Upcoming Events!

District 1 Community Budget Meeting

Tuesday, May 26th
6:00 PM – 8:00 PM.

Councilmember Jones and Mayor Liccardo will hosting the annual District 1 Community Budget Meeting on May 26th at The Harker School: Blackford Campus in its school theater at 6 PM. This annual meeting provides the community with an opportunity to learn the details of the City’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year. It also a chance to hear directly from Councilmember Jones about his goals for the city’s budget, and share your thoughts and priorities directly with him. Click here for an event flyer. Please contact us if you have any questions district1@sanjosea.gov or 408-535-4901. There are also community budget meetings going in the other council districts. You can find more information about this meetings here.

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.

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.