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Table of Contents
Topic Executive Summary Preface Introduction Overview Of The Charleston/Arastradero Transportation “Corridor” Pictures/Videos Of “C/A Corridor” Intersections Perspective: Traffic Accidents In Charleston/Arastradero Corridor vs City-wide Accidents 15-Year Traffic Accident History/Trends On the “C/A Corridor” Traffic Accident Locations Issues Involved With Traffic Accident Analysis Intersection vs Non-Intersection Accidents In Palo Alto Accident Locations On The “C/A Corridor” For 2009 Top-10 Most Dangerous Intersections In Palo Alto Breakdown of Palo Alto-wide Accidents--Intersections vs Non-Intersections Breakdown of Intersection vs Non-Intersection Accidents on “C/A Corridor” Traffic Volume On Arastradero Road 5-Year Overview Of City-wide vs “C/A Corridor” Traffic Accidents 15-Year Casualty Counts For Charleston/Arastradero Corridor Accidents Bicycle/Pedestrian Accidents In Palo Alto For 2009 Bicycle/Pedestrian Accidents On The “C/A Corridor” For 2009 Bicycle/Pedestrian Accidents In Peninsula Cities Accidents Per Million-Vehicle-Miles Driven On Arastradero Road Age of Parties Involved In Accidents On “C/A Corridor” Alcohol/Drugs Involved Accidents 15-Year History of Accidents At Gunn High School Accidents At the Alma/Charleston Caltrain Crossing Effects of School Crossing Guards on Traffic Accidents On “C/A Corridor” Root Causes of Traffic Accidents On “C/A Corridor” Effect of Cell Phone Use on Traffic Accidents On “C/A Corridor” “C/A Corridor” End-to-End Travel Times Discussion Future Investigations Conclusion
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Traffic accident data for Palo Alto (CA), obtained from the California Highway Patrol (CHP) for the years 1995-2009, has been analyzed to provide insights into the number of accidents in Palo Alto, the kinds of accidents, and to investigate possible relationships between accident locations and the frequency/kind of accidents at those locations. This analysis, necessarily data-intensive, is being released in sections. This section investigates the so-called “Charleston/Arastradero Transportation Corridor”. Given the numerous details involved in such an analysis, several readings might be required to fully appreciate the implications of the results. The results are presented in tabular fashion, and graphically, where trends can be easily demonstrated.
This analysis reveals: • • • • • • • • There has been, on the whole, a decline in the number of reported accidents in Palo Alto over the past fifteen years. The total number of traffic accidents in Palo Alto, on the average, tends to be a little higher than those of other Peninsula cities. Traffic volume data obtained from the Traffic Engineering Department shows that there has been a decline from about 25,000 vehicles a day in 1999, to about 19,000 vehicles a day in 2011. Accidents/MVM (Million Vehicle Milles) have decreased from about 3.3 in 1999 to about 2.5 in 2011, based on decreased traffic volume alone. Accidents on the “C/A Corridor” for the 15-year study period constitute about 47% of the yearly accident count for Palo Alto. Accident counts on the “C/A Corridor” parallel the 15-year decline in the number of city-wide accidents. During 2009, there were, on average, slightly more than one accident a month on Arastradero Road, and East Charleston Road, and fewer than one accident a month on West Charleston Road. The number of fatal vehicle accidents in Palo Alto is very small. In like manner, the number of fatal accidents on the “C/A Corridor” is quite small. No pedestrians have been killed because of vehicular accidents during the past fifteen years on the “C/A Corridor”. The number of traffic accidents in Palo Alto, and the “C/A Corridor”, that involve alcohol/drugs is small. “Unsafe Speed” Is Not The Dominant Reason For Traffic Accidents On The “C/A Corridor”. The number of bicycle/pedestrian accidents is somewhat higher on the “C/A Corridor” than in Palo Alto, on the whole. The intersection at East Charleston & San Antonio Road is the third most dangerous in Palo Alto, based on accident count. Twenty-five percent of the accidents occur at intersections on the “C/A Corridor”, the remaining 75% occur between intersections. The traffic accident data does not include 2010, which would be helpful in determining any clear impact on “safety” for the so-called Charleston/Arastradero Downsizing Road Reconfiguration Project. The highest number of vehicle accidents for 2005-2009, on average, occurred on Segment #1 (San Antonio Road to Middlefield Road) and Segment #4 (El Camino to Foothill). Frequent traffic volume/speed data is needed to make meaningful correlations in year-to-year variances in the accident data. Access to raw Traffic Accident Reports is restricted by state law, inhibiting the ability to provide detailed traffic accident analyses. The perception of “safety” on the “C/A Corridor” is based on the prevailing 25 mph speed limit, which is probably too low for this road segment.
• • • • • • • • • •
Since Palo Alto traffic accident data has not been systematically monitored, and reported, by Traffic Engineering in the past, it is suggested that traffic accident data be included in the decision process in the future, where issues involving traffic “safety” are concerned. This is particularly true now, since Traffic Engineering is proposing the continued reduction of the number of lanes on Charleston/Arastradero Corridor without presenting data to the public about the effects of this downsizing on the occurrence of traffic accidents that can be attributed to the road design. 2.0 Preface
During the initial promotion of the so-called Charleston/Arastradero Downsizing Project, in the 2003-2004 timeframe, the Palo Alto Transportation/Engineering Department made many claims about various reconfigurations to Palo Alto streets and roads that involved the reduction of risk to cyclists and motorists. However, when pressed to define terms like “safety”, “danger” or “risk”—the key players in these Departments could not provide definitions, or metrics, that were used by the road/street design discipline that provided any sense that any of the streets in Palo Alto, or in the so-called Charleston/Arastradero Transportation Corridor, were “unsafe”, or “dangerous”. Moreover, these same key players could not provide any metrics that the streets would necessarily be “safer”, or “less dangerous” if their reconfigurations were applied to this roadway. For the most part, the whole topic of traffic accidents based on road design, or traffic volume on this roadway, was not discussed in a meaningful way, if at all. Overall, it is difficult to be impressed by the Palo Alto Traffic Engineering Department’s use of historic data to make decisions about traffic engineering designs for the future. Personal research revealed that traffic engineers do use one metric, however: accidents/million vehicle miles as an indicator of “safety”. Unfortunately, this is a very rough metric, and can not readily be applied from street-to-road-to-highway, without coming to conclusions about a road’s “safety” that are more likely wrong, than not. Attempts to obtain this metric from the Palo Alto Traffic Division has not been fruitful in the past, although they did recently provide some traffic volume data which can be used to estimate this number for the Arastradero Road segment of the “C/A Corridor”. Other indicators do exist, such as number of deaths, injuries, and the nominal damage to the individuals in terms of medical care, lost productivity and wages. However, while this data is available to the public (via the CHP), such data is generally not used as metrics to justify engineering decisions reconfiguring roadways. Publicly available accident data for Palo Alto does exist, however. The fact that this wealth of data was ignored by the people entrusted to make the best decisions for the public good caused me to want to do an analysis of this data to see what there was to be learned, and to introduce this information into the public record so that the decisions involving traffic accidents here in Palo Alto would not be ignored by government officials in the future.
Since there are no standardized approaches to traffic accident analysis, this study has developed in a more-or-less “organic” fashion, based on the results of attempts to establish correlations between the numerous “variables” that are collected from each accident investigation/report. The most interesting relationships that were revealed by these inquiries have been included in this study. This research has produced about 60,000 of SQL (Structured Query Language), using MySQL as the database engine. The data was provided by the California Highway Patrol, per request. 3.0 Introduction
Over the years there has been a lot of hysteria expressed by certain residents about the traffic “problems” on the “Charleston/Arastradero Corridor”. At one point, the City actually declared a “Development Moratorium” along this roadway while it did “studies” in order to halt development on two major projects on/near the “Corridor”. These “studies” added significant project delays, which turned out to be a contributory factor in these projects being either abandoned, or greatly reduced in scale. Periodically, some residents have made unsubstantiated claims about “how dangerous” the “C/A Corridor” is, but little, or no, real evidence of this danger was presented in a formalized fashion, by anyone associated with the City, or even those making these claims. The former Chief of Police (Lynn Johnson) stated at one point that: “this roadway is not particularly dangerous” (or words to that effect), but no official accident data was ever produced to prove, or disprove, that point, either way. In fact, no definition of “danger”, “risk”, or even “safety”, has ever been introduced into the dialogue by the City that provided residents a rational way to review, think about, and come to conclusions about, the safety of Palo Alto roadways. At the time of the primary Charleston/Arastradero dialog, it seemed that hysteria, not facts, prevailed--driven by some of the so-called Neighborhood Associations—that were key to killing off the Rickey’s Hotel expansion project. One City Council Member went so far as to proclaim: “The Charleston/Arastradero Corridor is a Mini-Oregon Expressway” (or words to that effect), without providing any details, or proof. Politics, not traffic engineering, or rational inquiry, seemed to be the primary “stakeholder at the table” as this process wound its way to the City Council. To remedy the lack of actual traffic accident data in this debate, traffic accident reports from the California Highway Patrol’s SWITRS (Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System) database were acquired, and examined from a number of different points-ofview. This paper on the “Charleston/Arastradero Corridor”, is a section of a full-city traffic accident study reviewing traffic accidents throughout all of Palo Alto.
