Menlo Park looks into forming nonprofit to cut solo driving


In an effort to lessen traffic and greenhouse gas emissions and prevent the worsening of those conditions as more density is added, the city of Menlo Park is trying to reduce the rate at which people drive cars solo in town.

One way the city may do this is to give commuters other options by forming what's called a transportation management association. Such associations usually are run as nonprofits that operate independently from cities, but may receive funding from them. They typically work with an area of a city or a set of businesses to provide employers and their employees with commute options other than driving solo.

The City Council held a study session on Tuesday, Feb. 6, to talk about different approaches it could take to develop such an association, using $100,000 it has received from Facebook as part of a development agreement to fund a study.

The study would explore options for a potential association, and determine what might make most sense, according to Menlo Park's transportation demand management coordinator, Nicholas Yee.

For instance, a future association could focus on large businesses, or large and small businesses; focus on a particular area or the entire city; or explore forming an alliance with other transportation management associations in the area. Palo Alto and Mountain View already have transportation management associations, and one is being developed in Redwood City, according to Mr. Yee.

The city's next step is to create a request for proposals to hire a consultant to do a study surveying business owners and local employees and gathering information about commute patterns throughout the city, he said.

Since a big source of traffic is school pick-up and drop-off, Mayor Peter Ohtaki suggested the study should also look into transit options to help kids get to school without a car. He also suggested that the city look into coordinating services with existing SamTrans and Caltrain schedules to improve convenience for riders.

Councilwoman Kirsten Keith suggested that the city could coordinate with Peninsula Volunteers to help seniors get around. That organization has a program that offers seniors subsidized Lyft rides to and from Little House, the doctor or the dentist, funded by the Sequoia Healthcare District.

Diane Bailey of local environmental nonprofit Menlo Spark and Adina Levin, who sits on the city's Complete Streets Commission, both spoke favorably of Palo Alto's transportation management association.

Ms. Bailey said it could be one of the most effective ways for the city to cut its greenhouse gas emissions.

"We know larger employers like Stanford and Facebook get people out of cars," said Ms. Levin. People in smaller companies or service workers, on the other hand, don't get the same kind of benefits, she added. Transportation Management Associations, she argued, can help "democratize" those benefits.

She also suggested that the city offer a range of flexible transit options tailored to certain locations in town. In some places, shuttles might make more sense, while in others, it might be more effective to offer transit passes.

The plan, Mr. Yee said, is to conduct the study over the next 18 months and present information to the council along the way.


Sign up for Almanac Express to get news updates. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

We can't do it without you.
Support local journalism.


28 people like this
Posted by Cut cars? No, cut growth
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 7, 2018 at 5:22 pm

Maybe if the MP City Council would stop doing everything in their power to ADD HOUSING and ADD OFFICE SPACE and GROW the city, we wouldn't need a non-profit to address these negative impacts from OVERCROWDING.

2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 7, 2018 at 5:26 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Many California communities are banking on more transit use to address problems of congestion and climate change. Yet despite heavy investments in public transportation over the past 15 years, transit ridership is declining — from 2012 to 2016, California lost 62.2 million annual transit rides, and the six-county Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) region lost 72 million annual rides, 120 percent of the state’s total losses.

With such political support and policy stakes invested in transit, why is ridership falling? Three UCLA ITS scholars have authored a new report for SCAG in order to better understand this trend and help inform planners and policymakers on how to address declining ridership. The full report, by assistant professor of urban planning and ITS faculty fellow Michael Manville, professor of urban planning and ITS director Brian D. Taylor, and professor of urban planning and ITS faculty fellow Evelyn Blumenberg, includes several key findings:

Increased car ownership can likely explain much of the transit ridership decline in Southern California.
Between 2000 and 2015, private vehicle ownership dramatically increased among households in the SCAG region, from 1.7 to 2.4 vehicles per household. During the 1990s, the region grew by 1.8 million people and 456,000 household vehicles, or 0.25 cars per new resident. But from 2000 to 2015, the region added 2.3 million people and 2.1 million household vehicles, nearly one car per new resident."

Web Link

26 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 7, 2018 at 9:11 pm

So if I were a single person wanting to go to Trader Joe's or Draeger's for groceries, the city would not be in favor of that....or I would need to carpool or find an alternate means of transportation.

