Tag Archives: Road Diet

Lincoln Avenue Road Diet, Pokemon Go

Willow Glen bike rack 30 July 2016

In the nearly twenty years my family has lived in the Willow Glen neighborhood of San Jose, California, we have enjoyed shopping and eating on The Avenue (Lincoln Avenue between Minnesota and Willow) several times each week. We often walk from our home near the Tamien CalTrain station to Lincoln and back – about 3 mile round trip. Recently, several of us have being playing Pokémon Go as we walk. My son Paul is our family expert and advisor on all things Pokémon.  The Lincoln Avenue area is particularly rich in pocket monsters and PokéStops!

On 28 June 2016, the City Council approved proceeding with the Road Diet (“Lincoln Avenue Pilot Project”).  Since then, there has been much road work and many changes on Lincoln Avenue. The 28 June 2016 City Council Synopsis for Agenda item 6.1:

6.1 Lincoln Avenue Pilot Project Report.
Recommendation: Accept the Lincoln Avenue Pilot Project Report, and support the
plan to pave and stripe Lincoln Avenue in the current pilot configuration, implement
minor traffic signal improvements at the Minnesota/Lincoln intersection, and traffic
calming improvements in adjacent neighborhoods. CEQA: Exempt, Section 15301(c),
Existing Facilities and Section 15304(h), Minor Alterations to Land, File No. PP16-063.
Council District 6. (Transportation)
The memorandum from Council Member Pierluigi Oliverio, dated June 27, 2016, was approved as follows:

  1. Accept traffic and sales tax reports provided by Staff.
  2. Accept Staff recommendation to make the current lane configuration
    permanent in July.
  3. Accept Staff recommendations for further improvements on neighboring streets verified by the Department of Transportation (DOT) data.
  4. In the event that monies for improvement are depleted, DOT Staff is
    welcome to fund improvements out of the District 6 Office Budget ending December 31, 2016.
  5. Return to Council with an amendment to the existing ordinance that bans bicycle riding on downtown sidewalks, with an exemption for pre-teens and propose expanding the area to include Lincoln Avenue between Coe and Minnesota. This would minimize conflicts with pedestrians, strollers and canine companions now that bike lanes are permanent.

Changes I have noticed since June on Lincoln Avenue include:

  • Addition of “bump out” eating area for Tac-oh! restaurant (1384 Lincoln Ave. at Minnesota) – creating a seating area in what used to be parking spaces.
  • Upgrade of street light at Lincoln / Minnesota.
  • Addition of “Willow Glen” branded racks – for bike parking.
  • Slurry seal over existing paving (not a full repaving), with new road markings such as cross walk lines, bike parking signs, and arrows in turn lanes.
  • Addition of small statues in the existing planter boxes.

Stop light upgrade at Lincoln and Minnesota, San Jose, CA, 12 July 2016

Painting Bike Parking Sign Lincoln Avenue San Jose CA, 11 August 2016

New Sculpture, Lincoln Avenue San Jose CA, August 2016

Most of these are welcome changes; however, the five categories of Lincoln Avenue problems associated with the Willow Glen Road Diet, described in my 17 June 2016 post largely remain unresolved:

  1. Traffic safety and speed
  2. Too Little Parking
  3. Bicycles on the sidewalk
  4. Delivery Trucks parking in the turn lane
  5. Community Trust

Parking continues to be the biggest concern to local businesses (and the problem least addressed) – parking both for private cars and for trucks trying to make deliveries.

Delivery truck in turn lane, Lincoln Avenue San Jose CA, 23 August 2016

I am delighted that so many local treasures – like the US Mail Delivery Mural, Chase Bank mosaics, and the Pizza My Heart surfboards – are now Pokémon Go landmarks.  The PokéStops help players notice some of the charming details of our neighborhood downtown and make walking The Avenue even more fun. I still wish that we could resolve some of the persistent larger problems during this time of cosmetic enhancement.

US Mail Delivery Mural, Lincoln Avenue San Jose CA, 23 August 2016

UntChase Bank mosaic, Lincoln Avenue San Jose CA, 23 August 2016tled

Pizza My Heart Surfboards, Lincoln Avenue San Jose CA, 23 August 2016

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Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson

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Diplomacy and Community-Building

San Jose California City Hall, 28 June 2016

Just over a year ago, I was in Salt Lake City as one of the Official Bloggers from the Diocese of El Camino Real (ECR) for the Episcopal General Convention (GC).  At GC, I witnessed remarkable diplomacy and community-building, especially with regard to the historic approval of the very controversial resolutions to create marriage equality in the Episcopal Church.  The way this debate was managed has become my standard for excellence in respectful balancing of sides during heartfelt controversy.  An excerpt from my 1 July 2015 post:

“Marriage equality has been passionately discussed for 39 years in our church and even today there were serious, prayerful, and heartfelt objections raised.  Rev. Gay Clark Jennings (President of the House of Deputies, HofD) asked that the House maintain decorum and respect – as celebrations on one side could only be hurtful to our brothers and sisters taking the opposite view. Chaplain Rev. Lester V. Mackenzie lead HofD in prayer and song before each vote. Over a thousand people were present for this historic decision. We will be processing what is means to us and to our church for many years to come.”

In a highly-local and much less important community debate, on 28 June 2016, the San Jose Mayor and City Council voted to approve that the highly-controversial Road Diet be made permanent in my home neighborhood of Willow Glen.  This final decision was welcomed by many and deeply regretted by as many.  The way the discussion was handled did little to rebuild the community strength that the discussion has eroded during the last year. My husband John Plocher and I were among those who formally spoke against the decision, out of about a dozen citizens who were given one minute each to address the Mayor and City Council.  We only came away with a tiny win: as part of making the “Lincoln Avenue Pilot Project” permanent, the City Council also voted to ban adult bicyclists from riding on the sidewalks of Lincoln Avenue – a welcome change for the better!