The work is not intended to be an engineering analysis of the “Charleston/Arastradero Corridor”. Instead, it is a study of the traffic accidents along this roadway, with some interpretations of trends revealed by the data. This paper is only intended to provide residents along the “Corridor” hard data to use in discussing the changes on Charleston/Arastradero in the future—data which has been provided by the City in the past. Errors will be correct when identified, via future releases of this document. 4.0 Overview Of The Charleston/Arastradero Transportation “Corridor”
Map of Charleston/Arastradero Transportation Corridor Segment Color Codes Seg.1 – Red Seg.2 – Yellow Seg.3 – Green Seg.4 – Blue Seg.5 – Violet
The so-called Charleston Road/Arastradero Road Transportation Corridor that runs through southern Palo Alto starts near Highway.101, in a light-industrial area, and proceeds in a southwesterly fashion through the residential sections of South Palo Alto, traversing a very badly designed, at-grade, Caltrain crossing, eventually passing into Los Altos Hills, then into the foothills, where it finally terminates at Alpine Road--not quite at the ridgeline. All of Arastradero Road is included within the confines of the so-called “Corridor” in this study, whereas the City of Palo Alto Traffic Engineering does not include the segment from Foothill Expressway up to Alpine Road (Segment.5) in its definition. There are perhaps ten stop lights between the easterly terminus of the “C/A Corridor”, and Foothill Expressway. On the three blocks of East Charleston, between Middlefield and Alma Street, there are four (4) stoplights, and a railroad (at grade) crossing—which require frequent stops for vehicles, resulting in a higher probability of accidents. Additionally, the south-westerly “orientation of the roadway allows the sun to be in drivers’ eyes at certain times of the year, and certain times of the day. This geographical condition results in many drivers running red lights at these intersections in the afternoons of some parts of the year, and no doubt has been a contributing factor in some accidents. All told, the “Charleston/Arastradero Corridor” runs just over seven miles, end-to-end. Since traffic accidents outside the Palo Alto municipal jurisdiction are often assigned to the Palo Alto Police Department for response/investigation, non-Palo Alto accidents on Arastradero are included in this report. According to the City of Palo Alto Traffic Engineering Department, Charleston/Arastradero Road is a residential arterial and a designated School Route that serves: • 11 public & private elementary, middle & high schools • Multiple preschools • 3 community centers • 6 public & private parks • Stanford Research Park
From a traffic accident analysis point-of-view, this study sub-divides the “Corridor” into five segments, as the traffic volumes, number of signal lights, and school locations, all contribute to the traffic dynamics that are contributory to traffic accidents. The following table identifies the segments:
Segment # 1 2 3 4 5 Segment Near Highway 101 to Middlefield Middlefield to Alma Alma to El Camino Real El Camino to Foothill Foothill to Alpine Road
The years 1995-2009 are included in this study of the C/A “Corridor”. (Unfortunately, complete data for 2010 will not be available for several months from the CHP.) Traffic volume data previously obtained from the Palo Alto Traffic Engineering Department (1965-1999) shows constant growth in traffic volumes on all major Palo Alto streets, with the San Antonio segment carrying 24,900 vehicles a day, the West Charleston Segment carrying about 18,100 vehicles a day, and the East Charleston Segment carrying about 18,500 vehicles a day. Data published by Traffic Engineering for the Lane Reduction Project shows traffic volumes in the mid-18,000 vehicles a day. This 25% reduction in traffic volume is not related to the Lane Reduction Project, but can be attributed to the general decline in the Silicon Valley business climate, that started with the end of the so-called “Dot.Com” bubble in 2000. 5.0 Pictures/Videos Of Charleston/Arastradero Corridor Traffic
The following videos, and pictures, should help to familiarize people who might be unfamiliar with this roadway, or with current traffic conditions on this roadway: Traffic Counts For Major Streets In Palo Alto (1999): http://www.flickr.com/photos/28767526@N06/5945330512/ Traffic At East Charleston/San Antonio Road: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYnFzJmbUoA Traffic At East Charleston Road/Fabian Way: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URp2fXt4N-8 Intersection At East Charleston/Road and Middlefield Road: TBD: Hoover Parents Making Unsafe Exits From School: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDyZ8_az1ok
Alma Street/East Charleston Road Intersection: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLwKTBENJGw Vehicles Crossing Caltrain Tracks At West Charleston/Alma Street: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDZQx9Qm8HY Queued Vehicles On West Charleston Road During Train Crossings: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQsHltg-YVA Intersection At West Charleston Road/El Camino Real: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2PLqAVwt8g Traffic At McKellar Lane and Arastradero Road: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_a0fQw8QMLA Arastradero Road When Lane Reduction Work Performed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7v_T-yHyPXI Traffic On Arastradero Road As Viewed From Crossing Island: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQemSVCVbSU Speed Limit Sign On Arastradero Obscured By Tree: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4EmFLegpUk New Speed Monitoring Sign On Arastradero Road: TBD: Questionable Car Parking Lane On Arastradero Road: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCHWAaGSzIY Left-Turn Lanes On Arastradero Road: TBD: Driveway At Gunn High School On Arastradero Road: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBJmXMlt9KY Intersection At Arastradero Road and Foothill Expressway: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdwP4O4tkpU Note—other videos documenting dangerous intersections, and other traffic-related issues, can be found on: www.youtube.com/wmartin46.
Perspective: Traffic Accidents In Charleston/Arastradero Corridor vs City-wide Accidents
In order to make any sense out of traffic accident data for any given location, or set of road segments, it helps to look at the city-wide accident data for perspective. Given Palo Alto’s small size, reviewing the data for the arterials, presented in the table below, provides insight into where the majority of traffic accidents are occurring-Palo Alto Traffic Accident Data for 2005-2009 (Arterials)
Street El Camino Real Oregon Expwy University Av Embarcadero Road C/A Corridor Alma St Middlefield Rd San Antonio Rd Total 2005 195 59 82 66 80 83 70 42 1105 2006 177 61 93 54 73 77 66 51 1073 2007 150 44 67 50 62 77 67 35 902 2008 116 37 72 45 53 74 52 28 817 2009 97 41 68 45 61 54 50 23 776 2009 % 12.5% 5.3% 8.8% 5.8% 7.8% 7.0% 6.4% 3.0% 56.5%
Table.1—Top Locations For Traffic Accidents in Palo Alto Graphically –
Traffic Accident History For Palo Alto Arterials (2005-2009)
Number of Accidents 1500 1000 500 0 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 Time Frame Alma St Middlefield Rd San Antonio Rd El Camino Real Oregon Expwy University Av Embarcadero Road C/A Corridor
Looking at just 2009’s data, we see that 56% of the traffic accidents in Palo Alto occurred on the arterials –
Percentage of Traffic Accidents--By Streets (2009)
3.00% 6.40% 12.50% El Camino Real Oregon Expw y University Av 7.00% 5.30% 6.10% 5.80% 8.80% Embarcadero Road C/A Corridor Alma St Middlefield Rd San Antonio Rd
The percentage of accidents occurring on the Charleston/Arastradero “Corridor” contributes between 4% and 8% of the yearly total number of accidents occurring in Palo Alto. Over the last five years, this percentage of accidents on the “C/A Corridor” has remained relatively constant, although there seems to be a small uptick starting in 2009. (Until the 2010 data is available, it is too soon to call this a trend that might be related to the traffic engineering project [downsizing] under experimentation on the “C/A Corridor”.) As demonstrated in Table.1 above, the trend for the last five years (as well as the previous ten years), shows a generally decreasing number of traffic accidents in Palo Alto. As suggested previously, this decline in traffic accidents is believed to be a function of declining traffic volumes for Palo Alto (which is related to the globalization of the electronics/software industries to the Far East), the high cost of commercial rental properties in Palo Alto, and the downturn of the economy over the past few years. Unfortunately, the City of Palo Alto does not monitor/count traffic volumes continuously, or even on a schedule, so there is no accurate traffic volume data publicly available to plot against the traffic accident data to investigate/demonstrate such a correlation.
Fifteen Year Traffic Accident History/Trends On the “C/A Corridor”
The following group provides a fifteen-year timeline for traffic accidents on the “C/A Corridor”-Charleston/Arastradero Corridor Traffic Accident History
80 Number of Accidents 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0
19 95 19 97 19 99 20 01 20 03 20 05 20 07 20 09
E. CHARLESTON RD: W. CHARLESTON RD: ARASTRADERO RD: Total Accidents
1995-2009 Time Frame
As can be seen from the graph, the yearly accident count for each of the segments of the “C/A Corridor” are basically the same, year-after-year, showing small yearly variations. Over time, there can be seen a general decline in the number of accidents along this roadway, which is in line with the declines seen at the city-wide level. There is an uptick for 2009, which needs 2010 and 2011 accident data to fully appreciate in terms of establishing any trends. Given that there has been a 25% reduction in traffic volume on the “C/A Corridor” since 1999, it might not be difficult to expect a similar reduction in traffic throughout all of Palo Alto has occurred in the last decade—providing a likely explanation for the overall decline in traffic accidents in Palo Alto during this study period. 8.0 Traffic Accident Locations
Traffic accidents occur at intersections, near intersections, and on road segments where there are few intersections. However, because Highway 101 and Highway 280 are not in the domain of the Palo Alto City Government, accidents occurring on these roadways running through Palo Alto are not included in this study. Highway 82 (El Camino Real), while a State highway, does have its accident counts included, as the City of Palo Alto patrols this road, and has input to Caltrans about road design issues. Similarly, Oregon Expressway, a County road, has been included.
