Mountain View Voice

News - April 20, 2012

City looks for solution to North Bayshore traffic woes

Council OKs study of alternatives to car travel

by Daniel DeBolt

On Tuesday the City Council took a small step towards addressing the bumper to bumper traffic in and out of Mountain View's business park north of Highway 101, approving a study that will examine alternatives to car travel.

"We're basically going to provide a complete menu of things that can be done," to reduce traffic, said William Hurrell, vice president of CDM Smith, the consultant hired to do the study.

Vice Mayor John Inks, who has voted against funding numerous studies, said he was impressed with CDM Smith's experience as a company and voted in favor of funding the $325,000 study, which he noted could take 2,000 hours of work.

Several fixes for the traffic on North Shoreline Boulevard, Charleston Road and North Rengstorff Avenue are already being discussed at stakeholder meetings and in an online forum, northbayshorepreciseplan.org, which the city set up for drafting a new North Bayshore's precise plan. The revised plan will be a detailed land use blueprint for future development of North Bayshore.

Expressing some skepticism, Council member Jac Siegel noted that many of the proposed solutions have to do with increased walking and biking.

"I don't think we're going to have 50,000 people a day walking and biking out there," Siegel said, adding that the traffic at several intersections on North Shoreline are already rated at level F, the worst on the scale.

Shuttles are stuck

Many companies in the area, including Google and Microsoft, run shuttles from the downtown transit hub. But "right now the shuttles are stuck in the same traffic that single-occupancy vehicles are," said Public Works Director Mike Fuller.

"I think it's going to be a very interesting project," Hurrell said of the study. He noted a "gradual change in the mentality about traveling," among the younger generation. "Sitting in a car in a traffic jam isn't how they want to spend their life," he said.

Hurrell said that reducing traffic by huge amounts may not be a realistic expectation.

"It probably isn't realistic to think you'll be able to pull them back to C or D levels or even E," Hurrell said. "When they are at capacity, you essentially cannot move additional traffic. You have to look at alternative ways to move people in and out of the area."

Popular ideas

At the online forum, access to North Bayshore has easily been the most popular topic, with 33 ideas posted. The most popular idea, according to users' votes, is a light rail extension running from downtown to North Bayshore. Judging by the comments, one of the least popular ideas is to estimate the amount of parking needed for North Bayshore and then "double it" to make sure there's plenty.

One forum user said she found the last leg of her trip to North Bayshore, a two-mile stretch from the downtown train station, to be the most difficult. According to 511.org, the trip takes 45 minutes at midday and requires catching two different bus lines and walking several minutes between stops.

"Often, I've wanted to use transit and could commute to Mountain View but am stuck because of lack of options for the 'last leg' (2.1 miles) from downtown to the office in North Bayshore," she writes. "I hate traffic on the 101. And transit, even if it takes a little longer, is less stressful and I can read a book on the train."

Email Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

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