This meeting was put together to address the long term traffic concerns of the neighborhoods near the corner of College and Ashby. There has been heightened concern about traffic issues partly due to continually growing traffic in the area. This concern was focused recently by the displacement of traffic due to the just completed College Avenue repaving.
District 8 City Councilmember Polly Armstrong sent out an email notice to people about the meeting. Also in attendance were District 7 City Councilmember Kriss Worthington and City of Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean. Rene Cardinaux (the Director from the Berkeley Public Works department) ran the meeting. Also a prominent figure in the meeting was the new City of Berkeley Traffic Engineer Jeff Knowles. In attendance were representatives from the Berkeley Police and Fire departments.
The format of the meeting was to have brief presentations by Rene Cardinau (Public Works), Jeff Knowles (Traffic), and from the Police and Fire department representatives. After that the floor was thrown open for comments from the attendees. Rene Cardinau managed the meeting. The room at St. John's was quite full. I would guess that about 50 people were in attendance. Some stood in the hall to participate. There was an attendance list circulated. If somebody can get me any data for public consumption from that list (e.g. how many people actually attended the meeting) I will be happy to post that information.
I took some notes from the meeting and am writing them up from my perspective. I don't make any claims to impartiality - though I do believe I am able to keep a community perspective in mind. I am willing to post any additional notes that anyone sends me in digital format (email preferred).
I will place my comments into rough categories and briefly summarize the points that I remember or took notes on. Here are the categories:
b. Much of the traffic (how much is in question) that comes into the College and Ashby area is "through" traffic. For example, traffic to or from the University (more on this below), traffic to/from Highway 24 or even 80 or Oakland. Some felt that Telegraph Avenue is better designed for through traffic (4 lanes instead of two) and that it is being under utilized for traffic flow.
c. It was pointed out that traffic coming from the east part of UC is unable to reach Telegraph Avenue to flow south. This is because (my understand, subject to clarification) the only significant streets flowing west toward Telegraph intersect Telegraph when it is one way heading north. Dwight Way (where Telegraph becomes two way to the south) is one way heading east. Any other transit from the east part of the campus (e.g. football traffic) must leave to the south and west via Warring or College or past through neighborhoods. Apparently this has been an issue for years. A specific challenge was made to the traffic engineer to either this situation or explain why it won't be changed.
d. It was pointed out that the proposed "Underhill" project at UC will add some 1000 new parking spaces to the 400 already on the block surrounded by Haste, College, Channing, and Hillegass. Naturally those 1000 new parked cars have to arrive there somehow - namely through College and/or Warring.
e. I want to mention here (author's perogative) a possible very global "solution" to the through traffic problem. Namely building a tunnel for this traffic. Such an approach would be VERY expensive. No doubt about that. However, it might actually be able to do something non zero sum (i.e. not just move traffic from one street to another) about the traffic problem. Such a tunnel might flow along the current Ashby Hwy 13 route and might (for example) branch north to the University (e.g. to the new Underhill parking lot). I haven't heard many negatives about such a tunnel except for the cost (perhaps prohibitive). I will mention that I have seen quite a number of such tunnels used effectively in Europe. A traffic safety issue was raised with tunnels that I am unable to evaluate.
b. Many people mentioned how unpleasant and/or unsafe traffic is in their neighborhood. The problems of speeding and noise were mentioned. The issue of child safety was invoked in various forms - including a few of children at the meeting. My girls (9 and 10) were there for educational purposes - not as symbols or to save babysitting (which I am also sympathetic about). I think it is clear that we all want to keep our children and ourselves safe from traffic accidents.
c. Parking problems were mentioned a bit. It was suggested that parking permits were being abused and that employees from UC, Alta Bates, local businesses, etc. were parking in the neighborhoods particularly around College and Ashby - thereby cutting down on parking for store customers and exacerbating traffic problems.
b. It was suggested that those that have diverters and those that argue for diverters to keep traffic out of their neighborhoods were in effect trying to set up "gated" communities using city funds for streets and infrastructure. This position was favored by the group that wanted the diverters removed or have no relief and cannot get calming devices.
