Parking and traffic get spotlight in "Civility Roundtable"

Google exec and Rod Diridon Sr. join locals in wide-ranging talk

Parking and traffic are the focus of conflict on a regular basis in City Council meetings, but rarely does anyone ever sit down to discuss these issues calmly, let alone with a Google executive and the man some call the father of modern transportation, Rod Diridon Sr.

That happened on March 26 in Mountain View in another "Civility Roundtable" organized by the Human Relation Commission, a talk intended to not be the "same people in the same rooms, discussing the same things, expecting the same results," said moderator Chris Block of the American Leadership Forum.

To discuss Mountain View's parking and traffic woes, Google's transportation manager Kevin Mathy joined Diridon and former Mayor Tom Means, Jackson Park resident Karen Demello, Drive Less Challenge co-founder Adina Levin and Mountain View Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Committee member Josette Langevine.

Diridon was a Santa Clara County supervisor for 20 years and veteran of about 100 different transit programs and agencies since the 1970s, including the California High Speed Rail board. He stole the spotlight throughout the night with passionate pleas for Mountain View to build adequate housing for all its jobs, and to do it near transit stations. He said the city needed many "micro solutions" to the "macro problems" of climate change and regional traffic congestion.

"Mountain View cannot continue to be a suburban community," Diridon said. "If you think that, you are naive. Google is going to be expanding if not a little bit, a lot. Where are people going to live? You can't say, 'Go live someplace else.' That's not being a good urban neighbor. Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Palo Alto and Cupertino have to be housing their industry," he said of some of the county's jobs-rich, housing-poor cities.

Diridon's solution: focus growth near major transit stations. "That's the way you can focus growth. It needs to be high-rise with minimum parking to encourage people to take transit."

The City Council is working on a plan to allow space for over 15,000 new jobs along new Shoreline Boulevard transit stations North of Highway 101, where Google is expected to develop the lion's share of buildings. Despite lots of interest from the community, council members have decided against housing there.

Mathy didn't speak about he need for housing for Googlers, but offered other suggested fixes for regional traffic problems caused by thousands of Googlers and others commuting from elsewhere to Mountain View.

"In my vision of the future, transit is free," Mathy said. "I think we really have to do some radical things. I love that they are electrifying Caltrain but my concern is that by 2020 it will be maxed and what do we do to get to 2040? We really have to break it apart and rebuild Caltrain (into) a baby bullet system like we have in Europe. A high-frequency, high-speed train so that we can really carry the capacity this region is going to need in 2020, 2030 and so on."

Mathy also suggested that the local bus service, the VTA, needed financial help. It called to mind Google's recent donations to San Francisco's MUNI system after protests of Google employee shuttles there, seen by some as a symbol of the city's gentrification and underfunded public transit system.

Demello expressed the concerns of many home owners in the city, who are often at odds with transit planners and advocates of smart growth, though Demello wasn't as extreme as some in her opposition to change.

Demello said commuter traffic is so bad now that she avoids Shoreline Boulevard because rush-hour traffic is as bad as when there's major concert at Shoreline "But it's like this every day, and you're going to bring 15,000 more jobs?" she said of the city's precise plan in th works for North Bayshore sites located along North Shoreline Boulevard. "Everything is gridlocked now."

Demello also criticized recent apartment developments approved with the city's new parking standard of one parking space per bedroom, when more people are sharing apartments because of the city's housing crisis.

"It's scary to think in the future everyone's going to be doubling up potentially in apartments. It's going to be way worse 10-20 years from now."

Means, an economics professor at San Jose Sate University, said the issue comes down to supplying a lot of free parking. "Why pay for parking when there's a lot of free parking nearby?" he asked. When both of his children were students, they couldn't park at Mountain View High School, he said.

"If people really want to solve the parking issue, they've got to ration the parking in some way. If you don't ration a free good it gets consumed."

Means said the city needed to develop more affordable housing, and to steer away from building single-family homes on large lots as is done in Los Altos. "That's a death trap because all you end up with is expensive housing, very little downtown." Los Altos residents "come here to enjoy themselves and rightly so, we have way more to offer."