When partitioned into two sets, we see that accidents that are located at/near intersections can be analyzed in terms of the “design” of the intersection, whereas accidents that happen at “random” locations around town are less in the purview of Traffic Engineering, and more in the domain of human error. Accordingly, this study will present data from the “Intersection” vs “Non-intersection” point-of-view where appropriate. 9.0 Issues With Traffic Accident Analysis
There are a number of issues associated with any large analysis project, which can affect the analytical approaches used, as well as the results of the analysis. The following are the current issues encountered with this project: “Dirty Data” Data in government databases is inherently unreliable. In the case of the data provided by the CHP (and the Palo Alto Police) , the street names were, perhaps, 50%-60% in error (incomplete, misspelled, odd abbreviations, etc.) A considerable amount of effort was expended cleaning up the data so that searching, and counting, could be accomplished. Additionally, other fields in the data are believed to be incorrect, but no attempts have been made to “fix” this data. All Accidents Not Reported For the past several years, the Palo Alto Police Department has not be accepting traffic accident reports unless one/more of the cars was disabled, or one of the parties involved required medical care. Thus, only the accidents that exceed these reporting thresholds are now investigated by the Palo Alto police, and ultimately, reported to the CHP. This makes for a lower number of reported accidents, than actual ones—leaving police, traffic engineering, and the public somewhat at a loss in knowing the real accident rates in Palo Alto. This refusal to accept traffic accident reports that are considered as “minor” might well be a significant factor in the decline in traffic accidents over the years. Unfortunately, this is an unknown at the current time. Definition Of Intersection One of the issues needing identified early on was that there is no clear definition of what defines an “intersection”. From the point-of-view of police accident reports, accidents at intersections seem to be defined as being “all in” the square/rectangle created by the intersection of the two roads. Accidents (such as rear-enders) that occur just outside this zone are not coded in the data as “Intersection=Yes”. Many accidents show that the cars were very close to this “zone”, so a “threshold” distance was used to include all of the cars within 100 feet on the secondary roads where accidents occurred. This “threshold” increases the count of traffic accidents at intersections somewhat.
Definition Of “Charleston/Arastradero Corridor” The term “Charleston/Arastradero Transportation Corridor” was created by the Palo Alto Traffic Engineering Department during the initial phases of the debate about downsizing the road. A precise definition of this term does not seem to exist, so this study introduces the concept of “segments” of the “Corridor”, which reflect different traffic patterns, and geographies. The City defined the “C/A Corridor to be up to 350 feet to the left and right of the Charleston/Arastradero Roadway (if memory serves). This seems like a very large area from the point-of-view of traffic on the roadway being a primary contributor to accidents in this 350 feet periphery. As of this writing, a 100-foot “threshold” is serving to ‘pick up” accidents on secondary roads near intersection that might be somehow connected to traffic on the Charleston and Arastradero Roads.
Exact Location Of Vehicular Accidents The traffic reports do include the longitude/latitude of each accident, if requested. While longitude/latitude does provide location specificity, these “locator numbers” are not easily manipulated without specialized software, which is not included with most database management packages. So, the exact location of some accidents, relative to the “segment boundaries” may not be precisely determined at this time. This is not an important issue, but does point out the kind of difficulties encountered in this sort of analysis. (Future refinements of this work might attempt to include longitude/latitude for additional precision of accident locations.) GPS Coordinates do not seem to be used by the police at the current time. 10.0 Intersection vs Non-Intersection Accidents
The traffic accident reports allow the data to be partitioned into “Intersection” and “NonIntersection” accidents. The traffic patterns at intersections are a function of several traffic engineering “variables”, such as number of lanes, number of turning lanes, length of time for “red, green, yellow” phases for the major, and minor, roads that cross, volumes of traffic on the major leg, and the minor leg, pedestrian/bicycle traffic volumes, etc. Intersections force motorists/cyclists/pedestrians to make start/stop/slow-down decisions that lead to errors, which in turn, lead to accidents. Non-intersection accidents occur randomly around the City, involving a different set of vehicle operator errors (such as an illegal U-turn, or backing out of a driveway into the roadway without a clear view of on-coming traffic), and may not easily be subject to efforts by “convenient road design” to reduce their numbers.. 11.0 Accident Locations On The “C/A Corridor” For 2009
The following tables provide the data about the locations of accidents on the “Corridor” for 2009:
Segment 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 Collision Date 20090821 20091113 20090511 20090622 20091207 20090223 20090214 20090719 20090222 20090723 Day Of Week Friday Friday Monday Monday Monday Monday Saturday Sunday Sunday Thursday Collision Time 1538 1559 1154 1215 1242 1538 1640 1104 1208 1458 Intersection Y Y N N Y N Y N Y N Distance 0 0 69 29 0 207 0 300 0 27
Primary Road FABIAN WY E CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD SAN ANTONIO RD E CHARLESTON RD MIDDLEFIELD RD E CHARLESTON RD
Secondary Road E CHARLESTON RD FABIAN WY SAN ANTONIO RD SAN ANTONIO RD FABIAN WY SAN ANTONIO RD E CHARLESTON RD SUTHERLAND DR E CHARLESTON RD LOUIS RD
1 1 1 2 2 2 2 2 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 5 5 5 5 5
20090826 20090916 20091209 20091023 20090525 20090228 20090222 20091118 20090116 20090918 20090130 20090209 20090209 20090914 20090310 20090714 20091117 20090202 20090302 20090502 20091205 20090528 20090212 20090428 20090317 20091215 20091104 20091111 20090311 20090506 20090121 20090410 20090416 20090423 20091215 20090805
Wednesday Wednesday Wednesday Friday Monday Saturday Sunday Wednesday Friday Friday Friday Monday Monday Monday Tuesday Tuesday Tuesday Monday Monday Saturday Saturday Thursday Thursday Tuesday Tuesday Tuesday Wednesday Wednesday Wednesday Wednesday Wednesday Friday Thursday Thursday Tuesday Wednesday
0820 1029 1455 1600 0204 2159 1230 1720 1020 2230 2242 0840 1715 1858 0848 1730 1807 1746 1853 0802 1643 0744 0804 0806 1230 1845 0904 1203 1612 1722 1843 1134 1437 1722 1215 0803
N N N N N N Y N Y N Y N N N N Y N Y Y N N N N N Y N Y N Y N N Y N Y Y N
537 30 75 10 210 75 0 14 0 130 0 12 20 19 39 0 30 0 0 0 80 183 21 792 0 150 0 28 0 200 200 0 528 0 0 40
E CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD SAN ANTONIO RD E CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82 W CHARLESTON RD EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82 W CHARLESTON RD W CHARLESTON RD W CHARLESTON RD W CHARLESTON RD W CHARLESTON RD W CHARLESTON RD ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD FOOTHILL EXPWY COULOMBE DR ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82 ARASTRADERO RD EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82 ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD
SAN ANTONIO RD SAN ANTONIO RD E CHARLESTON RD MIDDLEFIELD RD CARLSON CIR CARLSON CIR MIDDLEFIELD RD MIDDLEFIELD RD W CHARLESTON RD EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82 W CHARLESTON RD ALMA ST EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82 PARK BL RUTHELMA AV PARK BL EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82 GEORGIA AV EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82 ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD COULOMBE DR ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD POMONA AV GEORGIA AV ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD HILLVIEW AV GEORGIA AV MIRANDA AV MIRANDA AV MANUELA AV MIRANDA AV MIRANDA AV
Table.1—Location, Time-of-Day, Day-of-Week of Accidents On “Charleston/Arastradero Corridor” for 2009
Notes— (1) (2) (3) (4) Schools are located on Segment.2 and Segment .4. Morning Commute starts about 7:30 (AM), and is over by 08:05 (AM). Afternoon Commute starts around 16:00 (PM), running to about 18:30 (PM). Most accidents occur outside the Commute windows, and/or not near schools.
In addition to the locations of the accidents on the “C/A Corridor” during 2009, this dataset also provides the day-of-the-week, and the time-of-day of all of the accidents occurring on this roadway. Of particular note is the fact that few of the accidents occurred during the morning commute, or near any of the schools. (A little additional work might see the school calendar overlaid over this table, to determine those days that schools were in session.)
Segment # 1 2 3 4 5 Road Segment Highway 101 to Middlefield Middlefield to Alma Alma to El Camino Real El Camino to Foothill Expwy Foothill Expwy to Alpine Road Total Accidents 13 5 9 14 5 46
Table.2—Recap Of Accidents, By Corridor Segment, For 2009 As can be seen in Table.2, the most accidents occur on Segment.1 (San Antonio/East Charleston Road), and Segment.4 (El Camino Real to Foothill Expressway), occurring, on average, with the frequency of one accident a month on each segment.
Top-10 Most Dangerous Intersections In Palo Alto
The following table identifies the intersections with the highest accident rates, over a fifteen-year period, and a 5-year period, of time-15-Year Average 5.3 4.1 4.1 4.0 3.8 3.5 3.5 3.1 3.0 3.0 15-Year Total 80 62 61 60 57 53 52 47 45 45 Last 5Year Total 27 15 13 16 5 22 9 10 9 12 Last 5Year Average 5.4 3.0 2.6 3.2 1.0 4.4 1.8 2.0 1.8 2.4
Primary Road MIDDLEFIELD RD EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82 SAN ANTONIO RD EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82 MIDDLEFIELD RD UNIVERSITY AV MIDDLEFIELD RD MIDDLEFIELD RD SAN ANTONIO RD EMBARCADERO RD
Secondary Road HAMILTON AV PAGE MILL RD E CHARLESTON RD EMBARCADERO RD E MEADOW DR MIDDLEFIELD RD FOREST AV EVERETT AV MIDDLEFIELD RD COWPER ST
Table.3—Most Dangerous Intersections In Palo Alto
Table.3 ranks the intersections in Palo Alto where the highest number of traffic accidents have occurred over the past fifteen years. While the table is ranked on the 15-year averages, slightly different rankings result when ordering on the last 5-year averages.
3rd Most Dangerous Intersection in Palo Alto—East Charleston/San Antonio: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2193/5703967443_8e9a2acde5_m.jpg The intersection at East Charleston and San Antonio Road, in Segment #1 of the “C/A Corridor”, ranks as the third most dangerous in the city, based on accident counts.