I wrote on 17 June 2016  how the problems with the Willow Glen Road Diet sort into categories, of which one was Community Trust:

“The way that the Road Diet was managed caused anger and mistrust of city government among most of the people I interviewed.  …  Many Willow Glen residents are looking forward to electing a new City Council representative in November 2016.  Of the five problems, this loss of trust has the greatest destructive potential for our community.”

When I compare the diplomacy and sensitivity with which the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings managed the raging discussions last summer with the rough  “take it or leave it” style in which our local Road Diet controversy was managed, I feel that San Jose’s leadership does not shine.  I hope that now the decision is made, San Jose’s City Council and neighborhood groups like the Willow Glen Business Association (WGBA), and Willow Glen Neighborhood Association (WGNA) will start to rebuild the community peace that was lost to the Road Diet controversy.

WGBA Board meetings are open to the public: 8 am on the Second Tuesday of Every Month, at the Willow Glen Community Center (2175 Lincoln Ave., San José).

The next WGNA Board meeting will be Thursday, 28 July starting at 7 pm at the Willow Glen Public Library (1157 Minnesota Ave., San José). Meeting is open to Members and Residents.

Katy Dickinson speaking to San Jose Mayor and City Council 28 June 2016

John Plocher speaking to San Jose Mayor and City Council 28 June 2016

Candidate Dev Davis speaking in favor of the Road Diet, to San Jose Mayor and City Council 28 June 2016

Walk Your Bike. Make a Friend. poster, San Jose CA 28 June 2016

Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson and John Plocher

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Willow Glen Neighborhood Association Revived

Willow Glen Neighborhood Association Board 23 June 2016

On 23 June 2016, about fifty people attended the Willow Glen Neighborhood Association (WGNA) Board meeting at the Willow Glen Public Library Community Room.  The WGNA was started in 1973 and over the years has done some good work speaking on behalf of our community within the City of San Jose.  One of the most controversial topics discussed by the WGNA has been the Road Diet discussion which has sharply divided our neighborhood for over a year.

The San Jose City Council will discuss making the Road Diet (“Lincoln Avenue Pilot Project”) permanent at their 28 June 2016 meeting. Please join me there tomorrow if you want your voice to be heard on this contentious local issue.  The Lincoln Avenue Pilot Project report by the San Jose Department of Transportation (SJ-DOT) has been finalized and will be reviewed by the City Council at its 28 June 2016 meeting.

The 23 June 2016 meeting started with much confusion.  It seems that there was a WGNA meeting on 25 May 2016 that about six neighbors attended at which the 2016-2017 WGNA Board was elected.  WGNA has shrunk so much that six seems to have been a valid quorum.  Minutes of the 25 May 2016 election and Board Meeting were distributed on 23 June 2016, along with copies of the poster the WGNA Nominating Committee used to announce that meeting.  From what was reported,  it seems that some members of the 2015-2016 WGNA Board would not cooperate in announcing the 25 May 2016 Board election through WGNA email lists and website, so the 2016-2017 Nominating Committee did the best it could through other means of communication.  There are still debates going on Facebook over who said and did what when.  The 2016-2017 Board told us on 23 June 2016 about about closed-door Board meetings held during 2015-2016 about which there were no minutes posted (closed-door meetings are against WGNA By-laws and Policies).  As of last week, the 2016-2017 WGNA Board was still working to get access to the WGNA bank account and website.

After this distressing context-setting, the neighbors who came to last week’s meeting seemed more interested in seeing what can be done to repair our community than in continuing to fight about the past.  The neighbors supported the return of WGNA to being a grassroots organization.  Many of us signed up for committees to help resolve neighborhood concerns.  Key issues before the 2016-2017 WGNA Board include:

  1. Road Diet resolution
  2. Fire Department improved service coverage
  3. Evans Lane Housing Project for homeless people
  4. WGNA fundraising through sales of the Touring Historic Willow Glen book
  5. WGNA treasury, dues, and financial management in general

The WGNA 2016-2017 Board voted on 23 June 2016 to write a letter immediately to the San Jose Mayor and City Council asking for a postponement of any decision about the Road Diet.  The 2015-2016 WGNA Board was one of the strongest supporters of the Road Diet and on 13 July 2015 sent a letter to SJ-DOT endorsing it.  This 13 July 2015 letter is Attachment J of the 6 June 2016 Lincoln Avenue Pilot Project report.  The WGNA 2016-2017 Board will ask the city for a delay so that the circumstances and position of that letter can be investigated.

At the meeting on 23 June, I was glad to meet Helen Chapman in-person.  She is one of two candidates for the San Jose District 6 (Willow Glen) City Council seat being vacated by Pierluigi Oliverio.  Whoever replaces him will need to address the five categories of Lincoln Avenue problems associated with the Willow Glen Road Diet, described in my 17 June 2016 post:

  1. Traffic safety and speed
  2. Parking
  3. Bicycles
  4. Delivery Trucks
  5. Community Trust

John Plocher and I have recommended that since parking is the biggest concern to local businesses (and the problem least addressed), if there were at least two multi-storey parking garages added to Lincoln Avenue, it would change the dynamics of traffic significantly for the better and would eliminate many of the problems of the Road Diet. More information about this recommendation is in my 22 June 2016 post.

Willow Glen Neighborhood Association Meeting 23 June 2016

Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson

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Suggestions to Improve Willow Glen Road Diet

San Francisco sign to Parking Garage June 2016

Although the pro-Road-Diet faction is distributing a handout declaring success, the controversy is still very active indeed here in Willow Glen.  The San Jose City Council will discuss making the Road Diet (“Lincoln Avenue Pilot Project”) permanent at their 28 June 2016 meeting. Please join me there if you want your voice to be heard on this contentious local issue.

