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NTMP REVISION: Not a Solution to MP's Neighborhood Traffic Problems

From: domainremoved <Julie>
Date: Tue, 29 Jan 2013 21:58:35 -0800

Dear Transportation Commission Members and City Council,

 

As you are aware, a sub-committee of the Transportation Committee is
currently considering "potential revision of the Neighborhood Traffic
Management Process (NTMP)." As stated on the Transportation Commission's
website, this "Project will entail re-visiting of the NTMP, its intent and
practical applications." I attended the first meeting that was held on
Wednesday evening, January 9th. It wasn't clear, from the meeting, why
revisions to the NTMP are being reviewed right now (the timing is
suspicious) nor being put as such a high priority in the Transportation
Committee's two-year plan. Moreover, the sub-committee members weren't able
to clearly answer why this effort was on the table, other than it was on
their list. So what are the problems we are trying to solve by revisiting
this process? When asked this question, besides stating that some residents
are frustrated with the process and specifying a rough number of how many
times the NTMP has been used vs. how many implementations have resulted, the
sub-committee members were not prepared with any analysis of how the NTMP
has worked or not worked successfully to meet its currently stated goals.
It doesn't feel productive to engage in such a review process without first
a more in-depth understanding of what, if anything, we are trying to solve.
Without such direction, this project is essentially opening Pandora's box by
engaging in an open-ended, likely contentious project--confirming my belief
that this effort is a red-herring which is distracting valuable resources
away from addressing the true sources of the traffic and transportation
problems that exist in the City of Menlo Park.

 

The most heated theme that arises when potential revisions to the NTMP are
considered, is why 51% of affected residents are needed to approve traffic
changes and why non-responding residents are counted as "no" votes.
Regardless of the fact that this threshold frustrates many residents, it is
crucial. Past history illustrates why this threshold/requirement is
necessary if the City is to refrain from applying expensive resources PRIOR
to understanding the neighborhood's response not AFTER costs have been
incurred. Without such a process, repeatedly, the City has spent hundreds
of thousands of dollars, countless hours from staff and residents only to
remove the traffic mitigations installed. This outcome does not serve
anyone the City. Here is a reminder of why the NTMP was first initiated
within Menlo Park and why that threshold IS needed, at a minimum:

Prior to NTMP's existence, and a motivation for its creation:

* 1993,traffic calming devices were installed throughout the Willows
neighborhood, at great financial costs (including hiring TJKM, consultants),
many months of staff and resident's time, and significant divisiveness
within the neighborhood. Soon after installation, most of these devices
were removed following resident protests.
* 2002, Santa Cruz Ave. in West Menlo Park: Traffic calming features
were installed and then quickly removed after vehement resident protests.
Installation and removal of the "street furniture" burned through over
$300,000.

. 2003, The Willows Traffic issues resurfaced motivated by an $80,000
settlement that Menlo Park had a limited time to utilize. A Willows traffic
study was conducted, but this time, not by consultants, instead by
neighborhood residents under the supervision of City staff. In the Menlo
Park City Council meeting, 4/8/03
<http://www.menlopark.org/council/minutes/cm040803.pdf> , the decision was
made for specific speed bumps to be established, which was reasonable.
However, a small group of very vocal Willows residents continued to push for
the remaining money to be put toward suggestions that were outlined in the
1993 TJKM report, including encapsulation, mazes, and diverters, that had
already been rejected within the neighborhood after significant cost had
been incurred.

More recently, after NTMP's existence:

* Fall of 2007, a proposal was submitted to the Traffic Commission
initiating yet another Willows Area-Wide Traffic Study, strategically
bypassing the NTMP. This effort consumed over three and one half, years
(yes 3.5 years!), hundreds of thousands of dollars including TJKM
consultants (hired again), countless hours of staff and residents' time, and
rousing more divisiveness within the neighborhood. In June of 2011, what
was essentially a "traffic redirection" plan within the Willows was voted
down by the City Council. If the NTMP as it is currently designed had been
followed from the outset, perhaps the City could have avoided much of this
cost and considerable pain for all involved.

A key tenet of the NTMP is a requirement for a demonstration of substantial
support for such projects by the affected neighborhood BEFORE action is
taken. And that needs to remain a priority. Otherwise, as has occurred
repeatedly in the Willows Neighborhood, a small minority of vocal residents
can cause significant time and money to be spent on initiatives (such as
those attempting to redirect traffic patterns within the neighborhood) that
are not welcome by the larger group of residents.

Ultimately, it is my opinion that suggesting revisions to the NTMP, under
current circumstances, is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic while
it is sinking. Instead of applying resources in the form of committee
members, staff, and residents' time to this project, these efforts would be
more effectively be directed to the source of the traffic and managing that
rather than being mired unproductively and costly in its symptoms.

So if the above examples illustrate symptoms of Menlo Park's traffic
problems, what is the actual root of the problems? What I see is that
these symptoms result from the fact that the only routes into, out of, and
through Menlo Park are insufficient to manage the volume of cars, and,
therefore, drivers get frustrated and seek alternate routes. The NTMP is
not designed to nor will it resolve these problems. Historically, with
decades of anti-growth sentiments prevailing, the City of Menlo Park has
chosen not to deal with this reality. Instead, proposals arise to
exacerbate this problem further, such as narrowing El Camino even more.
[Currently, El Camino narrows from three lanes each direction down to two
lanes between Ravenswood and Valparaiso (creating a bottle neck through
Menlo Park along El Camino).] The only streets leading from 101 to downtown
Menlo Park are along Marsh and Willow, both of which are one lane in each
direction, and the only street leading from 280 to downtown Menlo Park is
Santa Cruz. Further, in order to reach or cross El Camino from either the
west or the east a maze of roads, like small arteries, need to be traversed.
Unless the City of Menlo Park believes that population in the area will be
decreasing, these traffic problems will only continue and likely worsen.
For instance, Facebook is a gift to Menlo Park, bringing in much needed
revenue; it also brings with it, more people traveling on the streets. What
IS needed in this high-growth Bay Area locale is intelligent managed growth
policies to be implemented, not revisions to the NTMP.

Therefore, I implore the Transportation Commission to focus your efforts on
addressing and relieving the underlying problems of traffic throughout Menlo
Park and not to become mired in the symptoms.

Julie Forbes
165 E. O'Keefe Street
Received on Tue Jan 29 2013 - 21:59:15 PST

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