The intersection at El Camino Real and Arastradero Road, by contrast, is ranked 21st, by accident count:
Last 5Year Total 13 Last 5Year Average 2.6
Primary Road EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82
Secondary Road ARASTRADERO RD
15-Year Average 2.3
15-Year Total 35
Table.4—21st Most Dangerous Intersection In Palo Alto Given the data in Table.3, it is clear that the intersections on the “C/A Corridor” are not to be considered as “unsafe”, based on the accident counts that occur at these intersections. Palo Alto Traffic Engineer should be expected to review each of these “Top 10” intersections to determine what mitigations could be introduced to reduce the likelihood of vehicular accidents. Over time, reductions in accident counts at the East Charleston/San Antonio intersection would contribute to a reduction in the total accident count on the “C/A Corridor”.
Breakdown of Palo Alto-wide Accidents--Intersections vs Non-Intersections
The following table provides a city-wide breakdown on accidents occurring at intersections vs non-intersection locations:
Intersection N Y Total N Y
Accidents 9 587 180 776 75.6% 23.2%
% Of Total 1.2% 75.6% 23.2% 100.0%
Table.5—Intersection vs Non-Intersection Accidents 14.0 Breakdown of Intersection vs Non-Intersection Accidents on “C/A Corridor”
The following table provides the breakdown of accidents occurring at intersections on the C/A Corridor vs non-intersection locations: Year.2009
Segment 1 1 2 2 3 3 4 4 5 5 Intersection N Y N Y N Y N Y N Y Total N Y Number 8 5 4 1 6 3 9 5 2 3 46 63.0% 37.0% % of Total 17.4% 10.9% 8.7% 2.2% 13.0% 6.5% 19.6% 10.9% 4.3% 6.5% 100.0%
Table.6—Intersection vs Non-Intersection Accidents On Charleston/Arastradero Corridor
These two tables reveal that accidents are occurring at intersections in the “C/A Corridor” at a somewhat higher rate than are occurring throughout the rest of Palo Alto. Given the large number of stop lights along this section of roadway, and the frequent stops and starts required by the Caltrain crossing, it might be possible to explain this somewhat higher number of accidents by this reason alone. However, given the relatively low number of accidents, such an analysis might require more data than is available in the CHP-provided accident reports in order to establish the causes of each accident. (The Palo Alto Police indicate that CA State Law restricts access to traffic accident reports to the public at large. Having access to the narratives might provide additional details about the cause of each accident, that would help to create a better picture of the root causes of accidents under analysis.) 15.0 2011 Traffic Volume On Arastradero Road
Traffic monitoring data was obtained from the Palo Alto Traffic Engineering Department via Public Information Request. This data is typically used by traffic engineers to determine how close a road, or road segment, might be to capacity, or to determine if changes to a road’s configuration has increased, or decreased, the number of cars using that roadway. The graphic below presents the twenty-four hour volume of traffic on Arastradero Road (at Georgia Avenue) for a day in March, 2011:
Traffic Volumes On Arastradero Road (At Georgia Avenue)
Number of Vehicles/Hour 2000 1500 1000 500 0 0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 1600 1800 2000 2200 Traffic Volume
The traffic monitoring exercise revealed that about 17,500 vehicles passed the monitoring point on weekdays, and about 8,950 cars on the weekends. The line graph of this data manifests a very well-known “curve” for human behavior—high activity in the mornings and evenings, with the possibility of “mini-peaks” of activity around noon. The traffic
pattern on Arastradero repeats this basic human pattern, with an additional “mini-peak” around 3:00 (PM) when schools let out. Extrapolating the daily average of 17,500 vehicles and the weekend average of 8,950 vehicles, about 5M vehicles pass along this segment of Arastradero Road (Segment.4) on a yearly basis. Google/Maps shows that the distance between the West Charleston Road/El Camino Real intersection, and the Arastradero Road/Foothill Expressway intersection, to be about 1.1 miles. Therefore, the number of Million-Vehicle-Miles (MVM) travelled along this Arastradero Road is estimated at 5.5 MVM/year.
In terms of the Charleston/Arastradero “Downsizing” project, questions about the ability of the road to handle the peak volume of traffic need to be answered. These questions would be couched in terms of queue lengths at stop lights, , ”end-to-end” transit times, and increased volumes of “cut-thru” traffic, and increases in the Level of Service (LOS) at various intersections on te “C/A Corridor”. In terms of increased “safety”, it would be presumed that there would be a decrease in the number of traffic accidents, as well as a reduction in the severity of those accidents that do occur. Unfortunately, this sort of data does not seem to be collected, and monitored, by either the Palo Alto Police, or the Traffic Engineering Department, at the current time. Given the fact that Arastradero has carried almost 25% more vehicles in the past, the question as to whether that many cars can be handled after a lane reduction configuration should be considered by decision makers. 16.0 5-Year Overview Of City-wide vs “C/A Corridor” Traffic Accidents
It would pay to review the five-year history of Palo Alto-wide traffic accidents vs the accidents on the “C/A Corridor”. The data below provides a quick view of: Bicycles Accidents City Wide, Bicycle Accidents City-wide, Total accidents on the “C/A Corridor”, bicycles accidents on the “Corridor”, and bicycle-involved accidents where the cyclist was determined to be “at fault”:
Year 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Total Palo Alto Accidents 1105 1073 902 817 776
Total Palo Alto Bicycle Accidents 93 67 68 67 80
C/A Corridor Total Accidents 93 91 80 62 73
C/A Corridor Bicycle Accidents 12 6 10 5 12
C/A Corridor Accidents Where Bicycle At Fault 2 1 1 3 5
Table.7—Bicycle Accidents on “Charleston/Arastradero Corridor” As seen in other datasets, the five-year trend in traffic accidents in Palo Alto is “down”, as is the overall fifteen-year trend in traffic accidents. The accident count in the “C/A Corridor” shows a small increase of late, as does the number of accidents where cyclists are “at fault”. Given the aggressive push for residents (and non-residents) to use bicycles, this increase in “cyclists at fault” accidents seems predictable (based on the City’s aggressive support for “alternative transportation modes”), and is likely to increase in the future. Given the numerous claims that the “C/A Corridor” is dangerous for bicycles, and hence the need to spend millions of dollars to reconfigure the road, these claims needs to be evaluated in light of the actual accident data for the City, and this roadway.
15-Year Casualty Counts For Charleston/Arastradero Corridor Accidents
Year 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 15-Yr Totals: 5-Yr Totals:
Killed Total 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 3 2
Injured Total 44 48 29 52 54 53 38 41 31 33 39 38 44 37 38 619 196
Cyclists Killed 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 2 1
Cyclists Injured 6 11 8 8 7 9 9 10 2 4 9 5 9 4 11 112 38
Pedestrians Killed 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Pedestrians Injured 3 3 2 1 2 0 1 0 1 4 4 1 1 0 2 25 8
Table.8—15-Year Casualty Counts For “C/A Corridor” The data in Table.8 shows that there have been very few people killed from vehicular accidents on the “C/A Corridor” over the past fifteen years. About 20% of those injured were either riding bicycles, or walking. (Additional work will provide the ages of those involved.)
Bicycle/Pedestrian Injuries In Palo Alto For 2009
The following table provides information about accidents in Palo Alto that involve cyclists, and pedestrians:
2009 Total Accident Count: Bicycle-involved Accidents: Pedestrian-involved Accidents: Accidents 776 80 27 Total: % of Total 10.3% 3.5% 13.8%
Table.9—2009 Bicycle/Pedestrian Counts for “C/A Corridor”
Bicycle/Pedestrian Accidents On The “C/A Corridor” For 2009
The following table identifies the accident locations where cyclists, or pedestrians, were involved:
Pedestrian Collision Y
Segment 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 3 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 5
Primary Road E CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD W CHARLESTON RD ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82 ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD W CHARLESTON RD EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82 ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD
Secondary Road SAN ANTONIO RD LOUIS RD SAN ANTONIO RD FABIAN WY MIDDLEFIELD RD LOUIS RD FABIAN WY SAN ANTONIO RD SAN ANTONIO RD MIDDLEFIELD RD EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82 POMONA AV ARASTRADERO RD GEORGIA AV MANUELA AV HUBBARTT DR ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD POMONA AV HUBBARTT DR EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82 ARASTRADERO RD GEORGIA AV MANUELA AV Totals
Bicycle Collision Y Y Y
Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y 20
Table.10—Pedestrian/Bicycle-Involved Accidents On The “C/A Corridor” for 2009 Based on the data for 2009, it would appear that about 25% of the bicycle-involved accidents in Palo Alto occur on the Charleston/Arastradero “Corridor, and about 25% of the pedestrian-involved accidents in Palo Alto also occur on the “Corridor”.