Good news is that the Willow Glen Neighborhood Association (WGNA), one of the loudest advocates in favor the Road Diet – which has not held a WGNA Board meeting in over a year in violation of its own By-Laws and the California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation code 600b – has just scheduled a meeting for tomorrow night (23 June 2016: 7:00p.m. – 9:00p.m., at the Willow Glen Public Library Community Room, 1157 Minnesota Avenue, San Jose).  This is the first community meeting on the topic since 18 June 2015.

Note after publication: The WGNA changed their 23 June agenda to take off discussion of the Road Diet.

What Next?

John Plocher and I have been discussing what our own recommendations are in response to the unhappy Road Diet feedback we have heard this last year from local business owners.  The five categories of problems I described in my 17 June 2016 post are:

  1. Traffic safety and speed
  2. Parking
  3. Bicycles
  4. Delivery Trucks
  5. Community Trust

Of these five, parking is the biggest concern to local businesses (and the problem least addressed) in the current Road Diet improvements.  I was in San Francisco yesterday for a business meeting and noticed not only how many public parking garages there are (in addition to many private garages and lots) but how excellent the signage is to those parking garages (see photos).  On Lincoln Avenue, we have one public parking lot with minimal signage (behind the Bank of America building on Lincolnshire Way).  Several of the business owners I interviewed said that their customers did not know about this one parking lot.

Comparisons:

  • Willow Glen’s central business area on Lincoln Avenue is 0.7 miles long (from Minnesota to Willow) with one public lot.
  • University Avenue in Palo Alto, where the central business area is 0.8 miles long (from Middlefield to Alma), has at least seven public parking lots and multi-storey garages.
  • Downtown Campbell lists ten parking garages and lots for their downtown.
  • Murphy Avenue in Sunnyvale is surrounded by large parking lots – including the lots for Macy’s and CalTrain.

Proposal!

  1. If there were at least two multi-storey parking garages on Lincoln Avenue, it would change the dynamics of traffic significantly for the better and would eliminate many of the problems of the Road Diet.
    • Additional public parking would make it easier for Lincoln Avenue lunch customers t0 get in and out – helping to reverse the current drastic reduction in lunch traffic described by so many business owners.
    • More parking would reduce traffic by the number of cars circling to find parking, and would help to keep Lincoln Avenue customers from parking on neighborhood side streets.
    • Getting cars off the street would also make more space for trucks to park for deliveries.
    • Public parking structures would also include more Disabled Parking Zones.  As you can see from my diagram, there are few Blue parking spaces on Lincoln Avenue now – and none from Lincolnshire to Willow.  There are Blue parking spaces in private parking lots – all clearly marked with signs saying some variation of  “Customer Use Only” (some of the lots have private guards to keep out non-customers).
  2. Add more and better signage to parking.
  3. Two areas to consider placing new multi-storey garages on Lincoln Avenue:
    • The fenced and empty dirt lot at Willow and Lincoln, across the street from Willow Glen Town Square
    • Behind the Bank of America building (which I understand was recently sold), where part of the lot is now available for public parking

Multi-storey garages need not be ugly: the structure at San Jose Airport decorated with artful hands is a good example of civic art combined with parking.

Lincoln Avenue Diagram

Lincoln Avenue Willow Glen San Jose CA June 2016 parking

San Francisco sign to Parking Garage June 2016

Lincoln Avenue parking sign at Lincolnshire Way Willow Glen June 2016

San Jose Airport Parking hands art July 2012

Welcome to Willow Glen sign San Jose CA June 2016

Click here to see the entire Willow Glen Road Diet Series.

Images Copyright 2012-2016 by Katy Dickinson

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Road Diet Evaluation, and More Business Speak

Willow Glen Mural June 2016

Starting around March 2015, the Road Diet on Lincoln Avenue in Willow Glen changed a busy four-lane road with no bike lanes into a two-lane road with two bike lanes plus a turning lane in the middle. The San Jose City Council will discuss making this very controversial Road Diet (“Lincoln Avenue Pilot Project”) permanent at their 28 June 2016 meeting. Please join me there if you want your voice to be heard.

This is part of a series in which I use my professional experience in data collection and analysis to clarify our local discussion.  See my 17 June 2016 post for the 3 official San Jose Department of Transportation (“SJ-DOT”) project goals, plus the 5 problem categories I have identified through discussion and interviews.  In my opinion, the Road Diet has generally failed to meet its goals, particularly because SJ-DOT reported that there were 22 crashes during the last year, compared to 8 the year before.

This post has two sections:

  1. “Lincoln Avenue Road Diet Evaluation” by Bret Levine, 19 June 2016
  2. Selected Quotes on the Road Diet from 4 More Local Businesses

Lincoln Avenue Road Diet Evaluation by Bret Levine

Note: Bret Levine is a PhD student in Evaluation and Applied Research Methodology at Claremont Graduate University.

Since its inception, the Lincoln Avenue Road Diet has polarized support in both directions.  Though perhaps you’ve heard reasons for or against the Road Diet, I’d like to present my evaluation of the Road Diet through the lens of applied research. This began with my inquiry into the methods, measures, data analyses, and data collection processes that I noticed with the Road Diet since 2015.

Ethics as an Experiment

The Road Diet is a “trial” was described as an “experiment”. Therefore if we begin to treat the Road Diet as an experiment, we should hold its merits to similar guidelines in which we hold other experiments. Surely for the Lincoln Avenue Road Diet, a change in commerce that impacts such a wide array of people, we should hold the Road Diet to the strictest standards possible.

For guidelines on conducting ethical research many scientists and researchers nationwide will refer to the US National Institutes of Health (“NIH”), the primary agency of the United States government responsible for biomedical and health-related research. On the NIH website you can find a list of “Ethics in Clinical Research”, which is a set of ethical guidelines for conducting research that involves participants. Again, the Road Diet Trial is by no means a traditional “experiment”, however, this should not deter the use of ethical standards in experimentation given that real people (participants) are affect by the treatment (Road Diet). Additionally, the NIH guidelines are flexible enough to be used as guidance for applied research as well.

