Prose and Cons of new 2016 Bicycle Transportation Plan

The Cupertino Bicycle Pedestrian Commission recently had their new 2016 Bicycle Transportation Plan approved by City Council.  This is by far the most ambitious Bicycle Transportation Plan ever put together in the city’s history.  They engage a bicycle planning consultant Alta Planning & Design to assist in putting this plan together.  They have been approved by the city for $2,000,000 to start this $18,000,000 dollar program which will likely span 8-10 years.

That said there are also some major deficiencies in this program.  I will attempt to describe some of its features and vision then some of its major deficiencies which may have long term impacts upon making bicycle riding far more practical for most people in our city and in engaging more citizens to ride their bicycles to reduce traffic.

Pros:

This bicycle plan address traffic around some of our schools in providing safer streets with more buffered bicycle lanes and Class IV protected bicycle lanes, notably along part of McClellan Road between Bubb Road.  They are also placing Class IV protected bicycle lanes on Stevens Creek Blvd., Stelling Road, and Blaney Ave.  But their primary emphasis is on building interconnected bicycle paths or Class I bicycle trails that are totally separate from traffic except where they need to go through residential areas to join together.  There is a large loop trail going around Cupertino as part of the interconnecting trails.  These bicycle trails will provide residents with long walking and bicycle trails safely away from car traffic except where they must go through some local streets to connect together for pleasant recreational rides.  These trail will be very pleasant with some shade and mostly fairly quiet away from traffic noise except those portions along the freeway sound walls.  These trails are mostly intended for weekend recreational bicycle riding though some such as the Union Pacific Trail, which stretches between Rainbow Road and McClellan Road, provides a very safe path to the Tri-school area for students around Rainbow Rd. or south if it such as those living in Seven Springs.

Cons:

I believe that bicycles should first be useful to everyday citizens to safely and conveniently ride to daily destinations such as shopping, dining, jobs, and visiting friends.  This not only make bicycle riding more utilitarian for residents to use daily instead of their cars but makes bicycle riding more accessible for far more citizens who would not normally ride bicycles. This quickly creates more bicycle riders who become bicycle advocates to help promote more bicycle infrastructure reducing the number of cars that are used to do these tasks around town.  It promotes healthy living on a daily basis by providing residents more opportunities to get exercise and fresh air while doing their tasks. I bought a Burley Travoy bicycle cart from REI online on sale for shopping. But first the streets and Infrastructure that makes that safe and convenient for everyday citizens to use must be built so that the majority of citizens like yourself and I have the option of riding our bicycles safely and conveniently to our daily destinations. I think recreational bicycling once or twice a week is great. But what we really NEED is DAILY options for BICYCLING instead of driving SAFELY and CONVENIENTLY around town to do chores and go to Frequented Destinations like work and shopping. Some of that is planned along Stevens Creek Blvd. but it is absent elsewhere, notably along South DeAnza Blvd. where the most concentrated shopping and dining destinations in town are located along a one mile strip. Part of DeAnza Blvd. belongs to San Jose but most Cupertino residents consider this part of Cupertino.  This is probably the busiest street along Cupertino. Cupertino could easily join forces with San Jose to build Class IV protected bicycle lanes there if they wanted since San Jose also has an aggressive bicycle program in place. But such things will likely not happen for another decade though we Need it Now.

It needs to be at the top of their priorities but at this point it isn’t even on their very lengthy multi page priority list.  I am quite disappointed about this decision by the Bicycle Pedestrian Commission.  But the current 2016 Bicycle Transportation Plan has been adopted by City Council and it will be difficult to change.  I was so hopeful that the Commission would develop bicycle routes for safe, convenient and destination riding for the majority of citizens to ride their bicycles instead of driving their cars.  That will likely happen when I am no longer able to ride a bicycle.  In spite of this bitter disappointment there is the sweet of a new plan that does provide Cupertino with far more recreational bicycle options than have ever existed before.

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Raised Bicycle Lanes

Steve Hill on Next Door last year proposed having raised bicycle lanes at the level of sidewalks such as exist in parts of Europe.  I think this a very good idea on the busier streets of our city trafficked by students bicycling to school and others simply bicycling for pleasure or to get around where typical Class 4 protected bicycle lane are not possible because streets are simply too narrow.

An example is at De Anza Blvd. which is a very busy street whose bicycle lanes are restricted in width due to poor design decades ago when bicycles were not a consideration. It is a major thoroughfare yet dangerous to bicycle.  I occasionally bicycle along this route but feel very uncomfortable due to my close proximity to cars.  I am a senior of modest bicycle riding skill.  The sidewalks are usually greatly underutilized.  If the bicycle lane could be raised to the level of the sidewalk and made a bit wider into the underutilized sidewalks this would provide a bicycle lane that would be as safe as a common Class 4 bicycle lane.

There are streets like Rainbow Dr. between Stelling Rd. and Bubb Rd. which meanders and is too narrow for a bicycle lane so cars and bicycles must share this heavily used road. It becomes very congested by parents driving their children to the 4 nearby school. Children riding their bicycles to school must share this narrow road with traffic.  Currently many students illegally ride on the sidewalks to stay out of car traffic.  Raising a narrow portion of the road to sidewalk level and making the sidewalk a little narrower so a decent bicycle lane can be created will provide a far safer and legal path for bicycles to ride.

Another example is the narrow strip of road frequented by bicycle riders on McClellan Rd. between Stelling Rd. and De Anza Blvd. that is too narrow for both bicycles and pedestrians in a small strip close to Stelling Rd.  A raised bicycle lane along here would be much safer if slightly widened onto the sidewalk.  Where it is too narrow for both bicycles and pedestrians let both share the same path with pedestrians having priority.  This would be no different than where cars and bicycles share the same space at right turn intersections and other road space like the freeway exit in front of The Oaks.

Another road that could benefit from raised bicycle lanes is along Bubb Rd. between Rainbow Dr. and McClellan Rd. where many student are driven to the three schools and some students also bicycle to school.  There is a bicycle lane that is too narrow to make into a normal Class 4 protected bicycle lane but a raised bicycle lane might solve this problem.  If the school side of the bicycle lane could be raised and made wide enough for two-way bicycle traffic and parking permitted on the other side of the road this would provide a safe bicycle route for students.  Trash collection could be scheduled for the weekend.  Weekend trash pickup has already been tried and is feasible.

There are many other streets that I am not familiar with that could also benefit from raised bicycle lanes.  There are bicycle lanes that are between street level and sidewalk level that could also be made but these cannot easily be made wider into underutilized sidewalks.

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A Bicycle Ride on the Stevens Creek Trail in Mountain View

Last week I had the opportunity to ride my bicycle on the Stevens Creek Train in Mountain View.  I drove my car to where Heatherstone Way joined Dale Avenue in Mountain View next to Hwy 85 where the trail begins in the South near Sunnyvale.  This is not the best place to get on the trail because there is an overpass bridge that crosses over Hwy 85 that requires you to immediately assumed about 30 feet to the overpass.  I walked my bicycle to the top of this overpass.

Overall the trail was about 5 mile long and terminated at Shoreline where it intersected the Bay Trail, another very nice bicycle trail worth exploring later.  More than half the trail followed the Hwy 85 sound wall, sometime right against it but most of the time sometime a short distance from it, and crosses roads and freeways along the way so the sound of cars was present and occasionally loud especially when crossing freeways but car were not visible most of the time.  There were exits along the way to other streets but the trail itself never intersected any streets but instead bridges them.  The entire trail is paved and well maintained with a lot of wildlife, trees, and vegetation along the way.  There are only a few spots where Steven Creek itself is visible until you approach the bay near Shoreline.  It has the feel of being close to nature in spite of traffic noise, much nicer than the much shorter way overdeveloped Stevens Creek Trail in Cupertino.

There were some rest stops along  the way and occasional information plaques.  Walkers and joggers also shared this trail.  The trail is not new and must have cost tens of millions to build because of all the bridges crossing streets and highways (Hwy 85 and Hwy 101) along the way.  Yet it maintains the appearance of a trail in the open spaces.  I wished I lived within easy bicycle riding distance to the trail so I could ride it daily but it is about 7-8 hazardous miles from where I live.  This trail is suitable for people of  all ages and riding abilities.  I am a senior with health issues so riding is not easy but this trail wasn’t that difficult except at a couple of overpasses where you had to ascend some distance to get over.  But I was able to ride the entire length round trip except at the very beginning as I said.  It is worth the effort even if you can’t do the entire 10 mile round trip.  It took be a little over an hour for the entire ride.  I’d rate this trail a 7 out of 10 just because of the street noise.  But for a trail that goes through the heart of a busy city and over streets and freeway this is one amazing trail and deserves a 12 for the love and effort that went into it.

The trail should certainly serve as a model for other bay area cities to follow.  It shows that Mountain View take bicycles and pedestrians seriously and puts its money where its mouth is and planned long ahead.  My hat off to the city of Mountain View for providing its citizens a safe haven to walk, jog, and bicycle safely away from car traffic and providing a very pleasant trail for these activities.  I wish Cupertino citizens would try out this trail on their bicycles or simply walking this first class trail.  If you plug your ears or listen to music to drown out the background road noise at places you would think you were miles away from any city most of the time.  It is well worth going to over and over again.

It is unfortunate that Cupertino never considered pedestrians and bicycle paths when planning out the city.  Now putting in bicycle trails will be far more difficult.  The Union Pacific Railroad trail which is currently undeveloped and hazardous to bicycle is a perspective trail that should be seriously considered by the city.

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Cupertino is Mostly about Education

You may well ask why I am talking about Education on a blog which is all about Bicycles and Growth?  Well I’d like readers to understand the character of our city of Cupertino and  one cannot really understand it without talking about Education.  It is a large, perhaps the key, reason why people flock here to live, and it is responsible for our demographics being over 60% Asian.  House prices are unusually high for this particular region considering the size of properties.  Our neighboring city of Saratoga has much more expensive houses but many are situated on lot that are considerably larger, often 2-6 times larger, than those typically found in Cupertino.

Cupertino has two school districts, Cupertino Union School District (CUSD) k-8 grades and Fremont Union High School District (FUHSD) 9-12 grades which also cover parts of other neighboring cities.  As school districts both are among the highest ranked academically in the state and nation.  FUHSD has a couple of schools, Monta Vista High School and Lynbrook High School, which rank in the top 10-50 in a nation of more than 35,000 public and private high school.  That means that they are in the top 0.03-0.15% of school in the nation.  The fact that we have at least 2 high schools in that category and others in the top 100 is quite an accomplishment.  Understand that there are only 5 high schools in FUHSD.

There is much controversy among some parents who feel that the overemphasis in academics is robbing kids of a more rounded education.  But in fact many parents expose their children to many other things outside of school such as the arts, sports, and other extracurricular activities knowing very well that many top universities in the nation not only look at academic accomplishments but other interests which may distinguish them from other strong applicants.  And that speaks to motive for all this emphasis upon academics, giving their college bound children the best chance of being accepted into the nations best universities.  But academics is very highly stressed.

It is because of highly motivated and invested parents that our schools have achieved such high academic standings.  Dropout rates and truancy are almost non-existent and crime and drugs far less a problem than elsewhere.  Students are typically very competitive in vying for the highest SAT scores, a few each year scoring perfect over multiple disciplines.  Many residents are recent Asian immigrants to this nation and have a tradition of highly treasuring education and instilling that into they young children.  We have a high population of predominantly Chinese and Indian residents living here primarily because of our highly ranked schools.  But let it be said that our schools are ranked very high because of the high expectations of parents, not necessarily because they are inherently great schools.  Without such highly motivated parents our schools would be far more ordinary.  Parents continue the education of their children after school and during weekends with tutors and other learning challenges such as Chinese schools to learn Chinese.  So studying in addition to play is part of the culture here, and amazingly they do find time to play and hang out with one another and make lasting friendships.