Bicycle/Pedestrian Accidents In Peninsula Cities
The following table provides data for 2009 in Santa Clara County, showing the percentage of total accidents involving bicycles and pedestrians:
Ped/Bike Combined Percentage 11.0% 30.0% 15.0% 16.0% 20.0% 4.0% 5.0% 11.0% 14.0% 20.0% 9.0% 9.0% 15.0% 12.0% 6.0% 4.0% 9.0% 0.0% 10.0% 9.0% 5.0% 11.0% 12.0% 8.0% 9.0% 6.0% 7.0% 16.0% 8.0% 6.0% 11.0%
City SANTA CLARA CNTY CAMPBELL GILROY LOS ALTOS LOS GATOS MILPITAS MORGAN HILL MOUNTAIN VIEW PALO ALTO SAN JOSE SANTA CLARA CITY SUNNYVALE SAN MATEO CNTY ATHERTON BELMONT BRISBANE BURLINGAME COLMA DALY CITY HALF MOON BAY HILLSBOROUGH MENLO PARK MILLBRAE PACIFICA REDWOOD CITY SAN BRUNO SAN CARLOS SAN MATEO CITY SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO FOSTER CITY EAST PALO ALTO
Population 90000 39349 48821 28976 29413 66790 37882 74066 64403 945942 116468 140081 67000 6914 25835 4282 28806 1792 101123 11324 10825 32026 21532 37234 76815 41114 28406 97207 63632 30567 28155
Total Accidents 855 96 287 167 151 720 202 521 776 2996 885 1030 26 114 191 54 256 3 488 131 66 283 151 224 896 349 105 349 342 160 135
Bicycle Collisions 73 16 21 22 22 15 7 44 80 309 38 59 4 10 6 1 8 0 8 10 3 23 8 8 35 11 3 23 4 6 3
Pedestrian Collisions 20 13 22 4 8 15 3 15 27 280 38 33 0 4 6 1 15 0 42 2 0 8 10 10 47 10 4 33 22 3 12
Average: Table.11—Bicycle/Pedestrian-Involved Accidents In Peninsula Cities
When the number of pedestrian and bicycle-involved accidents are combined and compared to the total accidents for a given town, this number runs from 4% in Brisbane and Milpitas to 30% in the City of Campbell, yielding an average percentage of 10.6% for the towns in/around the Peninsula. Palo Alto demonstrates a slightly higher-thanaverage pedestrian/bicycle accident rate (for 2009) at 14%. This higher-than-average pedestrian/bicycle-involved accident rate in Palo Alo begs the question as to whether bicyclists are contributing to the accidents in which they are involved by failing to comply with all of the rules-of-the-road? 21.0 Accidents Per Million-Vehicle-Miles Driven On Arastradero Road
While the Palo Alto Traffic Engineering Department does not seem to use the metric “Accidents/Million-Vehicle-Miles” in any of its documentation, it might prove instructive to make this calculation. Using traffic volume data received from the Traffic Engineering Department, and accident counts obtained from the CHP-provided data, “Accidents/MVM” will be determined for 1999, and 2011: For the 1999 time frame, Traffic Engineering-provided data shows that about 25,000 cars a day (weekdays, presumably) travelled Arastradero Road. Assuming weekend use of about 50% of weekday use, vehicle use of Arastradero Road amounted up to about 7.9 Million Vehicle Miles (MVM). There were about 26 accidents on Arastradero Road in 1999, making the number of “Accidents/MVM” about 3.3. In the 2011 time frame, there were about 14 accidents on this road segment, and around 5.5 million vehicle miles travelled—making the “Accidents/MVM” about 2.5. Therefore, over the past ten years, there has been a reduction in the Accidents/MVH metric from 3.3 to 2.5. This reduction is clearly a function of reduced traffic volume, as no significant road work was performed on Arastradero Road during that time frame. This traffic volume data is key to understanding “safety” on the “Charleston/Arastradero Corridor”. Without this data, no one in Palo Alto would be able to determine the effects of Lane Reduction on “safety” due which might be attributable to decreased accident counts. At the moment, Palo Alto Traffic Engineering does not seem to be paying any attention to the decline in traffic accidents in Palo Alto, due to reduced traffic volume. Regrettably, Traffic Engineering has been most silent on this point.
Age of Parties Involved In Accidents On “C/A Corridor”
The following data provides the ages of the parties at fault involved in traffic accidents along the C/A Corridor:
Party Age 14 15 17 18 20 22 24 25 27 28 31 32 33 34 37 39 40 43 # of Accidents 1 1 4 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 2 1 2 Party Age 44 46 50 50 51 54 55 59 65 69 71 81 82 85 89 92 998 # of Accidents 1 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 4
(998=Unknown) Table.12—Ages of Parties Involved In Accidents on “C/A Corridor” This data shows a more-or-less uniform distribution of ages of people involved with accidents, which is to be expected. For parties with ages less than 16 years, this typically turns out to be bicycle-involved accidents where the cyclist was determined to be “at fault”--not young people who were operating vehicles illegally that became involved in accidents with other vehicles. This mostly uniform distribution of ages in the dataset would tend to suggest that age of the parties involved has little to do with accidents on the “C/A Corridor”--although there is a small “spike” for seventeen year olds.
Alcohol/Drugs Involved Accidents
The following table lists the accident counts of the accidents where alcohol/drugs were reported to be a contributory factor:
Year 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 Alcohol Involved No Yes 45 2 52 2 61 2 64 3 55 4 49 3 49 4 54 3 44 1 42 1 47 2 47 2 35 3 34 1 45 2
Table.13—Alcohol-related Accidents On “C/A Corridor” As can be readily seen from Table.12, alcohol is not a significant contributor to traffic accidents on the “C/A Corridor”. 24.0 Fifteen-Year History of Accidents At Gunn High School
Collision Time 1149 1334 0841 1641 1123 1538 Secondary Road GUNN H S GUNN H S GUNN H S GUNN H S GUNN H S GUNN H S Alcohol Involved Party Age 68 72 45 43 17 49 Movement Preceding Collision Proceeding Straight Traveling Wrong Way Making Right Turn Slowing/Stopping Proceeding Straight Proceeding Straight
Collision Data 19950827 19980128 19990322 20000605 20040909 20070426
Primary Road ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD
Table.14—Accidents At Gunn High School. The small number of accidents that have occurred at Gunn High School (presumably at the light/parking lot entrance), calls into question claims by the City, and others, about how “dangerous” this entry/exit to Gunn High School actually is/has been.
Accidents At The Alma/Charleston Caltrain Crossing
The following table lists the accidents at the C/A Corridor that involves a train:
Collision Date 20010515 20040120 20050323 Primary Road W CHARLESTON RD W CHARLESTON RD W CHARLESTON RD Secondary Road ALMA ST ALMA ST ALMA ST Killed 0 0 0 Injured 0 1 0
Table.15—Accidents On Caltrain Crossing On “C/A Corridor” Given the reasonably large number of deaths in Palo Alto that involve “pedestrians” and Caltrain, the number of vehicular accidents that have occurred at this crossing, over the years (assuming the data is correct), is quite small. Given the many problems with atgrade crossings in Palo Alto, due to the tracks being located so close to Alma Street, as well as the nearness of the residences to the tracks, it is a wonder that more accidents have not occurred at this intersection. The following links point to web-pages that deal with safety issues associated with this at-grade crossing: Caltrain Safety Issues—The Charleston Road/Alma Street Crossing: http://www.scribd.com/doc/53288495/Caltrain-Safety-Issues-The-April-15th-2011Alma-Street-Charleston-Road-Fatal-Accident Caltrain Passing At-Grade Crossing in Palo Alto at Charleston Road/Alma Street: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28767526@N06/5632658471/in/photostream Caltrain Passing At-Grade Crossing At Charleston Road/Alma Street: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BibQHBA4_D0 This intersection would be much safer if it were grade-separated, offering different paths for the train, vehicles, and pedestrian/bicyclists alike. Allowing the traffic to pass under the Alma Street, and the Caltrain tracks, would see most of the traffic accidents at this intersection eliminated. Additionally, collision-avoidance radars, or other “presence detection” systems that would alert on-coming trains that the crossing is obstructed would also make Caltrain at-grade crossings safer.
Effects of School Crossing Guards on Traffic Accidents On “C/A Corridor”
Traffic Crossing Guard At East Charleston Road & Middlefield Road The Palo Alto Police Department currently spends about $350,000 a year for traffic crossing guards at a number of locations. These guards can be seen at East Charleston/Middlefield, East Charleston/Nelson, East/Charleston/Carlson, East Charleston/Alma, and at the main Terman Middle School crossing, at least. The guards are generally on duty starting about 07:30 AM, for about an hour. They also are on-duty in the afternoons, with start times aligned with the end of school nearest their duty stations. Given that the heaviest traffic load on the “C/A Corridor” is the 07:30AM-08:10AM window, the effect of the traffic guards can not be readily determined, since most of the traffic accidents occur at other times of the day. From observing motorists’ behaviors (typically PAUSD parents) at that time of day, a fair amount of “chaos” can be observed at the intersections nearest the Hoover School (Carlson and Nelson)—which is, to some extent, “mitigated” by the guards. It would be difficult to suggest that these guards have reduced accidents involving vehicles and pedestrians/bicyclists, because of the relatively short period of time these guards are on-duty (and only on school days). However, it is also difficult to suggest that they have not had a “calming” effect on traffic for the 20-25 minutes (07:30AM to 08:10AM) when traffic around the Hoover School and Challenger School is the heaviest. Less attention has been paid to the crossing guards at the Terman Middle School than at the Hoover School to date, but the same comments are believed to be true for the crossing guards at Terman Middle School, as in the Hoover Elementary School zone. Attempts to obtain information about the years the traffic guards have been employed by the Palo Alto Police have been unsuccessful.
Root Causes of Traffic Accidents On “C/A Corridor”
Since original police traffic accident reports are not directly accessible to the general public, the information in the publicly-accessible reports tends to be “terse”, to say the least. To make matters worse, reports produced by the Palo Alto Police are often incomplete for this particular information. The following table provides a list of the accidents on East Charleston Road (Seg.1 and Seg.2) for 2009. The “Primary Accident Cause” is included, so that the number of accidents that can be attributed to “Unsafe Speed” can be easily ascertained.
