Mountain View considers congestion pricing to get workers out of car tech | New
Plans to massively increase jobs and housing at North Bayshore Technology Park in Mountain View depend on a car-free future, in which thousands of employees walk, cycle and take public transit to get to at work. But so far too few workers have been willing to give up driving.
Currently, 56% of North Bayshore employees travel to work solo, well above the region’s target of 45%, with little sign of improvement in the past five years. Achieving this goal is a critical factor in enabling employment and housing growth, which has been rezoned to allow up to 9,850 new homes, without causing a miserable traffic jam in the area.
Seeking to achieve that goal and keep traffic at a tolerable level, Mountain View city council members voted this week on a revised plan that addresses several new projects to get people off the road. Among them is a proposal to roll out “congestion pricing”, which would charge people a premium for going to the technology park.
The idea was launched seven years ago, meeting mixed reaction and seen as a last resort, but board members agreed on June 8 to make it a short-term priority to launch over the next five years. . Council members preferred congestion pricing – along with a series of improvements to transit, bicycles and pedestrians – over expensive projects that would increase road capacity and encourage more driving.
“I don’t want to just build more and more freeway entrances in North Bayshore,” said Councilor Alison Hicks. “I think it goes against what we have been working for.”
Travel to North Bayshore, home to the city’s major employers including Google, Intuit, and Microsoft, is limited to three major routes. And two of these so-called “gateway” roads – Shoreline Boulevard and Rengstorff Avenue – are already approaching capacity during peak hours. The upcoming office growth in North Bayshore is expected to create more than 6,000 additional jobs, raising serious concerns about traffic bottlenecks in North Bayshore.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing work-from-home policies by tech companies have done little to allay the city’s concerns. In a report, city staff wrote that traffic congestion is expected to return to previous levels and employers will want to make “productive use” of all of their construction spaces. Employees will likely be required to show up on certain days to maximize collaboration in the workplace, and these employees may be reluctant to take public transportation due to public health concerns.
North Bayshore’s Future Development Blueprint seeks to address these issues with a ‘lean car’ vision for the region, in which those who live and work in the region would take public transit, walk, or make to their destination instead. than using a car. The plans include a network of pedestrian streets, cycling infrastructure and “internalized” commutes to work, meaning people live and work in North Bayshore and won’t have to enter and exit via Shoreline and Rengstorff.
But a recent study found that more will be needed to address future traffic issues, with a menu of recommended options that includes minimal parking availability and a complete overhaul of the intersection of Highway 101 and the highway. Rengstorff Avenue to increase road capacity by 800 vehicles during peak hours. .
Several board members said they weren’t comfortable spending tens of millions of dollars just to help more people get to North Bayshore by car. City Councilor Lisa Matichak said the goal of the redevelopment plans was to encourage workers to get out of cars, and she feared the city would take action that would increase vehicle traffic.
“I’m not sure I want to do things that increase the ability of more cars to get in and out of North Bayshore,” she said.
More acceptable was the idea of congestion pricing, which has been used in Europe and Asia for years and is currently being studied by San Francisco and Los Angeles. Congestion pricing takes many forms and could charge drivers a toll for the crossing to North Bayshore or be based on the number of kilometers driven in the area. Creating such a program would require a network of cameras and technology to read license plates and transponders, collecting drivers’ personal information that should be protected, city officials said.
The idea also raises issues of fairness, and the question of whether all drivers should pay the same fees to enter or drive in North Bayshore. Current North Bayshore residents living in the Santiago Villa mobile home park would struggle to pay extra just to drive in their own neighborhood, said Santiago Villa resident Alex Brown.
“I think there are a lot of people who couldn’t afford to continue driving if congestion pricing didn’t exempt them, given how much we have to cross to get in and out of this neighborhood,” he said. -he declares.
Jim Lightbody, a city consultant, said there had been a number of proposals on who would be billed and who would be exempt from congestion pricing, but those details have yet to be determined. He pointed out that the city has only done a cursory examination of congestion pricing through a feasibility study to see if it makes sense to continue.
Although city officials have suggested congestion pricing should be implemented over the next 10 years, City Councilor Lucas Ramirez has proposed that the city impose it as a priority over five years, ahead of the projects. expensive road vehicles. Assuming it works, Ramirez said the city could reduce vehicle travel in North Bayshore and would no longer need massive infrastructure upgrades that could entice driving.
“What I hope is that this tool proves to be effective and that it will make unnecessary some of the additional projects proposed later,” said Ramirez.
The other major concern for the board was who would pay for expensive transportation upgrades. By tackling more projects, the city is now facing costs of $ 487 million, most of which still has no source of funding. Of the $ 140 million that has been accrued, about 80% is paid by taxpayers through community funds from the city’s Shoreline Regional Park. A much lower percentage of 17% is paid by the developments themselves through impact fees.
City Councilor Margaret Abe-Koga said she assumed the redevelopment of North Bayshore would largely pay for transportation improvements and that she did not expect the city to pay most of the bill.
“I was very disappointed to see what the split is right now with 80% falling on the city,” said Abe-Koga.