Anything that residents feel might pose a threat to their children’s education is highly contentious and greatly resisted by residents.  Housing is one of these things.  Residents equate more housing with overcrowded schools that may threaten the quality of education so are met with great resistance.  So any attempt at high density housing to meet the needs of expanding jobs is highly contested.  There is no land available for building new school sites.  There are some people who argue that schools can hold many more children than they currently do by building up higher schools buildings as is done in other space limited cities and in one of our highest ranked and highest student density schools, Monta Vista High School.  Classroom size will not be impacted by having multistory classrooms.  But many more people argue about the density of students using playing fields, parking spaces, long lines at the cafeteria and restrooms, etc.  Even though there are possible solutions to each perceived concern they do not want to take a chance that something may affect the quality of education their children currently receive and they have heavily invested in.

I agree that it is appropriate for this nations so lacking in world-class schools to have a few such schools that set high expectations and shoot for very high standards and why not locate some in the heart of Silicon Valley, the home of Apple.  The bar is set so low in this nation and this and other Presidents have been trying to pump more money into schools and raise standards for decades in a global economy where technology and science are king for economic prosperity.  If this nation doesn’t do something soon about education we will not be able to compete with such emerging nations of China and India.  China is already a well positioned threat with 3.7 times our population and there are signs that India with 3.3 times our population is not far behind.  So we are a small nation on a huge playing field.  We have the advantage today but there are clear signs that it may not be that way for long in competition with cultures where education is fundamentally highly treasured.

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Incentivizing Employees to Live Close to Work and Reduce Traffic

I have written about incentives that employers could pay employees for living near work in an earlier post.  I am breaking this out as a separate post because this could be a key strategy for reducing traffic around town.

The problem in Cupertino is that the reputations of schools here are the primary draw for residents moving here.  This has driven the cost of housing both in price and rent higher than many of the surrounding areas.  This makes it less attractive for employees working here to live here.  If employees of major employers could live within walking distance of where they worked that would mean fewer numbers of cars on our freeways and local streets.

Recently more and more companies have been paying their employees to live closer to work because they get employees who do not have to fight hours of traffic every day thus come to work more rested, happy and productive.  Since productivity is what companies want of their employees helping them to defray some of their rental costs would be of great benefit.  This would also improve the quality of life for employees in not having to spend hours stuck in traffic.  Some companies in Silicon Valley are already doing this (see references at the end of this article)

How can Apple employees be encouraged to occupy housing at Vallco legally without violating the Fair Housing Laws?  Apple could give their employees monthly monetary incentives for walking or biking to work or for living within for example 1 mile from work. Having employees so close to work will have great benefit to Apple from more productive employees. They will be more likely to be at work on time. Employees could wake up later and be more rested and alert not having to waste time fighting daily commuter traffic and would be in a better frame of mind at work. They would be so close that employees could conveniently go to work any time including weekends without having to worry about commuting or weather or other inconveniences we take so much for granted. This all adds up to increased productivity which is everything to Apple. Rewards for achievements could take the form of upgrades in living quarters where Apple would pay the difference in rents for example.

So if there could be significant numbers of housing at Vallco which is next to Apple Campus 2 they could walk to work in 10-15 minutes, the time it takes for a commuter to park their car and walk into their company.  They would also save a bundle of money on car and other commuter expenses and ware and tear on their cars.  The time saved each day could be used to enjoy life and be with family.  Then if Vallco would have shops, restaurants, sports facilities, theaters, fitness centers, etc. it would be like a paradise all accessible on foot.

Reference Articles:

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Smart Growth for our Communities

I have been involve in the Smart Growth movement for about one and a half years now and have read numerous articles and subscribe to a news letter. Smart Growth isn’t about one way of doing things. It has its basis on the sustainability of the environment and building with minimizing impacts upon the environment. It is part of the environmental movement in reducing our impact on it in terms of pollution (not just air) and the sprawling of communities into natural habitats as a consequence of Growth. That is the fundamental premise of Smart Growth. It is called Smart because in designing communities one must do it in such a manor as not to significantly impact the environment which is a Creative effort unique to each situation. That is fundamentally what Smart Growth is. It of course can manifest itself in many ways as long as it does not expand into unused areas and does not add significant amounts of pollution or use of resources. It is about the conservation of resources such as water, energy, and recycled building materials and independence from greenhouse producing fossil fuels.

So when a community grows and if you stick to the philosophy of Smart Growth you must fundamentally increase the density of human habitat so as not to infringe further into the environment. That means more high density housing and more high density workplaces. To reduce air pollution and the consumption of fossil fuels and also to keep the mobility footprint small (less streets or street expansion) so as not to infringe into the natural habitat you need to design communities that does not depend upon vehicles that need more roads and freeways. The best designs actually return land to the natural habitat that is no longer needed. Thus for growth due to increased population, for it to be optimally environmentally friendly it must be compact, efficient in using green construction materials, energy efficient, and require no dependence upon vehicles for people to get around.

The Smart part of this is to do as much of these things as possible while developing a city which is growing (thinking outside of the box). The more of these elements you can put together the Smarter you are Growing your community which in the end will be most sustainable because it is the most efficient use of land use having the least impact upon humans as well at the natural habitat. This requires very Smart planning. There are many ways people have tried to do this to meet as many of the environmental and sustainable factors at the same time. Some have been more compromising and some have tried to stick more strictly to the philosophy. Some have been more successful than other.

There is no one way of doing it. That is the problem with just reading one or two articles about it. The movement is spreading throughout the nation and world and was initially started in Europe. It is more of a movement than one thing. It is most important to understand the philosophy behind it which is quite simple. Making it work for each situation ad environment is the challenge. It is Smart because there are no blueprint for how to do it best because best is location specific. You must use your brains to solve local challenges. It is a work in progress but it can be made to work with the right combination of will and creativity (Smart).

I hope this overview help to people to better understand it this concept. I have designed one such system for Vallco, or I should say I have developed one such framework for such a system there. To meet the needs of Apple Campus 2 it needs to be big. But it actually will decrease the number of cars on the road from AC2 and its impact upon our community and the environment if done properly.

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The Deadly Third Rail of Growth

At the heart of any community of people is housing, a place where people live and feel a sense of home and belonging, a comfortable and familiar place to rest and be oneself.  But jobs are ultimately the reason people move from location to location in order to secure their livelihoods.  Some may claim that they moved to a specific location for other reason such as schools or more affordable houses but in essence it is the prospects of a good job that bring them to the area.  So the essence of growing communities is housing and jobs and jobs are the magnets that draw in more people and housing.

When communities are small and somewhat isolated things are quite simple.  People move in for jobs and houses get build according to demand to accommodate them as a natural progression of growth.  But as these communities start growing into cities and their borders start approaching and merging with neighboring cities there is an increasing exchange of jobs and housing between cities.  More jobs may exist in one and more housing in another.  One may become far larger than the other resulting in more housing or more job in the smaller community creating a large imbalances.  You may ask what is the problem with that?

If people live far from where they work they must drive to and from work.  Initially this is not a problem but if cities are not designed to account for how people get from one location to another, eventually traffic becomes congested.  So traffic and traffic gridlock is the third rail (like the deadly high voltage third rail of subway systems) of growth.  The objective of a growing community is to be sustainable by keeping a safe distance from hitting that third rail of growth that could cause a downward spiraling in the quality of life and ultimately the demise of a thriving residential and job providing community.

Unfortunately there are many signs that our city is heading uncomfortably close to that third rail.  The city is encouraging major companies to move into our small city of 11.3 sq. mi. with no room to expand in the middle of Silicon Valley which is growing by leaps and bounds.  There exists a huge imbalance between jobs and the available of housing for these jobs.  We have large quantities of housing but most residents move here for our world-class schools driving up their cost due to the demand for living in our famous school districts.  Thus housing is becoming too expensive for those with jobs here.  This results in most people living here for schools driving elsewhere to jobs and those with jobs here driving from where they live elsewhere.  Thus as the city continues to grow there will be more cars on the roadways bringing us closer and closer to that third rail.

So how does a city such as ours place more distance between that third rail of growth?  The first thing is for the city leaders to recognize the long-term consequences of the third rail.  Without their buy-in it will be almost impossible to improve the situation.  I feel all city council members see that traffic is a major problem.  But it is a matter of priorities.  Some council members think that a healthy and sustained income for the city is most important so they want more businesses to bring in more sales tax revenues.  Some believe that diversifying in income revenues is most important.  Currently by far the largest taxpayer is Apple.  Some want to bring in other companies such as Google, eBay, or Amazon and not just depend upon one major source of income so should Apple fail or leave it would cushion any dramatic loss of revenues.

City council must realize that traffic is a real threat that could eventually cause many companies to move to other cities if the third rail is touched.  If traffic gridlock is a daily occurrence what is going to motivate them to stay?  If their CEO’s must spend hours in traffic to get to their headquarters or sites why would they want to stay here when there are other nearby cities around without such severe problems?

So long-term, if traffic is not quickly and properly address and reaches the point of touching the third rail, the touch of death, the city could eventually lose everything including businesses and residents who will move out because of impossible traffic resulting in little city income stream and our world-class schools descending into mediocrity and housing prices plummeting.  So it is essential that the city place traffic considerations and impact at the very top of their priorities for growth or the city Will eventually hit the third rail.

For solutions read:

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Free Public Transportation for Cupetino

The benefits of public transportation are well documented.  It reduces traffic congestion and results in far less pollution and greenhouse gases than cars driving by individual drivers.  It also uses less fuel thus reducing our dependence upon fossil fuel today.  But it has other benefits such as a worry free commuting not having to fight traffic and is a safer mode of transportation since accidents in buses result in fewer serious injuries than cars.  Countries with well designed public transportation system have very regular and frequent pickups and fast commutes with fewer cars and traffic congestion.  That is lacking here in much of the U.S. because our gasoline tax is among the lowest of nations with well-developed public transportation.  Gasoline tax is typically $0.20 per gallon vs. other countries which is around $2.00 per gallon.  Thus we have relatively little money going into public transportation.

I’ve put much thought into how to make Public Transportation more popular in Cupertino. There are at least a couple of reasons that Public Transportation has failed here:

  1. We are too affluent and our tolerance for discomfort in traveling is quite low so we value the luxury and privacy of our cars more than public transportation whereas lower income people are more inclined towards the lower cost and freedom from fighting traffic congestion of public transportation;
  2. The “first and last mile” – our urban sprawls make it difficult for public transportation to pick us up conveniently close to our houses (first mile) and deliver us conveniently to where we work (last mile) because companies are spread out all over Silicon Valley.  It is that “first and last mile” to and from transit hubs that discourages people from using public transportation.

I have a different take on the issue of public transportation than other people. I propose that the city make free all VTA transportation in the city of Cupertino.  Even people living in affluent areas like a good hassle free deal. This would mean that anyone taking a bus here simply has to step onto the bus and get off wherever they want, even outside of the city with no hassle. Thus people working here would pay to catch the bus to work from out-of-town to Cupertino but would be able to return home free thus incentivizing them to take a bus since half their fare is paid for by the city. And it would make shopping very convenient to residents. It would mean residents could take the bus to Caltrain and pay for the return trip cutting the fare in half and simplifying the fast and no hassle boarding the bus in Cupertino.

Cupertino would make a deal with VTA to pay them the fare box money that would at least make running each bus feasible for them. Then for example if they run a bus down Bubb Rd. or some other road we would pay them by the same criterion. This way we guarantee them a minimum fare regardless if the bus has people or not. That makes it possible for the city to ask for more buses to cover certain areas and the free fare would incentive’s more people to use the bus.

But where would the city get money from? Maybe some of it could come from Building Impact Fees levied on developers as part of the price of building here and as a part of the business tax for businesses here since it could bring in more customers.  A long-term benefit of free buses to businesses is that it may help not fill up their parking lots with people driving their car eventually allowing smaller parking lots and more room for more business buildings.

