Letter to City: Future Growth and Traffic in Cupertino

Letter from me to Cupertino Planning Department 8/9/2015 (with minor corrections):

Dear Planners of our City,

I do not think our City Government has a firm grasp of the future traffic issues in Cupertino based upon the GPA.  Let me summaries the Problem as I see it and pose possible Solutions.  These solutions are only partial solutions as I think the problem far more severe than these solutions alone can mitigate.  I am at a loss as to how to accommodate all this growth with current infrastructures or even considering minor modifications including these suggestions though these solutions are sustainable with a reasonable amount of growth.

THE PROBLEMS:-

The GPA allocates 3,500,000 sq.ft. of office space and 1,400 housing units as part of the Land Use.  If we assume each employee will occupy 200 sq.ft. and each housing unit will have two drivers then 17,500 new jobs will be created and roughly that number of cars added by employees since they will mostly be from out of town and 2,800 residential cars will be added to our streets.  Add to that an estimate of 8,000 additional cars from the new Apple 2 13,000 employee Campus 2 and other ongoing new business  growth such as Main Street, an estimated 28,000 more cars will be added to our streets within the next 8 years of the GP.

By my best guess based upon census data and Future Cupertino Traffic Projections the rate of cars on our street has been close to a straight line growth rate of 722 cars/year.  So in 8 years there should be 5,776 additional cars.  This contrasts to 28,000 car that I estimate based on current businesses and the new GPA allocation of 3.5 million sq.ft.  This is a 4.85 fold increase over the historic growth of motor vehicles in our city.  Census data indicates we have about 60,000 motor vehicles on our streets today.  So in 8 years we will have an increase gf 47% more cars on our street.  This is an explosion of cars we will have to deal with.  This is equivalent to almost 40 years of traditional census growth crammed into 8 years.

Our streets are starting to show signs that the current infrastructures of streets, freeways and freeway exits are having difficulty handling today’s traffic during peak hours.  Streets around many of our schools have been having traffic congestion for years.  The addition of 47% more cars on our streets in 8 years needs to be somehow mitigated or we are facing gridlock on many streets which is bad for residents, employees trying to go to drive, and people trying to shop at our new shopping establishments.

But there are other implications.  Parking is going to become increasingly problematic.  For example Sand Hill is planing 2,000,000 sq..ft. of office space and 800 housing units in Vallco adding 10,000+1,600=11,600 more cars competing with Apple’s 8,000 cars on the same freeway exit (HWY 280) and streets (Wolf Rd. and Stevens Creek).  But Vallco employees will also be competing with shoppers at Vallco for parking spaces as well as traffic.  This is the kiss of death for Vallco competing with other nearby shopping centers in San Jose.  The same can be said for any new shopping development with a lot of shops offices such as Main Street.  So any revitalization of shopping in Cupertino in order to support the explosion of office space and residential housing and consequently cars on our roads and parking spaces is unrealistic.

This explosion of commercial growth is simply unsustainable with current infrastructure.  Providing wider freeway exits will have limited benefits when the streets the leading to it are gridlocked with cars.  How can we make our street wider to handle the influx of cars without taking out sidewalks, bicycle lanes, or medians?  Drivers will try to take alternate routes causing congestion at those exist and along other arteries including Stevens Creek Blvd.  There must be other practical options offered commuters for getting to work and around town other than driving.

THE SOLUTIONS:-

Public transportation options are extremely limited to commuters and residents in Cupertino.  It has been very difficult to get people other than students to take public transportation in our city.  Perhaps it is a sign of affluence.  Cars are so much more CONVENIENT and gas prices too low.  We are alto the epitome of urban sprawl making it difficult to run buses conveniently close to residential homes making public transportation that much more inconvenient.  There must be some kind of INCENTIVE to make people take public transportation.  Would it be possible to make public transportation FREE for anyone taking public transportation within our city?  Could we pay VTA like all DeAnza student do through their student body fee but in our case through a minor tax to offices that do not directly serve the general public (residents) based upon office space square footage?  Shops would automatically be exempt because they directly serve the general public.  It would be fair since they contribute to most of the additional traffic.  This makes things very CONVENIENT as well because people simply need to get onto the bus within Cupertino’s city limit without having to worry hassle about fares.  People always like FREE and CONVENIENCE.  This provides INCENTIVE for people to take buses wherever they are to get around town.  As more people use public transit VTA will expand and improve services over time further reducing traffic.  This will make commuting for workers half as expensive if that take a bus since their trip back home is paid for.

Bicycles are another option local resident as well as people in offices can use.  The problem is the current bicycle infrastructure is UNSAFE to ride.  Bicycle lane must be made to FEEL SAFE if it is the intent that significant numbers of residents, employees, and school aged children will ride their bikes instead of drive their cars.  I know that the Bicycle Pedestrian Commission is working on putting in Class 4 protected bike lanes in some major streets some time in the future.  What I am asking is to make the this a Citywide priority in solving the traffic problem to be urgently funded and executed.  Again it is important to INCENTIVIZE people to ride bicycles instead of drive their cars.  Making street SAFE for people of all ages will help make this a far more ATTRACTIVE alternative to driving.  Many people have bicycles that are sitting in their garages that they occasionally use.  And those that don’t can buy one for a couple of hundred dollars that last forever.  So all the City has to do is make our city very SAFE to ride bikes, and people and even employees will start to ride their bikes.  You can also make as a Community Benefit for new business that they buy fleets of cheap bicycles to give to the city.  The city can provide these bikes FREE for use by the community and businesses.  They can be painted pink or some other outlandish color with places all over the city for them to be parked and used by others.

Bicycle trails away from traffic could be much more extensive such as on the center of HWY 85 to help reduce highway traffic by presenting people with another alternative or the Stevens Creek Trail if extended from Cupertino to Sunnyvale, Los Altos, and Mountain View or the Southern Pacific Trail along the railroad tracks.  Presently Cupertino has two short segments of bicycle trails away from traffic.  We need far more so citizens can enjoy long rides with their bicycles.  Once people learn the joys of riding their bikes they will want to do it more.  Bicycles are simply The Most Efficient Means of Transportation Devised by Man

If the city is to grow according to this GP traffic must first be mitigated or chaos will ensue with traffic gridlock everywhere.  Otherwise the office space allocation needs to be greatly modified in consideration to the current state of road infrastructure to keep step with growth.

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About Frank G

Sustainable Bicycle Advocate
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