It is under the pretenses of these ethical principles that I have concluded that the process of enacting the Lincoln Avenue Road Diet and the measures used for analysis have led to the unethical treatment of those people affected:

  1. Social and Clinical value – The word “impact” is fitting for the road diet, given that commuters, cyclists, pedestrians, businesses, and Willow Glen residents are all affected by the change in the public space. In terms of research, the impact of the Road Diet might encompass many research questions, such as the five following. These are only a handful of questions that would need to be asked before an experiment is put into action. Each of these questions can then be operationalized for data collection so that there is actual information that can represent the answers to these questions. Few of these questions were answered from any of the methods chosen to analyze the results of the Road Diet.
    1. How does the Road Diet impact traffic in surrounding neighborhoods?
    2. How is safety on Lincoln Avenue affected by the Road Diet?
    3. What is the level of satisfaction for commuters, cyclists, and pedestrians?
    4. Are businesses better off as a result of the Road Diet?
    5. Are residence satisfied with the Road Diet?
  2. Fair subject selection – Those most effected by the Road Diet were not fully taken into consideration. Most importantly (as outlined later) was the safety of pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists which was not measured correctly.
  3. Favorable risk-benefit ratio – Neither the risks nor benefits of the Road Diet were presented with any factual substance during the formation or execution.
  4. Respect for potential and enrolled subjects – As quoted from the ethical guidelines: “For research to be ethical, most agree that individuals should make their own decision about whether they want to participate or continue participating in research.” This would directly contradict with the Willow Glen Business Association (“WGBA”) 10-4 vote against the Road Diet (“Willow Glen business group says it’s time to end the Lincoln Avenue road diet” June 2015 Mercury News article by Leeta-Rose Ballester), which was agreed upon to be upheld by Hans Larsen of the SJ-DOT via his presentation before the Road Diet would be put in place (“Lincoln Avenue Road Diet Trial” 15 February 2015).

WGNA Survey vs. WG Business Association Survey

The WGNA survey on the Lincoln Avenue Road Diet allowed for multiple entries from the same person(s). The bottom of the results page noted the removal of same-IP-address without significant changes to the results of the survey, however one can change their IP address simply by filling out the survey with their phone or computer on an alternate router or internet provided. Also, the same person can take the survey from alternate devices other than their own.

The Willow Glen Neighborhood Association (“WGNA”) so-called survey is not survey – it’s a bias measure of popular opinion, conjured from repeated button pressing. The fact that redundant IP addresses were controlled for doesn’t mean anything. You can change your IP address by joining another network.

The Department of Transportation (SJ-DOT) Data Collection Report (1 June 2015), provided conflicting results from the Willow Glen Business Association (“WGBA”) Road Diet Survey conducted by business owners, managers, and property owners. Both sets of results can be found here. The SJ-DOT survey described “notable pedestrian volume increases” (anecdotally – no numbers) while 130 business owners, managers, and property owners on the WGBA survey noted a negative change in the number of people coming into their business (m =2.33, n = 130). Other variables that may have explained the notable increase in pedestrian presence “after” the road diet were not accounted for – in particular time of the year was one such variable. The “before” Road Diet pedestrian volume was measured in February 2015 while the “after” Road Diet observation was made in April 2015. Obviously, these are times during the year that we may expect to see changes in pedestrian volume on Lincoln Avenue – either as a symptom of weather or merely change in season fromWinter to Spring.

Additionally, the SJ-DOT final report failed to provide collision data during the trial while the owners, managers, and property owners felt that the Road Diet was between “no change” and “a little less safe” (m = 2.69, n = 130) for drivers. Not only did the SJ-DOT report not include collision data, but emergency vehicle access as well as changes for vehicles and access for the handicapped were not included. Most shocking is that the main focus of the Road Diet was safety, yet those whose safety is most impacted by the Road Diet were not measured at all: customers, commuters, cyclists, pedestrians, and employees.

In addition to conflicting with the SJ-DOT final report, the WGBA survey provided additional results on the impact of business on Lincoln Avenue. In addition to reduction to people entering their business, owners and managers noted negative changes in satisfaction level of their customers (m = 2.24, n = 128) as well as negative changes in their bottom lines i.e. sales and revenue (m = 2.36, n = 128) as a result of the Road Diet.

Final Road Diet Results Presentation

Sections of the results presentation from the WGBA survey were not accurately presented. Arguably, pie charts do not take into account the embodiment of those that have responded to survey results and can arguably be misleading. For example, the pie charts included in the WGBA survey results grouped together positive and negative responses into 2 bulk categories. This does not take into account the sensitivity built into the survey that should be used to psychometrically represent the differences in opinion. Accompanied with averages (means) that I’ve provided at times in this post, help to capture an overall representation of the entire sample. At first blush, safety appears to have improved as a result of the Road Diet according to the pie charts in the WGBA survey (p. 4). Upon closer examination owners, managers, and property owners felt that Lincoln Avenue was between “a little safer” and “no change” for Pedestrians (m = 3.42, n = 131) and “a little safer” for cyclists (m = 3.62, n =131). These opinions are not represented in the analyses (“Willow Glen Business Association Survey of Members Regarding Road Diet Trial” 14 June 2015).

Methods

If the central research question is along the lines of, “How does the Road Diet impact residents, businesses, and commerce on Lincoln Avenue” the methods chosen to answer this question are vastly inaccurate. There are additional measures (focus groups, interviews, observations, archival data etc.) that could have been utilized to help answer questions, notwithstanding creating accurate surveys to capture sampled opinions. Additionally there could have been much more research – including actual data – on similar cases where Road Diets were put into place.