Maybe, MP needs to realize you cannot keep adding housing and people and then try and limit downtown traffic. But they've done a good job so far by eliminating parking and making it difficult to drive.

Bravo Council! (not)

14 people like this
Posted by Oh brother!
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 8, 2018 at 8:33 am

If the city wants people to get out of their cars for getting around town, buy a fleet of small, electric buses, charge a 25-cent fare, and run a circular route that connects schools and shopping areas with neighborhoods.

In other words, provide an actual alternative for folks who are unable to walk or bicycle to get around town.

Creating some pie-in-the-sky non-profit that makes people feel good but does nothing is the dumbest idea I've heard in a long time, and that's saying something in Menlo Park.

And, the electric buses offer the benefit of not polluting while they're waiting when the railroad crossing gates are down in a town unwilling or unable to build a grade separation.

7 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 8, 2018 at 9:48 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"If the city wants people to get out of their cars for getting around town, buy a fleet of small, electric buses, charge a 25-cent fare, and run a circular route that connects schools and shopping areas with neighborhoods. "

No need to reinvent the wheel. Stanford has been doing this for 40 YEARS with their shuttle - and it is free. MP simply needs to partner with Stanford to extend the route structure and increase the frequency within Menlo Park.

Like this comment
Posted by Dagwood
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 8, 2018 at 12:02 pm

In-town transit options are only part of the story. Much of city traffic at peak times is regional - people going home from work in MP or coming back home to MP. TMAs work with companies and other sources of commuters to reduce single-car occupancy driving through car shares, public transit, easily getting to/from public transit, incentive creation, etc. It's more efficient and less costly to coordinate all that centrally with agreed-on standards, shared resources and approaches. A big problem is our fragmented transit management across cities and counties; TMAs are meant to deal with that as best as possible. So, not a silver bullet, but a useful tool.

2 people like this
Posted by Stats
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Feb 9, 2018 at 12:52 am

Sorry, but slowing office and housing growth solely in Menlo Park does nothing to improve traffic, unless the entirety of Silicon Valley agrees to the same moratorium. We have to help create regional solutions:
* build appropriate housing and transit near big employers
* convert single drivers to carpools / shared vehicles

10 people like this
Posted by Cut cars? No, cut growth
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 9, 2018 at 8:42 am


I'm sorry, but this unabated trajectory of growth is the problem. Setting traffic aside for a moment, there are many other issues contributing to a reduced quality of living, which almost all can be traced back to overcrowding. The answer to Menlo Park's woes is not to add more people.

Not every city on the peninsula has to evolve in lock-step toward some future homogenized form. Some cities are embracing growth (Mountain View, Redwood City, Cupertino, etc.) which is great. Before Menlo Park continues on its pro-growth march, it should pause and take in the public opinion on what they want the future of this city to be. Do the city residence want to emulate Redwood City or do we want something different? The City Council is assuming too much without public input and consent.

12 people like this
Posted by Doesn't add up
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 11, 2018 at 1:55 pm

This nonsense sounds more like a political campaign to launch the re-elections of Council members Keith and Ohtaki. $100,000 to oversee and keep their names in the paper? Nice gig.

We were warned that Menlo Park would become Facebook Town and this pointless nonprofit is another nail in the coffin. Ironic that the two Council members who got this assignment are two solid votes for the recent and soon to be seen growth in the city. Office, office and more office. Nothing will come out of this non profit. Just hand the money back to Facebook and tell then to get Dumbarton Rail up and running.

Is this the fox in the hen house or the arsonists arriving to help put out the fire? Take your pick. This town is nuts

Thanks, Cut Cars; No Growth, you figured it out.

Like this comment
Posted by sjtaffee
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 12, 2018 at 1:14 pm

sjtaffee is a registered user.

Might I suggest that the City look into cooperating across the county? Perhaps a county-wide non-profit organization is in order rather than each SMC city creating its own.

steve taffee

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

Don't be the last to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

Barcelona tapas restaurant coming to Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 14 comments | 7,180 views

By Aldis Petriceks | 5 comments | 1,453 views

Couples: Reading List
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 898 views