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When Will Menlo Park Fix El Camino Real?

Original post made by POGO, Woodside: other, on Dec 20, 2011

It's about time Menlo Park's City Council addressed the incredible traffic congestion on El Camino Real (ECR). It has now deteriorated to the point of complete absurdity and it's an embarrassment to the Peninsula.

I can drive from the six miles from Ralston Avenue in Belmont to the southern end of Atherton in about 15 minutes... but the next mile in Menlo Park will often take me 30 minutes! It is especially bad during rush hour and with the recent construction, it is nothing short of exasperating.

With the exception of Menlo Park, ECR is six lanes through the majority of the Peninsula. But in Menlo Park, we "bottle neck" down to four lanes. It successfully raises the blood pressure of drivers and lowers the gas mileage for cars for thousands of motorists every single day.

Isn't it about time that Menlo Park provided a reasonable thoroughfare for the community?

Comments (65)

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Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 20, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Menlo Park isn't the only city with problems on El Camino. Redwood City is even worse partly because it is bad during normal hours not just rush hour like Menlo Park. Just a half hour difference in trying to travel on El Camino can make a great difference. Try it.

Part of our problem is the number of train crossings and east/west streets. I have wondered if the cross streets were one way that might help El Camino. Major cities throughout the world have one/way streets to expedite traffic. We could try Ravenswood/Menlo one/way west and Oak Grove one/way east between Laurel and University. That might help El Camino a lot. It should help intersections like Alma/Menlo too.


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Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 20, 2011 at 6:20 pm

To fix the problem, MP might have to fund a study to see if a study is needed to fix the problem.

Something in the 6 figures should do the trick.


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Dec 20, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Joanna = value add.


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Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 20, 2011 at 6:58 pm

K.F / falsie = embarrassment and/or humor add


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Posted by Norman
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 20, 2011 at 10:48 pm

Really, "by really"? 30 minutes to go through Menlo Park? What a joke. No one should believe this. There is traffic at some times although I haven't timed it all of the time my guess is 10 minutes whould be a big stretch. But no where near 30 minutes.


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Posted by pedal to the metal
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 20, 2011 at 11:58 pm

El Camino through Menlo Park is three lanes most of the way and pretty fast. The bottleneck, if you're heading south, usually occurs at the city limit (three lanes) at the mall. Can't blame that on Menlo Park!

I find Redwood City much slower, with lots of uncoordinated lights just a few yards from each other. Heading north,it isn't until you get to San Carlos that the light situation improves.

Anyway, it's not the lanes, it's the lights, and (this time of year) the shoppers.


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Posted by Realist
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 21, 2011 at 8:17 am

There is an easy fix. Simply close down all of the businesses on El Camino in Menlo Park. Think of it as an extension of the inspired city planning that keeps the car dealerships empty.


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Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Dec 21, 2011 at 8:34 am

El Camino is not a Menlo Park's, or any other town on the Peninsula's problem. It's a Caltrans problem; the road is under their jurisdiction.

The basic question is not traffic congestion, it's what we want the road to be used for.

Do we in Menlo Park want as much through-fare as as possible; do we want to maximize traffic flow? Would drivers be happy were we to have no lane reductions anywhere below three? (No parking anywhere on El Camino)? We could even take out the sidewalks and expand to two new additional lanes. We could shut down the intersections removing all obstructions to through-flow. We could make El Camino look like 101!

That's nonsense, of course. But, traffic will fill the road's capacity no matter how much it's expanded. Should El Camino be for "fly-over traffic?" There have even been suggestions to bury El Camino through downtown Menlo Park to enable such through-put.

On the other hand, we could impede traffic even further with no more than two lanes in each direction, with a wider island which would make El Camino far more locally user friendly. This suggests that El Camino, as far as Menlo Park is concerned, is a destination street, not a third interstate highway with only through-traffic. That concept is also not too practical.

