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.



6 Back to School Bicycle Safety Tips


Back to school time – pencils, books, new clothes, and kids on bikes. While bike riding is an excellent form of exercise for kids, it can also be dangerous. Biking to school involves much more skill and attention than walking. Here are some bicycle safety tips to be aware of during this busy time of year.

  1.  Inspect Your Child’s Bike

Back to school is a good time to give your child’s bike a safety inspection. You’ll want to look over the brakes, wheel alignment, seat, handlebars, pedals, tires, axle nuts and bearings and chain. If needed, replace, tighten or adjust bike components so that your child has a safe bike to ride. Or you can visit Calabazas Cyclery located at 6140 Bollinger Rd. and have a bike inspection performed by trained and certified staff. (Calabazas Cyclery is a great family owned Bike shop located in the Orchard Farm Shopping Center here in District 1). Mention this newsletter and receive a FREE bike inspection.

  1. Insist on a Helmet

They may not be the most comfortable or fashionable item, but helmets are essential to safe bike riding. Head injury is the leading cause of death in cycling accidents, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that proper use of helmets by kids ages 4 to 15 would prevent around 45,000 head injuries annually. Insist that your child wear a helmet when riding!

  1.  Ride Smart

Teach your child to choose the best route to a destination. For instance, avoid busy roads when there are quieter routes to the same place. If possible, ride on bike paths. Always observe stop signs (even if no other vehicle is visible), yield signs and other traffic markers. Use extra caution when passing driveways and entrances to businesses and housing developments and when riding in parking lots.  Encourage him or her to walk their bike across busy intersections.

  1.  Signal Your Intentions

Teach your child to use proper hand signals to alert others of his or her intentions:

Left turn: left hand and arm held straight out, pointing left.

Right turn: left hand and arm held straight up or right arm held straight out, pointing right.

Stop: left hand and arm held straight down.

  1.  Road Safety

Talk with your child about basic road safety when riding a bike. For instance, teach your child to ride with (not against) traffic and on the right side of the road. Ride with someone else if possible, and always ride single file. Never attempt to ride on the handlebars of someone else’s bike or invite a friend to try riding on your bike while you’re driving it

  1. Reflect on It

Encourage your child not to ride their bike when it’s not daylight out. If they do not need to ride in the early morning or evening hours, make sure his their bike is equipped with reflectors. Wearing neon, bright or reflective clothing is a good idea as well, as is a headlight for the bike.

Each year, there are 800 bicycle related deaths in the United States, as well as a half million bicycle related injuries resulting in emergency room visits. With education, proper training and Bike maintenance you can help your child avoid becoming a statistic.


Improving Things on Barrymore Drive



During my campaign, I heard many residents talk about “Quality of Life” issues that impacted them in negative ways. Each time I heard about these issues from residents I asked that they bring them to me after I took office. I sincerely hoped they would take me up on my offer to help.

Shortly after I took office, neighbors from Barrymore Drive banded together and came to see me at one of my community office hours at the West Valley Library. They brought a stack of photos, documents, and email threads. What really caught my attention were the issues they were facing on their street. When this neighborhood was built the streets were named for famous movie stars. It was a grand new development next to beautiful orchards, but of course other development ensued, orchards turned into apartments, and the area grew in size and density.

By the end of January, there were many issues on Barrymore Drive that needed attention. A water main was constantly leaking on the sidewalk, the apartments across the street did not clean up plant and tree trimmings that were at the rear of their buildings, the apartment walls were full of mismatched painting due to constant graffiti, there was a dark area that was ripe for hiding bad behavior. There was also graffiti, over parked cars, and shopping carts. Other problems included speeding, apartment dwellers parking on yard debris piles, and a person sleeping in a car who left human waste behind on the street. Clearly, the quality of life on Barrymore Drive was not what it once was.

I told the residents that some of these problems are easy to resolve and others are more difficult. However, I knew these people needed help to restore their quality of life and I wanted to do everything I could to help.

The first priority was to relocate and assist the person sleeping in their car along with the bodily waste, and also the large pile of debris that accompanied this car. A few days later the San Jose Water Company was out to fix the leaking water connection.