Questions that affect such a depth and breadth of people and resources should not be answered by shoddy measures and unscientific research. Cultural changes such as increasing cycling or walking amongst a community or city require a great deal of research and time before changes should be made. The people of Willow Glen are owed due scientific process and inquiry before such hasty decisions negatively affect their lives.

External Consultation and Conclusion

An external report by the Stanford Public Policy Program (“Analysis and Recommendations for Lincoln Ave Road Diet” 12 June 2015, by: Dev Davis, Misa Fujisaki, Miho Tanaka, Lucy Xiao) concluded similar results to my analysis: clarify the goals of the Road Diet, ensure that businesses are not harmed, survey residence, and gather more data on pedestrians and cyclists. The motto of both of our analyses is that more information is needed.  However, in regards to this letter, more information comes with a caveat.

Given the feedback from the strongest measures available (WGBA survey), conflict with previous methods (DOT vs. WGBA survey), and new light from NIH guidelines – ethically speaking on behalf of those impacted by the Road Diet – the Road Diet cannot continue until more information in collected and analyzed. The potentially detrimental effects (public safety and the harm on small businesses) on participants of the Road Diet should outweigh the potentially beneficial effects.

As agreed upon with Hans Larsen from the SJ-DOT, on 23 June 2015, the WGBA voted to end the Road Diet (this vote is recorded in a letter “Attachment I” of the SJ-DOT 6 June 2016 report to the San Jose Mayor and City Council), yet the Road Diet has been in place for almost 1 year since the “no” vote. The current existence of the Road Diet is in violation with the original agreement and could be in violation of the ethical guidelines for participants.

There is enough data now to analyze the effects that the Road Diet has had on those that have been impacted, whilst curbing any detrimental effects that have already been caused. The Road Diet was rushed into place without the forethought of research, the opinion of local leaders, the opinion of the Willow Glen residents, nor the opinions of local organizations and businesses. The safety and prosperity of the people of San Jose should be of the upmost importance whenever impactful changes are put in place.

Selected Quotes on the Road Diet from 4 More Local Businesses

Except as indicated, those quoted are either business owners or managers on Lincoln Avenue in Willow Glen, between Minnesota and Willow. My 17 June 2016 post includes 10 business quotes. Some people I interviewed wanted their opinions to be quoted using their names and others wanted to be anonymous. Several who asked to be anonymous said that Road Diet discussions had become so heated that they feared retribution or loss of customers. I have respected each interviewee’s preferences below.

    1. Vince (retail store in Lincoln Avenue): “Many store owners have stated that ‘The Road Diet’ has negatively affected their business on Lincoln Ave. The City Council seems immune to their numbers…i.e. sales. The Road diet seems to agree with many nearby neighbors who like to walk and or bike into downtown. Willow Glen needs customers from the surrounding areas to sustain businesses. They simply cannot survive on those who live within walking distance. Restaurant customers do not have time to come sit and eat in downtown Willow Glen. With the Road Diets traffic it simply takes too much of their lunch hour….restaurants have been affected indeed. Our retail store is a destination and our clientele now just deal with the headache of traffic and road rage now associated with the Road Diet. I have seen more accidents in the last six months with this new road design: people just losing it… driving too fast through the middle, cars rear ending each other from the stop and go motions all the way down Lincoln. Everyone thinks parking is a problem. However, many are not familiar with the fact that the Bank of America parking lot is and always has been free parking. I am upset at our local political representives in the way they handled this entire debacle called The Road Diet. We were lied to and mis-lead the entire time from City Council: saying that the Road Diet was a temporary trial; however, it is now permanent. It was basically shoved down our throats and there is really nothing we can do about it. Proof of declining sales within the businesses on Lincoln should have been enough. I’ve seen numerous social media websites where it now seems many local neighbors have mentioned that businesses against The Road Diet do not care about the people’s safety. People have threatened other businesses. Remember there are more accidents now that ever before…..and you want to talk about safety?? It’s a shame that we now have this anomosity of community vs. business owners.”
    2. Wayne Zhang (Taiwan Restaurant on Lincoln Avenue): “The Road Diet is not good for local business. People are hard to bring here with the Road Diet. There is not enough parking in this area. I have owned Taiwan Restaurant for about a year but the business started in 1982. Our business is impacted because the lunch traffic is not good. People worry about parking at lunch and on weekends too. Bikes are OK so far. Trucks parking in the middle turn lane on Lincoln Avenue is just not right, they block traffic. I don’t agree with the Road Diet.”
    3. Anonymous #7 (retail store on Lincoln Avenue): “I don’t see bikes using the bike lanes as planned, more people are on foot. Traffic can be heavy but the biggest customer complaint is parking. Solve that and there will be less traffic because fewer cars will be looking for parking. Adding a wider bike lane as a right turn lane on Willow/Lincoln helped traffic flow. Lincoln Avenue needs good signs for public parking – people don’t know where to go. I don’t know if the Road Diet caused it but business has been slower; this could be because of ecommerce. I love Willow Glen. It is a great community: neighborly with people who try to work together. I offer to meet customers at the curb to handoff what they bought so that they can avoid parking. There are not enough handicapped parking spaces for my customers to park on the street. I have senior customers who have to park far away and walk to my store.”
    4. Craig Gorman (Intero Real Estate – on Meridian Avenue in Willow Glen): “There are pluses and minuses to the Road Diet. The idea behind it was great but implementation and follow through on the plan has been weak. The original plan said there would be lots of parking and enhanced retail sales – more people would be driving past slower. This didn’t happen. The effect of the Road Diet varies on what the business is. I have heard less people talking about going to lunch on Lincoln Avenue, more are going to downtown Campbell instead because it is easier to get in and out. Willow Glen residents are predominantly in an upper income range. For them, it is OK to have a more expensive lunch but their time is limited. You can’t put a price on that – the decision where to eat is often based on time, not cost. I haven’t seen or heard of more traffic accidents. I was shocked to learn that the SJ-DOT reported so many more for last year: 22 accidents compared with 8 the year before.”

