighborhoods by their objections to the quick,inexpensive solutions proposed. These objectors seem to prefer to dwell on increasing the number of pedestrians in our City and to getting more people to use bicycles. Well, the fact is that El Camino isn't just for the use of Menlo Park residents to get from one place to another. El Camino (82) is a main artery that connects many Peninsula communities. That fact is not going to change whether we like Stanford, new developments, population increase or not.
Let's try the easy, not costly solutions first and stop wasting time. Someday if the City has the funds , it can conduct further studies about what else it can do to possibly enhance the situation even more.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 15, 2013 at 7:35 am

Mr. Roise:

Actually, I'm not missing the point. I just happen to disagree with your hypothesis that as soon as we open a third lane in either direction it will simply fill up and we will still have bad traffic congestion.

As Peter has pointed out, it doesn't happen in Palo Alto where there are six lanes. It also doesn't happen between the north end of town and highway 84 where it is six lanes. It does happen north of 84 where El Camino narrows again to four lanes in Redwood City. The congestion then stops north of that area where it becomes six lanes again.

I base my opinion on practical experience of how El Camino actually functions. It's pretty clear that six lanes works better than four.

With your comment about the Edsel you've got me pegged as little older than I actully am. I am a member of a generation that while not necessarily enjoying the taking of risk, understands that life is about risk management. Meaning you don't get all twisted up worring about those risks in life that are miniscule. You pay attention to those that are greater and do what you can to mitigate that risk. The current generation is afraid of it's own shadow. As evidenced by someone that is afraid to walk down a sidewalk next to moving traffic.

As to solving 21st century problems with 21st century thinking, you're quite right, but cars aren't going away any time soon. So, let's figure out how to move them more efficiently.


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Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 15, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Mr Roise,

My pseudonym isn't "stupid" and maybe I'm one of your Creek Drive neighbors who'd prefer to keep this supposedly respectful discussion in the paper instead of on my doorstep. A sidewalk, with a curb, is accepted by most pedestrians as a safe place to walk. People do it in major cities all the time and there is no street parking in many of those places.


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Posted by mom
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 15, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Having lived and worked in big cities, I know that most streets have parking next to sidewalks and they don't allow traffic at 35 mph. Big cities may limit parking at rush hour, however, and they have quite a few 1-way streets to aid traffic flow. These should be considered here.

Thank you David Roise for supporting the fact that one's perception of safety affects behavior, such as choosing to drive or shop elsewhere instead of walk next to a highway lane.

Peter speaks of driving from Sand Hill Rd to Page Mill with almost no stops. That really depends on time of day, in my experience. The area near Stanford Shopping Center has several lights that can slow things down considerably. Same thing happens between Stanford Ave. and Page Mill.

John Fox makes excellent points about cross streets. None of the other cities have so many in such a short span as in Menlo Park where Caltrain also has a major effect. We can't just ignore these unique factors.

I am not at all opposed to a trial, and suggest it be at rush hour only.
But first, the city should conduct some serious simulations that test the impact of grade separation at one or more of the Caltrain crossings and test the impact of other creative ideas like 1-way east-west streets, in addition to changing the number of El Camino lanes. The city needs to get serious about addressing traffic, and probably needs to hire experts who use sophisticated technology to assist in the effort.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Feb 15, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Hey, here's an idea!

Why not TRY IT FOR 30 DAYS? If traffic improves, then you'll know you've identified the problem.

Unfortunately, that would be way too easy and much too definitive for some. Why see if there's a solution when you can have the problem to fight about?


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Posted by John Murphy
a resident of another community
on Feb 15, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Here is an even better idea to remove congestion on El Camino. Remove ALL the traffic lights! Make every cross street of El Camino a 2 way stop. Traffic will be free flowing in no time. QED. El Camino is an arterial and the only alternative to 280 and 101. It was short sighted not to make it a restricted access freeway with on and offramps, so we are stuck with the current paving condition but it can easily be brought up to reasonable arterial conditions by removal of the lights so the speed limit could be raised to 50 MPH.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Feb 15, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Funny, El Camino Real seems to run pretty well through Belmont, San Carlos, Redwood City, Palo Alto and Mountain View with three lanes in either direction (for the most part) and sidewalks on both sides of the street (for the most part).