b. Provide a traffic flow (e.g. make Dwight 2-way) west bound from the SE area of the UC campus. (see the letter to the editor of the Daily Planet below)
c. Use pinchers for traffic calming. It was pointed out that speed bumps were controversial (slow emergency vehicles, disabled people don't like them, etc.) and are presently under a city moratorium (though note that the Executive Summary of the Berkeley Speed Hump Program seems generally positive about speed humps). Pinchers (street narrowing to one lane - near mid-block generally) may not be quite as effective at slowing traffic, but they do slow traffic some and don't have most of the negatives of speed bumps/humps.
d. On speed bumps specifically it was pointed out that active suspensions may lessen their effectiveness in the future.
e. A few electronic and/or speed sensing technologies were mentioned. It was pointed out that speed sensing readouts help keep traffic speeds down. It was also noted that they currently cost ~$30,000 for each sensor. An innovative speed sensing traffic light under test in Colorado was mentioned that senses the speed of oncoming traffic and turns red if it is approaching at too high a speed. I will mention here that technology improvements and economies of scale may both be able to help drive down the costs for such technologies. There is no reason why, in principal, such sensing lights or displays need cost more than $2000 - $5000.
f. Better/additional/alternative signage was mentioned a few times. Once to suggest driving more slowly (e.g. as in some places on the east coast). One mention was of a sign in the middle of intersections that says "go slow" - somewhat like a traffic circle with a message. I mentioned our particular problem on Russell north of Benvenue of having so much traffic that doesn't realize that Russell is blocked north of Benvenue by the "staple". We believe that better signage could make the presence of the staple moer obvious and would be in everybodies interest - drivers and neighbors alike.
g. There were a few suggestions along the lines of sensitizing people to area traffic concerns. For example, it was proposed to present a flyer or the like to students and workers incomming to the area.
h. The "imbedded lights" on Claremont Avenue were mentioned as being very effective. Hope was expressed that these lights would be continued after the repaving project. These lights in the crosswalk at Claremont and Brookside are called "Santa Rosa" lights. They are pedestrian activated. Polly Armstrong notes: People do like them (although I think they will really come into their own when time changes and folks must cross in the early evening dark). I think they are most useful at crosswalks where drivers might not expect pedestrians..like Piedmont and Ashby.
a. Notification - Author's note: There was some pretty massive confusion about notification for this meeting - in which I unwittingly played a part. Here is the sequence of events as I understand them:
1. Rafael Friedman sent some message to Polly Armstrong or her assistant Joan Collingnon (I am speculating - I don't have that message), 2. Joan Collingnon replied with the following message to Rafael on Polly's behalf Subject College Avenue Update Date Mon, 14 Aug 2000 121503 PM Eastern Daylight Time From "Collignon, Joan"
To "'Rfriedmann@aol.com'" This is Joan for Polly. Thanks for pointing out that the "other" schools will also be starting up. We're hoping that the entire project will be totally finished by then striping, clean-up, everything. Re the sign Polly will ask the traffic engineering department this morning if that change can be made. Were you aware that there will be a meeting for your neighborhood with the Public Works Dept. on Tuesday, at 730 at Willard Jr. High Auditorium? This is a follow-up to that meeting in the library two weeks ago. 3. Rafael, having received this message on Monday Aug 14, not too surprisingly believed the Tuesday being referred to was the immediately next Tuesday, namely then next day, August 15. 4. Rafael sent his message out to me From Rfriedmann@aol.com Received from Rfriedmann@aol.com Date Tue, 15 Aug 2000 120029 EDT Subject College Ave paving meeting tonight! To
Neighbors Just found out yesterday from Joan Collignon (aide to Polly Armstrong) that there will be a meeting at the Willard Jr High auditorium tonight (Tue 8/15)at 730 pm on the College Ave repaving. I strongly urge you to go. In the past meeting, the merchants and then in a posterior email, the City council people hinted that they were tired of just hearing the same small group of "activists" express what we touted as the "neighbors" views. The City needs to hear your voices if they're going to take us seriously. Rafael 5. I forwarded Rafael's message to the rest of the TACTC list.
From Rafael's viewpoint he had been notified at the last minute about the meeting. Actually the meeting wasn't to happen for another week and Joan was trying to give him a heads up (I believe - clarification appreciated).
