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Despite ambitious traffic goals, fewer employees are biking to work in Mountain View

Google's main campus in North Bayshore. Photo by Michelle Le.

Mountain View's vision for North Bayshore is banking on a car-lite future for the city's bustling jobs center, home to massive tech offices for Google, Microsoft and Intuit. But when it comes to getting commuters to bike to work, the city is missing the mark and losing ground.

Getting tech workers out of cars has been a critical strategy in building out the city's urban vision for the mostly low-density office park, and the bar is set high. The goal is to get the number of solo drivers down to 45% of the total commuters into North Bayshore, and hit a lofty goal of 10% commuters heading in by bike.

Failing to meet those goals threatens to jam roadways into and out of the area, some of which were arguably over capacity prior to the coronavirus pandemic and temporary telecommuting policies.

Starting in 2015, the city saw a surge in bike commuting into North Bayshore that reached about 6% of the total trips into North Bayshore, which amounts to about 1,500 employees, according to data collected by the city. That number remained steady through spring 2017, at which point it precipitously dropped to only 3% -- or about 750 employees -- and never bounced back. Meanwhile, the number of solo drivers heading into North Bayshore hasn't budged, making up about 57% of the trips into the area in the spring this year.

When asked by the City Council about the puzzling change, particularly as the city priorities bike and pedestrian infrastructure, city staff could only speculate. It could have to do with busy construction activities in North Bayshore discouraging bike use, or it could be caused by differing methodologies used to count commuters.

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Representatives from Google, North Bayshore's largest employer, did not respond to requests for comment.

Reaching 10% of commutes by bike may not be feasible, at least not yet. The future plans for North Bayshore include robust bike infrastructure that criss-crosses all of the major roads in the area intended to make it easy and safe to get to work. Many of the proposals in the North Bayshore Precise Plan call for dedicated bike lanes, including "cycle tracks" completely separate from the road and the sidewalk. The city is also planning to build a new bridge over Highway 101 for bicycles and pedestrians to commute between North Bayshore and the rest of the city.

A 2015 study by the city found that bike commuters prefer to use Stevens Creek Trail to get to work, followed by Middlefield Road, California Street and Shoreline Boulevard. The most loathed streets, considered the least bike friendly, including El Camino Real, Castro Street and San Antonio Road. At the time, 6.5% of the Mountain View's residents biked to work, significantly higher than the average across Santa Clara County but falling short of Palo Alto at 9.1%.

At a community meeting last month, residents overwhelmingly told city staff that they would like to see Mountain View prioritize bike infrastructure as a top priority, even over transit services, and ensure bike and pedestrian routes are both safe and convenient.

City officials closely watch commute patterns into North Bayshore as part of its "trip cap" policy for the area, which monitors traffic flows and whether they exceed the maximum roadway capacity into and out of the jobs center. Though the traffic lull during COVID-19 has given commuters a reprieve from the gridlock, data from earlier this year shows some city roads are already at or exceeding their "practical capacity." Shoreline Boulevard in the morning had 3,170 commute trips in the morning -- a touch over the 3,110 target set by the city -- while Rengstorff Avenue was clogged and overcapacity during the evening commute.

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Looming over transportation decisions for North Bayshore is what, if anything, will happen to the area's commute patterns following COVID-19. During the approval of Google's Landings office project, Mountain View council members that met with company officials suggested that the tech company may shift gears, drop some of its office proposals and embrace telecommuting on a permanent basis. Google is currently reevaluating its need for additional offices, council members said at the time, and may not move forward with building the Landings project.

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Despite ambitious traffic goals, fewer employees are biking to work in Mountain View

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Fri, Nov 13, 2020, 1:55 pm

Mountain View's vision for North Bayshore is banking on a car-lite future for the city's bustling jobs center, home to massive tech offices for Google, Microsoft and Intuit. But when it comes to getting commuters to bike to work, the city is missing the mark and losing ground.

Getting tech workers out of cars has been a critical strategy in building out the city's urban vision for the mostly low-density office park, and the bar is set high. The goal is to get the number of solo drivers down to 45% of the total commuters into North Bayshore, and hit a lofty goal of 10% commuters heading in by bike.