At least Cupertino could try this as an experiment on a temporary basis for a 2-3 month period to see how many people would be willing to use public transportation.  The city could work a deal with VTA to add service on certain streets not currently served as part of the experiment.  If ridership is high then the city could extend the free service or do more experiments.

Most public transportation have accommodations for those wanting to take their bicycle.  For example most VTA buses have bicycle racks in front of the bus.  This helps the problem of the last mile where many public transit does not pick people up close enough to home nor drop them off close enough to work or other destinations.

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Union Pacific Railroad Trail Update

In November of 2014 I wrote a short blog post titled Union Pacific Railroad Trail for Bicycling and Walking.  This infrequently used railroad track owned by the Union Pacific Railroad runs a considerable distance through Cupertino.   The railroad runs to the Lehigh Cement Plant just outside Cupertino where about once a day on weekdays it bring in petroleum coke to use as fuel for its huge rotary furnace.  An unofficial trail called the Union Pacific Trail runs from Prospect Road and Stelling Road to the South next to Saratoga 3.4 miles to North Foothill Blvd. to the North ending at the Lehigh Cement Plant.  It comes close to connecting to Joe’s Trail along the railroad tracks, another nice well developed bicycle-pedestrian trail, to the south in the city of Saratoga which runs along the tracks from near the junction of Stelling Road and Prospect Road a little over 2 miles to Saratoga Ave. near the Hwy 85 overpass where Joe’s Trail ends.  The track itself then continues besides Hwy 85 to Winchester Ave. 2.8 miles away into San Jose and continues on through the greater San Jose area.

Saratoga was able to make improvements to their section of Joe’s trail next to the tracks in spite of the Union Pacific’s lack of cooperation to give permission to use their land because there was a long narrow strip of land along the track which PG&E had the right of way where a power line ran.  PG&E was far more cooperative in giving Saratoga permission to share the right of way.  However there are no PG&E lines on the track access along the segment of tracks in Cupertino.  But I have learned that there are possibly two large water pipe buried alongside the tracks in Cupertino running to Saragoga which may be owned by the Santa Clara Valley Water District.  A small section of it is exposed as it traverses a creek (see photos below).  There are also access covers every couple hundred yard along the track (see photos below).  If this is true and they own the right of way as well then there is hope that Cupertino might be able to negotiate an agreement with the water district that will allow the city to put in an improved bicycle pedestrian trail on top of the pipe and along the tracks away from the danger and noise of car traffic.

So there is still hope for a formal trail.  I have suggested this to the City through the Bicycle Pedestrian Commission.  If the City gets permission from the water district it would be a major asset and trail for our city which is so lacking in trails.  It is also very accessible by many residents living nearby the tracks and runs right by the troublesome traffic congested try-school area of Kennedy Middle School, Lincoln Elementary School and Monta Vista High School.  It also runs near Regnard Elementary School near the Sevens Springs development next to the track where it crosses Rainbow Rd.  So it could be a very safe route to several schools for many children.  And if it could connect to Joe’s trail in the city of Saratoga it could potentially be a 4-5 mile long trail through a very long narrow strip of undeveloped land away from the noise and distractions of traffic except where it crosses various streets and where a train usually runs once each weekday.

Water Pipe on UP Trail 3Water Pipe on UP Trail 1

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Mitigating traffic around Tri-School Area

This post takes a post I did in November 2014: Closing Southbound Lane on Bubb Rd. During Moring Student Commute and develops it further.

Close off Bubb Rd. on the Kennedy Middle School side of the road between Rainbow Rd. and McClellan Rd. for bicycle traffic only during Peak AM traffic hours. Make Bubb Rd. one way Northbound for cars traffic on the west side of Bubb Rd opposite the school side of the road. This would still allow residents on the railroad side of Bubb to exit onto Bubb Rd. since they would not otherwise have a way out (see drawing below).

Close off McClellan Rd. on the Monta Vista High School side of street for example between roughly near De Anza College to just past the curve in the road near Monta Vista High for bicycles traffic only during the same Peak AM traffic hours. Make McClellan Rd. one way Westbound for cars traffic on the North side of the street opposite the school side of McClellan Rd.

Prohibit cars from dropping off kids at schools or in the bicycle lane side of the street, only along their sidewalk side (north side of road opposite the school side).  In essence traffic is going in a counterclockwise direction from Rainbow Road on Bubb Road down to McClellan Road and makes a left on McClellan Road down to a little pass Monta Vista High School.

Block Bubb for bikes

Example of Bubb Road in the AM: Bicycle and Car Lanes

Coordinate with Schools to start at same time to minimize the street closure time. This will give bicycles a very wide and safe zone for safely bicycling to schools. Intersecting roads leading into these bicycle lanes will also be closed off to traffic during this time so bicycles as well as walking children will have traffic free sidewalks and crossing streets to go to school. This should encourage more kids to ride their bikes to school or walk to school free of worrying about car traffic. Barriers can be erected temporarily to close off the bicycle side intersecting streets using volunteer residents living nearby or crosswalk guard personnel. Car and bicycle traffic would still have to stop for children crossing the streets at crosswalks. Crossing guards would be stationed at these crossings to assist. And if emergency vehicles need access they can cautiously drive in the bicycle lane and wave cyclist out of the way.

During the Peak PM hours do the same but reverse the direction of one way car traffic on the streets. Since cars will be on the wrong side of the street, at the end of these routes they would cross over over to the correct side of the street. There may have to be adjustments made to signal lights at the Bubb and McClellan intersection.

Over time I would hope that the attitudes of parents would change and that they would allow their children to walk and bicycle to school along the safe and wide streets during those hours thus reducing car traffic to a much more reasonable level for those who simply must be driven. The city and schools could have programs to encourage this behavior. On special weekends the streets could be closed off to allow residents to see and feel how safe the roads are for adults and children to ride with booths set up to provide children snacks and parents literature and answered to questions. There would also be neighborhood programs so residents know what is happening. An experiment could be done for a certain period of time to see how this works. Arrangements will have to be made with garbage pickup times.

This proposal accomplishes multiple purposes:

  1. It provides a safe and traffic free street wide bicycle route to school.
  2. It provides a safe and traffic free walking route to school.
  3. It gives parent the feeling and perception of a safe route to school for their children so not so many have to feel like they have to drive their kids to school.
  4. It reduces traffic and congestion along these streets during peak hours allowing traffic to flow more quickly.
  5. It does not require any major and expensive alterations to existing roads.
  6. It stops crazy behavior of parents dropping kids off at schools.
  7. It may save more lives and limbs in the future.
  8. And it teaches a new generation of children that cars are not the only way to get around as well as giving them a better chance to know other kids around the neighborhood and providing them with fresh air and exercise to improve their health.

Had something like this been done much earlier Ethan Wong would still be with us. His tragedy inspired me to come up with this idea. We need to save other children from such terrible fates in the future while reducing traffic.

Posted in Bicycle, Ideas, Traffic | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Community Mall that Reduces Traffic the Larger it Grows – Thinking Outside the Box

I like thinking outside the box.  It stimulates ideas that others have not thought about yet.  But such thinking must also solve problems as well.  It also acts as the springboard for other similar but original ideas.  I have written extensively about the concepts of Smart Growth.  The essence of this new concept in city planning is to promote sustainable growth while having minimal impact upon the environment.  These environmental impacts come in the form of cities spreading out into undeveloped habitat and the emissions of greenhouse gases contributing to Climate Change.  What makes this Smart is that it mitigate these environmental impacts while enabling a community to thrive while continuing to grow into the distant future (sustainably).

Cars and traffic congestion have been determined to have the single greatest impact limiting the growth of communities due to traffic congestion as well as contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.  Low density housing is also very wasteful of efficient land utilization and of heating and cooling energy losses that results in greenhouse emissions due to so much outside wall exposure vs. high density housing with far fewer outside walls to lose energy.  So a development which is compact and mitigates traffic and energy consumption is the epitome of a Smart Growth model.

Apple Campus II (AC2) sometimes referred to as the Spaceship because of it ringlike shape will soon be the flagship of Apple’s R&D in Cupertino.  It was the vision of Steve Jobs.  It will house at least 14,000 employees.  The vast majority of them do not live in Cupertino but commute to work by car or buses provided by Apple.  An estimated 8,000 cars will be added to our freeway and local roads twice a day by AC2.  Immediately next to AC2 is the Vallco Shopping Mall.  It is slated to be demolished and an estimated 2,000,000 sq. ft. office structure with 800 units of housing and a very modest retail shopping center proposed there.  This complex is estimated to add a minimum of 10,000 additional employees and cars on the same freeways and streets as AC2, again most commuting from out of town.  That is at least 18,000 cars of traffic added to our roadways twice a day.  There are also buses from AC2 mixed in with the traffic.  This violates the traffic and greenhouse emissions principles of Smart Growth with no balance of effective housing for employees.  A single use minimum 1,200,000 sq. ft. vibrant shopping mall at Vallco like Valley Fair has also been proposed by residents also creates more traffic and fails to add value to smart and sustainable growth.

What if instead of building 2,000,000 sq. ft. of office we replace it with high density rental housing units marketed primarily towards AC2 employees.  This could consist of a mixture of studios, single bedroom units, and various family units.  Let us assume that the majority of unit are occupied by AC2 employees.  That means that for each AC2 employee that used to drive to work they can now walk or ride their bike to work meaning one less cars on the road.  Thus the more housing there is the fewer cars will be driving to AC2 resulting in a net reduction in traffic.  So if there are 8,000 cars driving per day to AC2 and for example 2,000 of them live in Vallco that would reduce by 25% the number of cars driving to AC2 and add no cars driving to and from Vallco.  That is the essence of the Smart Growth concept being proposed.  It is Smart because it mitigates traffic while actually adding more resident population to our city, growth with negative growth impact.  But that is not all.

There are other benefits to AC2 Vallco residents and to Apple Corporation itself.  Since these employees don’t have to fight morning traffic for hours they can get that much more sleep and be more rested at work.  Likewise returning home will be short allowing them to enjoy a higher quality of life with less stress after work.  This makes for a far more productive employee for Apple, something Apple will highly value and encourage.  So it would seem reasonable for Apple to incentivise their employees to live near where they work.  So why not suggest this to Apple?

To facilitate transportation to AC2 a SkyTran system can lead from Vallco housing to the AC2 building and other Apple sights and destinations.  These are small suspended transportation pods that can carry about 4 people and reach speed of 100 mph when needed.  They are magnetically levitated on a single rail.  Class IV protected bicycle lanes can also run over the Wolfe Road overpass connecting Vallco to AC2.

But these residents will need to drive elsewhere to shop, eat, exercise and have fun in their free time.  So why not have a shopping mall at Vallco with retail, dining, entertainment, sporting, and fitness venues to provide most of the needs of Vallco residents as well as the needs of Cupertino residents at large.  That will largely reduce the need for Vallo residents to drive to these activities.  Of course there will be some traffic from other Cupertino residents but there will be far less traffic than had Vallco been a larger shopping only development.  This would be ideal for other housing development within walking distance such as in Main Street and the Biltmore.  A modest size energy efficient shopping mall that does not compete for business from other shopping centers will minimize roadway traffic could be integrated into this residential building.

Offices could also exist in combination with the shopping center.  Both have similar structural requirements so could be relatively easily converted from one to the other as needed.  Thus if not enough retail business can be rented some of that excess space could be converted to office space and visa versa.  Office area would be relatively small and would primary contain medical, legal, and other professional services needed by the public, not offices for large companies, thus serving the residential community in Vallco and around town.

