Mountain View Voice

News - October 19, 2012

Council finally sees Shoreline traffic fix ideas

by Daniel DeBolt

Dedicated shuttle lanes, futuristic people-movers, park-and-ride garages and new bikeways are among the transportation options being studied for Google's neighborhood as the city faces a wave of office projects there.

In a study session Tuesday, Oct. 16, Council members heard a presentation from city consultant James Lightbody, who is trying to figure how the city might accommodate as many as 48,000 employees in a North Bayshore developed to the limits of the 2030 General Plan. It is an area north of Highway 101 where 17,000 jobs now exist and roads are near full capacity.

The measures will have to be unusual, as North Bayshore companies estimate that 39 percent of their employees already use alternative modes of transportation to get to work. At full build-out, and at current rates of car use, road use could jump 300 percent. And North Bayshore's roads can only be modified to accommodate 25 percent more traffic, Lightbody said.

"2030 is too late, solutions need to be in place immediately," said council member Ronit Bryant. "Everyone needs to be working equally hard and it can be done."

Lightbody has been working with Google, Intuit, LinkedIn and other North Bayshore companies in coming up with a menu of transportation improvement for North Bayshore, some of which may be adopted by the City Council early next year.

"The sense I get is businesses really want to solve transportation and solve it in a really creative way," said Marianna Grossman, director of Sustainable Silicon Valley, which has organized private meetings for North Bayshore companies to discuss options for transportation improvements.

Options include dedicated Highway 101 ramps for high-occupancy vehicles (HOV) that connect to dedicated HOV lanes in North Bayshore, guaranteeing that employee shuttles wouldn't get stuck in traffic. Lightbody estimates they would cost $150 million to $500 million, possibly paid for with regional and federal transportation funds.

Employee shuttles and other transit already appears to be in wide use by North Bayshore employees who live more than 30 miles away. Google estimates that its shuttles are used by over 80 percent of the 2,700 Googlers who live in San Francisco and work in Mountain View. Overall, about 25 percent of North Bayshore employees use transit. Lightbody says that number will have to nearly double to 48 percent.

There's a "parking intercept" concept, which places parking garages on the outskirts of North Bayshore in order to reduce traffic inside the area, an idea that had mixed reactions. Then there's the possibility of a Transportation Demand Agency, which could provide incentives to those who chose not to drive, and charge parking fees to those who do.

Various transit systems are being studied, including light rail and futuristic automated pod cars that carry groups, known as "group rapid transit" or GRT. Lightbody said Google is also depending on its growing fleet of self-driving cars to help at some point, as the robotic cars can park themselves away from congested lots and be shared easily by people in different locations.

And of course, there's bicycling, which Google and others want to continue to promote, Lightbody said. While many Googlers famously use bikes to get from one building to another, Lightbody estimates that only 7 percent of North Bayshore employees commute to work by bike. He proposes an increase to 13 percent.

Surprisingly, the largest share of car commuters by far is among North Bayshore employees who live in Mountain View and surrounding cities. Over 40 percent of North Bayshore employees live within 10 miles, and the large majority of them drive to work.

Resident Cliff Chambers encouraged the council to do some "market research" about those nearby commuters to find out what is really going to shift their commuting habits. "Perhaps though focus groups, surveys," he said.

Bicyclists Janet laFleur , who commutes through the area, said the city should be be "very aggressive" in building new bike infrastructure in order to encourage people "who are aren't comfortable riding to go out and do it."

Resident Greg Coladonato called for a dedicated bike bridge over Highway 101 along Shoreline Boulevard, one of two roads into North Bayshore.

"I'm not a timid or a novice bicyclist," Coladonato said. "But it is scary trying to change lanes in rush hour with cars on both sides of you. The bike lane on Shoreline disappears for a while and then reappears and you have to somehow get over there without getting killed."

Bryant and council member Margaret Abe-Koga expressed interest in a Shoreline Boulevard bike bridge. "I would look at something like that," Abe-Koga said. "I think it can be done quickly and that's the kind of solution I'm looking for," Bryant said.

LaFleur is not a fan of the intercept parking idea. "It really disturbs me. It keeps all traffic within Mountain View. I don't think it will help me get to my work" by bike, she said.

"Intercept parking is not a solution, it just shifts the problems to somewhere else," Bryant said. "In Portland, when the university wanted to grow, they had to do really exciting things to grow. We are the best, we need to find the best solutions."

Abe-Koga disagreed. "Intercept parking, I think it could work," she said. "Location is critical. We have this vector control site off Moffett Boulevard" at Highway 101. "We have been looking at using it for some kind of revenue stream. Maybe that is the site we use. We could charge for parking to get revenue."

Council members called for solutions that would benefit local residents as well as North Bayshore companies.

"North Bayshore is the city's North Bayshore, not just the company's North Bayshore," said Mayor Mike Kasperzak. "We do need to take into account recreational uses."

Email Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

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