6. My message was followed up by this message from Scott Tolmie who was also feeling inadequately notified:
Jed, you are absolutely correct. that those of us who have been concientiously attending these meetings were not notified of this meeting amounts to our being actively dis-included in this process. the comment that someone from the city is tired of hearing from us about speeding/traffic concerns is beyond irony. i am copying Rene Cardinaux, Director of Public Works, with the following questions, and a solution to notification of public meetings for those copied here at least. Rene, are we being actively excluded? if not, how does your office decide who to notify? what's the proceedure? who's responsible for scheduling/notifying the public about these meetings? is there a reason your office can't keep the list of recipients attached to this email as a list of concerned neighbors to ALWAYS NOTIFY about these meetings as soon as they are scheduled? if we can email each other, Rene's office can email us, and should start by responding to this. Scott Tolmie
7. and finally Rene Cardinaux responded:
I am getting a little weary of the paranoia around public meetings. We have been repeatedly asked to attend formal and inpromtu meetings to explain our plans and to listen to peoples concerns. We have gone to all of those even when we had other plans that had to be cancelled. We do NOT exclude anyone, in most cases we are the ones that invite those that might be interested that we aren't sure were notified. We have heard from merchants claiming that the residents are excluding them and we have heard from residents that we are attending "secret" merchant meetings. What I really think is that it is about time you guys listen to each other instead of expecting city staff to arbitrate every aspect of neighborhood issues. We are here to implement your wishes and needs, ALL of your needs, not some select group. We have been trying to set up a series of fact finding exploratory meetings to see if we can distill everyone's wishes into a workable traffic plan, the first one scheduled for next week. It has grown into a larger circle of influence and we have cast a wider net inviting all who might be affected. We also do not expect that the one meeting will even begin to allow for enough time to allow everyone the time to raise their issues and concerns plus it is difficult to catch everyone for just one meeting, so we plan on repeating this for at least two more meetings. We have not, nor will we exclude anyone, nor will we make our recommendations as to final solutions without listening to all interested parties. I can understand the inherent risks to merchants and residents expressing their views in public when they might appear to have opposing viewpoints, but in fact, all of the various interests need solutions. The whole identity of that neighborhood depends on the comingling of commercial and residential interests. I hope this message begins to clear the intent and purpose of these meetings.
This seems to me a case where the road to hell truly was paved with good intentions. I am sure Joan Collingnon did not intend to mislead Rafael. I am equally sure that there was no attempt by the city officials to exclude anyone.
I do believe that we have something of a problem in getting notifications out about events. This seems to me largely a technical problem. How can such notifications be sent out? I suppose that in principal postal mail could be sent out to every household. This seems to me very expensive. I don't believe the city went to such an effort for the case of this workshop. Beyond that option, how else can such notifications be delivered? I don't know. We could set up a telephone or gossip or email tree, but I know of no "formal" mechanism that is in place.
8. Since this seems to me an unresolved issue, I sent the following message to all the concerned city officials and to the TACTC list - asking (directly of Polly Armstrong) for clarification on the notification process:
Polly and others, I would like to clarify (if possible) the procedure that is being used to notify concerned residents about meetings such as the recent CITY OF BERKELEY WORKSHOP ON TRAFFIC CONCERNS IN THE ASHBY/COLLEGE AREA While I believe there were good intentions to notify people about the above meeting, I'm afraid that some confusion and unfortunate bad feelings resulted from the mechanism that was employed. I described the events of this last notification effort on the TACTC Web page at http//www.healthstart.com/traffic/berkeley/traffic-meeting-8-22-2000.html#issues as I saw them. I suspect that unless the issue of notification is clarified there may well be more misunderstandings resulting from whether and when people are or are not notified about such future meetings. Polly - perhaps since the announcement for the last meeting seemed to come most directly from you - can you explain to us how you intended people to be notified about that meeting? Is there any kind of formal procedure for such notification? I know that Paul Tuleja, Marty Barclay, myself, and others have found ourselves part of notification efforts that haven't been altogether successful. Paul and Marty have gone so far as to duplicate notices and carry them to people's houses. My efforts have been word of mouth and email to the TACTC list. I am afraid that under present circumstances such efforts are necessarily somewhat "hit and miss." I suppose one could view these efforts as part of a "tree" to distribute notifications. Is that how it is intended that notifications for such neighborhood meetings be distributed? Whether it is or not, I would like to get some clarification on the intended notification process. I will post any clarification that you (all - I'll ask Polly to lead) can shed on this topic on the TACTC Web site (at least). We have at least one more meeting coming up on the topic of traffic in the College/Ashby area. I hope we will see any clarification of the notification process reflected in lowered tensions finding out about the next meeting. I am certainly willing to help with the notification process as time allows. I and others just need to come to some understanding of what the process is. Thanks for any help clarifying this notification process. Sincerely, James E. (Jed) Donnelley 2835 Benvenue Avenue http//www.webstart.com/jed/ TACTC http//www.healthstart.com/traffic/berkeley/
b. Marguerite Barron (8/17/2000) commented on pinchers: As a resident on a street (Hillegass) with pinch points, I find they are a "solution" that doesn't work. The people who would go fast are still going fast. The inner-most stanchion on the east side of the street on both blocks of Hillegass that have pinch points have been knocked over so many times they've come down/off... This creates quite a hazzard for bicycles. The stanchion laying on the ground is impossible to see until you're on top of it. The stanchions need to be reflective on both sides so at night you can see the "Fence"...... These are my observations.