But children from families living at Vallco will have to commute to school.  How about building a k-6 school right inside Vallco near the housing but far enough to mitigate noise so they can safely and easily walk to school?  This would also place the school within walking/bicycling distance from AC2 so parents can quickly go to the school in case of an emergency.  Also place a pre-school/after-school facility right next to this school so pre-school children can attend and where parents can leave older kids early on the way to work until school starts and where children can stay after school until parents pick them up after work.  There could even be a play/sports ground on the roof.  Placing a library and science/technology center for the older kids right next to the school well complete this Youth Center for children of all ages.  The Vallco library may also offload some of the parking at the current library.  As a bonus shoppers from outside Vallco can leave their kids at this Youth Center when shopping.  Children from other nearby housing developments such as Main Street and the Biltmore within walking distance to Vallco can also use the school, library, and other this Youth Center further reducing traffic from them.  Middle school and high school children can be taken to other schools by Vallco shuttle buses.

What about spouses who must commute to work.  Perhaps a shuttle service provided by Vallco and paid for indirectly through rents collected from all residents could serve to take some of these people to work places not too far out of the way to work or elsewhere in small minibus shuttles.  Apple could also donate some of their buses to serve as shuttle for families of employees when not otherwise in use.  These shuttles could also take residents to Caltrain, other transportation hubs, and the San Jose Airport and maybe even the San Francisco Airport and BART station in Millbrae.  There will of course inevitably be some traffic impact from those with little choice but to drive.

Solar panels can be placed on the roof to supply some of the electrical power and recycled water (purple pipes) plumbed into the city by AC2 used to water plants and for flush toilets and other nonpotable water uses.  Protected bicycle lanes can run along the length of Stevens Creek Blvd. running safely into Vallco for residents to safely bicycle instead of drive to Vallco to shop and a transit/shuttle terminal located near Vallco’s entrance.  AC2 employees can park their cars at work reducing the need for parking space at Vallco thus reducing the size of the Vallco parking and the development.

The whole point is to build a self contained community under one roof that has very low impact upon the environment, is energy efficient, provides needed low impact housing for the community, actually reduces overall traffic in the area, and provides a higher quality of life for its inhabitants within a fixed plot of already used land.  This could also serve the needs of other nearby housing developments such as in Main Street and the Biltmore within waling distance thus reducing traffic from them.  That is what Smart Growth is All About, the almost perfect Smart Growth community and a model towards the future for everyone to follow worldwide.

This post is more descriptive than an earlier post: Vallco – Housing for Apple 2 Employees to Mitigate Traffic where I have already given suggestions on how to make this a reality.  Here are some topical links to what I have written with more details on how to this could be a reality:

Please note that this is a work in progress, a skeleton proposal on which to build upon.

Posted in Growth, Ideas, Smart Growth, Traffic | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Building Moratorium between Developments to Control Growth

This article is not so much about bicycles as it is about impacts on them and the rest of the city.  I first became aware of Moratoriums from a comment by Kent Vincent on Nextdoor.com on 11/30/15.  Apple Campus 2 is well on its way to completion and will house 14,000 employees in our small city of population a little over 60,000.  The Main Street project is almost complete and is starting to be occupied.  The Biltmore Apartments is complete and renting.  The vast majority of employees will be commuting from out of town.  Vallco business and shopping mall, with its proposed 2,000,000 sq. ft. of office space next door to the new Apple campus has been submitted for the city’s approval which would bring in more than 10,000 employees.  The Oaks and Goodyear Tire proposals have just been submitted for consideration.  The Target property has been purchased by a developer and will soon have a proposal as will Marina, Cupertino Village and many others.  This onslaught of new construction and growth in our small city in a short space of time brings with it concerns of exploding traffic congestion and other consequential impacts such as on the safety of bicycle riders, pedestrians, and other cars.  It also creates far more traffic congestions on local freeways due to thousands of more employees commuting to work from out of town.Moratorium Process

This proposal consist of placing a Building Moratorium (BM) of a certain length of time on proposed building permits on the prior projects totalling a certain number of square feet of habitable space calculated at the time the clock start such office, retail, housing, and hallway space beginning after a certain percentage of occupancy has been reached.  For example a BM of 3 years would be imposed on any project totalling 1,000,000 sq. ft. or more of habitable space determined when the clock starts after the previous development has been completed and 75% occupied before a new building permit can be issued.  This does not stop a developer from submitting a proposed plan for approval any time during this 3 year period, but is would be prudent that any plan not be submitted until all impacts have been characterized by at least a CEQA report.

This BM serves a number of functions:

  1. It controls the growth of major developments to prevent clusters of major developments being built too closely together in time thus placing more control over the overall rate of development growth;
  2. It would suggest a CEQA be generated no less than one year after the BM countdown goes into effect to allows an adequate period of time to study the rate of development growth upon various infrastructures such as traffic on roadways after being for example 75% occupied to provide hard data to better predict the impact of the next major development;
  3. It provides time for the city, developer, and residents to actually see the impacts of the earlier development and better discuss and determine what is most appropriate for the developer to build;
  4. It allows time for any infruststurcure improvements to be made as a consequence of the earlier development and for the community to adapt to the development and to foresee the pitfalls of the next development;
  5. It is a very short, simple, and easy to understand proposal that could easily be integrated into the General Plan or be placed on the ballot as an Initiative.

Its simplicity, brevity, fairness, clarity of goals, and clearly defined benefits far exceed the lengthy, complex, potentially ambiguous, expensive, voter intensive, and unequal treatment of Vallco of the Initiative being petitioned for now.

This proposal actually solve many problems not addressed in the current Initiative which places any variances to the Initiative up to vote.  If the BM is to be done as an Initiative there only needs to be one election, that of passing the BM Initiative.  The beauty of the BM is its simplicity and efficiency at bringing far more control and certainty over growth.  It does not change the General Plan procedures other than spacing major developments further apart in time.  It is less politically contentious as it is possible that different Council Members will review the proposed developments and making the final decisions as they term out during that period.

So far as major developments are concerned time is on our side.  Providing a buffer time between major developments is far less contentious than grouping them all together as is now the process.  The current procedure of reviewing a group of developments at the same time makes such reviews far more complex and often confusing.  It is also much more confusing to the community when trying discussing each one on its own merits as it is easy to mix different developments up.  The BM allows people to focus upon one development at a time.

If this were implemented through an Initiative it would require almost no EIR or CEQA because there would be no impacts on the community other than what currently exists.

Posted in Considerations, Growth, Ideas, Legislation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Vallco – Housing for Apple 2 Employees to Mitigate Traffic

My vision for Vallco is all about solving problems by creating a self-contained community within our community of mixed use containing the following categories of development to meet the needs of this community. The goal is to mitigate traffic as much as possible and build an interdependent infrastructure to support this community.  The following it a breakdown of this vision:

  1. Rental Housing (this is key to mitigating traffic) –
    1. Mix of housing units with convenient access to Apple Campus II,
    2. Senior assisted and unassisted living;
  2. Businesses –
    1. Retail,
    2. Entertainment and sports services,
    3. Restaurants,
    4. Offices;
  3. Youth Center (also available to other housing developments within walking distance) –
    1. School k-6,
    2. High School Science and Technology center,
    3. Library,
    4. Day Care,
    5. Play ground on roof;
  4. Mobility –
    1. Convenient and protected bicycle paths and parking,
    2. SkyTran,
    3. Shuttle service to public transportation, Caltrain, high schools, and other local businesses for Vallco residents,

I base this community upon Smart Growth principles to reduce the use of cars as much as possible or even eliminate the need for them by placing everything conveniently within walking, biking, or shuttle bus distance for residents of Vallco. There is enough potential diversity of land-use to provide for the needs of this community and profitability for the developer.  If done properly overall traffic can be reduced to levels significantly lower than that contributed by Apple Campus II (AC2) alone.  This outline can serve as a springboard for discussions of how to design a Vallo that is also functional and attractive, a starting point for becoming a very low impact asset to the city.

  1. Housing:
    Housing is the key to reducing traffic from AC2 employees that would otherwise commute to work daily from out of town by providing them the option of living within walking distance of work. Studio, Single Bedroom, and Family housing both furnished and unfurnished would be targeted to the needs of Apple employees.  Housing must be a substantial part of Vallco to make this effectively work to mitigate more AP2 car traffic. This could be thousands of housing units to accommodate perhaps 2,000 to 4,000 Apple employees or more to reduce as many as 2,000 to 4,000 cars from driving to AC2.  There would also be Senior housing, perhaps 100-200 units, so that potentially three generations of families can live in the same community within walking distance so grand children can visit grandparents and spend quality time with them daily as extended families.  This will be both healthy for children and comforting to aging seniors and be like putting their young children in day care but with their grandparents.
  2. Businesses:
    Retail, entertainment, fitness center, restaurants, and offices would have a readily available community of Housing occupants as clients in addition to other residents of Cupertino.  I am not talking about a regional maga-mall that would generate a lot more car traffic.  Retail would be intended to serve primarily Vallco as well as Cupertino residents and be targeted to their needs and tastes perhaps around 800,000 sq.ft. or so.  Office would be modest, maybe less than 300,000 sq. ft. used primarily for needed Vallco residential services such as doctors, dentists, lawyers, realtors, tutors, etc.  Both Retail and Offices would be located together.  Structurally both are very similar so one could easily be converted to the other as needed.
  3. Youth Center:
    Family homes with children would be supported by a k-6 elementary school, library, day care center, a high school science and technology center, and parks and play/sports areas on the roof.  Everything would be a short walk from everywhere else for Vallco residents with safety and security.  Children from nearby housing developments can also attend the school and avail themselves of all these services.
  4. Mobility:
    A SkyTran system would lead directly from housing at Vallco to AC2 and other Apple sites and destinations. Exits leading below to convenient locations such as bus stops, bicycle lanes, and walking paths would descend through elevators in the support structures of this bridge.  Commuting options to nearby work and public transportation will be readily available through shuttle buses and protected bicycle lanes. Shuttle buses could be used for high school and DeAnza college students. An agreement could be made with CUSD and FUHSD that a lottery or other system would distribute middle school and high school students throughout the two district with shuttles from Apple or Vallco taking students to their schools. This will avoid overcrowding a single school within a single school zone.
  5. Enhancements:
    Playground appropriate for kids and the school and place solar panels along the trails and elsewhere to add shade and provide electricity to the school to reduce cost.

This could actually reduce traffic from Apple employees, solve overcrowding schools, provide residents and occupants with a vibrant shopping experience with legal, doctors, realtor, and other office services without overwhelming traffic, provide sufficient housing units for the city and all ABAG requirements and ready shoppers and clients for retail and offices, provide amenities for families and children, provide senior housing without impacting traffic or schools and children could live in family housing units, provide hotel lodgings for Apple and other visitors with hotel tax all going to the city, and provide a very profitable and successful investment for Sand Hill, a sustainable win-win proposition for all.

Clarifying Question and Answer

Housing – How to captivate Apple employees to live at Vallco?

Housing Units – The right mix of rental housing units will help target Apple employees. Studios for singles, single bedrooms for couples without children, and multiple bedrooms for families. Provide a range of options within each category from basic no frill to high end full of conveniences, furnished, and luxury for management and productive technical staff. This will also allow employees to be upgraded by Apple as part of their productivity as mentioned above.

Incentives – How can Apple employees be encouraged to occupy housing at Vallco legally without violating the Fair Housing Laws?  Apple could give their employees monthly monetary incentives for walking or biking to work or for living within for example 1 mile from work. Having employees so close to work will have great advantages to Apple with more productive employees. They will be more likely to be at work on time. Employees could wake up later and be more rested and alert not having to waste time fighting daily commute traffic and would be in a better frame of mind. They would be so close that employees could conveniently go to work any time including weekends without having to worry about commuting or weather or food or other inconveniences we take so much for granted. This all adds up to increased productivity which is everything to Apple. Rewards for achievements could be upgrades in living quarters where Apple would pay the difference in rents for example. Stores and restaurants could have special discounts for Apple employees to attract their business. Apple could work out certain deals with various retails to make things cheaper and services such as deliveries directly to employees homes more convenient such as food from nice restaurants.  Of course once the employee leave the employment of Apple all these incentives and conveniences disappear.