Langevine suggested that residents would eventually become used to parking restrictions, but also said, "I come from New York, which is a metropolis where they charge for parking on the city's streets. I feel like we're trying to make Mountain View a mini-metropolis. If we do have this pay-parking system, people are going to park in the residential areas and that's going to create a nightmare."

Levin suggested Mountain View follow the lead of Palo Alto in creating a parking permit program to prevent residential areas from being used as parking lots. Means said it could be as simple as enforcing time limits in certain areas.

"The old planning way was about planning for just about everyone to drive," said Levin, noting how few of Google's employees drive, as well as how few Stanford employees drive.

It was apparent that Google really does prefer alternatives to solo-driver car commuting.

"Using land to build parking structures is not a really smart way to use land," Mathy said.

At one point, Block turned the discussion to whether residents will see "trade-offs" if things like like free parking and open roads go away for good. Several at the round table suggested better bike and pedestrian infrastructure as a trade-off if traffic is going to keep getting worse.

"I live in Alameda and there are green bike lanes in Oakland, but none in this region," Mathy said. His interest was shared by Langevine, who said it was why she joined the BPAC, and Demello, who said she wanted more crosswalks with flashing lights because it seems like everyone walks around in dark clothes.

One resident reported coming to a realization about how the city should move forward when attendees broke into small discussion groups, after hearing the speakers suggest paid parking systems and free transit.

"Tonight I heard free transit should be our goal -- what if we replace free parking with free transit?" she suggested as the city's new goal.

Some free transit may actually be coming to Mountain View. A Transit Management Agency was founded recently by major Mountain View employers and developers to more efficiently move commuters throughout the city by various means, including shared shuttles. Some shuttles used by Googlers and other tech employees will be free for use by the public, who may soon be able to ride a shuttle from downtown to see a movie or concert in North Bayshore.

City Council members have expressed concern however that the extent to which such services will be offered by the privately operated agency is still unclear.


Like this comment
Posted by Lucas Ramirez
a resident of The Crossings
on Apr 3, 2014 at 11:46 am

The audio recording for the Civility Roundtable can be found here.
The discussion begins around 10 minutes in. Web Link

The next Roundtable discussion will be later this year, and the topic will be affordable housing.

Like this comment
Posted by Mr PC
a resident of Castro City
on Apr 3, 2014 at 2:29 pm

Keep all big buses (apart from VTA)out of downtown Mt. View.

Like this comment
Posted by Jay Tulock
a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2014 at 3:05 pm

"the man some call the father of modern transportation"

Some also call Rod Diridon the father of horrible poorly planned overly expensive public transportation. Google Rod Almighty for more. The only ones who have called him the above have benefited politically or economically from his handouts.

Jason Tulock, Vacaville

Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2014 at 4:22 pm

Sorry I missed it!
Sounds like it was rather one-dimensional, along the lines of "we're going to cram alot more people into Mountain View. But, gosh, feel free to share your thoughts on how they'll be able to get around."
And Mr Diridon is mistaken on at least one point: As an "urban neighbor" Mountain View has already been overly accomodating, with the highest density on the peninsula behind SF. Although he might be considered by some 'the father of modern transportation', he's really just another serial bureaucrat.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmm
a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 3, 2014 at 4:56 pm

I welcome buses from google, or any other company for that matter. Why? Well look at how many people they take off the road. You would have to be a wingbat not to understand that.

"He stole the spotlight throughout the night with passionate pleas for Mountain View to build adequate housing for all its jobs, and to do it near transit stations."

Just because housings are next to transit stations does NOT mean the people that live there will use it. Nor will it mean that they will all work for google or a company in Mt. View. Unless if they specifically reserve it for googlers, which would be discrimination.

"Some free transit may actually be coming to Mountain View." Ha ha, nothing is free anymore, just look at he bags at the supermarkets. Bunch of balony.

