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: 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.