News

Menlo Park council mulls options to encourage commuters to ditch solo driving

Commuters on Caltrain head to the bike car as they board the Northbound train from University Avenue station on August 23, 2017. Photo by Veronica Weber.

It wasn't long ago when one of the most frequently cited problems with Menlo Park was its traffic. And as Menlo Park recovers from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns and businesses figure out the circumstances under which they'll reopen their offices, the City Council is renewing its conversations about how to mitigate that traffic.

Pre-pandemic, one of the efforts underway was to explore a number of "traffic demand management" (TDM) programs, aimed at eliminating barriers to transit and promoting travel modes other than solo driving to and from work. Among those TDM programs, the city commissioned a feasibility study to look into a transportation management association (TMA). Such associations typically are nonprofit organizations that develop, manage and market transportation programs; its members are made up of local businesses and institutions. For instance, the Palo Alto TMA subsidizes Caltrain passes for low-income employees and some carpool and rideshare trips, and provides trip planning for people who work in the city.

Rather than creating its own TMA, the feasibility study by city staff and the consultant Steer Group recommended that the city consider three steps toward expanding options for getting workers in Menlo Park out of solo vehicles.

The City Council adopted the study Oct. 12 on a 4-0 vote with Councilwoman Cecilia Taylor absent, and supported working with Manzanita Works, a new organization to help employees avoid solo trips to work, to learn more about what benefits the city would receive from joining a transportation consortium managed by the organization. The council also agreed to do more research about the commute tools that the community needs as people's work habits may change as the threats posed by COVID-19 lessen.

Manzanita Works is a relatively new fiscally sponsored project of the nonprofit Community Initiatives. Among other projects, the organization manages a long-distance shuttle for essential workers employed by its member organizations. Members of the Manzanita Coalition include school employee and teacher associations in several local school districts, including the Mountain View Los Altos, Mountain View Whisman, Palo Alto, Los Altos and Ravenswood districts, as well as several local churches including Congregation Etz Chayim in Palo Alto, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in East Palo Alto, and the St. Mark and University AME Zion churches in East Palo Alto and Palo Alto.

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In a public comment, Manzanita Works CEO Mila Zelkha encouraged the City Council to join the consortium this year to help speed up and shape the programs that the consortium pursues. Councilman Ray Mueller favored joining the consortium sooner, but ultimately the council held off on considering that proposal until more details were ironed out, in accordance with a request from Councilwoman Jen Wolosin.

In addition, the three steps toward better managing transportation options for workers citywide were laid out in the adopted plan. In the first step, to endorse existing TDM programs in the region, the city would join commute.org and its board. It could also encourage other employers within the city to participate in Manzanita Works' transportation programs.

In the second step, the city could work to become an example of an employer offering its workers a robust set of options to avoid driving solo. That step might include educating city employees about and promoting the transportation offerings available through commute.org. It could also join Manzanita Works as an employer to offer its workers more commuter benefits, estimated to cost about $40,000.

In the third step, the city could invest further funds in supporting commute.org and Manzanita Transit at an estimated cost of anywhere between $30,000 and $120,000.

Those steps would begin later this fiscal year and run into the 2022-23 and 2023-24 fiscal years, according to a staff report.

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Email Staff Writer Kate Bradshaw at [email protected]

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Menlo Park council mulls options to encourage commuters to ditch solo driving

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Thu, Oct 14, 2021, 11:25 am

It wasn't long ago when one of the most frequently cited problems with Menlo Park was its traffic. And as Menlo Park recovers from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns and businesses figure out the circumstances under which they'll reopen their offices, the City Council is renewing its conversations about how to mitigate that traffic.

Pre-pandemic, one of the efforts underway was to explore a number of "traffic demand management" (TDM) programs, aimed at eliminating barriers to transit and promoting travel modes other than solo driving to and from work. Among those TDM programs, the city commissioned a feasibility study to look into a transportation management association (TMA). Such associations typically are nonprofit organizations that develop, manage and market transportation programs; its members are made up of local businesses and institutions. For instance, the Palo Alto TMA subsidizes Caltrain passes for low-income employees and some carpool and rideshare trips, and provides trip planning for people who work in the city.

Rather than creating its own TMA, the feasibility study by city staff and the consultant Steer Group recommended that the city consider three steps toward expanding options for getting workers in Menlo Park out of solo vehicles.

The City Council adopted the study Oct. 12 on a 4-0 vote with Councilwoman Cecilia Taylor absent, and supported working with Manzanita Works, a new organization to help employees avoid solo trips to work, to learn more about what benefits the city would receive from joining a transportation consortium managed by the organization. The council also agreed to do more research about the commute tools that the community needs as people's work habits may change as the threats posed by COVID-19 lessen.

Manzanita Works is a relatively new fiscally sponsored project of the nonprofit Community Initiatives. Among other projects, the organization manages a long-distance shuttle for essential workers employed by its member organizations. Members of the Manzanita Coalition include school employee and teacher associations in several local school districts, including the Mountain View Los Altos, Mountain View Whisman, Palo Alto, Los Altos and Ravenswood districts, as well as several local churches including Congregation Etz Chayim in Palo Alto, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in East Palo Alto, and the St. Mark and University AME Zion churches in East Palo Alto and Palo Alto.