It took a while – including a personal trip to the apartment complex – but shortly after making contact we were able to speak with the corporate management team of the company who owns the apartment complete. I explained the issues that their neighbors were having including the fact that the fence looked like a patchwork quilt that invited tagging. I asked them if they would step up as “good neighbors” and do some additional maintenance. They agreed. A few days later the perimeter fence had a new paint job and no tagger has touched it since.

Barrymore Drive has both streetlights and a number of mature trees with vibrant growth. That growth does not allow very much light through to illuminate the street. The darkness this created and the patchwork painted wall contributed to the sense that no one is paying attention to the street. It also signaled that “this is a good place for mischief”. Residents could sense this and did not feel safe in their own homes. Knowing that DOT was installing LED lighting across the city in certain location, I sent my team in search of LED lighting for Barrymore. New LED lights will go in on Barrymore Drive before the end of the year.

The speed limit on Barrymore Drive is 25 mph, but you would have been hard pressed to find a sign. We worked with the Department of Transportation to get the signed moved to a more visible location that can now be better seen by drivers.

I also asked Parking Enforcement to look at cars that had been parked for months blocking street sweeping. Their enforcement helped move these cars out of the neighborhood.  The anti-graffiti team was called to remove tagging, and dumped shopping carts. I introduced the residents to my smart phone app called San Jose Mobile City Hall for them to immediately report problems to the appropriate department.

I am happy to report that Barrymore Drive is a nicer place to live today. We still have work to do but the to-do list is shorter than it once was.

What I really hope you get from this story is that I can only help if you come tell me you have an issue. I hope to see you soon at an upcoming community office hours session.

Feedback from a Barrymore Resident:

Thanks for all your hard work on behalf of us residents of Barrymore Dr.

Thanks for being so attentive to us when we met with you at West Valley Library, and for following through on so many issues – even on such seemingly simple issues as moving the speed limit sign – something we had been told couldn’t be done! It is much more visible now.

Highway 85 HOT Lanes

ExpressLanesVTAWhat are HOT lanes? HOT lanes are similar in concept to HOV lanes. HOT stands for High Occupancy Toll and HOV stands for High Occupancy Vehicle. HOT lanes (a.k.a. Express Lanes) allow not only multi-passenger vehicles, clean air vehicles with decals, transit buses and motorcycles to use them free of charge (just like the HOV lanes), they also allow solo drivers to use them for a fee. These lanes are not new to California or to Santa Clara County. Toll Roads exist in Southern CA (e.g. lanes on Highway 91 or the entire Highway 73 in Orange County). HOT lanes already exist in Santa Clara County on Highway 237 leading to Interstate 880 in Milpitas and on Interstate 680 from Sunol to Milpitas.

Now, Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) has proposed HOT lanes on Highway 85. The proposal includes adding a HOT lane in each direction in the current median of Highway 85 between Highway 87 and Interstate 280 (approx. 14 miles). Additionally, the existing HOV lanes (next to the median) would be converted to HOT lanes from Highway 101 in Mountain View to Highway 101 in South San Jose (approx. 26 miles).

The project is estimated to cost $176 million and be operational in late 2018 if funding can be identified. This project must widen several bridges in the median to accommodate the new lanes. The toll collection system will have no booths to slow the traffic down. Instead, it will display the current price per mile on overhead boards to let commuters decide, then use the overhead antennas to read the FasTrak transponders of the solo drivers in the express lane and deduct the toll automatically from their prepaid account.

Proponents include many residents from Morgan Hill, South San Jose, Cambrian and Almaden Valley. They are often stuck in rush hour traffic in both directions and favor improving their commute. They support even more express lanes as the current HOV lanes are too congested.

Opponents include the Cities of Los Gatos, Saratoga and Cupertino who are suing the Caltrans (owner of the facility) to stop the project from advancing. They claim they are unhappy with the noise emitted from Highway 85 as it is and adding more traffic without mitigation will not help matters. Mountain View is considering its options to join the suit. The opponents also cite the cost of the project, the disruption to traffic, and the fact that the second lanes don’t go all the way to Highway 101 on each end to make their case against the project. They also point out that this project would likely eliminate the future possibility of light rail along the median of Highway 85.