Failing to meet those goals threatens to jam roadways into and out of the area, some of which were arguably over capacity prior to the coronavirus pandemic and temporary telecommuting policies.

Starting in 2015, the city saw a surge in bike commuting into North Bayshore that reached about 6% of the total trips into North Bayshore, which amounts to about 1,500 employees, according to data collected by the city. That number remained steady through spring 2017, at which point it precipitously dropped to only 3% -- or about 750 employees -- and never bounced back. Meanwhile, the number of solo drivers heading into North Bayshore hasn't budged, making up about 57% of the trips into the area in the spring this year.

When asked by the City Council about the puzzling change, particularly as the city priorities bike and pedestrian infrastructure, city staff could only speculate. It could have to do with busy construction activities in North Bayshore discouraging bike use, or it could be caused by differing methodologies used to count commuters.

Representatives from Google, North Bayshore's largest employer, did not respond to requests for comment.

Reaching 10% of commutes by bike may not be feasible, at least not yet. The future plans for North Bayshore include robust bike infrastructure that criss-crosses all of the major roads in the area intended to make it easy and safe to get to work. Many of the proposals in the North Bayshore Precise Plan call for dedicated bike lanes, including "cycle tracks" completely separate from the road and the sidewalk. The city is also planning to build a new bridge over Highway 101 for bicycles and pedestrians to commute between North Bayshore and the rest of the city.

A 2015 study by the city found that bike commuters prefer to use Stevens Creek Trail to get to work, followed by Middlefield Road, California Street and Shoreline Boulevard. The most loathed streets, considered the least bike friendly, including El Camino Real, Castro Street and San Antonio Road. At the time, 6.5% of the Mountain View's residents biked to work, significantly higher than the average across Santa Clara County but falling short of Palo Alto at 9.1%.

At a community meeting last month, residents overwhelmingly told city staff that they would like to see Mountain View prioritize bike infrastructure as a top priority, even over transit services, and ensure bike and pedestrian routes are both safe and convenient.

City officials closely watch commute patterns into North Bayshore as part of its "trip cap" policy for the area, which monitors traffic flows and whether they exceed the maximum roadway capacity into and out of the jobs center. Though the traffic lull during COVID-19 has given commuters a reprieve from the gridlock, data from earlier this year shows some city roads are already at or exceeding their "practical capacity." Shoreline Boulevard in the morning had 3,170 commute trips in the morning -- a touch over the 3,110 target set by the city -- while Rengstorff Avenue was clogged and overcapacity during the evening commute.

Looming over transportation decisions for North Bayshore is what, if anything, will happen to the area's commute patterns following COVID-19. During the approval of Google's Landings office project, Mountain View council members that met with company officials suggested that the tech company may shift gears, drop some of its office proposals and embrace telecommuting on a permanent basis. Google is currently reevaluating its need for additional offices, council members said at the time, and may not move forward with building the Landings project.

Comments

Jeff
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Nov 13, 2020 at 2:14 pm
Jeff, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 13, 2020 at 2:14 pm
29 people like this

How many city staffers bike to work? How many council members bike to meetings?


Bike Commuter
Registered user
Gemello
on Nov 13, 2020 at 2:23 pm
Bike Commuter, Gemello
Registered user
on Nov 13, 2020 at 2:23 pm
25 people like this

The closure of the Bay Trail and Friendship bridge in Palo Alto beginning in Spring 2017 to repair levees along San Francisquito Creek coincides with the drop in commuters. The closure forced me and many others coming from the north on the peninsula or over the Dumbarton bridge to stop bike commuting as frequently due to the safety hazards and extra distance on the alternate routes. I also suspects that the counting was not consistent. If you make it safe and easy, more people bike commute. When you make it harder or unsafe they stop.


Ron Wolf
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Nov 13, 2020 at 2:48 pm
Ron Wolf, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Nov 13, 2020 at 2:48 pm
27 people like this

Not feasible, yet.... Well, if the goal is 10% commuting in by bicycle, then how about if the budget calls for 10% of travel infrastructure (roads ....) be allocated to bike infrastructure (trails, crossings, traffic control)? My guess is that the allocation for bike infrastructure is far far less than 10%. Is it even 1%? Maybe someone here has the figures?