And, we cannot forget that Caltrans' philosophy is through-put, with as few restrictions as possible. Menlo Park can't do anything to El Camino, including signalling, without Caltrans support.

What we have now is the worst of both worlds. In MP, El Camino is not much more than a sleazy strip mall. It's the opposite of the Grand Boulevards that are the envy of European cities.

And, my impression is that the Downtown Visioning will contribute nothing to this troubling debate and problem.


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Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 21, 2011 at 8:47 am

Mr. Engel makes good points about who "owns" El Camino and what is most desirable for our community. I notice that POGO is not from Menlo Park.
The buffer of parked cars is very important for pedestrians and for the vitality of local businesses. Enthusiasts of alternative transit would argue that El Camino needs to provide safe space for bicycles and for bus rapid transit. Sadly, the downtown visioning ignores both needs.
BTW one big problem with congestion is that Sand Hill Road does not go through to Alma. This means that the light at Cambridge is very long to allow for a lot of u-turns to make that connection, both east and west.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 21, 2011 at 8:54 am

It is Menlo Park's decision to devote one lane on each side of ECR to parking. There are plenty of places on the Peninsula where there are three lanes in each direction.

On the Peninsula, there are remarkably few North/South "thoroughfares" so ECR is a critically important route. If you are going more than 10 miles, you can switch to the 101 or 280. But if you are going less than that, you are almost obligated to use ECR. Or perhaps we should try to shift people on ECR to Alma or Alameda de las Pulgas - both just one lane in each direction for major sections. There isn't any other choice.

With regard to Norman's comment, on Monday, it took me 28 minutes to get from Encinal Avenue to the Stanford Park Hotel for a breakfast meeting. I know, because I called my guest at that moment to tell him I would be late. 28 minutes - almost all in Menlo Park.

Or, you can do nothing and just pretend it doesn't exist. I'm sure that one day your neighboring communities will be glad to return the favor.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 21, 2011 at 8:59 am

really -

And you're not from Palo Alto, but that didn't stop you from commenting on Sand Hill Road connecting to Alma.

The answer is that we all live here, my friend. You probably shop or work or eat or visit other towns in our area every day. And just because I'm in Woodside doesn't mean I can't comment on Menlo Park, Sacramento, or even Washington, DC. Just like you.


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Posted by Henry Riggs
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Dec 21, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Traffic flow is not a long equation. It involves volume (number of cars), aperture (lanes available) velocity (35 mph) and percent opening (green light v. red). The light timing could be improved, but is probably within 10% of optimal. Reducing the aperture by a third significantly impacts cycle time, for pedestrians as well as cars - just stand there and see for yourself. Three times a day Menlo Park is socked in.

A traffic bottleneck is not "safe" - if there is speeding, the answer is enforcement - those $400 tickets are remembered. That Menlo Park keeps 33% of the lanes out of service for a "buffer" is not playing fair with our drivers, let alone our neighbors'.


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Posted by Ranch Gal
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 21, 2011 at 12:48 pm

Am I dreaming or was Valparaiso to Stanford Park Hotel 3 lanes each way before the "beautification of MP" occurred in the 80's sometime reducing the lanes to 2 and adding the meridian of lovely trees? I date back to 1955 here and I think I remember 3 lanes each way through MP until the 80's. Someone correct me if I'm wrong. When they put those dang trees in I said to myself....Uh Oh! Traffic jam is acomin' ! Sure nuf !


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Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Dec 21, 2011 at 1:59 pm

This problem is old, the tired excuses, like Caltrans controls ECR(so what, make a proposal and see if they will support it!), are old, the if you don't live here, don't complain arguement is old. I've worked in Menlo Park for over 40 years and the problem has been here since I have, and the excuses have always been the same. The vocal minority in MP believe that if they make ECR too easy to transverse, more traffic will come thru. Hence, no train crossing improvements (over/under), no sequenced traffic lights, no CHANGES (the dreaded C word). I honestly believe these people will only approve building a moat around MP thus guaranteeing the quaint "european village feel" they so treasure. Go ahead, I say, but by the way, check out the tax burden in Europe!


