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By Paul Bendix

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About this blog: A 32-year resident of Menlo Park, I regularly make my way around downtown in a wheelchair. This gives me an unusual perspective on a town in which I have spent almost half of my life. I was educated at UC Berkeley, and permanentl...  (More)

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Region in Transit

Uploaded: Mar 8, 2015
Travel broadens horizons?even to Cupertino for the region's annual 'Transportation Summit,' a green development confab sponsored by the nonprofit TransForm. Refreshingly, I am among the oldest at these gatherings. It's heartening to witness a younger generation of development activists. Here's what I learned about what 'smart growth' could mean for the area.

An 'hourglass economy' seriously affects transportation. The tech boom has seen a boost in top salaries and a proliferation of low-wage jobs – with less growth in the middle. As housing targets the high end, low-wage earners commute long distances. Or they live in overcrowded, frequently dangerous conditions. In short, we need to serve both ends of a highly bifurcated travel market?to make the commute bearable, and the air breathable, for everyone. That means different trips at different hours-and on different budgets.
And, long term, it explains why mid-range jobs and affordable housing reduce the need for travel.

There's a reason why rush-hour Caltrain expresses empty out south of Mountain View. As Santa Clara Valley widens, communities sprawl, and stations seem more remote. Better feeder buses – or better bus service period – could make a difference.

Express buses and busways are part of the 'Grand Boulevard' vision for El Camino Real. But so are bikeways, protected lanes that make bike travel safer and more attractive. Increasing bike use can be a boon to local businesses. In fact, encouraging neighborhood businesses, along with wider sidewalks and attractive landscaping, could render much of El Camino 'strollable,' more of a place to hang out, shop and enjoy.

Our existing transit network is disjointed and full of unnecessary barriers. On Saturday, one presenter illustrated the commute path through San Francisco's Embarcadero station. The switch from BART to Muni (buses or trams) involves a ludicrous trip through several turnstiles. By contrast, in Germany a one-click transit pass takes you through multiple transit systems?and car rental companies. There are no turnstiles or barriers, as in Caltrain, with nothing but spot checks (proof of payment).

Would it make sense to bring the Bay Area's 24 transit companies under one administrative umbrella? Depends on how it's done. More than 40 transit companies serve Zürich, for example – and they are mandated to work together, which they do. Voters in the Seattle area recently voted for tighter integration among local transit systems.
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Comments

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Posted by Louise68, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Mar 8, 2015 at 10:30 pm

"Green development" is an oxymoron. There is no such thing. "Green" development is not at all "green", but, rather, is yet another way that good-hearted people can be fooled into supporting plans made by greedy billionaires to continue to overbuild the Peninsula.

Too much of the Peninsula is already choked with traffic for too much of the day. Yet more growth will result in more gridlock. The fact of the matter is that we're full, and cannot handle any more people.

The very fact that our economy is based on constant growth is extremely sad. Such constant growth is only seen in nature in cancer cells. Do we really think it is a good idea to support an economy that is modeled on a deadly disease?

Just ask yourself: "Cui bono?" Who benefits financially from all this development? Follow the money and you will find the answer.

In any case, such growth requires a vast and reliable supply of fresh water -- which we all know is now in very short supply, because of the drought, which is not likely to end any time soon. So -- why make plans that are based on refusing to face the hard fact that there is not enough water for more growth?

And any plans to deal with the horrid jobs-housing imbalance by only trying to "make the commute bearable" are very short-sighted and cruel. Make the commute "bearable" be eliminating it, or making it very short. Why should we continue to expect the poor to bear the brunt of such ridiculously long commutes? Why not eliminate the need for those long commutes by rebuilding our communities so that peoples of all ages and incomes and ethnicities can live together? Harmoniously, I hope!

(Making ECR "strollable" would currently only benefit the wealthy -- not the poor.)

Bicycling is not at all practical for those who have more than a relatively short commute, or who have children to pick up after work. And it is not really much fun in the rain and wind and cold and dark. It is also extremely unsafe for the bicyclists when bikes and cars and trucks and buses must share the same roads. Bicyclists are almost always very hard to see, as they are a lot smaller than cars and trucks and buses. And making bicyclists ride on sidewalks is very dangerous for pedestrians. It seems to me that there is really no place in our present infrastructure for bicyclists.

And Bus Rapid Transit ("BRT") is also not practical at all when those buses are allowed to monopolize lanes on on extremely crowded roads such as El Camino Real. Those buses would be very unlikely to be able to attract many riders -- just because they do not and cannot have private rights of way in the same way that trains have, so they will get stuck in traffic -- unlike Caltrain. And every dollar that is spent on BRT here on the Peninsula is a dollar that cannot be spent on making Caltrain better.

Yes, all of the Bay Area's transit agencies really should be under one management -- IF that management is really good and composed only of dedicated and well-trained and well-paid public servants. And of course all their schedules should be planned to connect well with each other, and fares should be as simple as possible.

Paul -- I am glad you care so much about public transit, and are working to try to make it better for everyone.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community,
on Mar 9, 2015 at 1:32 pm

Good article. I have pointed out to people that commuting from San Francisco to Supertion or even Los Gatos takes time. I took a train once from London to Manchester in less time the San Fransico to Los Gatos journey.

Commuting from the Central Valley to Palo Alto is nil expect by car.

Green development is not all high rises but having the options of not having to commute by car. Lived in England saw really cool single family home density with nearby shopping and green space close to rail lines.

The face of the matter we live in a single story world where you will find most of the buildings 1 story. Drive around and count the amount of large single story buildings with large parking lots.

Most transit stops drop you off at the sidewalk but then you got to walk across the vast sea of cars, landscaping and large single story business parks


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills,
on Mar 11, 2015 at 2:20 pm

The idea of removing lanes from El Camino to better serve buses and bikes is a very selfish one, because a vast majority of the users of that road are in cars, and would prefer to remain so. Cars are simply a much better transportation choice for 99%+ of people.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Dragonfly, a resident of another community,
on Mar 12, 2015 at 8:50 am

Is switching from BART to Muni that confusing? You leave one turnstile and go into another, all with the same clipper card. It's hardly "several".


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community,
on Mar 12, 2015 at 10:49 am

BART and Muni are only 2 of many transit districts serveing the Bay Area. When the BART extension is completed you still have to get people from Eastside of the valley to the Westside


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Mar 12, 2015 at 6:44 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Louise:

those awful developers probably built your house or at the very least your neighborhood. It was ok for them to develop your neighborhood, but not others? Seems rather hypocritical to me.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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