Like this comment
Posted by PA Resident
a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2014 at 5:10 pm

People change jobs much more often than they change home. A couple living at the same address may work far apart.

As a result it is naïve to expect housing to solve traffic problems.

We need to completely rethink public transportation, parking and traffic in the whole of the Bay Area. We need innovative, out of the box thinking to come up with realistic solutions without thinking that housing, pedestrian and bike paths will make a big difference. Many if not most people on bikes are children en route to school or recreational bike riders for exercise - not commuters, car poolers or errand runners.

Such a shame that Mountain View will not be a leader in public transportation with Google Pods or Google Hovercrafts.

Such a shame that people are willing to sit in traffic and just expect more lanes to be built rather than looking at what it might take for them to be part of the solution rather than the problem.

Let's get a Bay Area public transportation authority so that we get one service provider that efficiently coordinates systems rather than compete.

Can't we at least get an hourly high speed luxury bus to SFO and SJC from Castro Street station so that we can drop flyers there rather than the airports and save the inevitable "can you give me a ride to the airport?" problem.

Like this comment
Posted by Liz
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 3, 2014 at 8:28 pm

I live on Calderon Ave and I'm sick of the traffic. 90% of the time I can't pull out or pull in my drive way. When we moved to Calderon Ave in 1973. The street had no side walks or the light at El Camino. I'm sick of the city council. It seems they are all being paid by Google. We have to many traffic issues. Fix the problem and stop building houses. The city just said we have a water shortage so do we need more houses.

Like this comment
Posted by watcher
a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2014 at 9:03 pm

Why is Diridon considered an authority on anything? And who is he to say that "Mountain View cannot continue to be a suburban community.” Does he live in Mountain View? Does he know or care what Mountain View residents want? Or is he just going to foist his “vision” on any city?

The “father of transportation” is (in)famous for:
• A light rail system that is probably the worst in the country (using criteria such as service provided and costs)

• Supporting High Speed Rail, in spite of escalating costs and unbelievable ridership projections – until he decided not to support it.

PA Resident is exactly right: “People change jobs much more often than they change home. A couple living at the same address may work far apart.”

Yet the “experts” keep telling us that if we just build dense housing next to transit stations, everyone will give up their cars and take public transit.

As Hmm says, “Just because housings are next to transit stations does NOT mean the people that live there will use it.”

In any case, we don’t have any public transit other than Caltrain. If we DID have an efficient transit system, Google wouldn’t have to provide its own buses.

Another reason for the Google buses is that a lot of Googlers and other young tech workers want to live in the city. Even if there was more housing locally, the idea of living in SF appeals to young people.

As for Tom Means’ saying that Mt. View should steer away from building single-family homes on large lots as is done in Los Altos, are we all to be forced into dense housing in tall buildings? Is that what the government (ABAG and “new urbanism”) will be dictating in the future?

Many of us moved to Los Altos, Palo Alto, Mountain View because we wanted a single-family home with a back yard. We like suburbia! If we wanted to live in a city, we could have moved to San Francisco or San Jose. Are we to be scorned for wanting a suburban life style?

“Blade Runner” took place in a dystopian 2019. Only 4 years to go.

Like this comment
Posted by Justin
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 3, 2014 at 9:31 pm

What about the incredibly high demand for apartments in Palo Alto and Mountain View? Doesn't the fact that the new apartments are renting for $3000+ per bedroom say something about the kind of people who want to live there now? You don't own the whole city. You can have your single-family home, but there is far more demand for housing than can be met by building more single-family residences.

Like this comment
Posted by Ericka C
a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 3, 2014 at 11:35 pm

Aren't they building low income housing for the illegal
immigrants to live in? Where are they?

Like this comment
Posted by OMV Resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 4, 2014 at 7:10 am

It's interesting how on a message board about the Civility Roundtable - an event specifically designed to raise the level of discourse on tough topics challenging our City - so many combative posts (like Ericka C), so many absolute statements (like Mr PC and Liz) and us vs. them dichotomies (like watcher's post) come out.