Happy Father's Day Willow Glen June 2016

Click here to see the entire Willow Glen Road Diet Series.

Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson

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Willow Glen Road Diet Report Analysis

Willow Glen, San Jose, California sign 19 June 2016

This is part of my continuing series on Willow Glen‘s Lincoln Avenue Roadway Configuration Pilot Project (“Road Diet“). These are observations from a detailed review of the San Jose Department of Transportation (“SJ-DOT”) publications on the Road Diet, looking at reports from the SJ-DOT from 2015 and 2016. Thanks to John Plocher  who assisted me with this review.

Please send comments, error corrections, or additions – they are welcome!  The San Jose City Council will discuss making the Road Diet (“Lincoln Avenue Pilot Project”) permanent at their 28 June 2016 meeting. Please join me there if you want your voice to be heard on this contentious local issue.
San Jose Department of Transportation, Road Diet Project Area Location Map, 6 June 2016
SJ-DOT Road Diet Project Area Location Map, 6 June 2016

San Jose Department of Transportation, Road Diet Volume and Speed Data Collection Location Map - Detail, 6 June 2016
SJ-DOT Road Diet Volume and Speed Data Collection Location Map – Detail, 6 June 2016

Analysis of the Road Diet 2016 Report from the SJ-DOT

Observations are listed roughly in the order that the information appears in the report.

  1. The Road Diet map of the SJ-DOT above shows the Project Area under consideration.
  2. A key finding from the 2016 SJ-DOT report is on p.4: “Based on the one year of ‘after’ collision data, it is inconclusive whether the modified lane configuration has had a measurable long-term impact on traffic safety… the total number of crashes was higher than the year prior to the pilot project.” That is, there were 22 crashes during the last year, compared to 8 the year before.
  3. My observations are limited to data inside the Project Area and Transition Zones which together are 1.1 miles long (Lincoln Avenue from Nevada Avenue to Lonus Street).  The Project Area without the Transition Zones is just 0.7 miles (Lincoln Avenue from Minnesota Avenue to Coe Avenue).
  4. There were SJ-DOT sensors (or “automatic recorders”) in a variety of locations inside and outside of the Project Area during the time of measurement.  Only two of SJ-DOT sensors were actually in the Project Area or Transition Zones: one South of Meredith Avenue on Lincoln Avenue, and the other South of Glen Eyrie Avenue on Lincoln Avenue.
  5. The SJ-DOT reports are full of detailed and confusing information from outside of the Project Area (measured because the SJ-DOT is responsible for more than just the Road Diet).
  6. On p.6 under “1B Neighborhood Street Traffic Volume and Speed Findings”, the report says most streets were unchanged but two were worse (two passed the threshold into “adverse”).  On pp.6-7 under “1c. Major Street Traffic Volume and Speed Findings”, both Pine and Minnesota showed a strong increase in speeders. That is, areas outside of the Road Diet area are less safe because of the Road Diet.
  7. On p.7 of the 2016 report, Travel Times are given for “the Lincoln Avenue Corridor” which is 2.64 miles long.  By more than doubling the area measured (from 1.1 miles to 2.64 miles), significant variations in the Non-Road-Diet sections distort the data and conclusions.
  8. There are only two indications of cost in the SJ-DOT report, both in the “Policy Alternatives” section on p.14.  One says that not modifying a traffic signal will save $65,000 and the other says that removing modifications to that signal will cost $15,000.  There is no indication how much has been spent on the Road Diet so far, including the long list of additional improvements already implemented (listed on p.10).  There is also no indication of what it would cost to remove the Road Diet or make it permanent.
  9.  The San Jose City Budget Message dated 30 May 2014 includes the following: “Pedestrian Safety …The City Manager is directed to allocate $45,000 in one-time Construction Excise Tax funding for this type of minor pedestrian safety improvement on Lincoln Avenue.”  This is the only funding reference we have identified so far for the Road Diet.
  10. On p.17, “Calmer Traffic Environment” says that “motor vehicle speeds decreased on Lincoln Avenue”.  Looking at “Attachment B – Lincoln Avenue Volume & Speed Summary”, the average change in the Project Area was 7% decrease in volume, and the average percent of speeders in the Project Area went down 6.3%.
  11. The SJ-DOT data analysis does not define a margin of error, making it hard to understand if any of SJ-DOT’s reported measures are statistically significant.  Variations seen in SJ-DOT report tables for areas outside of the Road Diet are often much larger than variations inside of the Road Diet area.
    • Example of variation outside of the Project Area: “Attachment E – Lincoln Avenue Travel Time” shows a -30% to +82% change to areas outside of the Road Diet.
    • Example where margin of error matters: “Attachment B – Lincoln Avenue Volume & Speed Summary” show that volume and speed measures are down on average 4% in 2016.  This measure may very well be so small as to be within the statistical margin of error.
  12. “Attachment E – Lincoln Avenue Travel Time” shows for the Minnesota to Willow segment of Lincoln Avenue:
    • Northbound traffic was on average faster (22% less time or 35 seconds faster)
    • Southbound traffic was on average much slower (36% more time or 1 minute, 13 seconds slower)
  13. “Attachment F – Lincoln Avenue Intersection Level of Service Summary” shows that the LOS (Level of Service) is unchanged for the Lincoln/Minnesota and Lincoln/Willow intersections.  Both of these intersections are still “D” on a scale of A to F, where: A is less than ten seconds, and F is more than 80 seconds delay to get through an intersection.

Click here to see the entire Willow Glen Road Diet Series.

Willow Glen, San Jose, California sign 17 June 2016

Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson, with thanks to the SJ-DOT for their maps

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Businesses Speak on Willow Glen Road Diet

Willow Glen sign San Jose California June 2016

My family has lived in the pleasant Willow Glen neighborhood of San Jose, California, for almost twenty years. We have raised our kids here and I run my business Mentoring Standard out of my office in Willow Glen.  The people here are friendly and diverse, the local downtown on Lincoln Avenue offers good restaurants, shops, and services. Willow Glen homes – from small cottages to mansions – are famously charming with large, well-kept gardens on broad streets with big trees. Willow Glen earns its title as “San Jose’s Local Treasure“.

Regrettably, since 2014 there has been a fight going on about the Lincoln Avenue Road Diet imposed as a “short-term experiment” by a group for whom the main speaker has been Willow Glen’s outgoing City Councilman, Pierluigi Oliverio.  Starting around March 2015, the Road Diet on Lincoln Avenue changed a busy four-lane road with no bike lanes into a two-lane road with two bike lanes plus a turning lane in the middle. The San Jose City Council will discuss making the Road Diet (“Lincoln Avenue Pilot Project”) permanent at their 28 June 2016 meeting. Please join me there if you want your voice to be heard on this contentious local issue.

After a year of listening to my neighbors and local business people unhappily discussing the Road Diet, and reading passionate opinions online (for examples, see the Facebook pages: “Willow Glen Road Diet”, and “Stand Up for the Neighborhood – End the Willow Glen Road Diet”, and “Willow Glen Charm”), I decided to use my professional experience in data collection and analysis to clarify the discussion if I could, for myself if not for my neighborhood. This is my fifth post on this topic.

Last month, I contacted the San Jose Department of Transportation (SJ-DOT) for an update on their 1 June 2015 report. SJ-DOT published the new report today.  While waiting for the SJ-DOT report, I started listening to the local business owners, the individuals and families who offer goods and services on Lincoln Avenue between Minnesota and Willow.

Yesterday and today, I walked up and down Lincoln Avenue and had in-depth discussions with many local business owners and managers.  There was a range of opinions on the Road Diet but no one said that it improved business on The Avenue. The businesses I talked with were a mix: restaurants, retail stores, professional and personal services.  Some people I interviewed wanted their opinions to be quoted using their names and others wanted to be anonymous.  Several who asked to be anonymous said that Road Diet discussions had become so heated that they feared retribution or loss of customers.  I have respected each interviewee’s preferences below.

Thanks for those who took the time to share their thoughts, experiences, observations and opinions.  Much appreciated!

Road Diet – Stated Goals

Last year, the SJ-DOT reported in a community meeting 18 June 2015 that the Purpose of the Lincoln Avenue Road Diet is to:

  • Improve safety for all users
  • Create a calmer traffic environment
  • Enhance travel for people walking and biking

In the Memorandum dated 6 June 2016 and published today by SJ-DOT Director Jim Ortbal, he writes: “Based on the one year of ‘after’ collision data, it is inconclusive whether the modified lane configuration has had a measurable long-term impact on traffic safety… the total number of crashes was higher than the year prior to the pilot project.” That is, there were 22 crashes during the last year, compared to 8 the year before.

Lincoln Avenue traffic is slower because of the Road Diet but drivers seem much more frustrated.    Maybe the traffic is calmer but the drivers are angrier?

Adding bike lanes did enhance travel for cyclists but cyclists using the sidewalks has decreased safety for pedestrians.

Based on my observations and what I have heard in interviews, the Road Diet has generally failed to meet its goals during the last year.  Many people told me that they thought that creating the Road Diet had more to do with property development requirements than with benefiting our neighborhood.

Summary of 5 Problems

In summary, the problems with the Willow Glen Road Diet sort into 5 categories:

  1. Traffic safety and speed: The Road Diet has slowed traffic on Lincoln Avenue; however, while some think the street is safer, there were many reports in interviews of driver frustration resulting in dangerous driving or speeding detours into surrounding neighborhood streets or parking lots.  SJ-DOT reported that there were 22 crashes during the last year, compared to 8 the year before.
  2. Parking:  Lincoln Avenue parking was a challenge long before the Road Diet. In some ways, the Road Diet made the parking problem worse (for example, in heavy traffic it is hard to parallel park, and also difficult to move from one full parking lot to another looking for an open space).  However, the presence of the bike lanes makes it easier to open your car door without hitting an oncoming car (but easier to hit a cyclist). The Road Diet did not address this problem.
  3. Bicycles: The Road Diet put two new bike lanes on Lincoln Avenue but they are lightly used.  Many cyclists are observed to ride on the sidewalk regularly, presumably to avoid the dangers of heavy roadway traffic.  It is legal to ride bikes on the sidewalk (except for a few streets in downtown San Jose) but not safe for pedestrians.
  4. Delivery trucks: Lincoln Avenue is full of business that need regular delivery of goods and supplies.  In the morning before most stores open, deliveries are easy but later in the day, trucks frequently have to park illegally in the center turn lane.  This compresses the regular traffic even more and creates a barrier for emergency vehicles trying to get into Lincoln Avenue. The Road Diet did not address this problem.
  5. Community Trust: The way that the Road Diet was managed caused anger and mistrust of city government among most of the people I interviewed.  In my post Willow Glen Road Diet – Failure Update, I included a 2014-2015 timeline from Allen Rice of how the Road diet was created and implemented, intentionally avoiding impact reviews. There has not been a community meeting about the Road Diet since 18 June 2015.  Many Willow Glen residents are looking forward to electing a new City Council representative in November 2016.  Of the five problems, this loss of trust has the greatest destructive potential for our community.

In my own opinion, the Road Diet could be made to work but only if all five of these problems are effectively addressed at the same time.

Road Diet restriping Lincoln Ave March 2015

Selected Quotes from Local Businesses

Those quoted are either business owners or managers on Lincoln Avenue in Willow Glen, between Minnesota and Willow.