What do you think? Please share your opinion with me by email at

Visit the VTA website here for more information.


SJ Works Summer Youth Employment Initiative

Investing in pathways to employment for youth in gang-impacted neighborhoods can broaden opportunities for many teens who struggle against the Valley’s widening economic gap, and can make San Jose safer.

Teen training and job placement programs have the power to reach disconnected youth and create pathways to positive outcomes. SJ Works has the goal of increasing youth employment and expanding access to job training. The Initiative is advised by a working group co-chaired by Josue Garcia, CEO of the Santa Clara & San Benito Counties Construction & Building Trades Council, and Matthew Mahood, President & CEO of the San José Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce. Designed to address the intertwined challenges of economic disparity and public safety, the San José City Council has unanimously approved Mayor Sam Liccardo’s request for $1 million to invest in this Initiative in collaboration with the Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force.

City funding will target at-risk youth between the ages of 14 and 24, in neighborhoods that overlap with San José’s identified gang hot spots. Together with the Santa Clara County-funded Summer Youth Employment Initiative, SJ Works will provide employment as well as job readiness, career advising and placement services for up to 1,000 youth. The County program implemented by Work2Future Foundation will provide 500 low-income 16 – 21 year olds throughout the County with a five week work experience and job readiness program, prioritizing foster youth and youth from families receiving CalWORKS and CalFresh benefits.

A summer job for any young person can be the first step in the pathway to long-term success. For at-risk youth, investments in job readiness and employment experiences can lead to the additional schooling and skill building needed for career track employment. Working in partnership with schools and community-based organizations, SJ Works will pilot new strategies to develop a scalable and sustainable system to deliver summer and after-school employment opportunities. By bringing together the strengths, resources and commitment of the private, public and philanthropic sectors, SJ Works will focus efforts on program implementation as well as outcomes measurement and reporting.

SJ Works contributes to larger set of interventions led by the Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force such as San José Bringing Everyone’s Strength Together (BEST), the Safe Summer Initiative Grant Program, the Safe School Campus Initiative, the Female Intervention Unit, and neighborhood based programs.

Despite San José’s rapidly expanding economy, youth unemployment rates still exceed 20% in many San Jose neighborhoods. This mirrors a nationwide crisis that translates into a youth jobs deficit of 3.4 million–the result of a nearly 40% decline over the past 12 years. Young people from low-income families are hit the hardest with a 20-point differential in employment rates between low-income families and their wealthier peers.

San José has the lowest violent crime rate of any major U.S. city, and consistent efforts of our Police Department and our Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force partner’s schools, faith community, non-profits, and the County have brought violent crime down by 23% and violent gang-related incidents down by 60% since 2007. The reality remains, however, for residents of some of the City’s most challenged neighborhoods and the continued concentration of crime related to youth and gangs. For example, SJPD recently conducted 108 arrests of burglaries in the Southern division, and juveniles comprised more than half of those arrests.

Initiative Goals

With SJ Works, the City and its partners will:

  • Quickly launch a summer youth employment program that leverages County and private sector funding.
  • Leverage public, private and nonprofit service providers to help participants enter the workplace, gain skills, knowledge and meaningful work experience.
  • Enable substantial gains in the number of at-risk youth who receive job readiness training and gain employment experience.
  • Verify a significant reduction in youth-involved (i.e., youth as victims or perpetrators) crimes.
  • Engage the private sector to identify potential opportunities for youth employment that leads to a career pathway.


Moorpark Avenue Safety Changes

In late December, the Department of Transportation (DOT) released the list of city streets that would be resurfaced during the 2015 calendar year. Moorpark Avenue between Lawrence Expressway and Saratoga Avenue was on that list.

This stretch of road has four schools that compete for space twice a day. I had heard from residents along Moorpark about how dangerous this stretch of road was. One resident in Strawberry Square has been the victim of three separate cars crashing into her house.