In a public comment, Manzanita Works CEO Mila Zelkha encouraged the City Council to join the consortium this year to help speed up and shape the programs that the consortium pursues. Councilman Ray Mueller favored joining the consortium sooner, but ultimately the council held off on considering that proposal until more details were ironed out, in accordance with a request from Councilwoman Jen Wolosin.

In addition, the three steps toward better managing transportation options for workers citywide were laid out in the adopted plan. In the first step, to endorse existing TDM programs in the region, the city would join commute.org and its board. It could also encourage other employers within the city to participate in Manzanita Works' transportation programs.

In the second step, the city could work to become an example of an employer offering its workers a robust set of options to avoid driving solo. That step might include educating city employees about and promoting the transportation offerings available through commute.org. It could also join Manzanita Works as an employer to offer its workers more commuter benefits, estimated to cost about $40,000.

In the third step, the city could invest further funds in supporting commute.org and Manzanita Transit at an estimated cost of anywhere between $30,000 and $120,000.

Those steps would begin later this fiscal year and run into the 2022-23 and 2023-24 fiscal years, according to a staff report.

Email Staff Writer Kate Bradshaw at [email protected]

Comments

Joseph E. Davis
Registered user
Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Oct 15, 2021 at 8:46 am
Joseph E. Davis, Woodside: Emerald Hills
Registered user
on Oct 15, 2021 at 8:46 am

Sounds like more money down the drain to an unaccountable non-profit. It's hard to believe Menlo Park citizens will get any value from this spending.


Mila Zelkha
Registered user
another community
on Oct 15, 2021 at 10:22 am
Mila Zelkha, another community
Registered user
on Oct 15, 2021 at 10:22 am

Thank you to Menlo Park City Council for endorsing our Ravenswood Transit Consortium, a subregional transportation management association. As a community-based org working with Caltrain, it has been an honor to get to know the essential and service sector workers who commute to Menlo Park now, helping connect them to free GoPasses, bike repair and even free long-haul shuttles last winter. We look forward to engaging with local employers from the public, private and nonprofit sectors to create affordable shared programs that help workers commute without the need to drive alone in their cars in the months and years ahead. Please let us know how we can help! [email protected]


AmyB
Registered user
Menlo Park: University Heights
on Oct 19, 2021 at 10:03 am
AmyB, Menlo Park: University Heights
Registered user
on Oct 19, 2021 at 10:03 am

Managing Menlo Park's growth, particularly as it impacts traffic, is a critical element for maintaining and improving the quality of life in our city. We need more housing, but also need to be thoughtful of how those increases impact traffic. Partnering with groups such as Manzanita Transit are an exceptional way to leverage our city resources, and develop/expand partnerships across our Peninsula neighbors. Really glad to see that this is happening!


Stu Soffer
Registered user
Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 19, 2021 at 10:28 am
Stu Soffer, Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
Registered user
on Oct 19, 2021 at 10:28 am

I've regularly used Lime electric Scooters in Tel Aviv.

Pick up, scoop, and drop on a corner


Stu Soffer
Registered user
Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 19, 2021 at 10:31 am
Stu Soffer, Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
Registered user
on Oct 19, 2021 at 10:31 am

I've regularly used Lime electric Scooters in Tel Aviv.

Pick up, scoot, and drop on a corner.

You need 24 hour a day staff to pick up and redistribute scooters in town. And repair them.

I take a bike helmet on the trip.

Ahhh, the good old days.


Mila Zelkha
Registered user
another community
on Oct 19, 2021 at 11:20 am
Mila Zelkha, another community
Registered user
on Oct 19, 2021 at 11:20 am

@Stu Soffer as you describe micro-mobility works for private companies to go through the hassle of picking them up and repairing them, etc. in cities with higher density. I hear Mountain View had a good program but many of the bikes ended up in Sunnyvale and the private provider pulled out. The local Mountain View transportation mgmt association MVGO has extended us a funding pledge to study what a micro-mobility program could look like if it was coordinated across an area bigger than one particular Peninsula city - program feasibility that could deal w/ the challenges you describe. Would you be interested in the feasibility of a shared program like that for Menlo Park if the lift for a subregional bike share doesn't burden the City's budget?


Mila Zelkha
Registered user
another community
on Oct 19, 2021 at 11:28 am
Mila Zelkha, another community
Registered user
on Oct 19, 2021 at 11:28 am

@Joseph Davis, no money was allocated to our organization last Tuesday and public comments were shared from service workers at Trader Joe's, Left Bank and Kepler's Bookstore who have already received help with transportation options. In addition, the Ravenswood Teacher Association made a statement sharing that their members have benefited this past year in free long-haul transit that our org was able to broker on underutilized tech shuttle buses. Happy to speak with you about our model and its potential.


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