Even though a challenging issue may have tons of shades of grey, I guess it's just easier to paint it in black and white.

Like this comment
Posted by scarlet
a resident of Jackson Park
on Apr 4, 2014 at 7:53 am

The web link that Lucas posted has impressive audio; I listened last night.

It is somewhat jarring to hear Rod Diridon call 30 (THIRTY!!!) story buildings "high rises" (41 minutes 30 seconds into audio) and 4-5 story buildings "low rises" (45 minutes into audio). In contrast the tall building downtown with BofA is 12 stories (per fascinating article at Web Link )

Besides the traffic, parking, bike & pedestrian safety issues, how would our city infrastructure handle so many new residents? (schools, libraries, services etc.) Maybe these would be part of the high rise?? Rooftop playgrounds?

Regarding a comment from PAResident asking for high speed buses to SJC and SFO airports: There are already VTA buses in San Jose and a BART extension in SFO to CalTrain, and both work great in getting to/from downtown Mtn View to the airports.

Like this comment
Posted by PA Resident
a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2014 at 9:30 am

Scarlet, you don't get my point about high speed buses to airports. How about some luxury buses that get to the airport direct from one or two pick up points on an hourly basis. Something you can book and pay for in advance and take the same amount of time as driving. A VTA bus from San Jose and BART to SF does not help people in the mid peninsula.

One day recently I knew 3 different people taking 3 different people to drop them off at an airport on the same day. All 3 agreed it would be a great idea to be able to drop them off for a luxury (like a Google) bus at Castro Street rather than all the way to the airport. This would be a difference between a 15 - 20 minute drive to an hour for the driver, and probably leaving only a short time earlier for the flyer. Pickup would be a similar time saver. How many people from Mountain View/Palo Alto are flying each day?

I am not talking about a VTA service, but a private bus service with no other purpose than to get people to and from the airports in roughly the same amount of time it takes to drive!

Like this comment
Posted by watcher
a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2014 at 9:54 am

@OMV resident: The dichotomy started at the Civility Roundtable. Consider Diridon's hardline statement: "Mountain View cannot continue to be a suburban community. If you think that, you are naive."

Or Means’ comment that the city should “steer away from building single-family homes on large lots as is done in Los Altos. ‘That's a death trap because all you end up with is expensive housing, very little downtown.’ Los Altos residents ‘come here to enjoy themselves and rightly so, we have way more to offer.’

Obviously those "authorities" know what's best for all of us.

And for those concerned about low-income housing: “North Bayshore is also home to a large mobile home park and -- if the ‘Campaign for a Balanced Mountain View’ is successful in changing city zoning, North Bayshore may be the possible future site of a new residential neighborhood intended for area's growing population of Google employees.” Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by scarlet
a resident of Jackson Park
on Apr 4, 2014 at 9:56 am

To PAResident: I'm not talking about VTA and BART services, I'm talking about CalTrain (the VTA & BART just connect you to CalTrain). I've used it many times (as have friends in the midpeninsula) to get to/from airports.

That said, I do like your idea of a dedicated bus to/from the airports, this would be sort of like the "airporter" shuttles to Monterey or to San Rafael (an out of town friend flew into SFO and it only cost $20 for the airporter to San Rafael, what a deal! That's less than the Super Shuttle to SFO from Mountain View).

Like this comment
Posted by Garrett83
a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Garrett83 is a registered user.

Shuttles to the airport are great, plus wilk help reduce airport traffic. Mountain Viee,Santa Clara County, Silicon Valley and the Bay Area has traffic problems.

Major accident or incident cause major traffic or complete gridlock. Not just talking rush hour which is bad enough.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Waverly Park

on May 31, 2017 at 11:00 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Burger chain Shake Shack to open in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 15 comments | 4,041 views

Eat, Surf, Love
By Laura Stec | 4 comments | 1,283 views

The Cost of Service
By Aldis Petriceks | 1 comment | 912 views

Couples: When Wrong Admit It; When Right; Shut Up
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 303 views