No one's asking for it to be a freeway. No one's asking to remove traffic lights. No one's asking to increase the speed limit.

Just keep traffic flowing smoothly. It's not asking so much for a roadway that is intended to do that.


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Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Feb 15, 2013 at 2:56 pm

30 days is not long enough to see all the consequences of a change. The short-term effect might be clear, but the "induced demand" and other changes to people's travel patterns can take up to a year or two to develop. Seasonal effects clearly can't be included in any trial less than a year.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 15, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The 1989 CalTrans letter gave the city 18 months to evaluate the current configuration - that was 24 years ago!!

I would welcome an 18 month experiment utilizing all six lane of ECR for through traffic - no parking, no turn lanes and no exclusive bus lanes.


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Posted by Where Are All The MP Citizens???
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 16, 2013 at 6:53 pm

How about all of us highly over-educated, under-common sensed citizens start realizing that these new mega-developments (i.e. the new 5-story Arrillaga-Stanford developments) and new growth along El Camino where Tesla/etc stands are the the main culprits and CAUSE of these burgeoning traffic/congestion and flow problems in MP's roads. Stand up and demand the densities/size/type of developments change to meet MP's long-term goals of maintaining a small-town, family style town not another congested suburb/city ala Palo Alto! Stand up now or forever hold your peace with permanent traffic congestion.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 16, 2013 at 8:09 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Stand up and demand the densities/size/type of developments change to meet MP's long-term goals of maintaining a small-town, family style town not another congested suburb/city ala Palo Alto! Stand up now or forever hold your peace with permanent traffic congestion."

Too late.
Where were all the MP citizens when:
- the Draft EIR was published for comment?
-When the Final EIR was accepted?
-when the Specific Plan was reviewed and approved?
-when the new zoning was established?

The future of ECR for the next decade has already been decided - with full opportunity for public input.



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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 16, 2013 at 8:29 pm

" Stand up and demand the densities/size/type of developments change to meet MP's long-term goals of maintaining a small-town, family style town not another congested suburb/city ala Palo Alto! Stand up now or forever hold your peace with permanent traffic congestion."

Hello? That ship sailed long ago. Everyone was sleeping when the EIR's were done and reveiwed and when the zoning came up for approval. Where was all the upset and outrage then? Oops! Everyone just assumed their elected representatives were actually doing their jobs. And everyone assumed Stanford wasn't blowing smoke up everyone's skirts.

You know what happens when you assume. And everyone's surprised that this is the outcome? Duh!

Too late folks. Your time for outrage and input has long past.

This is a perfect example of why you should actually pay attention to what's going on in your town. After all what's going on in your town has far more impact on your quality of life than who the president is, yet you'll all spend more time and money trying to elect a president than you will a city council member or get involved in who your planning commissioners are. Think about it.


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Posted by Westside Trucker
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 18, 2013 at 10:37 am

Ok. Why dont we leave it the way it is for all these years. A sorry looking debris field, full of weeds, garbage dump. Move on.


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Posted by Norman
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 18, 2013 at 1:42 pm

This is an idea that needs professional analysis not lay opinions. The MP city council should fund a study or get the state/Feds to do it. Almost anything should be considered to alleviate this bottleneck problem.

But even more so, MP's section of ECR is a hideous modern mess for a town that has +$2,000,000 houses all over the place. We've all just gotten used to the ugliness. We need to get a big time developer in here to rip out almost everything and bring in underground parking. Lets do this thing right.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 18, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"We need to get a big time developer in here to rip out almost everything and bring in underground parking."

I agree and that is exactly what has already being submitted for MP's former auto row by the property owner - Stanford.

"The university proposes replacing car lots along 300 to 500 El Camino Real with a mixed-use complex of 96,000 square feet of medical offices, 133,500 square feet of offices, 10,000 square feet of retail, and two five-story apartment buildings containing up to 150 units."


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