Winter 2001 issue, published Feb. 28, 2001

Continued, second of two web pages.


Highway officials realize more construction is futile

An admission appeared in the New York Times article titled "I-95, the East's Vital Artery, Is Overflowing With Traffic" [Times Fax, Dec. 29, 2000] : "Over the past decade, state highway officials have started to realize that it is all but futile to try to build their way out of the [congestion] problem. The only way to keep it from getting worse, they say, is to transform the culture of highway transportation itself, to persuade people that driving ... is not always the best way."

Of course, MTS has been saying this for 30 years. We proved that freeway construction induces more traffic and congestion returns when we fought Freeway 85 in the South Bay back in the early 1980s, before the term "induced traffic" was even coined. See graph below and


Caltrans' highway engineers at the time claimed that there will be no additional vehicles using the corridor (this includes parallel routes) as a result of building the freeway. The new vehicles, they claimed, would be the result of taking cars off local streets. The politicians chose to believe Caltrans and voted to build the freeway instead of light rail transit, which MTS proposed.

After spending years constructing the freeway, it opened with bumper-to-bumper traffic. Just two years later, traffic in the corridor (on parallel local streets) was worse than it ever had been, according to news reports.

The money that was promised for "traffic relief" and reducing local traffic by building the freeway was totally wasted. The money was spent, but it didn't happen.

Air pollution and noise pollution increased. The housing shortage was exacerbated, as much housing was eliminated by the wide freeway.

Users of the corridor are no better off than before. They are not even given the choice of bypassing the 'virtual parking lot' by using LRT.

New commuting motor vehicles brought into the area on the new freeway further increased congestion on roads after leaving the freeway, and further waste land for their daytime storage.

- Akos Szoboszlay, MTS President

New Guideways

• A groundbreaking ceremony was held in January for Minneapolis' first Light Rail Line. Also see official web site at

• A new monorail was announced for Las Vegas. Bombardier Transit Corporation, has signed a contract with the Las Vegas Monorail Company to design and build a driverless, urban monorail transportation system east of the Las Vegas Boulevard in the heart of the resort corridor. The new Las Vegas Monorail will link seven stations over 6.4 km (four miles) of elevated dual-monorail guideway, integrating the two existing stations and re-equipping the approximate 1.6-km (one-mile) guideway of the MGM-Grand Bally's former monorail line.

The 36-car monorail fleet, to be operated in nine 4-cars trains, will provide direct service to eight major resort properties and the Las Vegas convention center. Expected to carry 19 million passengers in 2004, the Las Vegas Monorail is an urbanized version of the Mark VI monorail that Bombardier supplied for Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, USA.

PRT proposal for the Stanford Industrial Park

The Cities21 proposal for Personal Rapid Transit system in the Stanford Industrial Park area of Palo Alto, CA is on the web at:

The site includes a map and other interesting items, including an article about commuter psychology.

Forum: "BART to Silicon Valley, How Now?"

A Forum will be held in San Jose (at the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors Chambers, Hedding & First Streets, LRT "Civic Center") Friday March 30 at 8:30 AM, ending at about 2:00 PM, with an expert panel in the morning and a nationally respected keynoter at noon (minimal cost for a box lunch). There will be plenty of opportunity for discussion between the audience and the panel. It will be broadcast over NPR by the Commonwealth Club of California, a co-sponsor, and will be published by the International Institute for Surface Transportation Policy Studies, a co-sponsor, for national distribution.

MTS will forward details on this event to members in Santa Clara and Alameda Counties when they become available.

Sacramento depot: UP's phony idea

UP's idea: "With the existing location of the Union Pacific mainline tracks and passenger rail platforms in Downtown Sacramento at the Historic Depot, several conditions exist which present problems from an operational perspective. First, for rail operations, the existing curves in the mainline tracks, located roughly at the points where 7th and D Streets and 7th and H Streets would be found, provide severe operational restrictions. The degree of these curves requires freight trains to slow to 10 mph, rather than a more desirable 30 to 40 mph, as they move through the Railyards area. Freight trains traveling at lower speeds often create delays for passenger trains."

