Willow Glen Gets Ready for the Lincoln Avenue Road Diet

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Nearly 300 people packed the Willow Glen Elementary School cafeteria last night to learn about and share feedback on the road diet test that will see Lincoln Avenue temporarily reconfigured in an attempt to see if reducing the number of lanes can make the street safer for pedestrians and drivers without negatively affecting surrounding streets or other arterial roadways like Bird and Meridian.

The meeting was hosted and run by the Willow Glen Neighborhood Association. WGNA president Chris Roth opened the meeting and introduced the speakers: Tom Trudell the chairman of the Road Diet Working Group, D6 Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio, and Hans Larsen, director of the San Jose Department of Transportation. The web site http://willowglenroaddiet.com/ has been set up to provide updates on the road diet, and the WGBA and WGNA will be getting the word out via their email lists and social media pages.

Participate in the discussion over on our Facebook page.
All of the speakers emphasized two points early on:

  • They don’t have a predetermined position on whether or not the road diet should be made permanent; everybody wants to run the test, see the data, and make a determination after the fact.
  • Community feedback is mission critical. The DoT and working group want the community to share their experiences, pro or con, via lincolnroaddiet@gmail.com and of course in the June 11 public meeting.

What’s a road diet?

A road diet, also called a lane reduction or road rechannelization, is a technique in transportation planning whereby the number of travel lanes and/or effective width of the road is reduced in order to achieve systemic improvements. The goal is not to reduce the number of cars that flow down the road, but to slow it down a bit while carrying the same amount of traffic more efficiently, adding bike lanes to make the road safer for cyclists, and making the street safer for pedestrians to cross. Watch this to see what that means, and see the results of some real-world road diets.


The Lincoln Avenue Road Diet Test Plan

Mr. Larsen opened by describing the general nature and location of the test. The road will be reconfigured from 4 lanes of flowing traffic (two in each direction) to two lanes (one in each direction) with a third lane down the middle for left turns and use by emergency vehicles. The space opened up by removing one lane completely is effectively split in half to create bike lanes along the outside edges of the road.

  • Trial will run from March 1 through the end of May.
  • Findings will be presented and feedback accepted in a public post-test meeting on June 11.
  • Lanes will be reconfigured between Minnesota and Coe, with “transition areas” that extend to Paula and Nevada.
  • Traffic signals on at Curtner and Pine will be adjusted to give 20% less green time to throttle northbound traffic in an attempt to prevent congestion where the road diet begins.
  • An electronic sign warning northbound drivers of the reconfigured road they’re approaching was just installed and is shown below.
  • Delivery trucks will need to park in designated loading zones while making deliveries, as parking in the middle lane is illegal.
  • No parking spaces will be removed or reconfigured as part of the test.
  • The left turn from northbound Lincoln onto Minnesota will be made two lanes to accommodate more drivers taking Minnesota to Meridian.
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  • You can view a high-resolution PDF of the map here.

Measuring Effectiveness and Impact

Mr. Larsen then described how the test’s effectiveness will be measured, both downtown and on surrounding residential streets.

  • The city has deployed a sensor network that consists of 40 strips that measure traffic volumes, speed, and travel time through the corridor, plus 8 stations that measure congestion at signalized intersections. “Before” data was collected for 3 days Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of last week, and additional data collections will occur once the test is underway. (DoT says this is the most extensive measurement ever done for a roadway project in the city of San Jose.)
  • The DoT will have lots of field personnel actively and closely monitoring things during the first week of the test, and deploy them over time to monitor “hot spots” they deem to be in need of additional attention based on data and community feedback.
  • Special attention will be paid to the area around Willow Glen Elementary, especially during dropoff and pickup.
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Discussing Results and Deciding What to Do

A public community meeting will be held on June 11 during which DoT will present all of the data captured via monitoring stations and observed by field personnel, and community members will have a chance to share their own observations.

  • If general and obvious consensus is that the test did not work, or worked but at too great a cost to the surrounding neighborhood, the temporary markings will be removed and Lincoln Avenue will return to its current configuration.
  • If either the Willow Glen Business Association or Willow Glen Neighborhood Association do not officially express support for the permanent application of the road diet, the markings will be removed and Lincoln will return to its current configuration.
  • If community feedback is generally positive and both associations officially express their support, the reconfiguration will be left in place until August when the idea of making the reconfiguration permanent will be presented to City Council for approval. If the council approves, the road will be permanently reconfigured as part of a repaving project already scheduled to occur.

Summary of Community Input During 2/12 Meeting

The mic was opened and any attendee was welcome to take two minutes to share their opinions, ask questions and voice concerns. Three dozen people took advantage of the opportunity to speak. With a few exceptions the tone was a positive one of “cautious optimism.” Most speakers indicated that they agree in principle with the need to calm traffic on Lincoln Avenue, think the idea of a road diet is interesting if not a sure thing, look forward to seeing how the test goes, and either asked a clarifying question about the plan’s execution or expressed a specific concern about the impact on their street or some gap in measurement.

Common Concerns

    • Several residents of Nevada and Iris Court which wrap around the elementary school noted that not placing a measurement strip to document traffic volume/speed on Nevada will miss the fact that they expect lots of people to use Nevada as a cut-through to Newport. The DoT’s response is that traffic that goes down Nevada will be counted when they turn down subsequent streets to get to Minnesota.
    • A number of people worried about traffic impact on small residential streets that parallel Lincoln Avenue, e.g. Settle, Blewett, Iris Court; specific concern being that more congestion through downtown will encourage commuters to use these streets as a way to work their way around downtown.
    • A few folks expressed concern about the traffic impact on Minnesota as people turn left to cut over to Meridian, concern being an increase in volume on the already dangerous road.

Those specific concerns which were each mentioned multiple times reflected the fact that almost every speaker — even those who generally support the plan — expressed concern about the traffic impact on residential streets, with many of those making it clear that they don’t feel the plan includes sufficient safeguards to identify, minimize or prevent cut-through traffic on residential streets. The DoT reps maintained that the extensive monitoring planned will help them identify “trouble spots” early on, and will take mid-test steps to alleviate problems that are identified via the data or community feedback.

Other Observations

  • Mixed messages on whether or not the process has been promoted well enough. Few people said it wasn’t, that most people haven’t heard of it, while others said they and their neighbors have felt fairly well informed.
  • Several people indicated that they look forward to how much nicer it will be to ride bikes to and through downtown as part of their commute or with their families.
  • A number of people mentioned concern about pedestrian safety downtown, the general gist being that they hope this helps. DoT said studies have indicated that road diets like this are one of the best ways to make crossing streets safer, as you shorten the distance to be crossed and eliminate the problem of one car stopping for a street crosser and a second car not stopping because the car that does stop obscures their view of the pedestrian.
  • A couple people want to make sure there’s some signage aimed at letting drivers know how they can give feedback on the road diet. Tom Trudell said the working group would look into that.

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