Beth Winegarner's news articles

San Francisco Bay Area community news

Archive for the ‘Transit’ Category

Will downtown revival leave cyclists in the dust?

leave a comment »

Beth Winegarner
Daily News Staff Writer
July 13, 2005

As Redwood City moves ahead with plans that will draw thousands to the city, some bicyclists are wondering where those plans leave them.

This week, the City Council adopted a plan to re-stripe Jefferson Avenue between Middlefield Road and Marshall Street to make it safer for drivers and pedestrians, but some have said the plan ignores — or even endangers — bicyclists.

Proposed curb bulb-outs, which narrow the roadway and make it safer for pedestrians to cross, force bicyclists to swerve into traffic, resident David Minche said. Adding angled parking on the east side of Jefferson means cars will now be backing into traffic.

Although some have suggested that the city add a bike lane while Jefferson is being reconfigured, traffic engineer Rich Haygood insisted that won’t be necessary.

“Bicycles will be able to travel at a safe speed along with the traffic,” he said.

“I feel safer cycling in a bike lane — even on a four-lane road,” said resident Billy James.

At a June forum held by the Friends of Redwood City, traffic discussions lingered on the city’s bikeability. Many residents spoke in favor of adding more bike lanes and widening existing bike lanes.

Some pointed out that the Jefferson Avenue underpass connecting Sequoia Station and El Camino Real to the new retail-cinema complex doesn’t offer a bike route, making it difficult for residents to cycle to the movies.

However, a current map of suggested bike paths recommends Jefferson between El Camino Real and Alameda de las Pulgas.

“In reality, that’s terrifying,” said Kathy Schrenk, a member of the Redwood City Bicycle Coalition, an ad-hoc residents group consulting with the city on future general-plan amendments.

Although Redwood City does have some designated bike routes along Alameda de las Pulgas, Hopkins Avenue and Arguello Street, it suffers because those lanes aren’t connected to each other, Schrenk said.

“Things are pretty disjointed, especially if you want to get north or south on El Camino, which for some people can be pretty intimidating,” Schrenk said.

In addition to connecting the city’s bike routes, Schrenk said bicyclists need to come up with their own map of recommended routes.

Schrenk and others have been meeting regularly with city planner Gary Bonte to direct amendments to the city’s general plan, which is currently under review.

“We are trying to get more people out of their cars,” Bonte said.

Bonte and coalition members are working on ways to link Redwood City’s bike paths with each other, with routes in other cities and with the Bay Trail.

Eventually, the plan is to build a north-south commuter bikeway from San Francisco to San Jose that would connect with most of the Peninsula cities’ downtown areas, Bonte said.

Creating safe bike routes means striping the streets, erecting signs and making sure streets are in good repair. Potholes and grates that don’t pose a problem for cars are obstacles for cyclists.

It also means making tricky intersections, such as the one at Woodside and Middlefield roads, safer for bicyclists, and using traffic-calming measures to slow drivers down, Bonte said.

In Palo Alto, city officials have established a series of bicycle boulevards, striped city streets to make way for cyclists and even adapted bike-friendly signaling.

But those kinds of programs cost money, Bonte cautioned.

“We want to encourage more nonmotorized transportation. The question is, How do we get there?” Bonte said.

This article originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily News.

Written by Beth Winegarner

July 13, 2005 at 8:56 PM

Popular shuttle rides into the sunset

leave a comment »

Beth Winegarner
Daily News Staff Writer
June 12, 2005

San Carlos’ city-run shuttle, SCOOT, will ride off into the sunset this week, leaving city residents and officials scrambling to come up with transportation alternatives.

SCOOT, short for San Carlos Optimum Operational Transit, was founded three years ago to relieve gridlock at busy intersections around the city. The City Council has voted to drop the program, however, because feels it can no longer support SCOOT’s budget — which runs $700,000 to $900,000 a year, according to Brian Moura, assisstant city manager.

A $59 parcel tax, intended to pay for the free shuttle, failed at the polls in March.

SCOOT operates nine regular routes that run between 6 a.m. and 6:45 p.m., and offers door-to-door service by request. By the end of last year, SCOOT was supporting between 15,000 and 17,000 riders per month, according to city surveys.

Because so many congested intersections were near schools, SCOOT has become a resource for San Carlos students. Traffic at the San Carlos Charter Learning Center went from service level F, the worst possible, to service level C after shuttle service began, Moura said.

SCOOT is also used by seniors, many of whom have flooded the city’s phone lines in recent weeks, asking officials to replace it with another service.

“It has provided a tremendous amount of independence to our seniors and youth, and brought back a sense of neighborhood,” Mayor Inge Tiegel Doherty said. Many friendships have been made on the shuttle, she added.

Charlie Raisor, a 9-year-old Brittan Acres student, rides SCOOT every day. “It’s fun,” he said, adding that he hasn’t yet figured out how he will get to school next fall.

Riding SCOOT is clearly a bonding experience between Raisor and 10-year-old Jacob Toms; they talk and play all the way home from school. Toms doesn’t like the older students who ride with them in the afternoons. “There are a lot of mean kids,” he said.

The students greet driver Bill Wood like an old friend as they board SCOOT each afternoon. Wood, a former limousine driver, said he loves driving — and will have to find another source of income when SCOOT shuts down next week.

SCOOT has enabled many parents to send their children to schools outside their immediate area, according to San Carlos School District Board President Mark Olbert.

“It’s too bad, but I can certainly understand the community not wanting to pay for something that is not used by a lot of people,” Olbert said.

The district held its first community roundtable last week to discuss other methods for transporting students without returning to gridlock. If they can’t find alternatives, “the intersection Alameda and Dartmouth will revert to being a disaster at 8 in the morning,” Olbert said.

Police suggested increasing traffic patrols to make parents feel safer letting kids walk or bike to school, said school board member Norm Whiteley. However, a recent survey performed by the district showed that most parents preferred to drive kids to school.

Doherty is forming an ad-hoc task force to study shuttle options that will meet over the next three months to discuss ways to maintain limited shuttle service in San Carlos. One option is to find a donated van and a volunteer driver, Moura said.

The task force may also study whether another parcel tax vote makes sense. Consultants found strong support for a $39 tax to cover part of the cost of SCOOT; asking for $59 was “one of the worst decisions that we, as a council, made,” Doherty said.

If that happens, they will need to overcome naysayers like former City Council Member John Hoffman, who doesn’t support SCOOT’s current structure or the parcel tax.

“I think providing a free lunch for everybody and doing it in a Rolls Royce way is simply too wasteful,” Hoffman said. He cited Palo Alto’s shuttle, which serves a larger city with a single route at half the cost of SCOOT, as an alternative model.

But Doherty and others are reluctant to cut back on the service that won the city a Helen Putnam award in 2004.

“We’re supporting a tremendous number of riders,” she said. “If we were able to do something for less, it wouldn’t be the same.”

SCOOT’s last day is June 17.

This article originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily News.

Written by Beth Winegarner

June 12, 2005 at 9:19 PM

Posted in San Carlos, Transit