Intersection N N Y Y N N N Y Y N N N N N N N N N N N N N N N N N N N N Y Y Y Y Distance 200 200 0 0 75 207 207 0 0 69 69 210 210 29 29 300 300 300 27 27 55 55 537 537 30 30 30 10 10 0 0 0 0 0 0 Party Num-ber 1 2 1 2 1 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 3 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 3 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2
Case ID 4023609 4023609 4097419 4097419 4122082 4122090 4122090 4126687 4126687 4233161 4233161 4250456 4250456 4286173 4286173 4318805 4318805 4318805 4329148 4329148 4362004 4362004 4376048 4376048 4393522 4393522 4393522 4451707 4451707 4468414 4468414 4468469 4468469 4481297 4481297
Collision Date 20090120 20090120 20090130 20090130 20090228 20090223 20090223 20090222 20090222 20090511 20090511 20090525 20090525 20090622 20090622 20090719 20090719 20090719 20090723 20090723 20090812 20090812 20090826 20090826 20090916 20090916 20090916 20091023 20091023 20091113 20091113 20091113 20091113 20091028 20091028
Secondary Road ALMA ST ALMA ST SAN ANTONIO RD SAN ANTONIO RD CARLSON CIR SAN ANTONIO RD SAN ANTONIO RD MIDDLEFIELD RD MIDDLEFIELD RD SAN ANTONIO RD SAN ANTONIO RD CARLSON CIR CARLSON CIR SAN ANTONIO RD SAN ANTONIO RD SUTHERLAND DR SUTHERLAND DR SUTHERLAND DR LOUIS RD LOUIS RD FABIAN WY FABIAN WY SAN ANTONIO RD SAN ANTONIO RD SAN ANTONIO RD SAN ANTONIO RD SAN ANTONIO RD MIDDLEFIELD RD MIDDLEFIELD RD FABIAN WY FABIAN WY FABIAN WY FABIAN WY E CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD
At Fault N N N N Y Y N Y N Y N Y N Y N Y N N Y N N N N Y Y N N Y N N N Y N N N
4490913 4490913 4490933 4490933 4506316 4506316
20091103 20091103 20091118 20091118 20091207 20091207
SAN ANTONIO RD SAN ANTONIO RD MIDDLEFIELD RD MIDDLEFIELD RD FABIAN WY FABIAN WY
N N N N Y Y
30 30 14 14 0 0
1 2 1 2 1 2
N N Y N Y N
Table.16—Accidents (By Type)On East Charleston Road During 2009.
Number 2 1 2 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 2 1 2 2 2
Type of Collision Broadside Broadside Broadside Broadside Broadside Broadside Broadside Head-On Head-On Head-On Head-On Other Other Other Rear End Rear End Rear End Rear End Rear End Rear End Rear End Rear End Rear End Rear End Sideswipe Sideswipe Sideswipe Sideswipe Sideswipe Sideswipe Vehicle/Pedestrian Vehicle/Pedestrian
Primary Violation Category Automobile Right of Way Improper Turning Improper Turning Improper Turning Improper Turning Traffic Signals and Signs Unsafe Speed Not Stated Not Stated Unknown Unknown Automobile Right of Way Other Than Driver (or Pedestrian) Other Than Driver (or Pedestrian) Improper Turning Improper Turning Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown Unsafe Speed Unsafe Speed Unsafe Starting or Backing Unsafe Starting or Backing Improper Passing Improper Passing Improper Turning Improper Turning Improper Turning Unknown Pedestrian Right of Way Pedestrian Right of Way
Movement Preceding Collision Stopped Stopped Proceeding Straight Making Right Turn Entering Traffic Proceeding Straight Making Left Turn Proceeding Straight Making Left Turn Proceeding Straight Backing Proceeding Straight Stopped Proceeding Straight Proceeding Straight Parked Stopped Proceeding Straight Parked Other Stopped Proceeding Straight Backing Parked Stopped Passing Other Vehicle Stopped Making Right Turn Parked Making Right Turn Proceeding Straight Making Right Turn
Table.16a—Accidents (By Type) On East Charleston Road During 2009.
The following table lists the accidents, and their primary causes on West Charleston Road (Segment.3) , for 2009-Collision Date 20090209 20090209 20090209 20090209 20090209 20090310 20090310 20090714 20090714 20090909 20090909 20090914 20090914 20090914 20090918 20091117 20091117 20091117 20091118 20091118 Intersection N N N N N N N Y Y Y Y N N N N N N N N N Distance 20 20 20 12 12 39 39 0 0 0 0 19 19 19 130 30 30 30 75 75 Party Number 1 2 3 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 3 1 1 2 3 1 2 At Fault Y N N Y N Y N Y N N N Y N N Y Y N N N N Type of Collision Rear End Rear End Rear End Rear End Rear End Rear End Rear End Rear End Rear End Broadside Broadside Rear End Rear End Rear End Other Rear End Rear End Rear End Sideswipe Sideswipe
Case ID 4110954 4110954 4110954 4110959 4110959 4144896 4144896 4310639 4310639 4386576 4386576 4393562 4393562 4393562 4408242 4468477 4468477 4468477 4490921 4490921
Secondary Road EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82 EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82 EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82 ALMA ST ALMA ST RUTHELMA AV RUTHELMA AV PARK BL PARK BL EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82 EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82 PARK BL PARK BL PARK BL EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82 EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82 EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82 EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82 PARK BL PARK BL
Primary Acc Cause
Unsafe Spee Unsafe Spee Unsafe Spee Unsafe Spee Unsafe Spee Unsafe Spee Unsafe Spee
Improper Tur Unsafe Spee Unsafe Spee Unsafe Spee
Unsafe Spee Unsafe Lane Unsafe Lane
Table.17—Accidents (By Type) on West Charleston Road During 2009.
Number 1 1 1 9 5 1 2 Type of Collision Broadside Broadside Other Rear End Rear End Rear End Sideswipe Primary Violation Category Improper Turning Improper Turning Improper Turning Unsafe Speed Unsafe Speed Unsafe Speed Unsafe Lane Change Movement Preceding Collision Proceeding Straight Making Right Turn Other Unsafe Turning Stopped Proceeding Straight Slowing/Stopping Making Left Turn
Table.17a—Accidents (By Type) on West Charleston Road During 2009.
The following table lists the accidents on Arastradero Road (Segment.4 and Segment.5) for 2009—
Collision Date 20090121 20090121 20090317 20090317 20090212 20090212 20090202 20090202 20090302 20090302 20090416 20090416 20090410 20090410 20090423 20090423 20090428 20090428 20090506 20090506 20090506 20090526 20090526 20090528 20090528 20090528 20090528 20090805 20090805 20090827 20091111 20091125 20091125 20091125 20091215 20091215 20091215 Intersection N N Y Y N N Y Y Y Y N N Y Y Y Y N N N N N N N N N N N N N N N N N N Y Y N Distance 200 200 0 0 21 21 0 0 0 0 528 528 0 0 0 0 792 792 200 200 200 6864 6864 183 183 183 183 40 40 42 28 23 23 23 0 0 150 Party Number 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 3 1 2 1 2 3 4 1 2 1 1 1 2 3 1 2 1 At Fault Y N Y N Y N Y N Y N Y N Y N Y N Y N Y N N N N Y N N N Y N N Y N N N Y N Y Type of Collision Rear End Rear End Head-On Head-On Broadside Broadside Broadside Broadside Rear End Rear End Broadside Broadside Broadside Broadside Broadside Broadside Broadside Broadside Rear End Rear End Rear End Broadside Broadside Rear End Rear End Rear End Rear End Broadside Broadside Other Other Sideswipe Sideswipe Sideswipe Broadside Broadside Other
Case ID 4039697 4039697 4086383 4086383 4105432 4105432 4114299 4114299 4143908 4143908 4193705 4193705 4197980 4197980 4210461 4210461 4216921 4216921 4226639 4226639 4226639 4250444 4250444 4258295 4258295 4258295 4258295 4346121 4346121 4376064 4468406 4490881 4490881 4490881 4504749 4504749 4504769
Secondary Road GEORGIA AV GEORGIA AV POMONA AV POMONA AV ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD GEORGIA AV GEORGIA AV EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82 EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82 MIRANDA AV MIRANDA AV MIRANDA AV MIRANDA AV MANUELA AV MANUELA AV ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD HILLVIEW AV HILLVIEW AV HILLVIEW AV ALPINE RD ALPINE RD COULOMBE DR COULOMBE DR COULOMBE DR COULOMBE DR MIRANDA AV MIRANDA AV HUBBARTT DR ARASTRADERO RD MIRANDA AV MIRANDA AV MIRANDA AV MIRANDA AV MIRANDA AV GEORGIA AV
Primary Accide Following Too C Following Too C
Wrong Side of R Wrong Side of R Improper Turning Improper Turning Wrong Side of R Wrong Side of R Unsafe Speed
Unsafe Speed Improper Turning Improper Turning Traffic Signals a Traffic Signals a Automobile Righ Automobile Righ Unsafe Starting Unsafe Starting Unsafe Speed Unsafe Speed Unsafe Speed Other Than Drive Pedestrian) Other Than Drive Pedestrian) Following Too C Following Too C Following Too C Following Too C Traffic Signals a Traffic Signals a Unknown Other Improper D Other Than Drive Pedestrian) Other Than Drive Pedestrian) Other Than Drive Pedestrian) Traffic Signals a Traffic Signals a Improper Turning
Table.18—Accidents (By Type) on Arastradero Road During 2009.
Number 1 1 3 1 2 1 5 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 3 2 3 1 1 1 2 Type of Collision Broadside Broadside Broadside Broadside Broadside Broadside Broadside Broadside Broadside Broadside Broadside Head-On Head-On Other Other Other Rear End Rear End Rear End Rear End Rear End Rear End Sideswipe Sideswipe Primary Violation Category Automobile Right of Way Automobile Right of Way Improper Turning Improper Turning Other Than Driver (or Pedestrian) Traffic Signals and Signs Traffic Signals and Signs Unsafe Starting or Backing Unsafe Starting or Backing Wrong Side of Road Wrong Side of Road Wrong Side of Road Wrong Side of Road Improper Turning Other Improper Driving Unknown Following Too Closely Following Too Closely Following Too Closely Unsafe Speed Unsafe Speed Unsafe Speed Other Than Driver (or Pedestrian) Other Than Driver (or Pedestrian) Movement Preceding Collision Proceeding Straight Making Left Turn Proceeding Straight Making Left Turn Other Stopped Proceeding Straight Proceeding Straight Backing Proceeding Straight Making Right Turn Making Right Turn Traveling Wrong Way Proceeding Straight Proceeding Straight Proceeding Straight Not Stated Proceeding Straight Slowing/Stopping Stopped Making Right Turn Slowing/Stopping Stopped Proceeding Straight
Table.18a—Accidents (By Type) on Arastradero Road During 2009. Note—The “Primary Accident Cause” appears only in the primary accident record in the database. Each secondary record also has a similar field for each party involved, but these fields tend not to contain any information that would be helpful to understanding the contributions of each party to the accident. In this case, the field “Movement Preceding Collision” was added to provide additional information about each party’s contribution. While “unsafe speed” does appear to be the primary cause of perhaps 30% of the accidents on the “Charleston/Arastradero Corridor”, it does not seem to stand out as the dominant cause of accidents (ie—greater than 50%). (Regrettably, the CHP-provided accident reports do not include any speed-related data for the parties involved, so the term “unsafe speed” can not be understood in terms of actual speeds, or the posted speed limits for the roadway where the accidents occurred.)