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Posted by Reality Check
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 21, 2011 at 2:09 pm

It all comes down to traffic lights:
On one hand they're not sequenced to get traffic flowing,
but on the other they sure are sequenced (and positioned) to maximize red-light ticket profits.
Brillant!


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Posted by Westside Trucker
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 21, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Just put signs that say " no right turn on red " The cars that come to El Camino from the west, just run the red lights to fill up the spaces left by those that are stopped at lights heading south,so as to not block the intersection.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 21, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Whatever the caused, it's reached the point of absurdity.

Wait until a fire truck or ambulance gets caught in it...


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 21, 2011 at 3:12 pm

"Wait until a fire truck or ambulance gets caught in it..."

It already happens all the time. The issue is when will a life or a house be lost because of a delayed response. And then everyone will scream - Why did you let that happen!!

And don't blame the Fire District - Menlo Park routinely installs "traffic calming" measures that impede fire response without even worrying about the impact on response times because "its not the City of Menlo Park's fire department".


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Posted by Ralph Waldo
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 21, 2011 at 3:19 pm

The major impact on El Camino is ripple from the Ravenswood intersection. Very little can be done to mitigate it. For safety reasons, this light has a fast cycle. If a train is coming, cars must be moved out of the way, no delays. When the crossing gates start to descend, the El Camino light must respond, so that the Ravenswood traffic has the opportunity to avoid the oncoming train. If the train were grade separated, which will not happen, mitigation would be possible. Without that, which would be a construction and land use nightmare, El Camino is doomed, unless greater intelligence and interaction is moved into the anticipation of train arrival.


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Posted by longtime menlo resident.
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 21, 2011 at 5:39 pm

the comment about the Revenswood intersection is true. Eliminate the ability to cut lanes Northbound form the far right past Menlo Station and force these cars to turn left on Ravenswood. The last minute cutins cause delays and stops the flow of traffic through Menlo. Install barriers on El Camino to force them right onto Ravenswood and eliminate the delays.


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Posted by confused
a resident of another community
on Dec 22, 2011 at 8:19 am

They are making the meridian so wide for the"beautification of the peninsula" that all the cities will soon have the same problem.
Redwood City is really starting to feel the effect after the modification of ECR in the Broadway area.
It seemed that when ECR is wider a lot of people use it instead of 101, maybe this is why they are making it narrower, to force them back to 101?


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 22, 2011 at 9:35 am

This topic (as of this writing) has received nearly 600 "views" from the public in less than two days... about as many views as a post ever receives!

Traffic on El Camino Real through Menlo Park must be a concern to the public. At least we got the conversation going. Perhaps the Menlo Park City Council will take note.

Thank you.


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Posted by Martin
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 22, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Traffic light sequencing would be a simple basic step - many times I have sat at a green light in Menlo Park unable to cross the intersection because traffic is fully backed up from the next light that remains red. Inevitably once traffic ahead starts to move, my light turns red.

It certainly causes me, and i'm sure others, to avoid Menlo Park (and Menlo Park businesses) because of the frustration and wasted time.


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Posted by Ralph Waldo
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 22, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Martin's right about the sequencing; unfortunately due to CalTrain, a lot of the lights also interact.


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Posted by glad you mentioned it
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 22, 2011 at 3:59 pm

This has bothered me for a long time so am glad the discussion is happening. The traffic discussion should not be limited to ECR. Because of the bottlenecks on ECR, other streets are used as cut-throughs and bypasses in order to avoid ECR frequently (rush hour, holidays and school start and dismissal times). It is nearly impossible to enter main thoroughfares (Valarpaiso, Atherton Avenue, etc) these days without substantial wait times. Just look at backlogged traffic at intersections during peak travel times to understand the added impact of ECR traffic on local residents surrounding Menlo Park.