With the announcement from DOT in late December, I knew this was a great opportunity to engage the community in a discussion with DOT about how to improve the safety of Moorpark Avenue and take advantage of cost savings because the street was going to be re-striped during resurfacing. DOT agreed they would take feedback from residents if my office would organize the community meetings. I agreed and asked Ed Brooks from my staff to organize the meetings and bring residents out to talk to DOT.

We asked DOT to provide a baseline to work from in order to facilitate the community dialogue. We agreed on three working options:

  1. Leave the road as it is.
  2. Add a center turn pocket but lose on street parking (two lanes each direction, no parking).
  3. “Road Diet” – Add a center turn pocket, narrow the street to one lane each direction, and add a buffered bike lane.

The framework of the discussion would be limited primarily to lane striping changes and signage. Items like traffic signals and lighted crosswalks would not be within the scope of this discussion due to the large capital expenditures required.

We asked DOT for hard data to validate that safety is a legitimate concern on this stretch of roadway. We wanted the conversation to be based on objective facts not on emotional subjectivity.

The DOT data showed that Moorpark Avenue has a high number of accidents when compared to Doyle Road and Williams Road both of which run parallel to Moorpark Avenue. Approximately 80% of accidents are left hand turns both off of Moorpark Avenue and from side streets onto Moorpark Avenue. The bulk of those left turn accidents occur at the  Junipero Serra/Camina Escuela intersection. Site lines are bad from both directions, either turning off of or on to Moorpark. During the most recent DOT traffic study conducted April 1, 2015 the top speed in front of Junipero Serra was clocked @ 77.4 MPH. Not a surprise to anyone who lives along this stretch and a definite validation that the time for this discussion is now.

We decided we should take on community feedback in 3 phases:

  • Phase 1 – Initial Outreach. Met with all four school principals, both HOA Boards, and the Strawberry Park Neighborhood Association Board. We asked the following – feedback on what safety improvements they envisioned, how the road could best be improved to meet their needs, vote by show of hands which of the three road design options they preferred. We also asked them to help us get access to their communities for additional feedback.
  • Phase 2 – Community Outreach. We talked to the communities from phase 1, PTA’s, HOA’s, and NA’s. Again, we asked about the safety items they felt needed to be addressed, their needs for the road, and a show of hands as to the design option they preferred.
  • Phase 3 – DOT design reveal. We put an invite out to all the groups we had met with and provided input into the process to join us when DOT brought their plans and showed us what the new vision would be. Again, we asked for a show of hands for approval.

Each geography had their own concerns. Examples were:

  • De Vargas wanted to insure that their traffic drop-off and pick-up was not impacted by a redesign, that traffic stacking did not occur into the roadway, and left hand turns into the driveway were not encouraged.
  • Mitty wanted longer signal times to exit Mitty Ave in the AM to help reduce gridlock.
  • Strawberry Square wanted to alleviate the back-up that locks them in at 7:00 AM, add “Do Not Block” messaging at Junipero Serra, and add a crosswalk so they could walk their children to De Vargas.
  • Everyone wanted the speeds to come down.

In all we met with roughly 100 different neighbors during this process. Each time we met with a group we asked for a show of hands and the choice for design was unanimous. Every single resident gave a thumbs up to option 3 (Road Diet).

Now DOT will put this project up for bid and Moorpark Avenue will be transformed by November 2015.

Click here to view a PDF of the proposed street layout.

How many different transportation agencies are there?

This is a great question and there is a lot of confusion about this.  So let’s go over some of the transportation agencies that affect San Jose and District 1.

The most well-known agencies are the USDOT, Caltrans, CTC, MTC, ABAG, VTA, CMA, County Roads & Airports, City of San Jose – Dept. of Transportation or Public Works- (don’t worry I will explain all the acronyms below!) and the neighboring cities’ DOT that fund, control, operate, improve or maintain the roads, bridges, railways, waterways, signals, and all modes of transportation in and around our city and district.