Interestingly, the very short Segment.3 (West Charleston) does seem to see a goodly number of accidents that can be attributed to “unsafe speeds (presumably “rear-enders”). Unfortunately, without the actual accident narratives, it is difficult to ascertain if these accidents occurred because of the rather short warning time afforded motorists at the Caltrain tracks—which could result in a large number of “quick stops” required for the trains to pass. The data in Table.16, Table.17 and Table.18 would tend to suggest that “speed” is not the primary cause of traffic accidents on the “C/A Corridor”; whereas, “other human error” would seem to be a very significant contributor to accidents on this roadway. Given the focus of lowering speeds on this roadway segment, it will be interesting to closely track accidents on this segment, in the future, in order to determine if the claims of the Traffic Engineering Department about lane reduction will in fact result in fewer accidents that show the primary cause of “unsafe speed”
Effect of Cell Phone Use on Traffic Accidents On “C/A Corridor”
The following table provides a list of accidents for 2009 along the “Charleston/Arastradero Corridor”, with details about Cell Phone use by the parties involved—
Case ID 4105432 4468406 4216921 4258295 4143908 4114299 4504769 4039697 4226639 4210461 4504749 4197980 4346121 4193705 4086383 4506345 4122082 4250456 4468469 4506316 4329148 4126687 4451707 4490933 4286173 4393522 4233161 4122090 4376048 4318805 4086375 4481013 4039741 4114110 4376024 4226603 4127028 4105408 4504785 Primary Road ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD COULOMBE DR E CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82 EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82 EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82 EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82 FABIAN WY FOOTHILL EXPWY MIDDLEFIELD RD SAN ANTONIO RD SAN ANTONIO RD Secondary Road ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD COULOMBE DR EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82 GEORGIA AV GEORGIA AV GEORGIA AV HILLVIEW AV MANUELA AV MIRANDA AV MIRANDA AV MIRANDA AV MIRANDA AV POMONA AV ARASTRADERO RD CARLSON CIR CARLSON CIR FABIAN WY FABIAN WY LOUIS RD MIDDLEFIELD RD MIDDLEFIELD RD MIDDLEFIELD RD SAN ANTONIO RD SAN ANTONIO RD SAN ANTONIO RD SAN ANTONIO RD SAN ANTONIO RD SUTHERLAND DR ARASTRADERO RD ARASTRADERO RD W CHARLESTON RD W CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD ARASTRADERO RD E CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD E CHARLESTON RD Cell Phone Use Cell Phone Not in Use Not Stated Cell Phone Not in Use Cell Phone Not in Use Cell Phone Not in Use Cell Phone Not in Use Cell Phone Not in Use Cell Phone Not in Use Cell Phone Not in Use Cell Phone Not in Use Cell Phone Not in Use Cell Phone Not in Use Cell Phone Not in Use Cell Phone Not in Use Cell Phone Not in Use Cell Phone Not in Use Cell Phone Not in Use Not Stated Cell Phone Not in Use Cell Phone Not in Use Cell Phone Not in Use Cell Phone Not in Use Not Stated Not Stated Cell Phone Not in Use Cell Phone Not in Use Cell Phone Not in Use Cell Phone Not in Use Cell Phone Not in Use Not Stated Cell Phone Not in Use Cell Phone Not in Use Cell Phone Not in Use Cell Phone Not in Use Cell Phone Not in Use Cell Phone Not in Use Cell Phone Not in Use Not Stated Cell Phone Not in Use
4110959 4110954 4468477 4408242 4310639 4393562 4144896
W CHARLESTON RD W CHARLESTON RD W CHARLESTON RD W CHARLESTON RD W CHARLESTON RD W CHARLESTON RD W CHARLESTON RD
ALMA ST EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82 EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82 EL CAMINO REAL/RT 82 PARK BL PARK BL RUTHELMA AV
Cell Phone Not in Use Cell Phone Not in Use Cell Phone Not in Use Cell Phone Not in Use Cell Phone Not in Use Cell Phone Not in Use Cell Phone Not in Use
Table.19—Cell Phone Use Involved In Accidents On the “C/A Corridor” During 2009. A simple visual inspection of this data demonstrates that Cell Phone use did not contribute to traffic accidents on the “C/A Corridor” during 2009. 29.0 “C/A Corridor” End-To-End’ Travel Times
Frustration with slow travel times can be an indirect contributor to traffic accidents, as drivers might well be expected to execute various maneuvers, such as illegal/unsafe Uturns to avoid traffic blockages that result in accidents, or to speed in order to “make up time” that was “lost” because of long delays (such as waiting for two Caltrain trains to pass the Charleston/Alma crossing, one immediately after the other). This sort of indirect contributory factor does not appear in traffic accident reports, but is being added to this study, since the “Charleston/Arastradero Corridor” lane reductions can easily result in increased “End-to-End” transit times, which can result in increased driver frustration, and ultimately increased traffic accidents, or driving behaviors, which can be considered as “unsafe”. The following narratives was provided by a Palo Alto motorist, who was asked to drive the “C/A Corridor” from one end to the other to provide a base line for this travel time: Transit Times Before Lane Reduction Experiment
The length of the road from Sun to Gunn (East Charleston/San Antonio) was driven a few times at 30 MPH or less. The time it took varied from about 6 1/2 to 8 minutes during the day and less than two minutes more during the commute times. In determining the elapsed time the single most important factor is the major intersections of: Middlefield, Alma, and El Camino. While the lights at the other intersections, Nelson, Carlson, Wilkie, etc. do cause delays, but not at more of 1/3 to 1/2 of them. They are of shorter duration than the big three. (The 6 minute trip was blessed by sailing through most of the signals on the green!)
(Note -- People behind me were impatient to get around me.)
After Trial Started
I did a few timed runs from Middlefield to Miranda and back in the morning from 8:30 AM. The times both ways were about 10 to 14 minutes, but this may not be representative because school was over and there weren't a lot of kids bicycling. Nor did I see many cars pulling into the various school lots. The biggest delays were at the Arastradero/E. Charleston/Alma crossing when trains came by and gates stopped traffic for one to two minutes. I chose the mornings because go-home school traffic would occur before the afternoon traffic bubble and not affect it.
While this is anecdotal data, it would appear that the “End-To-End” transit time has increased somewhat after the lane reductions have gone into place. Certainly this test should be run on school days, during the peak morning commute times of 07:30 (AM) to 08:05 (AM), and during the 5:00 (PM) to 6:00 (PM) afternoon commute times to be fully relevant to determining the effects of any lane reductions. To what end the “End-to-End” travel times have increased driver frustrations that have led to unwise decisions that have resulted in traffic accidents is an open question.