- Page 7 of SITA Report

Union Pacific knows that its freight trains traverse the curve at 20 mph, but has allowed SITA to lie about the speed for well over a year, as shown by speeds published in Union Pacific operating timetables as long ago as August 1999. Rail activists have documented that this is the current practice with videotape and radar. SITA is lying about the speed and the need to move the curve because the truth is there is no valid excuse to move the track or abandon the existing station. Raising the speed from 20 mph to 30 mph would save less than 80 seconds on most freight trains, on a railroad that often has half-hour delays at Roseville, Elvas, and West Sacramento. Why should anyone be in a hurry to help an arrogant railroad that can't tell the truth about the basic facts?

The SITA proposal pretends to be about better conditions for railroad passengers, but it shoves the train platforms away from Sacramento attractions into a toxic zone, making Old Sacramento and K Street access much more difficult. Think the existing station parking situation is a can of worms? Union Pacific would put parking two blocks further away in a site bracketed on three sides by Regional Transit trains. Today at the depot, transferring from train to bus is easy. SITA's proposal would double to quadruple the walking distance on all bus-to-train transfers. RT's current plan is for light rail on an adjacent platform; SITA would push it hundreds of feet from Amtrak.

SITA says the existing station, which currently servers 700,000 riders annually and has served 1.6 million passengers annually in the past, is too small. But its proposal is to build a station 30% to 40% smaller than the existing station with no room for future expansion. Only the current site contains enough room to build for the future.

Greyhound, Caltrans, and Regional Transit have not signed formal agreements endorsing the plan, but are being portrayed as members by Union Pacific lobbyists. These organizations were not party to the falsehoods in the report, which was produced without their active participation.For decades Sacramentans have waited in vain for rail decisions to be made in the public interest. Sacramento has already lost more than $6 million in State and federal funds that were meant for depot repairs because Union Pacific blocked improvements. It is time for the city to stop being railroaded by a selfish and dishonest corporation.

High Speed Rail, not Bay fill !

San Francisco International Airport is trying to win approval to fill in two square miles of the Bay for new runways. Approximately 35% of all flights from the Bay Area are short hops to Southern California. (The percentage of travelers is much smaller because the airlines use smaller craft for these short flights).

The smaller craft require extra space when following large ones to avoid unsafe air turbulence, further reducing the capacity of the airports. If high-speed rail could carry these passengers, however, it would reduce the pressure for airport expansion. Additionally, high-speed rail is less polluting than cars or planes.

For more information contact Save The Bay,

New CA State laws for pedestrian safety

From The Walk San Jose Reporter,

General Policy

The Vehicle Code now establishes a strong pro-pedestrian statewide policy. It states, "It is the policy of the State of California that safe and convenient pedestrian travel and access, whether by foot, wheelchair, walker or stroller, be provided to the residents of the state." It also states that cities "shall work to provide convenient and safe passage for pedestrians on and across all streets and highways, increase levels of walking and pedestrian travel, and reduce pedestrian fatalities and injuries." Cal. Veh. Code section 21949.

30-Day Notice Required Before Crosswalk Removal

A new law requires cities, including San Jose, to provide residents with 30-day notice before removing any marked crosswalk. The law also requires cities to hold a hearing about the planned crosswalk removal if such a hearing is requested by a resident.

Motorists Must Slow Down For Peds In Crosswalks

A new state law, effective January 1, 2001, beefs up the "due care" clause for drivers approaching pedestrians in crosswalks. Drivers are now explicitly required to slow down for pedestrians in crosswalks.

Section 21950(c) of the Vehicle Code has been amended to read: "The driver of a vehicle approaching a pedestrian within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian."

This section previously read: "The provisions of subdivision (b) [which provides that pedestrians shall not suddenly jump out into traffic so as to pose an immediate hazard] shall not relieve a driver of a vehicle from the duty of exercising due care for the safety of any pedestrian within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection."

It remains the law that pedestrians have the right of way at all marked and unmarked crosswalks, except where they constitute an "immediate hazard" to passing vehicles. We asked the SJPD for its interpretation of immediate hazard. Here's the response:

Vehicle traveling at 25 mph: At 150 feet a pedestrian should not be a hazard at this speed.

Vehicle traveling at 30 mph: At 150 feet a pedestrian should not be a hazard at this speed.

Vehicle traveling at 35 mph: At 200 feet, you should not be a hazard at this speed but you should stay alert. At 250 feet, you are not an immediate hazard.

New Law Allows Cities To Lower Speed Limits To Promote Ped, Bike, And Neighborhood Safety

A new law explicitly authorizes cities to consider residential density and pedestrian and bicyclist safety when setting speed limits. The law states: "When conducting an engineering and traffic survey, local authorities...may consider...Residential density...[and] Pedestrian and bicyclist safety."

Under former law, speed limits were set at the 85th percentile speed, rounded down to a multiple of five miles per hour, with no legislatively authorized consideration given to other users of the street, such as pedestrians, bicyclists, children, the elderly, or residential uses.

As traffic engineers themselves freely admit, the flaw in the 85th percentile approach is that drivers are traveling at a speed they feel is safe for themselves. That speed is not necessarily safe for other road users like pedestrians and bicyclists. High speeds (over 25 mph) directly correlate with motorists' failure to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, high injury rates, injury severity, lack of perceived walkability, and high noise levels.

For the last several years, San Jose's traffic engineers have declined to lower speed limits, saying that the process was "out of their hands." As a consequence, many San Jose neighborhoods now suffer from excessive speed limits (such as 35 mph) on residential streets. And even higher actual speeds, in the 40-45 mph range.

In contrast to San Jose's hands-off policy, some cities like Los Gatos would vigilantly prevent "percentile speed creep" through active enforcement.

Walk San Jose has already heard complaints about excessive speed limits from many neighborhoods: Spartan Keyes, Naglee Park, Northside, Mayfair, Shasta Hanchett, Rose Garden, Cambrian, Willow Glen, Almaden Valley, Evergreen, East San Jose, Berryessa, West San Jose, South University Neighborhood, and Japantown, among others.

Assemblymember Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), authored the bill. She says she introduced the bill "at the request of local residents who are worried about pedestrian and bicycle safety in their neighborhoods. Local authorities should have the discretion to consider the safety of their residents when setting speed limits."

San Jose's Department of Streets & Traffic has indicated that, if requested, it will perform a survey of a residential street to determine if lowering a speed limit is sensible, given the flexibility provided by the new law.

One speed limit has already been lowered - on Penitencia Creek Road. Ultimately, a decision to lower a speed limit is up to the City Council - but the Council will probably heavily weigh the recommendations of the city traffic engineers.

New Pedestrian Safety Fund

The State has set up a Pedestrian Safety Fund, with $8 million available to local governments for general pedestrian safety projects and education programs. A competitive grant process for the new fund will be released by Caltrans in the coming weeks - applications will likely be due in May 2001.

According to the law authorizing the Fund, eligible projects include traffic calming measures, intersection safety improvements, traffic signal timing, and crosswalk construction or improvements.

Other New Laws

Other new laws prohibit vehicles from blocking crosswalks except for right turns on red, provide new fines for blocking or failing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks or on sidewalks in front of driveways, require the DMV to include at least one question on the drivers' test to pertain to pedestrian rights, and require traffic school curricula to include the rights and duties of motorists as they pertain to pedestrians. A new law also imposes a mandatory fine for overtaking and passing a vehicle that has stopped to let a pedestrian cross.

High Speed Rail workshops, also on the Internet

Public workshops (Town Hall meetings) by the High Speed Rail Authority are being held in different cities. Here's an opportunity to get information and to voice your ideas.

Which route to the Bay Area? MTS supports restoring rail on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. This would be the cheapest way to connect both of these cities with High Speed Rail. For Bay Bridge information, including photos of trains, see the MTS web page:


The information for the workshops is on their web site:

then click on Town Hall meetings. To see the complete 'High Speed Rail Plan' and download .pdf files click High Speed Train Plan. To leave comments and/or questions, use any of these methods:

Solutions for traffic congestion [click for the article]

More GUIDEWAY articles of this issue in the previous file or see the contents.

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