Cathi Karns (of Whatnots & Dodads – antique and collectible store): “What we have seen is that Lincoln Avenue is not safer. There are more angry drivers. I was spit on by a driver recently when making a turn – I have never seen such rage. There was a fight between a driver and someone trying to cross the street recently. Some of my customers now avoid coming downtown. The Road Diet hasn’t helped anybody. More Lincoln Avenue businesses closed their doors this year. I see bicycles riding on sidewalks, not using the new bike lanes because traffic is not safe. People are driving faster and are more erratic. With the turn lane going in both directions, it is nicknamed the ‘suicide lane’. Ambulances have gotten stuck because of traffic and trucks in the middle lane. It was simpler when there were four lanes and people could move around.”

Anonymous #1 (retail store): “Less cars are passing on Lincoln Avenue, so spontaneous shoppers are lost. The Road Diet makes it harder to get in. Businesses chose to be on Lincoln Avenue because it was a good location but the Road Diet changed that equation. We need customers to see our windows, signage, what we offer. How can emergency vehicles get through when the center lane is often blocked by trucks? The Road Diet has made the traffic system fragile – there is nowhere to go because Lincoln Avenue is too congested. We need a transparent, honest evaluation of the actual data.”

Lincoln and Minnesota traffic accident 15 May 2015 Willow Glen

Chris (John’s of Willow Glen – restaurant): “Our lunch business was affected.  Customers with one hour for lunch before the Road Diet could drive here from work in downtown San Jose, Campbell, or Cambrian.  That business has dried up – it now takes too long to get here, park, eat, pay, and drive back.  We are seeing more people on the weekends, much busier than it used to be.  The area is growing and is a destination for families and young people to spend a day here.  John’s has not lost business, it is the same or up 5% but I would love to have seen what business would have been without the Road Diet. Parking is bad, there isn’t enough.  I have seen no increase in people riding bikes since the Road Diet.  Traffic is slower so it is probably safer. Pedestrians need to be aware when crossing Lincoln Avenue – they create a backup if they cross when the intersection ahead has a green light.  The way the Road Diet was handled, the lack of transparency in the process was a problem.  There were mistruths in what was promised and what was delivered. Commuters go onto side streets in the neighborhoods to avoid Lincoln Avenue.  Lincoln Avenue creates tax revenue.  A thriving downtown is important for the city and neighborhood.  Home values are higher.  We depend on our neighbors and they depend on us.”

Anonymous #2 (beauty salon): “Multiple clients have used the Road Diet as an excuse for being late for appointments. Drivers who are frustrated drive fast through neighborhood streets. I had a client hit by a car in the crosswalk by a frustrated driver trying to catch the light. Drivers overlook street crossers even when they carry a flag.”

Pedestrian crossing Lincoln Avenue Willow Glen with a flag 16 June 2016

Tanya Rios (Willow Glen Creamery – frozen desserts): “I have not had a single customer complaint.  The center lane comes in handy to turn into the Town Square parking garage.  It’s time management – I leave 15 minutes early if there is traffic.  After school there are always way more cars than expected.  It is life’s punishment for being in a rush.”

Anonymous #3 (professional services): “Driving is easier and it is easier to get into our driveway – crossing one lane of traffic instead of two.  Crossing the street is safer than it used to be.  There have been more traffic accidents since the Road Diet.  Where can trucks park but in the middle (turning lane)? Only in early morning can trucks park at the curb.  Our business offers professional services with no walk-in customers – so there was no effect by the Road Diet.  Business for clothing stores, restaurants, and spas is down because they need walk-ins.  Willow Glen Elementary School puts out so much traffic that people have to find alternate routes.  Commuters should use other streets than Lincoln Avenue.”

Truck parked in turn lane on Lincoln Avenue in Willow Glen 16 June 2016

Victor Martinez (Plaza Inn Mexican Food – restaurant): “It is a nightmare in the morning with the cars backed up to cross Minnesota Avenue.  People get upset and start driving faster – cutting in front of other cars. I have seen people get irritated and cut through the neighborhoods and parking lots, dangerously speeding trying to avoid traffic.  Business is worse.  It takes so long to get here during lunch that customers refuse to come here.  We are easily 20% worse in the last year, compared to before.  People ride bikes on the sidewalks and in the wrong direction – only using the bike lanes once in a while.  I don’t mind the two lanes but parking is worse.  We should have diagonal parking.”

Anonymous #4 (professional services): “I have seen runners use the bike lane but bikers use the sidewalks – the bike lanes are too dangerous.  Road Diets work in cities but not in neighborhoods like Willow Glen.  Crowds of people, bikes, and cars are in one small area – this is putting people at risk.  A few months ago someone had a heart attack and the fire truck could not get in to provide emergency care – they had to go around the block because of traffic. Lunch used to be my busiest time but not any more.”

Biker on the sidewalk on Lincoln Avenue Willow Glen 11 June 2016

Anonymous #5 (restaurant): “The Road Diet was not well thought out.  They did not do their homework. Parking is more difficult.  Trucks have to stop in the middle to deliver.  Lights, traffic light timing should be adjusted.  There is less speeding so it may be safer.  There are traffic jams and drivers are angry because the lines are so long and they can’t make a left turn. There have been more accidents and everyone has lost business.  The pedestrian lights do not go on when people cross the street and flags do not work – some people keep driving. The three month trial did not happen.  We got no option to vote. It’s all political, we can’t fight it. ”

Anonymous #6 (restaurant): “I enjoyed Lincoln when it had four lanes, people moved faster and it was not as congested.  The two lanes now has slowed everything down and traffic is annoying.  Safety-wise, it is more pedestrian friendly based on my own experience as a walker.  Traffic is slower but people being frustrated causes situations.  They just want to get there.  We definitely need more parking.  I have see more bicyclists, even bicycle parties, more community sense – but not for the commuters.”

Click here to see the entire Willow Glen Road Diet Series.

Smile You're in Willow Glen sign 17 June 2016

Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson

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