The following section discusses various points that might need clarification, or problems encountered while performing this study. The “C/A Corridor” is clearly a complex road system, compared to other roads/streets in Palo Alto. However, the number of traffic accidents that have occurred along this roadway are not particularly great, so there is no reason that either the Palo Alto Police, and/or the Traffic Engineering Department should not be expected to track the accidents along this roadway (as well as all of Palo Alto) using the traffic accident report data, as well as other traffic volume data, to provide decision makers with reliable, and timely, information about the safety of all of the roads in Palo Alto—including the “Charleston/Arastradero Corridor”. This study is an attempt to review the history of traffic accidents along this roadway, as a part of a larger study of traffic accidents in Palo Alto, in order to better understand what has actually happened here in Palo Alto over the past fifteen years, where traffic accidents are concerned. It seems clear that decline in of traffic accidents along the “Charleston/Arastradero Corridor” is related to the decline in the traffic volume, which is related to the general decline in the regional economy. Why Traffic Engineering has not made a better effort to record and document traffic volumes since 1999 is not clear, from the public record. Claims about Lane Reduction on Charleston/Arastradero increasing safety have not been buttressed with any data that provides a “safety baseline”, so it will be difficult to see any meaningful effect of the changes in the road configuration vs the yearly change in traffic volume. For instance, the addition of left-turn lanes might reduce head-on collisions, but the increase queue lengths, and increased stops along this section of road could increase rear-end collisions. At the moment, Traffic Engineering has done little to provide the public adequate information about what “safety” is on the “Charleston/Arastradero Corridor”. This study has been conducted to provide the public some of the information needed to fully appreciate the changes introduced into this roadway. There has been no attempt on the part of the City to look at redesigning the Charleston/Alma Caltrain intersection as a part of this exercise, which would change the dynamics of traffic flow significantly, as well as increase the safety of motorists, pedestrians and cyclists, as well. Various suggestions have emerged, particularly after the 04.15.2011 fatal accident that resulted in the death of a visitor to Palo Alto. The most obvious of those suggestions would be to add a stop light on the west side of the tracks on West Charleston, so that motorists would not stop on the tracks waiting for the light to change, which they often do today. Given the state of traffic simulation software, its difficult to understand why Palo Alto does not run simulations (in-house) in order to better understand traffic flows, and potential increases/decreases in traffic accidents. Certainly this is a tool-set that should be obvious to anyone living/working in the Silicon Valley, and it would helpful to know
prior to committing dollars to a design--to what extent can that design might influence traffic flow and traffic accidents. While speed data for accidents is not available to the public at the current time, this information is sorely missed when trying to develop correlations between “speed” and accidents. Given that this particular analysis has focused on the “Charleston/Arastradero Corridor”, it would be most helpful to future deliberations about this roadway to better understand how many accidents occur at under 35 mph, and how many occur over 35 mph—since it is clear from observing traffic along Arastradero, anyway, that 35 mph is the dominant speed for most cars—and that the four-lane roadway could easily handle cars driving at this speed. Any discussion of raising the speed limit seems absent at the current time. The inability to access traffic accident narratives produced by the Palo Alto Police has presented a certain barrier to fully understanding traffic accidents city-wide. There is little that can be done at the moment to rectify this situation, without legislative help. There is a dearth of speed limit signs on Arstradero Road. At least two of the speed limit signs are so obscured by foliage that they can not be seen by on-coming cars. It would seem to be a good investment in signage to replace the “static” signs with the new electronic signs that monitor/record vehicle speeds. The police could do a better job of producing accident reports. As noted in the section on “dirty data”, an incredible about of time/energy was spent “cleaning” the data obtained from the CHP so that searches/sorting would generate correct results. Better, more accurate, data could be collected by shifting to tablet/PCs, with specialized software designed to facilitate the entry/collection of correct information from the parties involved. With the advent of “event recorders” in vehicles (as will be required in the near future), more information should be available to the police, which should be available via electronic means, under most conditions. Hopefully that information will be available to the public, in some form or another, which will allow for more refinement in accident reporting. This study suggests that Traffic Engineering assign use the historic traffic accident data to assign “Safety” rating to all intersections/street segments in Palo Alto. While Traffic Engineering current is tracking, at some periodic intervals, the Level-of-Service (LOS) for some key intersections in town, Traffic Engineering (or the Police) do not seem to use the readily available data to traffic “safety” at the intersections in town. While developing the computer analysis tools initially might incur some cost, a well-designed suite of tools would not require a lot of maintenance in the future, and the results of the analysis of this data would be most beneficial to Traffic Engineering and the Public. Data offered by the Palo Alto police at various public meetings reveals that about 66% of the motorists cited for traffic infractions in Palo Alto are non-residents. Resident vs NonResident data is not available in the current publicly available traffic reports. Knowing this number might lead to the conclusion that more signage might be in order, to better
prepare non-residents for the slower speeds expected of motorists in Palo Alto. Given the rather high traffic accident count on West Charleston, as well as the danger motorists face when crossing the Caltrain line during the frequent passage of trains, this study strongly suggests that additional signage on West Charleston alerting motorists to their speed is desirable. Even if there is a concern about “visual clutter”, nine (9) to twelve (12) accidents a year on a three (3) block stretch of road should be seen as too many— requiring some mitigation efforts on the part of Traffic Engineering. Neither Traffic Engineering, nor the Police, have developed a case linking “Speed” to accidents/”safety” on the “C/A Corridor” at this time. This study tends to suggest that “human error” is more at fault than “unsafe/excessive speed” by the parties involved in most of the accidents on the “Charleston/Arastradero Corridor”. Neither has the Traffic Engineering Department adequately investigated the possibility that the 25-mph speed limit contributes to a mismatch in the speeds of motorists using this roadway, which contributes to the accidents where “human error” seems to be a significant contributory factor. While many might suggest that Palo Alto is a town with “too many cooks in the kitchen”, the lack of historic traffic data available to the public demonstrates a need for “citizens” to conduct studies like this one to produce the data needed for making good decisions concerning public policy. One of the perceived goals of Traffic Engineering in Palo Alto has been an aggressive effort to downsize roads all over Palo Alto. Embarcadero Road, Middlefield Road, and El Camino Real have all been downsizing targets of either the City’s employees, or those who have considered themselves as “politically connected” in the past. This begs the question, is Palo Alto using Lane Reductions to “drive” traffic (and business) out of town?
Since this is an on-going work, the following topics are candidates for continued investigation into traffic accidents in Palo Alto, and the “C/A Corridor” Traffic Accidents/Safety issues: • • • Addition of Traffic Stop Data On the C/A Corridor Addition of Vehicle Speed Data More Detailed Analysis of Accident Data As To Root Cause o Unsafe Speed o 2nd Party Contributions o Improper Turns/Movements Better Methods Of Displaying Results Graphically “Harmonizing” All SQL Queries For Consistency of Results More Video Surveillance of Traffic On C/A Corridor Monitoring Traffic Accidents After Lane Reduction Continuous Traffic Monitoring of the C/A Corridor”: (http://www.scribd.com/doc/50098139) Promoting Use of Traffic Simulation Software by City For Better Road/Intersection Design More detailed analysis of accidents, including ages/injuries of parties involved. Determining effects of “Choke Points” On Accidents. Effects of “Adaptive Speed Controls” on Accident Rates. Availability of Increased Information About Traffic Accidents From “Black Boxes” Linkages between Intersection LOS ratings, and Traffic Accidents Advocating For More On-line Police/Traffic Engineering Data Conclusion
• • • • • • • • • • • • 32.0
This study was initiated due to the failure of the City of Palo Alto to produce historical traffic accident information as a part of any justification for reconfiguring roads around the city. The results of the study provide an historical baseline for tracking accidents on the “Charleston/Arastradero Corridor”, which is sorely missing from the City’s justification for any road reconfiguration. Such information is believed to be necessary to any discussion/debate about changes in road configurations could be couched in fact, rather than allow the process to be driven by a vocal minority, well-versed in the practice of manipulating public opinion. This study reveals that about 4%-8% of the yearly accidents occurring in Palo Alto occur on this roadway. The number of fatal accidents on the “Charleston/Arastradero Corridor” has been quite low, although the number of bicycle/pedestrian-involved accidents is a little higher than other parts of the city. Because California law restricts access to accident narratives by the public, details needed to fully understand the circumstances of
these accidents, and how intersection/road design might have help to prevent such accidents, is outside the scope of this level of analysis. (Presumably the Police could provide some sort of information to the public/Traffic Engineering, however.) As computer technology, and on-line data availability, has become almost ubiquitous in modern life, it has become patently clear that important public sector policies/decisions should be more data-driven than they have been in the past. In order to increase the information available to the public, and the City of Palo Alto decision makers, this traffic accident study was performed in order to add a dimension of historic reality that is missing from the current thinking in the making of municipal decisions where trafficrelated issues are involved. Additionally, Traffic Engineering should use state-of-the-art monitoring equipment, and traffic simulation software as a part of the decision process that must justify decisions to modify road configurations. Clearly missing from this discussion has been the impact of increasing the speed limit on Arastradero Road to 30 mph, or 35 mph. Technology will soon be providing motorists with tools, such as collision avoidance radar, and automated vehicular guidance systems, that will reduce “human error” to the point that it can be predicted with some confidence that many of the sorts of accidents that we have seen on the “Charleston/Arastradero Corridor” will no longer occur. Palo Alto should be considering these possibilities— sooner, rather than later. Traffic accident data should be presented in a readily understandable format on the City’s web-site, as well as constantly reviewed by both Palo Alto Police and Traffic Engineering. Crime data is current made available by a 3rd-party, so perhaps this group could be persuaded to provide a similar offering for traffic accidents. If not, then City should assume the responsibility to provide this information to the residents, guest workers and businesses. Clearly, Palo Altans have no idea about the overall decline in traffic accidents, as evidenced by the many erroneous claims made by the supporters of road “downsizing” here in Palo Alto. While this study did not find a large number of traffic accidents involving trains on the Caltrain Crossing, it is clear from watching traffic at this intersection that there is a definite need to redesign the Charleston/Alma Caltrain crossing. Recent safety improvements at this location, performed by the Caltrain/VTA, were focused only on pedestrian safety. Safety improvements for motorists were not included in this project. Historically, safety improvements for motorists don’t seem to have generated much interest at Caltrain/VTA—based on the number of projects intended to reduce accidents at the many at-grade crossings along this line. Although most Palo Altans are not supportive of ABAG (Association of Bay Area Governments) directives to zone for possibly as many as 11,000 new housing units inside the current City boundaries, Palo Altans might also come to question the wisdom of downsizing local roads in case the City is forced to accommodate thousands of new dwelling units, and even more cars.
It is hard not to see that Palo Alto Traffic Engineering is somewhat underfunded, and probably not using state-of-the-art tools needed to maximize the skill sets of the team members. More focus on Traffic Engineering and less on “Alternative Transportation” might be a good place to begin refocusing their efforts and department mission, coupled with perhaps funding for two more team members. Even though this study has taken more than two hundred hours of “private investment”, over the months, to develop the databases, and to develop the queries that have produced the data tables in this study, this “investment” is deemed worthwhile since Traffic Engineering (or the Police) has not seen itself inclined to provide the public the necessary baselines for accidents, and traffic flows, that allow the residents to understand what has happened over the years, relative to traffic volumes, and road safety.
Prepared By: Wayne Martin Palo Alto, CA www.scribd.com/wmartin46 www.twitter.com/wmartin46 www.youtube.com/wmartin46 On-the-NET: US Department of Transportation (DOT) Ruling 49 On Event Data Recorders ("Black Boxes"): http://www.scribd.com/doc/56459674/US-Department-of-Transportation-DOT-Ruling49-On-Event-Data-Recorders-Black-Boxes-2011 Microwave Traffic Counters: http://www.flickr.com/photos/57622436@N00/4974375343/ http://www.irdinc.com/products/sensors_accessories/non-intrusive_sensors/tms-sa.php Police Tablet/PCs—Going Paperless:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/60385905 Release History: Release 1.0—July, 2011