Proximity – Apple is the closest company to Vallco. Apple technical staff are well paid and can afford high rents to avoid house of commuting. Some live in San Francisco where rents are higher and commutes long. Traffic will be heavier with Apple, Google, and other high tech companies starting to expand at the same time around the same geographic area. Commute times will be significantly longer than they are now which is already bad. So let us look at the odds. What is stopping Apple employees from living within walking/biking distance of where they work? Sure others people might want to live there but it is so ideal for Apple employees.

Appeal – Placing everything Apple Employees need within a few minutes walk would be ideal for them. Work within walking distance, eating within walking distance, shopping within walking distance, schools, daycare, grandparents (senior housing) all within safe and traffic free walking distance for them and their children. Sure they may do occasional driving but most necessities of life would be a few minutes walk/bike away. Time is precious and having not to get into their cars and fight traffic when going to shop, dine, etc. will reduce not only traffic to Apple but traffic to everywhere else.

Convenience – I’ve described an enclosed bridge and walkway leading to Apple. It would have glass window all the way around like a glass tunnel but with a solid floor. It would be wide enough to accommodate cyclists, pedestrians and have a people mover like in airports leading directly from housing to AC2. It would contain ATMs, vending machines, and other conveniences along the way with access to bicycle trails, sidewalks, transit stops, etc. through elevators in its supporting structure and exits in the ground level walkway.

  1. If the retail and shopping is done right there will be plenty of activities to keep Apple employee engaged all within walking distance as described above. Surveys can be taken of Apple employees to see what amenities they like and then provide those amenities. There would not be enough offices there to draw large companies to occupy, maybe less than 500,000 sq. ft. but enough to draw doctors, dentists, school tutors, lawyers, and other offices that provide services for residents. These office would have captive residents withing walking distance and provide convenient services for Apple employees so they don’t have to drive to these places. Anticipating criticism retail and office would not exclusively target Apple but could cater to the needs of the general public as well. There will be plenty of overlap in interests. What is good for Apple employee can also be good for the general public.
  2. Having a community of Apple employees and friends all living within steps of one another where they can hang out at any time of the day will draw more employees to want to live near each other. What more convenient place than a shopping/dining center right where they live and next to where they work. It would be a magnet to draw them to live there traffic free with just about everything they would want in life, close to a perfect world for them.

Transportation – shuttle buses to Caltrain, BART, transit stops, airports, and other popular destination would make it possible that many Apple employees can save on the cost of owning a car as well as being very convenient. Apple might also make its buses available exclusively for Apple employees for these destinations. So why even own a car. Own a bike instead.

Parking – AC2 employees could park their cars at the Apple campus thus freeing up substantial parking space at Vallco to reduce the overall size and cost of Vallo.  This shortage of parking could act to make housing more attractive to AC2 employee who don’t have to park at Vallco rather than other people since parking will be more of a problem.  Substantial parking fees could be charged by Vallco to limit the amount of parking there.

If one puts on one’s thinking cap I’m sure there are many more great ideas for attracting Apple employees. These are only a few that pop up in my head. But you get the idea. Who better to live in Vallco than AC2 employees. And this will not only reduce traffic here in Cupertino but everywhere else these employees residents would otherwise live. So it would solve a regional problem of traffic. I would not mind there being 2,000-4,000 housing units or more from an objective point of view but I know there would be those simply against more housing simply because they have been conditioned to think that way. We have enough offices from Apple and all the other developments to last 10 years. What there is a shortage of is housing for local employees and what there is too much of is traffic. This solve both problems without adding significant burden to residents and resources and will keep Apple here longer.

How to keep driving by Apple spouses to a minimum?

This is not a perfect solution. It is only a best solution that can have overall better impact than having housing that is not targeted to Apple. Incentive that I mentioned earlier could also be based upon the number of car trips made by residents with at least one Apple employee. That would somewhat address spouses driving to work out of town. Apple and Vallco could reward tenants for fewer car trips. Traffic will have an adverse affect upon Vallco business as well as Apple. There might be ways of tracking when cars leave their assigned parking spaces and points added to, for example, determine parking fees. Cars that stay parked are charged far less for parking than those coming and going for example. A car that doesn’t move during the month might park free. Public parking would be restricted to when stores are open so people cannot park overnight to discourage residents parking in public parking. If there are no parking fees then the monthly rent might be adjusted or credits given to residents for shopping and dining whatever works best.

How does the Retail/Office Combination Work?

Perhaps 1.2 million sq. ft. of combined Retail/Office could be build with 1,000.000 sq. ft. initially designated for Retail and 200,000 sq. ft. designated for Office.  Both Retail and Offices have similar physical requirements so could be easily interchanged from one to the other.  If not enough Retail can be rented the excess could be converted to Office.  If more Retail is needed more Office could be converted to Retail.  This makes for a very flexible arrangement. This would make residents and the Vallco owners profitable.

Why Should there be any Offices at Vallco?

Keeping in mind that traffic should be kept to a minimum some offices can exist and have more overall benefit than drawbacks. It is all about balancing advantages vs. drawbacks. It should be primarily to provide services to residents living in Vallco. Keeping offices relatively small in numbers and square feet such as 100,000-200,000 sq. ft. will minimize the chance of larger companies such as Apple occupying them and significantly increasing car traffic from both employees working at and clients visiting the offices. Offices should be doctors, dentists, tax preparers, tutors, small bank branches, small law firms, etc. that provide needed services for Vallco residents and perhaps other Cupertino residents. This will increase traffic to Vallco from employees but reduce traffic from Vallco residents who would otherwise have to drive elsewhere to obtain such services. So a reasonably modest amount of office can benefit the overall functionality of Vallco without significantly impacting traffic.

The whole point of my plan for Vallco is to provide needed housing and services with the maximum overall benefit to the community and the minimum impact from traffic. A modest amount of offices can serve the community especially within Vallco. Since I am proposing housing that exceeds ABAG requirements the added modest amount of offices will have no impact on future allocations and may offset that contributed by AC2 office space (3.5 M sq.ft.) which will be the largest single contributor to ABAG’s future housing

What is Retail?

Retail are businesses that provide goods and services to the community.  These are typically larger stores and smaller shops.  They may also contain eating places such as restaurants and fast food places such as a food court, entertainment such as a movie theater, bowling alley, skating rink, fitness center, etc.

What kind of Considerations should be given for Retail?

When I consider retail I also consider eating places. Retail, especially restaurants have among the highest car trip rates because customers come and go many times throughout the day and night. The distinction between Retail and Office is that Offices have primarily two peak car trip periods, once in the morning going to work and once in the evening returning home. Retail have far higher car trip rates but is spread out throughout the day. Retail also has seasonal highs around Christmas, Black Friday, etc. Thus car parking and especially traffic are serious consequences of too much Retail. The more retail caters to local residents the lower are traffic impacts. The more Retail caters regional populations the more freeway and local street traffic impacts there will be.

So a large vibrant regional Retail shopping center may look good on paper but the traffic and parking impacts may be a major problem for Everyone and in the end can hurt Retail, Housing and Office there due to severe traffic congestion. So some careful planning must be taken into consideration when designing Retail so that traffic throughout the day and night does not look like Las Vegas if a mega-mall is built and peak traffic is not like HWY 85 during peak traffic hours. Retail should best serve residents living in Vallco with no car trip impact as well as Cupertino residents with moderate car trip impact but to make it a major regional mall like Valley Fair may have severe traffic consequences that will spill over into residential streets and be as bad if not worst than 2M sq.ft. of Office space.

Again my primary concern is traffic impacts of any category or combination of categories of development upon local freeways, off ramps, major thoroughfares, and residential streets that will have major impacts on the quality of life for Cupertino residents.

What is the role of Public Transportation?

I view public transportation as having limited effectiveness for most residents of Cupertino. The problem here is the last mile. VTA is in a very bad location because this region and especially Cupertino was modeled for cars travel and urban sprawl with streets going helter skelter into endless mazes and cul-de-sacs. This makes it impossible for effective public transportation that takes you close to your doorstep. Companies are also not concentrated in one area but scattered throughout the region again making public transit ineffective at bringing residents close to the doorsteps of their destinations. Thus an effective public transportation system is unlikely to significantly reduce car traffic here.

There are some potentials of VTA running along our major street corridors but the problem still remains as to how residents living throughout our city will get to public transportat without driving. This might be useful to residents living along these corridors but again going to destinations near enough to transit stops is problematic.

Residents can consider walking or more likely riding their bikes around town or to transit stops but safe bicycle and pedestrian infrastructures and abundant convenient shortcut routes are not yet available for citizens to feel comfortable using these options. So for the present cars are the most convenient transportation method. But they create traffic and fall victims of traffic congestion. So what are we to do?

What are the differences in impact between Office and Retail?

When doing retail and offices we need to keep an eye on traffic as I stated earlier in this thread. Retail and restaurants for residents of Vallco have no impact upon traffic but when it extends to other residents outside of Vallco and people from out of town it generate plenty of car trips. The primary difference between car trips of offices vs. retail is car trips and thus traffic for offices is all concentrated in the AM going to work and the PM returning home. For retail it is spread out throughout the day. Office car trips have less impact since people are working all day and do not come and go. Retail, especially restaurants, have high hourly turnovers in customers so have far greater car trip impacts for outside Vallco resident customers. That is why having a major regional retail center can have tremendous adverse impacts especially during Christmas shopping where car line up on the freeway and parking become impossible like at Valley Fair. Controlling the traffic is essential in all developments. Too much retail and restaurants can be extremely disruptive with traffic and parking especially when combined with AC2 traffic. It is all about balance and how much we can tolerate the negative impact of traffic disruptions and effective upon shopping and dining. The problem with Sand Hill’s plan is that they want far too much office which will generate high peak traffic at the same time frames as AC2. So car trips must take into account this clustering effect of offices.

How about the impact of so much housing on other Resources such as utilities?

Basic resources such as water, sewage, garbage, electricity, and gas have already been largely taken care of by AC2.  The resources are more of a regional concern than a city concern.  Had these employees not lived here they would likely have lives elsewhere in the Bay Area.  So such things as water shortages which are regional would be no worse if that had lived elsewhere in the region.  They would have impacted the region’s water shortage by the same amount.  AC2 also brought in a large purple pipe for recycled non potable water from Santa Clara under Hwy 280 that Vallco can share to water plants and flush toilets.  If solar panels are installed on the roof that could supplement their electrical power.  There really should not be any problems with impacts on these resources.

Reference:

Posted in Growth, Ideas, Smart Growth, Traffic | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

What We Can All Do to Help Save Our Planet

The primary culprit of Climate Change is excessive Climate Change (CO2) being released into the atmosphere from the insatiable appetite of Our Affluent Lifestyle.  There is almost no part of our lives that does not impact Climate Change from the goods we consume to the conveniences we treasure.  So there are plenty of opportunities for each of us to mitigate Our Individual impact.  It isn’t only about government regulating carbon emissions.  It is also about each of us doing our part to reduce the use of energy that is responsible for greenhouse gas emissions.  We can no longer wait for someone else to reduce it for us.

We must stop blaming other nations such as China and India for producing excessive greenhouse gases because we are responsible for far more greenhouse gases per capita than any nation on earth.  Some of their emissions are used to make products we consume.  We must each take Personal Ownership for Our part in this.  Sure we can support legislation for controlling companies producing greenhouse gases such as power plants and manufacturers of products directly emitting them such as cars.  But it cannot simply stop there.  We are each culpable for the demand for energy-consuming products and services that generates greenhouse gases.  So what are we doing to cut the demand for natural gas, gasoline, electricity, and manufactured products?

This is an example of what I did over a 4 year period:  I replaced our refrigerator, dishwasher, and washer and dryer with energy-efficient appliances.  I did some homework on the best rated appliances to buy and waited for them to go on sale.  Most of these appliances also had energy rebates.  I bought enough clothes that we need only wash them every other week.  I also replaced our electric stove with an inductive stove which works far better than the old electric or gas stoves and uses less than a quarter the electricity.

