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No on Alternative A

From: domainremoved <Kristin>
Date: Wed, 2 Jan 2019 06:43:20 +0000 (UTC)

Dear Members of Menlo Park City Council, and all involved in designing, planning, determining and implementing the vision for the railroad crossing on Ravenswood Avenue,
It was just brought to my attention by a neighbor that you have invited public comment on the design options for the plan for the crossing, including what is emerging as your preferred option - Alternative A - which includes closing Alma to vehicle traffic from Ravenswood Avenue. In this email, I will speak to five reasons for my profound concern - and my request that you Vote NO on Alternative A.
1. We tried closing Alma - and it proved to be a disaster. We must vote NO on something we already know to be a problem. I have lived on Laurel Street, between Burgess Park and Willow Road, for over 17 years. We lived through the experiment that the city ran not so long ago, with the closure of Alma to vehicular traffic. The experiment took place during the summer - and even with the summer flow of traffic (which is significantly lighter and certainly quite different than the flow of traffic that we experience when local schools are in session), it was experienced as a total failure. Traffic to cross El Camino extended beyond Trader Joe's and deep into the side streets of Menlo Park. Traffice along Laurel and the connecting neighborhood streets - Sherwood, Waverly and Linfield - experienced a marked increase in traffic and the majority of drivers, accustomed to taking Alma, moved much too quickly through our neighborhood and with complete disregard for our stop signs. I also observed drivers flipping off pedestrians, honking at pedestrians crossing the street with strollers, and taking corners (e.g., onto Waverly, Sherwood and Linfield) much too fast. Drivers were impatient and aggressive - and not driving as though they were moving through a residential neighborhood. This is qualitative data. We would need more of this to inform any decision. We would also need quantitative data. I am not aware of any quantitative data being collected during that experiment: I did not see any efforts to count the number of cars driving through Linfield Oaks with the tools that are available to do this; I did not see any effort to track the speed of those cars or the regularity with which they were stopping (or not stopping) at stop signs. I did not see any effort to track the resulting traffic congestion through downtown Menlo Park and north/south bound El Camino. All to say - the lived experience of this experiment was that it was a disaster. But we don't have any real data to help us understand what happened. On your table on page 30 of your document, the closure of Alma appears as "red" - as having greatest negative impact. In the table, it is easy to gloss over this. It's just a red rectangle. But in real life, this is huge, and it would affect the daily life of almost every resident. It would be completely unacceptable for us to create a permanent closure to Alma without serious data - AND - if the data provides additional evidence to support what it appears we already know - that Alternative A's closure to Alma will have a significant negative impact both on the quality of life and safety of residents, then we must be courageous enough to say NO to this and to pursue a better solution.
2. A decision to close Alma to vehicular traffic is in total conflict with Laurel Street as part of the Peninsula Bikeway. The City of Menlo Park was part of the process that resulted in Laurel Street being part of the Peninsula Bikeway. The signs are up. The roads are painted. Cyclists now interpret the green signs on the roadway - located in the center of the driving lane and not in what would be the shoulder of the road - as a signal that they have the right of way on Laurel Street. We are already witnessing cars swerve onto the wrong side of the road to pass cyclists who are riding in the center of the driving lane and/or 3-4 (or packs of 10-20) cyclists across the road. This is not safe - but it works - sort of - with the current number of cars traveling along Laurel Street. If the hope is that the number of cyclists using the Peninsula Bikeway will increase, the last thing we would want to do is redirect the vehicles from Alma to Laurel Street. This is incredibly dangerous.
3.  A decision to close Alma to vehicular traffic is totally incompatible with the way children are intentionally routed along Laurel as they travel to/from school and recreational activities at City Center. There are two MPCSD school bus stops located on Laurel. At drop off/pick up times, caregivers and younger siblings (toddlers, babies in strollers) gather in groups, spilling into the street as they visit and wait for the bus. Some children travel alone - and every morning, we watch them run to catch the bus, running down the sidewalk, then darting across Laurel to catch their bus. We also see students strolling home after school, daydreaming or looking at their phones as they stroll on and then off the curved edge of the sidewalk as people do when they stroll through Linfield Oaks. In addition to all of the pedestrian traffic associated with each school bus, Laurel is also the preferred "Safe Route to School." Children at Encinal, Hillview, Nativity, and St. Raymond's are taught to take Laurel Street as they walk or bike to/from school. MPCSD spent a significant amount of time and money working with outside consultants to identify and improve safe routes to local schools to encourage families to walk/bike rather than drive to school. Through that extensive work, Laurel was identified as a key part of the route connected to at least four local schools. By closing vehicle access to Alma, and moving many of those cars to Laurel, the city is working at cross-purposes with local schools and unraveling all of the time and money that was spent on the Safe Rout to Schools effort. The result will likely be that families will no longer feel that their children are safe to walk/bike on Laurel and they will, in turn, drive their children to school. This will, in turn, work against the city's goals in many areas, including reducing traffic congestion, reducing emissions, fostering the safety and independence of our children, eroding the overall quality of life, etc. Lastly, children/families are frequently walking/biking to Burgess Pool/Gym and the other services available at City Center. We have worked so hard over the years to create a vibrant City Center that promotes health, wellness, vitality and community. Alternative A will make it both more difficult and more dangerous to access these resources. 
4. Alma Street is wide and has both bike lanes and sidewalks; it is a safe environment for cars, bikes and pedestrians to coexist. We should be grateful that this exists - and take advantage of it. Something is working. Allowing cars to turn right onto Alma is working. Why - when we have so many other challenges - would we disrupt something that is running smoothly?
5. Another solution is totally possible. We can do this. We can figure out a solution that creates greater safety at the CalTrain Crossing and allows for vehicles to travel from Ravenswood to Alma. I know - with the talent and creativity of the team we have in Menlo Park we can find a better solution. We have to. Alternative A is NOT it. We can do better. This is our responsibility - and our privilege. 
Alternative C is one example. Based on my reading of the full document supporting this work, it appears that, by your own analysis, Alternative C provides a more optimal outcome. The biggest downside to Alternative C is cost and the disruption caused by construction. These are both very small prices to pay for the benefits of plan - and the ability to avoid the incredibly problematic outcomes of Alternative A. We must think about the ripple effects of our decisions. We must think about the legacy we are leaving for the residents who will live here long after we have gone. We can endure the construction. We can even do so with gratitude, knowing that we are creating a much more robust solution that will support the health and vitality of our community for years to come.
I implore you. Vote No on Alternative A.
A last note...The timing of this window for public comment is concerning. Every time our city staff/leadership engages with the public, it is an opportunity to either build or erode trust, connection, relationship, and a sense of share commitment to our city. Many residents are either out of town, juggling end of year work commitments and/or family responsibilities, or have turned away from email during this time. It seems to me that if you would like to use this moment as an opportunity to build trust, it could be helpful to (a) extend the window for public comment, and (b) publicize this widely.
Thank you for your time and thoughtful leadership,With gratitude,Kristin Geiser
Received on Tue Jan 01 2019 - 22:40:26 PST

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