Message from Councilmember Jones

Dear District 1 Residents,

It is an honor and privilege to represent the residents of District 1.   As I start my tenure as your Councilman, I am reminded of the thousands of conversations that I had with District 1 residents during the campaign.  Our district is made up of highly informed and engaged citizens who care passionately about their community.

As your representative on the City Council, I am committed to being a voice for the neighborhoods and an advocate for city policies that will improve your quality of life.   I will work to improve public safety, community services, and economic opportunities.

My vision is to actively engage the neighborhoods and community on any plans that impact District 1.   My goal is to communicate with the residents early and often.  Do not hesitate to contact us with any issues, questions, or concerns.  We are here to serve you.

I look forward to working with the residents of District 1 to continue to make our community a great place to live, work, and play.

Sincerely,

Chappie_Sig
Chappie

General Plan Envision 2040: Traffic Congestion

Traffic Congestion by Matt Kamkar, P.E., JD

This is the first in a series of articles discussing the city’s General Plan.

a. How did we get here?

Back in the 80s when I was a transportation engineering student at San Jose State University, I read an article about transportation planning. The article was written back in the days when land was plentiful and not many cars were on the road. The article guided city planners to shape regions and communities in triangles.  At one corner they would locate the business district, i.e., offices, government agencies, hospitals as well as schools, etc., in the other corner they would locate the shopping/entertainment district,i.e., grocery stores, department stores, movie theaters, parks, etc., and in the last corner they would locate the residential district. These communities would then grow out from there. The roads connecting these districts could easily handle the small number of cars that used them, and the delay was little or non-existent.

Fast forward to today. There are big traffic problems because more of us have cars. Our region is very popular, the economy has grown in the past few years and the interest in development remains high.  The old triangle model does not work here anymore since it relies heavily on commuting between those districts at far distances.  The resulting delay is frustrating, the exhaust fumes are not healthy and stopping on the mainline of the highway waiting to exit is not safe.  Thankfully in District 1, this is mostly during rush hour and only in one direction.  However, it is getting worse as the economy improves and if is not adequately addressed the delay will increase even more in both directions and at more times during the day.  Also if we think the commute on 280 and 85 are bad in the mornings, wait until the new Apple campus opens at Wolfe Road.

So, who or what is to blames for this traffic?  Well, those of us that commute by car to work (that is 90% of us) must ask ourselves this question: Do I live next to (or near) my work?  If you answered “no,” then you, like I, add to the problem.

How can we get traffic relief then?

Well, in my opinion, there is no one magic solution that will do the trick.  There also are no easy solutions.  It is a combination of solutions that can work together to bring traffic relief and less delay.  The roads can’t keep widening until we run out of room either.  Frankly, we are already there as many of our roads cannot be widened further and widening is also very expensive. There are possible tax measures that may be proposed by other transit agencies that provide other options such as converting major surface intersections to grade separated intersections, e.g., San Tomas Expwy. and Stevens Creek Blvd., or building direct connectors that don’t exist now, e.g., from I-280 northbound to Lawrence Expwy. northbound.

Residents have asked that future developments help the quality of life in District 1 and not exacerbate the current situation.  A responsible development will provide not only adequate parking and open space but also help in traffic relief or at the very least not add to it.  In certain corridors, e.g., Winchester Blvd., the full roadway helps to move the traffic during rush hour.  Street parking should be limited (to non-peak hours) or even removed where possible.  This new gained space can be allocated to cars, bikes or buses.

  • Individuals can also help by choosing to commute during non-peak periods if they have to drive their cars or choose to take mass transit when possible, carpool, bike, ride share or tele-commute to work.
  • Large companies can help by providing apartments near their campuses for their employees or using shuttles to pick up and drop off employees from mass transit stations.
  • Cities and Counties (like the City of San Jose and the County of Santa Clara) can do a better job synchronizing the traffic signals in the commute direction during the commute.
  • Regional agencies (like the VTA) can rank where they get most bang for their buck, e.g. take into account which area deserves the relief sooner when devising their funding strategy.
  • Our State and Federal Government should not only offer incentives to companies that are proactive in traffic relief, they must also remove some of the barriers. This can be done by streamlining the approval process various agencies, e.g., VTA and Caltrans, and developers have to go through to bring their projects to fruition.

Are these lofty goals? Absolutely, but the sooner they are acted upon the better.  Finally, a community that speaks with one voice on the core issues, gets more attention. Part of the challenge communities have is that they get side tracked with minor issues so the decision makers such as the councilmembers, county supervisors and other managers get mixed or scattered messages.

In the next article I will discuss how the San Jose’s General Plan 2040 attempts to address this issue.