c. Jed Donnelley replies (8/28/2000 - after the meeting): Thanks for the note Marguerite. I am sorry to take so long to respond.
I posted your thoughts in the comments section after the notes from the 8/22 traffic meeting. While I received your message before that meeting, I couldn't think of a better place to post it.
Your message got me thinking a bit more about pinchers as a traffic device to "calm" traffic. I too noticed the stanchions knocked down on Hillegass. I put one back up once only to see it knocked down again the next day. The stanchions on Benvenue didn't fare much better - even though there were in place for a shorter time. Even the stanchions used for a diverter on Benvenue were both ignored and knocked down.
My house fronts Russell street on the short block west of the "staple." I commute to work by bicycle, but my route heads north up Benvenue. I've seldom had to negotiate that pinch point with the staple from the east of my house. Thinking about approaching that pinch point with the staple at night on a bicycle though gives me pause to think. Hitting that staple on a bicycle could certainly cause a serious accident.
On the other hand I know that bicycles go through that narrowing with the staple all the time with no apparent problems. I wonder if any accidents there have been reported?
Also, there is the issue of the bicycle route that is to go up Russell street. I wonder how it is intended that it traverse that pinch point/staple? It would seem to me ideal to have a narrow bicycle path on each side of the street passing that pinch point. Even at that I wonder how to channel bicycle traffic into such a narrowed bicycle path - particularly in such a way as to be safe at night?
Lots to consider.
a. Marty Barclay notes (8/23/2000): If there were enforcement we would need little traffic calming or protection. In fact there are 6 motorcycle cops in Berkeley which means that two are on duty at any given time and they are responsible for attending to accident scenes. Some say it would take 20 motorcycle cops to enforce in Berkeley alone. Furthermore recruitment is at a low and it takes 10 months to get through training. There is some discussion about offering housing subsidies to police officers to stimulate interest in (living and) serving on the force here. The result is that we have little to no enforcement and cannot expect it to reduce speed or other violations in our neighborhoods. Ergo traffic calming.
b. Paul Tuleja clarified some of his comments in the meeting (8/23/2000): What I (Paul) said was 2 fold:
When I went out and started counting barriers and other diverters, and comparing it to a map, this stuck out like a sore thumb. The map that I am refering to comes from the city and is called the "Traffic Control Plan" and it was used for the repaving of College Ave. Benvenue ends north bound at Dwight where it runs into "U.C." designated block (I think it is a residence hall) on the map. Sure, you can get to the University going down other blocks, or going one block here, turning east then north, etc..., but Benvenue is the only "through fare".
2. I (Paul) said " From Martin Luther King to the Caldecott Tunnel, the only residential streets that allow you to go North off of Ashby,... that allow you to go directly to the University are Benvenue and Hillegas."
There is a distinction to be made here. Sure, you can turn off Ashby onto Regent or Florence, but once again you must turn on Russell or Stuart and meander or weave your way there. Benvenue and Hillegas are direct routes to properties that are marked on the City map as "U.C.".
LeConte, to our West has 22 barriers and traffic diverters, CENA has 22, Bateman has 7, and behind Whole Foods has 6. That works out to ...57 to 1. [author's note: Paul gave me a copy of the map that he painstakingly made of all the traffic controls in the area - by driving all the streets. You can view a low resolution version of the map (recommended), or view a high resolution version if you really want to look at it closely. This map certainly does make clear that there have been many more traffic control devices installed in the neighborhoods in the area other than Willard.]
As for your comment on signage for Russell. After my statement (if you can call it that) of 57 to 1, I do not think you would have a hard time getting a bollard put in at the very beginning of your street. Since you ride your bicycle to work, the corner of Stuart and Piedmont has this type of Bollard (as well as others), and you could easily see their set-up. I do not think signage will work for you. People are too focused on cutting through, and they are not reading every sign as they come down our street. I could be wrong though.
Everyone had valid points that they tried to make known at the meeting. Traffic is a mess, speeders are rampant, etc... but there is a point being overlooked. Benvenue and Ashby has repeatedly and continuously had bad accidents. This is not a wish list to gate this community, to slow speeders, to increase/decrease the quality of life, this is a serious ongoing problem that needs to be addressed immediately. Lt. Muller from the Berkeley Police Traffic Enforcement agreed on this, he said Benvenue and Ashby is the pits. Since the city has been aware of this now, repeatedly over the last 2 years, is there any liability or negligence on it's part?
Is it any wonder that Benvenue and Ashby is so dangerous?
I talked with Mayor Dean's office today, and they are sending me 5 copies of the "Noise Ordinace" which I plan on giving to people on your side of the street. I was amazed at the noise those garbage trucks make at 5:45 am. I have heard it before. I am not sure if this bothers you, but I am guessing it does. So, if you can catch the name on the side of the truck and the trucks number, we can bust them the next time.
c. Jed Donnelley (8/23/2000) commented: It seems to me the idea of moving some of the College/Warring traffic to Telegraph makes some sense. I don't know what to do about the Ashby traffic. I had a friend at work suggest removing all parking along Ashby as a way to keep its traffic moving more effectively. This could make it four lane the whole way. That would make it even more difficult to cross, but I think it would improve the traffic flow. Of course, having it such a parking lot keeps a lot of traffic out I am sure. Tough trade-off. That is why I like the tunnel idea. Despite the cost, I keep coming back to that as a solution. I would be interested to know what the incremental (e.g. maintenance) costs would be on such a tunnel. I wonder how much help we could get from the state with it? After all, it is their highway...
Doris sent this to me.... Marty ---------- From: Doris Willingham
To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Traffic Around College Date: Sun, Aug 27, 2000, 8:48 PM Dear Editor: Thank you for informing your readers about the almost-completed repaving job on College Avenue and for sending your reporter to the neighborhood traffic meeting on August 22. The meeting, called by the City's Public Works Department, was the first to bring neighbors from District 7 and District 8, people from both east and west of College, together in one room. The meeting may have started out a bit on the "raucous" side, but it was well run and soon settled into a civil exchange of neighborhood traffic problems and ideas on how to solve them. Your reporter mistakenly ascribes to District 8 Councilmember Polly Armstrong a very well received statement that was actually made by Connie Stroud, a former member of the Transportation Commission and the Zoning Adjustments Board. While she did not express it in her statement, the speaker lives on a residential City street that has considerably more traffic than College Avenue (roughly 14,000 cars/day) and even exceeds by several thousand the number of vehicles on four-lane Telegraph (roughly 18,000 cars/day). Ms. Stroud made the following points: · Attempts to solve neighborhood traffic problems should not occur on a street by street basis but with a view to the larger picture. · The City should be more diligent in administering its Residential Parking Permit program, both the annual and the 14-day versions, through greater vigilance in issuance and enforcement. · She cited a change in street configuration that neighbors on heavily traffic-afflicted streets in southeast Berkeley have asked the City to make for decades: reversing the directions of Dwight and Haste or returning them to two-way traffic. Either measure would offer drivers more options and provide better access to and use of Telegraph Avenue and the freeway system, thus unburdening neighborhood streets. As stated in your report, at the end of her remarks Ms. Stroud asked why this measure had not been undertaken and added that the City would have to give residents a sound explanation if it were not implemented. Yours awaiting action or a satisfactory response from Traffic Engineering along with Ms. Stroud and hundreds of affected residents, Doris Willingham 2512 Etna Street Berkeley, CA 94704 841-4681
The thinking is that the traffic engineer(s), et. al. will take the suggestions made tonight, put together some possible approaches to remedies, and call another meeting to discuss some potential solutions.
Contact Jed Donnelley Jed Donnelley for communication about this Web page. I am willing to post changes to this page and/or additions to the TACTC site content - within reason. Last updated 8/23/2000 01:42.