I purchased an electric pressure cooker that uses very little energy to cook foods quickly and releases no steam.  I changed my diet to largely fresh salads with chopped spices, vinegar, and olive oil.  We replaced most red meat with fish, and some bone and meat soup cooked in the pressure cooker with onions, carrots, ginger, and celery.  This healthy diet change not only reduced electricity used for cooking but costs far less, needs less prep time, and resulted in the lose of 15 lbs.

I replaced all our incandescent lights with LED and mini-fluorescent lights.  My electric bill went from over $100 per month to typically $20 a month but more importantly greatly reduced the demand for producing more greenhouses gases from the generation of electricity.

In order to save on gas usage I installed high quality vinyl double pain windows in the third year of my energy-saving efforts.  I have a two-story house with the upstairs bedroom facing south and the downstairs bedrooms facing north and west.  In the summer I would move to a downstairs bedroom which is relatively cool if I close all windows and doors and closed the window shades on hot days.  My house was already well insulated.  So I need no air conditioner.

In the winter I would move upstairs where the lower winter sun shines more directly into the bedroom windows during the day keeping it comfortably warm except on cold cloudy days when I occasionally used the upstairs heater set to 65 degrees F.  At night we turn it down to 55 and use an electric blanket.  Admittedly it is a bit chilly when going to the bathroom in the middle of the night so I do it quickly.  Heat rises so upstairs is naturally warmest.

We use a small portable heater when my wife needs to cook downstairs but cooking is quite simple and quick and we try to prepare 2 days of meals (salad and soup) at a time to save on effort and energy.  The pressure cooker can be plugged in upstairs since it produces no steam.  It can also reheat food.  We literally live upstairs in the winter.  I save more than $100 a month on gas alone.  But more importantly I am responsible for the production of far fewer greenhouse gases.

I used to own a car but being retired hardly used it.  So I donated it and bought an electric bicycle that only needs charging once every 4-6 month.  I pedal it most of the time to get around town for exercise and to do chores.  The motor helps with going uphill and getting started at signal light stops.  Otherwise I walk a lot.  This saves a lot of car expenses and hassle on maintenance, smog checks, gasoline, registration fees, and insurance.  So in my small way I have reduced our dependency on oil and the emissions of greenhouse gases.

All of these efforts to save on greenhouse gases have a couple of drawbacks but many personal benefits.  The appliances and windows required some cost, about $50,000 over 4 years which I considered long-term investments.  The change of diet and the use of a bicycle instead of a car required a lifestyle change.  But on the plus side I save more than $500-$600 each month on gas, electricity, food, and car expenses for a total savings of more than $6,000-$8,000 per year to pay back my investments.  More significantly is the improved diet and increased exercise which have resulted in a loss of weight and probably fewer medical expenses and a healthier and hopefully longer life.  But the most important thing is that I probably use 80-90% less greenhouse produced energy than I used before.  And I continue to challenge myself with saving even more greenhouse gases by the products and services I purchase.  I have done similar things to save on water which is now more important than energy in California due to our continuing drought.

I am also working with my city government to encourage more bicycle riding and am a member of the Sierra Club and a local public transportation organization to encourage more transportation alternatives and Smart Growth for a more sustainable city.  Though I am a tiny player in a huge energy and greenhouse gas saving effort, I don’t let that discourage me from doing my very best to do what I can, tiny as it may seem.

But if there were many more who took similar responsibility for reducing energy consumption we would not need so much renewable energy or any fossil fuel to generate energy since our consumption would be small.  Sure I am sometimes inconvenienced but I have gained far more in long-term improvements in health and economic benefits and so can you.

I am really a very simple person willing to do my small part to help save the world for my children’s children’s children.  Will this hurt our economy?  I don’t know, but I do know it will save the world for future generation from Global Warming.  I challenge you to do what you are willing to do to fight Climate Change.  Find your own ways to save on energy and greenhouse gases.  If we all work on a personal basis we can make a huge cumulative difference without the government having to regulate so much what they think needs to be done.  It’s really UP TO EACH ONE OF US.

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Need for More Bicycle Trails

Stevens Creek Trail

Stevens Creek Trail in Mountain View

A bicycle trail is a bicycle route that is largely away from the sights and sounds of car traffic.  It is typically made of asphalt but can be made of concrete or dirt and gravel.  Bicycle trails are typically shared with walkers, joggers, and hikers. Many bicycle trails go through undeveloped portions of cities such as long creeks, railroad tracks, parks, and open spaces.  And occasionally they pass through residential area to connect portions of trail not possible along the natural route such as a narrow creek or blocked by private property.  They exist to provide bicyclist a feeling of complete safety from cars as well as an atmosphere away from the noise and distractions of traffic while provide a more natural city-free atmosphere for bicycling.

These trails attract bicyclists of all ages and riding abilities to enjoy the out of doors in a relatively safe and car & care free environment to really enjoy the bicycling experience itself, like taking a nice leisurely walk or hike.  Good bicycle trails are magnets for many bicyclists of all ages equal in sexe.  Many such trails through cities and towns can act as safe bicycle routes to destinations such as for students to safely bicycling to school and residents to shop and go to work.  They encourage people to ride their bikes instead of drive their cars.  They bring people closer to nature and provide a healthy and safe form of exercise and fresh air.  Bicycles are fairly quiet so are minimally invasive to nature and other bicyclists.  This allow for a quiet experience to enjoy wildlife in it natural state.

Bicycles get a bad rap from those who use bicycles as a sporting vehicle to race through streets and even on bicycle trails.  But if enough casual bicyclist and hikers used these trails they will demand that such behavior be stopped on trails.  This is true in general as bicycling becomes more popular.  In the 1950’s when there were fewer cars there were reckless teenagers speeding on street with cars.  That is largely gone now because cars have become far more popular.  The same will happen for bicycles.

In Cupertino there are two perspective bicycle trails through part of town. The Stevens Creek Trail runs from McClellan Ranch near Monta Vista High School all the way to the Shoreline in Mountain View.  There is an effort by four cities (Mountain ViewS, Los Altos, Sunnyvale, and Cupertino) to connect the trail through these cities.  But there are potions of this trail that must run on residential streets because there is no room along  the creek for such a trail.  Residents on these streets are fighting hard to prevent such a trail going through their streets.  Safety issues are most frequently given as reasons for not ruining the trail in their streets but privacy is likely their true reasons.

The other trail is the Union Pacific Trail that run from the Joe’s Trail in Saratoga to the south of Cupertino to the Lehigh Cement Plant to the north-west.  Saratoga developed the Joe’s Trail for bicycling where it runs under the power line and narrow strip of property owned by PG&E along the Union Pacific Railroad tracks.  PG&E granted Saratoga permission to uses their land.  Union Pacific has historically been very resistant in a trail being developed on their property.  Since there is no PG&E line along the tracks in Cupertino the city would have to make some kind of arrangement with a reluctant Union Pacific.

So trails are possible through Cupertino to make bicycling far more attractive for citizens but both have problems.  It is unfortunate that there are so many problems with people who do not see the far greater benefits of less traffic and safer paths for children to bike safely to school and their families to bike safely along lengthy and peaceful trails.  People like to enjoy the peace, safety and quiet of trails but only if it is on someone else’s street.  I’m not sure why the Union Pacific, which runs one train a day slowly down its tracks and allows access to bicycles and walkers along their tracks with never an incident, is so resistant to a developed trail paid for by the city.

Posted in Bicycle, Considerations, Ideas | Leave a comment

Comments on the Stevens Creek Trail Feasibility Study Meeting 12/15/2015

This article is in reference to the following posts:
12/15/2015 Four-Cities Coordinated Stevens Creek Trail Feasibility Presentation.

I attended the Stevens Creek Trail Feasibility Study Meeting on December 15 in the hopes that there would be a nice and safe bicycle and walking trail from Cupertino all the way up to the Shoreline in Mountain view.  A consultant hired by the joint Park and Recreation Commission and Bicycle Pedestrian Commission gave a presentation of the results of the 2-3 year Stevens Creek Trail feasibility study and presented a number of route options in three sections around neighborhoods where the trail had to deviate from the creek to residential streets due to restrictions or property lines preventing the trail from going along the creek.  There was also an area where Freeway 280 intersected the trail that required either a bridge or tunnel to connect the trail sections.  No route recommendations were given.

There were a large number of residents, mostly living in the impacted streets who spoke against the trail running in their neighborhoods.  I spent several hours going over the video recording of the proceedings and tallied up categories of comments made by the public.  I generalized some of the categories for simplification:

  1. Support Improving Mary Avenue bridge and street and Foothill Expressway and Stevens Creek Blvd (15)
  2. Dangerous of backing cars out of driveways (10)
  3. No Sidewalks and dangerous for bicyclist and pedestrians sharing streets with cars (10)
  4. Trail should not be along residential streets (7)
  5. Piece and Privacy (7)
  6. Trail reduces on-street car parking (4)
  7. Fiscal responsibility – no bridge over 280 – using existing infrastructure (4)
  8. Keep all options open – Long term view of decades (4)
  9. Increase crime (3)
  10. Support of Class 4 cycle tracks (3)
  11. Bicycles Dangerous for kids playing on streets (2)
  12. Spend millions building bridge at Homestead High School (2)
  13. High Speed bicycle trail unsafe (2)
  14. Property Values will Decrease (2)
  15. Liability (2)
  16. Reject Working teams report (1)
  17. Strangers – not feel safe for kids (1)
  18. Kid abductions (1)
  19. Bicycles during heavy traffic from nearby schools (1)
  20. Residential streets become commuter thoroughfares (1)
  21. Cannot have Class 1 trails on residential streets (1)
  22. Heavy Traffic already. Adding bicycles will be worst (1)
  23. Pelotone – large groups of bikes riding together (1)
  24. Trail is outdated – now highly residential (1)

A total of 29 people spoke during the public comments, 26 being strongly against the tail going through their neighborhoods:
10 speakers lived on Phar Lap Drive;
4 speakers lived on Barranca Drive/Homestead Villa;
3 speakers lived on Maxine Avenue;
The remainder lived elsewhere or their residence could not be identified.

It should be noted that most comments made about bicycle traffic could have easily been applied to cars.  In fact cars are the major cause of traffic congestion, accidents, serious injuries, and fatalities.  More kids are hit by cars backing out of driveways than have ever struck bikes.  Kids playing in streets have been stuck and sometimes killed when a speeding car suddenly appeared.  That cannot be said for bikes.  More crime has been perpetrated by people in cars than ever on bikes.  Cars are the cause of traffic congestion around schools not bike which can alleviate it.  As for large groups of speeding bicycles these groups are a means of making bicycling safer for weekend bikers on our unprotected streets.  Bicycles on trails are largely away from major car traffic where safety in number is not necessary.  The strongest argument I found against bicycle trails in many of these neighborhoods is the lack of sidewalks.  That means that pedestrians and bicycles will have to share the same lanes.  But separate walking paths can be marked  on these streets as well.  There are solutions.

It was the consensus of most of the speakers that bicycle trails had no place through their residential neighborhoods due to privacy and safety issues.  The consensus was that the trail should go along the Mary Avenue Bridge and nearby streets as well as along Foothill expressway and that a bridge/tunnel across Hwy 280 was a waste of money.  However this would no longer be a Stevens Creek trail since these alternatives are a mile or more away from the creek and in heavy traffic which defeats the purpose of a trail away from the distractions and hazards of heavily trafficked roads and nearby the creek.

The Park and Recreation Commissioners (4) seem in the greatest support of the trail but were sensitive to the comments made by the public.  They viewed this as a long-term project of several decades.  The Bicycle Pedestrian Commissioners (3) were generally more supportive of the public’s commenters.  But everyone was supportive of better bicycle lanes along Stevens Creek Blvd. and Foothill Expressway which is not part of the trail.  It seemed evident to me that the Park and Recreation Commissioners were more used to facing a hostile public.