Infrastructure!
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Nov 13, 2020 at 3:08 pm
Infrastructure!, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Nov 13, 2020 at 3:08 pm
31 people like this

Totally agree. If you want more people biking, put your money where your mouth is, and improve the infrastructure. Look to modern european cities; only after people feel safe, will they actually ride their bikes through town! So let's do it!


beelia
Registered user
North Bayshore
on Nov 13, 2020 at 3:16 pm
beelia, North Bayshore
Registered user
on Nov 13, 2020 at 3:16 pm
34 people like this

It's not the City's fault, and it's not a mystery. I biked to work to and from North Bayshore for almost two years. But now, very few people are working in the Google buildings - it's work-from-home for almost everyone, probably until next July.

There is a huge bike community at Google. No worries, the traffic will return when Covid is under control.


Steven Goldstein
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Nov 13, 2020 at 4:07 pm
Steven Goldstein, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Nov 13, 2020 at 4:07 pm
16 people like this

Governments cannot engineer this to work.

The workers are not able to control how their work locations are. Especially where contracting or short term employment is involved.

This ide would only work in a "company" town, where the workers are forced to live in the housing of the employer, and can only shop in stores owned by the employer, and governed by the employer.

This was the worst false promise I have heard of.




Bill Michel
Registered user
another community
on Nov 13, 2020 at 4:45 pm
Bill Michel, another community
Registered user
on Nov 13, 2020 at 4:45 pm
15 people like this

Overcrossings over 101 & Central to make Escula/Sierra Vista, or Ortega/Thompson/Indpendence
alternatives to Rengstorff would be *great*. I did that commute (Rengstorff) for many years...
at peak hours, it's not that fun... I wouldn't say *unsafe*... just not enjoyable... A crossing of
central connecting Thompson with Ortega would also allow bike/ped journeys from Monta
Loma to San Antonio Shopping Center (yes, you can walk along central to the Train Sta., but
who wants to do that?)


Kal Sandhu
Registered user
Castro City
on Nov 13, 2020 at 11:49 pm
Kal Sandhu, Castro City
Registered user
on Nov 13, 2020 at 11:49 pm
5 people like this

2 words:
Lazy Bums


JS
Registered user
Rengstorff Park
on Nov 14, 2020 at 12:51 am
JS, Rengstorff Park
Registered user
on Nov 14, 2020 at 12:51 am
12 people like this

One way to increase efficiency of the roadways is if drivers were aware of their surroundings and drove in a responsible manner. At a stop light or stop sign, pull up to within 1' of the white limit line or within 4' of the car in front of them. The white line won't be injured by stopping on it. The cars are stopped and not a risk of a collision. Leaving 2 car lengths is not any safer and blocks traffic. If you are in the right lane coming up to a red light, move to the far left of the lane so cars can make a right turn on red. Similarly, if you are in the left lane, move to the far right of the lane so cars can move into the left turn lane.


dxdydx
Registered user
Jackson Park
on Nov 14, 2020 at 7:51 am
dxdydx, Jackson Park
Registered user
on Nov 14, 2020 at 7:51 am
13 people like this

Biking is not an option for many who have to drop off and pick up kids from daycare before and after work. I admire the folks with big bags and boxes and whatever on bike in their tow, but it still feels unpleasant, unsafe, heavy and it is too slow. Going to daycare is always through city streets, and they are still a far cry from being easy to bike.


SRB
Registered user
St. Francis Acres
on Nov 14, 2020 at 1:05 pm
SRB, St. Francis Acres
Registered user
on Nov 14, 2020 at 1:05 pm
6 people like this

Was that data correlated to increase in numbers of Spare the Air and Heat Advisory Days? Each of these days is a non bike day , at least for this reader.


DoctorFork
Registered user
Stierlin Estates
on Nov 15, 2020 at 8:27 am
DoctorFork, Stierlin Estates
Registered user
on Nov 15, 2020 at 8:27 am
10 people like this

With each parking space taking up tens of thousands of dollars of valuable land and infrastructure, and then given away for free to motorist commuters, it is no wonder that the roadways are jammed with cars. You get what you subsidize. If Mountain View mandated employer parking fees, then the fee could be dialed up to the level at which traffic patterns met congestion goals. Clean simple feedback mechanism that places the cost of congestion on the people who generate it.


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