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Posted by RLS
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on Dec 22, 2011 at 4:35 pm

It wasn't that many years ago that El Camino was three lanes each way through downtown Menlo Park. The city made the decision to limit traffic to two lanes in each direction, which they did, I think at the same time they built the islands in the middle of the street.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 22, 2011 at 4:43 pm

glad you mentioned it -

You are so right, thank you for your comment. People refuse to consider unintended consequences!

In addition to the incredible frustration imposed on thousands of drivers each day, consider the wasted fuel (defeating the positive impact of all of those high mileage vehicles we purchase!) and wasted time. These cars are obviously going to find other streets and you've identified many of them.

Cars SHOULD be on El Camino Real - it's a major arterial thoroughfare. When they use two lane, neighborhood streets such as Alma, Valparaiso, Alameda de las Pulgas for these longer, commute hour trips, they are having a horrible impact on these neighborhoods. And they will almost certainly spill out to other adjoining streets.

Fix El Camino Real. That's why it's there.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 22, 2011 at 5:58 pm

POGO -
Google Maps recommends taking I-280 from Woodside to Sand Hill Rd, then Sand Hill thru to ECR where you're practically in the parking lot of the Stanford Park Hotel. 6.4 miles and an estimated transit time of 14 minutes - half the time it took you to just get from Encinal to the hotel.
Technology is our friend :>)


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 22, 2011 at 7:31 pm

Steve -

I was driving from San Carlos, not Woodside. I don't know how Google would map me, but common sense sent me straight down El Camino Real.

But I appreciate the thought.


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Dec 23, 2011 at 12:39 am

yawn.


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Posted by local native
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 23, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Yes, there were three lanes on El Camino years ago and it should return to that configuration. We need to remember that the El Camino Real is the major connector to the center of the local towns and cities on the Peninsula and for Menlo Park to try to ignore that fact and allow a traffic bottleneck through the Town is irresponsible to say the least. Most patrons of the small businesses along the El Camino prefer to not park on the street because of the congestion. They use the back lots or walk a block or so. The few business patrons who park their cars along the highway find it difficult getting safely in and out of the car as well as merging back into the traffic lane. Pedestrians certainly don't need the buffer of a parked car here and there between them and the side walk and the moving traffic. The posted speed limit is slow and the cars are not moving fast. It's time to fix it and allow it to return to three lanes where it is now two!


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Posted by life long resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 23, 2011 at 5:33 pm

Who R U people above points the blame at the right people. In the 1960's an east-west corridor called the Willow expressway was proposed to connect 280 and 101 similar to the Oregon Expressway and Woodside Road. This spawned the no growth movement in Menlo Park and the proposal was defeated by them. We have had cut through traffic and long waits at lights ever since.

Many of those original activists are still around fighting the new El Camino/Downtown Specific plan. Pointing the finger doesn't solve the trafic problem but identifying the trouble makers may keep them from screwing up other proposals.


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Posted by Stan
a resident of Portola Valley: Los Trancos Woods/Vista Verde
on Dec 23, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Maybe Cal Trans should mandate that every community on the peninsula have at least 1 through corridor form 280 to 101. Most communities do. Atherton and Menlo Park are notable exceptions. Add to that that Menlo Park has intentionally constricted ECR and what you have is simply a bad neighbor - one that enjoys the tax money that we give them from our business there but thinks nothing of making our lives and the lives of its own citizens complicated and irritating by means of intentional traffic constriction.

Keep in mind that Menlo Park mainly and with Palo Alto sometimes as an ally and sometimes in support of reality delayed making Sand Hill Road through Stanford a viable corridor part of the way. Even after Palo Alto let the work be done in their city, Menlo Park held out for a few years more making for a miserable commute for many years for anyone who had to use that route.

My solution. Well first I minimize my use of businesses in MP.Why use the services in a community that has so little respect for it's neighbors?
Second when I do go into trafficville I go down Middle Ave and cut through on Oak to Sand Hill or vice versa. This saves lots of time particularly since the NO Right Turn on Red was installed at Sand Hill and ECR south bound.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 23, 2011 at 7:56 pm

It seems like a lot of us are cutting through side streets to avoid El Camino Real.

I'm guessing that the neighbors on these side streets that are impacted by these diversions off of ECR don't like it either.


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Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 24, 2011 at 9:15 am

there is a system with parts that interact, not just El Camino but also the east/west streets, the train crossings and the train schedule. What if at least one grade separation existed? What if there were some one way east/west streets? These things could be modeled to see the effect.

A lot of new planned new development will make traffic everywhere worse. Our lousy public transit is supposed to save the day.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 24, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Very few people use public transportation because cars are easier and often even cheaper.

Have you ever looked into the SAMTRANS buses? They are almost always empty. Sad, but true - just look.


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Posted by anon
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 27, 2011 at 7:24 am

People, Big picture here, cars need to move efficiently which means:
Drivers need to plan accordingly.
Drivers need to be smart behind the wheel.
Roadways need to be large enough to handle traffic volume.
Signals on those roadways need to be timed appropriately.
All that said, things should work themselves out.

What we do not need is allow minority dictate what the marjority should due as can be seen with Lee Duboc's group and all the other sub-groups. This minority is costing the City of Menlo Park hundreds of thousands of dollars with all the projects and plans that are on-going in the following areas:
Staff hours to draft and re-draft proposals.
Consulsultant fees for studies and additional funds for changes made to original recommendations.

The above drama creates a non-friendly business enviornment for developers and new businesses which in the long term, keeps people from spending their money in Menlo Park and making us a non-friendly destinaiton.

Woudn't it be nice to be able to go out to dinner at one of our nice dining establishments and be able to go out afterwards close to home for a drink or two and enjoy some rather type of entertainment. A sports more modern sports bar or brewery???

The domographics of Menlo Park are changing but we are still stuck int he past, it's time to move on and be progressive to a point. By this I am suggesting that our Council and Commissions get their tail out from between legs and take a stand to the minority and look at what is best for the MAJORITY and the CITY overall!!!!!!!!!!!


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Posted by life long resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 27, 2011 at 12:43 pm

The new El Camino Real/Downtown Plan is truly a reflection of what the majority want. It has been a long, expensive, democratic process but is a great vision for the future- including a fair amount of new housing walkable to downtown.

Unfortunately this won't help traffic on El Camino in the short run but will support alternative forms of transportation and projects like grade separations in the long run.


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Posted by Former Resident
a resident of another community
on Dec 28, 2011 at 6:13 pm

My perspective is a bit different, in that I now observe from as distance. In my current community, I have been a member of our Traffic and Transportation Commission since 1998, and am currently chair. I've been a transportation activist since I was a teen-ager (in Menlo Park), over 45 years.

The real problem has not yet been mentioned. Basically, Menlo Park has the same street infrastructure as it did when I was a kid there in the 1950's and 1960's, but with substantial increases in levels of trafic. There is neither room nor funding to increase road width to what is now needed, nor is there likely to be community interest in a twelve-lane El Camino Real.

The real solutions are going to hurt. First, the huge subsidies towards motor vehicle transportation have to be eliminated, or at least substantially reduced. Then, we need to take alternative transportation seriously, and make it better to take busses or bicycle (in this wonderful climate) or car pool. And, make it more desireable to work very close to home (as in much of Europe).

When those painful changes are implemented, the problem will be cured.



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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 28, 2011 at 8:30 pm

Former resident -

Dream on.

We've been talking about mass transit since Shep was a pup. Look at those incredibly expensive (several hundred thousand dollars EACH) Samtrans buses that cruise up and down. They are EMPTY. We subsidize it to make us feel good.