The purpose of bicycle trails is to keep bicycles some distance away from the distractions and hazards of car traffic and close to a safe trail-like atmosphere.  Bicycle trails through residential neighborhoods to connect segments of the bicycle trail along the creek are the next best thing to a true trail.  Running bicycle trails around long detours along major trafficked streets simply defeats the purpose of a trail.  The reason bicycle trails are so important for communities is that they provide people a safe route away from the dangers and distractions of car traffic thus encouraging more people to use their bicycles which in turn reduces car traffic which is the real problem and getting worst throughout this region.  Diverting the trail onto Mary Avenue, Foothill Expressway, and Stevens Creek Blvd. essentially negates such a trail through Cupertino.  There were even objections of having Cupertino’s portion of the Stevens Creek trail by Black Berry Farm become part of that trail so anti-bicycle trails were some residents.

The city and this entire region is getting overly congested with car traffic and upcoming developments will make things far worst as the final speaker indicated and pleaded to the commissions.  One of the easiest ways to reduce traffic is by providing more avenues for bicyclists to SAFELY bicycle around town.  By limiting these routs fewer people will bicycle and car traffic will simply get heavier and far more dangerous than bicycles can ever be.  Residents don’t seem to realize that They and their reluctance to be part of the solution are in essence part of the problem, that driving their cars from their driveways onto their streets then around their town adds more cars onto their congested roads and only makes streets that much more dangerous for them as well as everyone else getting around town.  The city’s long-term plan is to get everyone riding their bikes more to help mitigate traffic.  To do that effectively safer routes away from the distractions and hazards of car traffic are needed.  But in order for this to happen safer bicycle infrastructures such as this 4 city trail are essential.

In our urban sprawl neighborhoods there is little hope of relief by public transportation for mobility out from homes.  There are simply too many mazes of streets and cul-de-sac to make this practical.  Bicycle are the least expensive means to get us around our city.  It is short-sighted to prevent such trail avenues of travel while residents continue complaining about traffic.  Just focusing on major streets for bicycle infrastructure will only solve part of the problem.  But if this is what residents want then they should not complain about traffic around schools and other areas of the city since they contribute to the very problem they complain about and refuse to participate in its mitigations.

Though I was somewhat disappointed with the outcome of the meeting it wasn’t a completely loss.  Most residents seemed to support bicycle lanes along major streets to reduce traffic.  So at least most acknowledged that traffic is an issue and that bicycles will help reduce traffic.  But without the 4 city trail it will be that much more difficult to realize.  It is unfortunate that citizens cannot see the larger picture as part of their own solution in reducing their overall traffic concerns.  If the trail detours to Mary Avenue they and others may likely not bike there due to traffic.  But if the trail runs through their neighborhoods they and their entire family can easily use the trail so conveniently located where they live and they will when they realize its advantages to them to cycle long distances away from distracting and dangerous traffic.  But alas it may never be.

Also read:

Posted in Bicycle, Considerations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Smart Growth – A Personal Perspective

Definition:

Smart growth is an urban planning and transportation theory that concentrates growth in compact walkable urban centers to avoid sprawl.

Some Background:

I actually devised Smart Growth independently (my form of it) around the summer of last year while the General Plan Amendment (GPA) was undergoing scrutiny around the summer of 2014 (see My Vision of a Future Biking Community put online in Nov. 2014 with Red highlighting Smart Growth elements).  I had by then determined that car traffic would limit Cupertino’s ability to sustain growth for long and was trying to solve this problem.  It became clear that replacing cars with bicycles was the right path so I developed a long range Vision of what Cupertino would look like without cars.  I felt the General Plan (GP) and GPA outdated for the dynamic growth our region was undergoing (remind me to elaborate later).  This Vision has been undergoing revisions in my mind ever since.

It wasn’t until about 6 mo. ago that I first heard the term Smart Growth mentioned several times on Nextdoor.com.  Not being familiar with it I Googled it and was delighted that what I had modeled fit reasonably well with the more formal definition of Smart Growth.  I did some more reading on it to familiarize myself with it.  It did not agree with the posts on Nextdoor.com using of it.  So I merged the two concepts together into something that was coherent to me and relevant to urban sprawl in Cupertino.  More Sustained Growth for Cupertino with Smart Growth represents my latest thinking about it.  The formal Smart Growth principles for me are simply a path to what I call Optimum Smart Growth where no large motorized vehicles exist in town 75 years from now which is the ideal case.  Mass Transit of some kind may exist to take people to more distant locations but will play almost no role in in-city transportation for a town our size.  In-city commuting will be by walking and biking.  I also assumed that Global Warming would have advanced considerably making energy conservation far more critical (zero greenhouse gases).  This necessitates that all the essence of living need be located within walking and maybe as far as biking distance from home.  Small mixed use community centers would be scattered in hundreds of locations throughout an urban sprawl community such as Cupertino.  Bicycle paths would interconnect these communities in case there are some thing not available in any given community.  Why bicycles instead of some other form so transportation?  Read Benefits Of Biking.  In fact many things like shopping, working, and going to school would have changed dramatically and not resemble what it is today.  But I don’t go into this here.  Such ideas are discussed in another of my blogs.

Examples:

Let me give Examples of Optimum Smart Growth ‘Element Goals‘ for a city with urban sprawl like Cupertino:

  1. Walking and biking would be the primary means of transportation around town with mass transit to further out of town destinations.  Roads would be narrow enough for bicycles but wide enough for emergency vehicles (motorized 3 wheel bikes);
  2. Most necessities of living will be within preferably walking and secondarily biking distance from home;
  3. Small somewhat self-contained neighborhood communities would consist of mixed-use developments of high density housing, job centers, goods and services, etc.  They would be located primarily within walking distance of one another and a few within bicycle riding distance;
  4. New developments would have no significant impact upon the natural surroundings and wherever possible enhance it;
  5. All construction would be Green and energy efficiency with zero greenhouse gas emissions and zero pollution.

Other non-Goal related considerations:

  1. To make sure that resources and infrastructure such as roads, schools, and utilities keep pace with growth;
  2. To make sure that the impacts of growth are balances such as to have minimum negative impact upon the quality of life of the community.

What is the overall Objective of the Optimum Smart Growth Elements?

To achieve a long and sustained healthy rate of growth with objectives towards achieving these Optimum Growth Elements resulting in Cupertino being a city that is in harmony with its infrastructure, highly efficient in its layout for optimum commutes by walking and biking to all essential needs and services, a safe and healthy place to live, energy efficient, and environmentally sustainable by no further intrusions into undeveloped land and pollution.

So what is the purpose of having Element Goals?

Goals permit long ranged plans to be made towards specific Targets by allowing one to have an idea of what the distant Future will look like.  Metrics can thus be set for each goal such as estimated completion dates, budgets, etc. Goals should also have other metrics to measure progress such as the percentage complete, the amount spent over time, etc.  Initially these Goals can be somewhat vague with rough target dates.  But the closer to the Goals one gets the more detailed each metric should be and the more important it is to have an accurate target date.  They can also be weighted as to importance.  All Growth Elements are interrelated so weights and priorities should be set to keep them in synchronization.  Metrics are useful for setting priorities based upon importance and how close to the target the metrics are.  These tools enable long term planning to be systematically done step by step towards achieving each Element Goal.  It must be noted that nothing is an island unto itself.  All Element Goals are interrelated so it is important to factor this into the weighing system so that Growth is properly prioritized and synchronized.  This should be part of the General Plan Smart Growth process.

Goals can determine which kinds of projects are needed and which are less important.  A General Plan that does not have long term goals or metrics is a random plan with no road map of how it will impact the city in the distant undefined future.  Such piecemeal planning as now exist are problematic because no expectations are set allowing open ended and spurious plans to be made by the developers and arbitrarily approved by the city.  It also does not give the city guidance or metrics upon which to judge a development as an asset or burden to the city’s further growth.  This is exactly what is happening now at Vallco.  Each new development will have to go through the same aggravating debates and uncertainties with no direction, priorities, or goals.  Progress cannot be measured because of the lack of metrics by which to judge and measure progress.

So having Goals and Metrics are powerful tools for keeping projects coherent towards long term growth and make incremental planning far more systematic and easier with far fewer nebulous decisions to make.  This is an efficient way to plan out projects and to reduce errors. It is not perfect but it is far better than what now exists.

How about dealing with Inevitable Changes along the way?

Nothing is cast in concrete including long term Goals. The Goals may need to be periodically adjusted due to technological advances, better goals, or other unforeseen factors.  Periodic review will be needed to adjust moving Goals and target parameters.  This must be part of the General Plan process.  But such a process for systematic reviews will be far easier than having to restructure the General Plan every 10-15 years.  It only need to be tweaked and adjusted incrementally where needed along the way, not redone for the next 10-15 year.

Changing times require Changing Methods:

These are changing time and the old ways of city planning are no longer adequate to deal with the rapidly changing times.  A new far more systematic and dynamic rule and metric based process is needed to simplify decision making and to check for interrelated factors that might be inadvertently affected otherwise.  This is true whither it is a Smart Growth process or something else.

The Essence of Smart Growth:

In summary there are 3 components/stages of Smart Growth’s Evolution within a small city like Cupertino:

  1. Goal (also called Optimum, Target) – This is the final stage of Smart Growth’s evolution where all the necessities of life are within walking and secondarily biking distance from high density homes where there are no longer any large motorized vehicles.  For an urban sprawl community like Cupertino hundreds of such self-contained community neighborhood centers would be scattered throughout the city.  This would necessitate mixed use dwellings;
  2. Smart Growth Developments – This is an interim evolutionary step toward the Goal.  The development of high density housing along major public transportation corridors that contain shopping areas and jobs that are accessible via public transportation that people would take is part of this.  Cars would still exist for those unable or unwilling to live in such housing but traffic would have been reduced or at least mitigated;
  3. The Process – Planning growth using the Development strategies, Goals, Metrics, Guidelines and procedures integrated into the General Plan as well as in the design of each development.  This is the key to making Smart Growth work.

The Virtues of The Process:

Keep in mind that Smart Growth is mostly a process.  Smart Growth should be applied to individual projects and developments as in the City General Plan since they will need to stay within the guidelines and align with the Metrics of the General Plan which embodies the Optimum Smart Growth Goals and processes.  Since expectations are now set it will be far easier for the developer to design a development which meet the predefined need of the city’s long term Goals with consideration to the quality of life of citizens.  It will be far more difficult for developers to violate rules because such rules will coherently tie into one another revealing the impacts of such violations.  The review process can be far more automatic and unambiguous, far simpler all the way around because expectation are clearly set and decisions minimized and more easily made.

Situations like what is happening at Vallco will be far less likely to happen and everyone far happier.  That is not to say there will be no problems.  The process will Evolve and be improved over time with mistakes mitigated along the way.  But it is a systematic way of city planning that keeps pace with changing times and is a living process that can be adjusted and adapted periodically to the social, economic, politic, and environmental requirements of the times.

The process is as important if not more so than the Smart Growth principles themselves.  We need Goals, and Metrics, and Rules, and Expectations, and a Process that ties all these elements together in an organized and coherent procedure that eliminates ambiguities.  The General Plan should be more like a Constitution for Cupertino growth rather than specific unrelated developments with arbitrary rules and guidelines.  But it can contain specific developments as will.  There should be checks and balances between the needs of the Developers, the City, and especially the Community.  All three elements are interrelated and essential for a growing community.  Each has its rolls and their self-interests.  So balance is needed.  There must be a clear need and purpose for developments for such things as the city needing more revenues from more developments unrelated to the Goals of Smart Growth.

The need for a better way to Deal with Change:

I believe that Smart Growth as I have laid out will be most beneficial to the continued growth of our city.  But if there is another better idea that follows a systematic process with goals and metrics I’m willing to listen and learn.  But overall this is the best I have seen so far.  It is centered around minimal environmental impact, efficient city layout, efficiency in mobility, and convenient living for citizens.  It is gaining wider acceptance and will evolve and improve as we learn from mistakes along the way.  Developments and city plans are very complex and the outcomes difficult to predict.  But over time improvement will be made.  It is unfair to throw out a new idea simply because there are failures.  If a concept makes a lot of sense it must be given a chance to develop and evolve or the airplane and car and computer and all the things we take so much for granted today would have never happened.