USDOT – United States Department of Transportation (Budget of $84 billion for 2015) oversees FAA (Aviation), FHWA (Roadways and Bridges), FTA (Public Transit) and several other organizations.  FHWA controls and owns the Interstate highways (e.g. I-5 from San Diego, CA to Blaine, WA; or I-80 from San Francisco, CA to Teaneck, NJ).  They contract with the states that their interstate highways traverse for maintenance, repair and upgrades but they have the final say (veto power) on everything.

Caltrans – California Department of Transportation defines its mission as providing a safe, sustainable, integrated and efficient transportation system to enhance California’s economy and livability.  Caltrans manages more than 50,000 miles of California’s highway and freeway lanes, provides inter-city rail services, permits more than 400 public-use airports and special-use hospital heliports, and works with local agencies. Caltrans carries out its mission of improving mobility across California with six primary programs: Aeronautics, Highway Transportation, Mass Transportation, Transportation Planning, Administration and the Equipment Service Center.   It has over 23,000 employees and over $10.9 Billion in Budget.  In San Jose District 1, it manages freeways 280, 85, 17, 880 as well as an extension of highway 9.  It receives its funding from the CTC.

CTC – The California Transportation Commission allocates the funds (that USDOT has appropriated to it and the funds received from State programs) to its regional agencies/commissions.  In the Bay Area, the regional agency is the MTC which covers the 9 Bay Area counties.

MTC – Metropolitan Transportation Commission is responsible for adopting budgets and project costs as well as general policy direction.  MTC will allocate the funds (that was appropriated to it from CTC) to the 9 Bay Area counties.  Those counties are Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma.  In Santa Clara County, VTA receives the funding from MTC.

ABAG – The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) is a regional planning agency incorporating various local governments in the Bay Area.  Although not a true transportation agency, it deals with land use, housing, environmental quality, and economic development, which deals directly or indirectly with the transportation agencies.  Non-profit organizations as well as governmental organizations can be members. All nine counties and 101 cities within the Bay Area are voluntary members of ABAG.  As an advisory organization, ABAG has limited statutory authority. It is governed by its General Assembly, which consists of an elected official (delegate) from each city and county which is a member of the organization. The General Assembly determines policy, adopts the annual budget and work program, and reviews policy actions taken or proposed by the organization’s Executive Board. A majority of city and county votes are required for action.  This is the organization that dictates the number of “NEW” housing units each City or County has to provide in its General Plan.  It allocates funds to study and plan where new units will be planned.

VTA – Valley Transportation Agency oversees both the mass-transit a.k.a. transit (rail and buses) as well as transportation modes of travel within Santa Clara County.  It also acts as the CMA for the County.  VTA receives funds from MTC and uses those funds to manage projects that the citizens have voted for in the County for example BART to San Jose.  They also work closely with Caltrans and other agencies (like City of San Jose) to perform studies, prepare plans for improvements and oversee the construction of the projects.  They oversee the lights rail and bus operation in the County.  There are 18 directors of the VTA (of whom 6 are alternates) and 12 are voting members.  They are all elected officials that have been appointed by mayors of the 15 cities and the County Board of Supervisors.  For a list see here.

CMA – Congestion Management Agency develops and adopts the update to the Congestion Management Program (CMP) every two years. The next update is coming in October of 2015.  The goal of this agency is to reduce congestion. One of the ways is to find alternative modes of transportation to the single occupant automobile as well as trip reduction programs, land use / transportation integration strategies. VTA acts as the Congestion Management Agency for Santa Clara County.

County Roads and Airports – This arm of the Santa Clara County government, oversees the County expressways, roadways and small airports. The expressways in District 1 are the G2 (Lawrence) Expressway and the G4 (San Tomas) Expressways. This agency controls the signs and traffic signals that control the network of roads in our county.  The roads are listed in the following manual.

SJDOT – City of San Jose Department of Transportation is responsible for the vast majority of the roads in District 1. Basically, any public road that is not in the purview of Caltrans or the County Roads and Airports is owned by City of San Jose and is controlled by the SJDOT. This includes the signs and signals that control the flow of traffic. San Jose also owns and controls the flow of air traffic in and around the San Jose International Airport (SJC).

Neighboring cities – City of Campbell, Cupertino, Santa Clara and Saratoga share borders with San Jose District 1. They share the responsibility for the road maintenance of the “Common” roads. For example Cupertino controls one half of Bollinger Road and San Jose the other half. However, only one agency controls the traffic signals on that road.

As you can see, the delineation of where one agency’s responsibility end and the other one begins are not always clear. Sometimes getting the agencies to agree among each other is difficult too. But in the end, they all have the same goals of providing safe, reliable and practical transportation or transit service to the people.

General Plan Envision 2040: How Does it Address Traffic Congestion?

by Matt Kamkar, P.E., JD

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

The overarching goal of the General Plan (GP) 2040 is to improve the quality of life for San Jose residents.  One way to accomplish this goal is reduce the number of cars on the road or at least reduce the duration of them on the road by making destinations closer.

Last month, I discussed how the popularity of the South Bay has put a strain on our transportation and transit network.  We know from the morning traffic reports and color coded traffic maps on the web that there can be significant traffic congestion in District 1 during commute hours.  In the mornings the predominant rush hour traffic is from South to North (and East to West) and in the evenings it is from North to South (and West to East).  This is not surprising since in the morning traffic starts from homes (residential districts) and flows to work sites (offices and commercial districts).

There is significantly less traffic in the “reverse commute.”  Those who live in the northern part of the South Bay and work in the south have easier commutes in the morning and evening. The GP 2040 taskforce, based on this knowledge, made some of its recommendations to encourage more housing development in north San Jose and more industry and jobs creation in the southern region.  This was intended to help utilization of the reverse commute. The GP task force also recommended intensification of development along transit corridors, so commuters may have a choice to live near where they work. It also makes it easier for workers to utilize public transit for their commute.

The concept of Urban Villages (UV) rose from the goal of trying to relieve traffic congestion. The rationale was to create an environment where people can work, live and play in close proximity. These types of environments would do most to relieve the traffic congestion since people can choose to walk or bike to work.

There are other benefits as well, walking or biking is also good exercise.  It makes the community healthier and arguably happier.  It prevents emission of greenhouse gases, consumes less gasoline, reduces car maintenance costs, has less impact to the roads and pavements, and it brings the community closer together through higher interactions of citizens.

All of these effects are consistent with the goal of improving the quality of life in San Jose.

Project PASSION (Public and School Safety in Our Neighborhoods)

I am proud to announce the successful launch of a new initiative here in District 1, Project PASSION. Project PASSION (Public and School Safety in Our Neighborhoods) was born out of the needs of both our residents and schools to improve safety in our neighborhoods around our schools.

The projects goals are threefold:

  • Reduce Traffic Speeds in the Neighborhood Related to Schools
  • Maximize Traffic Flow to Reduce Traffic Stacking on Public Streets
  • Improve Parking Compliance within Crosswalks and Driveways

Our first Project PASSION target was the Challenger School in the Strawberry Park Neighborhood. As a result of a traffic accident involving a school parent near the Challenger School many neighbors took to social media to voice their concerns and frustration about safety issues near the school. I instructed my Community Relations Director, Ed Brooks, to bring both parties together and see what services the City could offer to help mitigate the safety concerns in the neighborhood.

After meeting with both groups, we determined that there was much common ground between the school and neighbors. Both wanted orderly organized traffic, parking in legal areas in and next to the school, and reduced speeds.

  • We asked SJPD’s Traffic Enforcement to help with speeding and Stop sign running. They had a field day (several of them) and traffic calmed down noticeably
  • We asked Parking Compliance to help with bad habits of parking across crosswalks and blocking driveways
  • We asked DOT to add some red curbing, change some signage, and add some dots.
  • We asked Challenger to reeducate their parents on traffic flow and add a temporary barrier to enforce traffic flow
  • Challenger volunteered to move some of their students to achieve a better balance and hired 2 new staffers to help with control traffic flow behavior

At the final community meeting many residents thanked Challenger and my office for their respective roles in listening to and taking action on neighborhood safety issues. The result is a much calmer neighborhood where residents feel they had a voice.

We are looking forward to working with other Schools and Neighborhoods to help calm traffic and create a safer environment for everyone.

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.