Do you want to know why? Faster, easier, more convenient and even cheaper. Having mass transit up and down El Camino Real is great, but how do you propose getting from say, West Menlo to El Camino. Car? If you're going to drive to ECR, you may as well drive to your destination. Why? Faster, easier, more convenient and even cheaper.

So stop putting up "straw man" arguments. No one - EXCEPT YOU -proposes twelve lanes on El Camino. Other communities, including Palo Alto, don't have the consistent and concentrated congestion experienced by Menlo Park and they've accomplished this miracle without 12 lanes of highway.

This isn't Europe (or even the urban Northeast) where people don't live close to transportation corridors, they live ON them. That's true urban living. The Peninsula is surburban, plain and simple.

All it takes is some minor changes - and many are just reverting back to the way it was - such as three lanes in each direction. (Gee, that's not exactly novel - why not emulate every other town on the Peninsula?) That change, coupled with improved train crossing grades and timing the traffic lights would do wonders. Wonders. And you don't have to build new railroads or buy more buses.

But you can persist in loading on more and more costs and taxes on motorists. It'll definitely make you feel better and you can pretend that traffic will ease. You see, our population is increasing faster than you could ever people from cars. And besides, even when mass transportation is FREE, it barely impacts ridership.


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Posted by Traffic
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Dec 28, 2011 at 8:33 pm

Traffic backs up on el camino into redwood city on bad days but usually to Atherton Ave. Try it south bound ECR in the morning rush. The Lights in Menlo Park are timed very bad. It turns into a real mess starting at Valperiso


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Posted by go to CalTrans
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 28, 2011 at 10:44 pm

How many of you who vociferously express your opinions here have actually written to CalTrans, reducing your statements to constructive, actionable ideas? Nothing can happen on ECR without CalTrans OKing it.

Same goes for participating in the Grand Boulevard process that is looking at ECR from San Jose all the way to Daly City.

The recently issued cross sections for city of Santa Clara show dedicated bike lanes, wider sidewalks and 2 lanes each way, I believe.

Menlo Park has had challenges with ECR ever since I was a kid here in the 60's.

Merchants in Menlo Park on ECR have long fought for on street parking for customer convenience. And the CalTrain/cross streets issue is real, too. It's a zero sum game. There is no perfect solution -- It would have already been done. Let's see if the ECR'downtown visioning can help unstick this enough to make some degree of progress
. Give it a chance, at least

BTW: as for SamTrans busses -- some of our commenters above seem rather nobless oblige. Fact is that many of our low to moderate income workers don't actually OWN cars anymore. Yet we need these workers to get to their jobs, med appointments, evening classes etc, not to mention to get around town to support our economy. And wasn't our school district using SamTrans for kids to use who "needed" a bus to school for a while during the 90"s and Naughts? Better than each having a parent or nanny driving them... tho even better would be for kids to get back on their bikes or on foot to school, with or without parental chaperone depending on age. I did that in our area all throughout my childhood. Our kid does it too now.

Getting a good bike crossing over or under ECR and the tracks is critical, since Hillview is deep in West Menlo yet much of our population lives east of ECR/CalTrain.

It's a complex problem, but cars and the speed at which they drive through Menlo Park is only one part of the equation.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 29, 2011 at 8:53 am

go to Caltrans -

Yes, some of us have gone to Caltrans. Unfortunately, other than system-wide improvements, Caltrans acts on projects submitted by Menlo Park.

With regard to your nobless oblige comment, I never said or even implied that Samtrans is unnecessary. In response to those posters who say that Samtrans is a big part of the answer, I pointed out that it is already heavily subsidized and that remarkably few people ride it. People have already voted with their feet... or cars, to be more precise. The next time you are cruising down El Camino, take a good look inside those expensive buses. I rarely see anyone other than the driver in those buses.

Personally, I think increasing the traffic flow by 50% by adding a third lane in each direction, improving timing and train crossing grades will have a major and positive impact.


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Posted by w patterson
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Dec 29, 2011 at 9:45 am

Perhaps all the blight that exists on the El Camino Real section of Menlo Park overwhelms the driver and slows down to witness this ugly eye sore. No one can make a decision at staff or the political level.
No doubt another study, along with the numerous prior studies over a decade costing millions of dollars can defer the situation further.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 29, 2011 at 3:12 pm

And one thing to remember... adding a third lane to El Camino Real requires converting the current parking lane to a "through" lane by restriping.

That should be costly.


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Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 30, 2011 at 9:27 am

The downtown plan is uninspired. The council seems too timid to address any of the real problems like bike connectivity, east/west connectivity. The expensive consultants didn't do their job and the council lets them get away with it.

There is a 1930's El Camino photo behind the cashiers at Trader Joe's showing 2 lanes each direction with a center lane that appears to be for making turns. Now way there were 3 lanes each way.


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Posted by Forrest G
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 30, 2011 at 10:07 am

Actual quotes from entries above:

"traffic will fill the road's capacity no matter how much it's expanded."

"There is a 1930's El Camino photo behind the cashiers at Trader Joe's showing 2 lanes each direction"

"The major impact on El Camino is ripple from the Ravenswood intersection. Very little can be done to mitigate it. "

"The bottleneck, if you're heading south, usually occurs at the city limit (three lanes) at the mall. Can't blame that on Menlo Park!"

Do you people think before you write? Yes, there are light timing issues as well, but as soon as three lanes re-appear southbound at Safeway traffic is clear again. Also from above: Its simple math: 3 lanes moves 50% more traffic than 2 lanes. Ask your third grader.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 30, 2011 at 5:13 pm

really? - You REALLY want to base our local infrastructure needs on a 1930's photo at Trader Joe's? If that's true, close SFO and the interstates and start grooming your horse.

El Camino Real is THE arterial thoroughfare on the Peninsula. Arguably, it's the only one. It's not a back road or a residential street. It's not a quiet, ambling country lane. El Camino is SUPPOSED to conduct traffic - and lots of it. That is is main purpose.

Second, yes, those stores and restaurants who front the west side of El Camino Real will lose a parking space. These spots along ECR are extraordinarily dangerous. Have you ever tried to exit a car parallel parked on ECR? - you're literally taking your life in your hands! It would be safer to park behind the stores in real safety.

Why not convert the parking spaces into a traffic lane? As Forrest G pointed out - throughput will increase a whopping 50%! It is the cheapest, easiest and most environmental friendly (think of the gasoline that is wasted by that traffic!) solution to an increasingly problematic situation that takes little more than some paint to execute.

Why not do it? Easy - it makes just too much sense...


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Posted by Former Resident
a resident of another community
on Dec 30, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Yes, a third lane would move traffic faster -- temporarily. Ask you traffic engineer. Within three or four years after adding a lane, that lane has attracted enough more vehicles so that the congestion is the same or worse than before.

Ask your traffic engineer.

As for busses, I've used busses quite well in San Jose, and do so here, alsmost as well. Busses will work when the huge subsidies of motorized travel are eliminated or seriously reduced. Menlo Park taxpayers subsidize huge parking lots downtown, for those who use them whether they pay taxes in Menlo Park or not. Have the all-day users of those parking lots (and nearby all-day parking) pay for the use instead of a government subsidy, and look at how much better busses look! Trains too, for that matter.


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Posted by Former Resident
a resident of another community
on Dec 30, 2011 at 5:15 pm

Oh, and if you read what I wrote the first time, POGO, you will find that I did NOT "propose" twelve-laning El Camino Real!

Maybe that would help? If you read more?


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 30, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Former Resident -

Your EXACT quote: "There is neither room nor funding to increase road width to what is now needed, nor is there likely to be community interest in a twelve-lane El Camino Real."

As I said, YOU brought up this red herring - no one ever proposed twelve lanes for El Camino Real.

You asked a legitimate question. In fact, I do know several traffic engineers, including the head engineer for Redwood City... who disagrees with you completely. Why don't you cite YOUR source?

So you believe that traffic will simply "refill" the additional 50% capacity created by adding another lane of traffic to El Camino Real. These drivers are obviously driving cars now (they certainly aren't on Samtrans or trains!) so please tell us how these additional 50% more cars - a stunning number - materialize? Will they come off the back streets of Menlo Park? If so, is this not a good thing?

I was driving on El Camino Real again this morning with my daughter and saw two Samtrans buses. I asked her to tell me how many passengers were in them. Excluding the drivers, one had one passenger, the other was completely empty.

I rest my case.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 30, 2011 at 5:41 pm

And I would ask anyone reading this blog to check out Samtrans buses as they drive around. You'll be shocked at how few people ride them.

But keep believing that mass use of mass transit is within reach. The Peninsula isn't Manhattan.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Dec 30, 2011 at 6:40 pm

This is not the time to judge how busy the SamTrans buses are because of the holidays, vacations, etc. I've taken them in the past when my car was in the shop and they were pretty full, at various times. That said, yes, indeed, we're not Manhattan.


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Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 1, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Just think how bad it will be after Stanford's expansion occurs. The downtown plan, unless scaled back, will bring horrid additional impacts. The problem is not too few lanes, but too much development and too many cars.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 1, 2012 at 3:47 pm

The people and the need to use car isn't going away anytime soon.

Then again, maybe you can click your heels, Dorothy.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 1, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Can someone quantify the value added by the existing parking on ECR in Menlo Park and compare that to the congestion cost which it creates?


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Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 1, 2012 at 9:31 pm

The value is priceless to the businesses that don't have any other accessible parking for customers and vendors.
Don't the environmentalists push more development on El Camino so public transit becomes more attractive?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 1, 2012 at 10:32 pm

"The value is priceless to the businesses"

There is no such thing as 'priceless'; without that parking there would still be economic activity on ECR in Menlo Park just as there is in Redwood City and Palo Alto.

Many of the businesses on ECR provide their own parking - why should those that don't be subsidized by the drivers on ECR who suffer the taxation of involuntary congestion?


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Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 5, 2012 at 11:05 am

The businesses without parking have been there a long time. I for one would not want to put them out of business, and also would hate to have heavy traffic next to the narrow sidewalks.
btw the photo at Trader Joe's from the 1930's looks as if the traffic lanes were only 1 each way with a center turn lane and parking on both sides of the street.

What those worried about traffic should really worry about is the additional traffic from Stanford hospital expansion and other approved and possible projects Menlo Park might ok. Just think about increasing from 2 stories on El Camino to 5 stories, and the additional traffic resulting from more than doubling what can be built.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 5, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Click your heels. Really.


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Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 5, 2012 at 5:12 pm

POGO - what are you talking about? I don't wear heels.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 5, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Given that Facebook signed a 15 year lease on the Sun property - to avoid a property tax reassessment - it is highly unlikely that they will go anywhere else.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 5, 2012 at 6:26 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The last comment was posted to the wrong thread - sorry.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 5, 2012 at 8:29 pm

really? -

You are using a 1930's photo as your standard for Menlo Park's 2012 infrastructure needs. What wifi service did they use then?

Like I said, click 'em, Dorothy (although that will only take you back to 1939).


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Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 5, 2012 at 9:28 pm

I was just pointing out that there may be some selective memories about the number of lanes that actually existed in the past. The picture is proof of what was at one point, with some of the same buildings that exist today.
If massive development continues, we face gridlock no matter whether just one more lane is added for a few blocks. The number of lanes is not the problem. The number of cars is. The length of east/west stoplights makes a difference.


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