I have laid out the essence of the concepts I have in mind for Smart Growth and a rough outline of what need to be done to create a coherent and living General Plan.  But the devil is always in the details. It will take much time, planning, and effort to change the way we deal with growth.  Growth is happening at lightning speed compare to past decades and continues to accelerate so it needs to be far more quickly adaptive and far less labored and decision intense.  These are rapidly accelerating and changing times where the old ways are no longer adequate to deal with them effectively.  Change is inevitable and changes are needed on how we deal with it if we are to keep our heads above water and avert disasters.  Even the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) may not be adequate to predict future impacts with any accuracy and their recommendation for mitigating problems are often outdated, superficial, and ineffectual.  Maybe my suggestions are not the best.  They are the best I have been able to develop and discover.  But something better is urgently needed for city planning and the General Plan.

Keeping an Open Mind:

This blog is as much about growth and ways of mitigating its consequences as it is about biking in Cupertino which can help mitigate the consequences of traffic.  This article on Smart Growth is just another way of mitigating the consequences of growth.  The concepts that I have laid our are incomplete and possibly flawed.  They are meant more as illustrations of what Smart Growth could evolve into for our City.

For me personally I am a problem solver more than I am a critic.  I try not to let personal feelings against individuals and developers blind me of the facts and open minded ideas such as biking in our city.  We are not always right and others completely wrong.  There is truth in just about everything.  It is a matter of separating the truth from the untruth.  I am aware that we ALL have our self-interests which often blinds us to the needs of others.  I try my best to remove these biases, though I frequently fail, because they get in the way of my objectivity and inhibit me from learning from others, especially from those whom I disagree.  Creativity is in the minds of babes because of their uninhibited need to learn and all the endless possibilities.  I enjoy developing solutions and coming up with ideas, not all being that popular because I tend to be quite progressive since I try not to let biases or social norms get in my way such as expressed on this blog.

Posted in Considerations, Growth, Ideas, Smart Growth | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

More Sustained Growth for Cupertino with Smart Growth

Smart Growth was originally developed to help cities undergoing rapid growth to do it in a more sustained manner with sensitivity to its impact on the environment.  This started as a European concept but was easier because they had relatively limited urban sprawl.  It is like a suitcase in which you need to pack your belonging more efficiently into a fixed container as you buy more souvenirs along the way.

Smart growth is an urban planning tool that concentrates growth in compact walkable, bikeable urban centers to counter urban sprawl such as exists in Cupertino.  The practice of Smart Growth has often been criticized for encouraging further growth by accommodating it more efficiently but it is only a tool, a methodology for planning a city, with no other purpose.  Some use it that way but it is more appropriate to use is to aid our city grow more systematically and efficiently.  It is simply a set of guidelines for packaging city growth so that is does not further spread into surrounding undeveloped lands and is efficient in  accommodating more people with minimal environmental impacts and use of energy, space, and other resources.  Because of its emphasis upon minimizing environmental and natural resource impacts it is the EPA’s preferred method of urban planning and development.  It does not result in sustainable growth but far greater sustained rate of growth if properly applied.

Transportation is a major concern because urban sprawl necessitates the need for driving cars.  Cars not only take up much roads and parking space but consume large amounts of energy, need a huge and costly infrastructure, have major environmental and pollution impacts, and take a huge toll in human lives: 33,000 fatalities per year nationwide.  And they are very expensive to own and operate in relation to the time spent in them.  Smart Growth ideally develops cities into many walkable and bikeable self-contained neighborhoods with no intrusions into the surrounding undeveloped environment.  This necessitates neighborhoods which are compact and encourages many mixed use development centers where people live, work, shop, and recreate within walking and biking distance.

A less optimum but often hybridized form of Smart Growth is locating high density housing along major transportation corridors such as Stevens Creek Blvd. with good public transportation so that people can take it to work, shop, and recreation along the same corridor.  But this is not ideal Smart Growth, only a stepping stone towards its evolutionary end.  It will evolve over many decades from a properly designed General Plan encompassing Smart Growth principles.

Our areas have grown to the point that available land is becoming increasingly scarce resulting in a shortage of houses driving housing prices out of the roof making housing unaffordable to most.  Thus for Silicon Valley with its high job demands housing has not been able to keep pace with its demand.  Land to build housing has become increasingly scarce and further growth problematic as streets become increasingly congested with everyone clamors to drive to work at the same time.  Smart Growth deals well with such restricted urbanized areas as Cupertino.  The primary problem with urbanized growth is traffic.  Even if high density housing eventually replaced single houses traffic will be a limiting factor for growth.

Smart Growth is smart because it sets up guidelines that addresses the consequences of growth such as traffic and housing shortages and optimizes urban planing.  It does not address the root causes of growth, being population growth and the increasing demand for job.  Limiting population and jobs growth requires political and social solutions, not urban planning.

Smart Growth suggests an iteal city some time into the distant future which is not allowed to expand more than its current size where no motorized vehicles existed and asks how would you design it?  One scenario would be to build high density mixed use community centers where everything would be within walking distance of most of one’s needs such as housing, work, schools, shopping, etc.  If there were many of these mixed use centers spaces close together where roads would be narrow because there would no longer be any need for cars and people simply did most of their business within a few blocks of where they lived such a city could grow for some time before it would become saturated.

Now if one adds cars into the equation one can easily see why our city would very quickly run out of space for people and be in perpetual traffic gridlock.  Cars only work if there is plenty of space to spread out.  So the next question is how do we get from where we are to the optimum Smart Growth City.  Public transportation is only an interim phase between today’s poorly planned urban sprawl cities and the optimum Smart Growth community.  It allows concentrations of high density housing along major transportation corridors with shopping and work centers some distance away along the same corridors.  But it doesn’t address how to convert our urban sprawl areas away from public transportation into Smart Growth community centers.  Only mixed use communities will and that takes decades of smart urban planning to convert low density housing to many small self-contained high density mixed used centers.

But it is always wisest to pace growth such that it can be sustained at a near constant rate over a longer period, perhaps by many decades. Spurts of large multi-developmental growth are Always highly risky and can result in grave unintended impacts so should always be avoided.  There are so many variables when doing an especially large development such as the Apple 2 Campus so it should be allowed a few years to settle down to sort out and better understand various impacts such as traffic that can have compounding effects in conjunction with other major developments such as Vallco.  Smaller developments such as Target and Marina, because of their lesser impacts, can be done without a full understanding of their impacts.  But many developments clustered in time such as Main Street, The Oaks, Target, Cupertino Square, and Marina can be problematic if done within a short period of time due to their cumulative and interactive impacts.

See my letter to the City regarding the EIR Scoping of The Hills at Vallco: The Hills at Vallco EIR Scoping Public Comment to see what I propose for Vallco based upon Smart Growth principles.  As far as I know this would be the most Smart Growth development of its kind in the United States if implemented and an example for others to follow.

[Also see Smart Growth – A Personal Perspective]

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Why Bicycles are So Beneficial to Cupertino

Cupertino it the epitome of an urban sprawl community that is trying to morph into a urban city.  However urban sprawl, ideal for car, is not so for public transportation or walking.  Its many winding mazed roads and dead-end streets make public transportation impractical near most streets and walking laboriously long.  In the process it is undergoing dramatic growth and severe growing pains.  But unlike a person growing up with a genetic road-map of how to grow Cupertino has no road-map.  So it is growing more like a cancer cell out of control.  There are no guidelines on which the city is basing its growth other than the will to grow and a disjointed General Plan.  Considerations such as traffic and overcrowded school are outraging citizens as the city considers major developments around town.

Cars are probably the most impacting factor after people when a city grows.  People will continue to live and work in this city so there is only so much that can be done about this.  But there are things that can be proactively done in planning growth to limit the impact of cars and the traffic they create.  Car have physical, financial, and social impacts resulting from growth: traffic congestion; the space they occupy on roadways and parking spaces; their demand on energy and fossil fuels; their production of greenhouse gases and air pollution; the cost of infrastructures to support them; and their toll on human lives, especially the young.

Traffic can be mitigated by the careful planning of developments but this only serves to reduce the severity of traffic’s impacts.  Bicycles on the other hand can actually reduce it.  Smart Growth principles attempt to mitigate growth by concentrating it so most people can walk, bike, or take public transportation most places.  The great advantage of a bicycle is its ability to transport people from their homes in urban sprawl areas to area of jobs, shopping, and public transportation in town without adding significantly to traffic.  Bicycles are actually the most efficient means of transportation needing no energy source other than the rider, producing no pollution other than what the rider’s breath, can easily transport people miles around town, and are amazingly inexpensive to own and operate.  Yet they are so under underutilized.  This is a cultural thing because there are countries such as Denmark, Sweden, and other European nations where bicycles are a major means of transportation.  It was used widespread in Asia until the car took over.

So there is no fundamental reason why bicycles could not be more extensively used in Cupertino other than safety considerations.  But safety will be address if the City deems bicycles a major mode of transportation.  We enjoy some of the best weather in the world, far better than most European nations where bicycles are extensively used.  They solve so many Growth related issues but people are simply unaccustomed to their use and the importance of making our streets more bicycle friendly.  If I could only make people realize that this is a cultural thing in our affluent car-centric society perhaps some might have second thoughts.  I have already describes the many benefits bicycles have over cars on this blog.

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12/15/2015 Four-Cities Coordinated Stevens Creek Trail Feasibility Presentation

Tuesday, December 15, 2015, 6:30 p.m.
Cupertino Community Hall
10350 Torre Avenue, Cupertino, Ca.

I have mentioned the Four City Stevens Creek Trail study on several posts about bicycle trails (see Things that Discourage Me from Biking in CupertinoBuilding a Quaint Bicycle Friendly Community, The Joys of Bike Riding).  This particular trail will start on Stevens Creek Train next to McClellan Ranch and to all the way up to the Shore Line in Mountain View.  There will be areas along this trail that will take you by residential areas because there is just not enough room along Stevens Creek to run a trail safely.  The following is an announcement by the City of Cupertino about a meeting to update residents about this project.  Mark your calendars for this important meeting given at the end of this message.  This is also on the calendar of this blog.

Public Notice – Four Cities Coordinated Stevens Creek Trail Feasibility Study

The Four Cities Coordinated Stevens Creek Trail Feasibility Study was undertaken by the cities of Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Los Altos, and Mountain View. The study’s goal was to identify feasible alternatives and assist the cities in coordinating a preferred alternative for future completion of a multi-use trail for the Stevens Creek corridor.

The final feasibility study is available at www.Sunnyvale.ca.gov. Please click on “Stevens Creek Trail Connection” under the Featured Projects section to access the study. Also available are related documents including recommendations by the Joint Cities Working Team, composed of elected officials, and by the Citizens Working Group.

The City of Cupertino has scheduled a joint Commission meeting to review the Feasibility Study. Cupertino’s Parks and Recreation Commission and Bicycle Pedestrian Commission will jointly convene as described below. The Commissions will receive background information on the Stevens Creek Trail, review and discuss the Four Cities Coordinated Stevens Creek Trail Feasibility Study and Joint Cities Working Team recommendations, and provide feedback to the City Council on the recommendations. You are invited to attend this meeting and to speak on this topic. The meeting information is:

Cupertino Parks & Recreation Commission and Bicycle Pedestrian Commission, joint meeting:
Tuesday, December 15, 2015, 6:30 p.m.

Cupertino Community Hall
10350 Torre Avenue, Cupertino, Ca.

Also see Comments on the Stevens Creek Trail Feasibility Study Meeting 12/15/2015

 

Posted in Archived Announcement, Bicycle | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment