Telegraph Avenue Corridor Improvements

The Oakland City Council voted 8-0 to support making protected bike lanes on Telegraph Avenue permanent. The bike lanes are part of a complete streets treatment implemented earlier this year after extensive outreach to the KONO and Temescal communities. It also reduces general purpose lanes from 4 to 2, creates additional pedestrian crossings that are also safer, and reconfigures Shattuck Avenue Plaza. 

As a longtime resident of this area, I’ve been seeing a big difference when I access Telegraph as a pedestrian, cyclist, and driver.  Vehicle traffic moves at a slower but steadier pace because there is no longer a second lane for passing.  As a pedestrian, I feel much safer now that there are few instances of unsafe passing at mid-block crossings.  As a cyclist, I no longer feel intimidated sharing space with automobiles.   

What do you think? Is the new configuration too confusing, or will it result in a safer and more effective Telegraph/Temescal corridor for everyone? See the below before and after photos that illustrate how things have changed.

 

How COVID is Changing Our Commute

The view from CHS Consulting Group’s office

Now that the vaccine roll-out has begun, it feels we are slowly inching closer to the end of COVID-19. The pandemic has had a huge impact on our work-life and commute. We’ll need to understand how our society has been transformed and how our transportation systems must adapt to better serve the people who use them.

Work from home (WFH) is here to stay. 

Office professionals have become accustomed to the flexibility of a full-time work from home (WFH) schedule during the pandemic and employers have adapted to it by necessity. But even many high-tech companies have found that daily Zoom calls cannot offer the same collaborative environment and social interaction of the physical office. A hybrid WFH/WFO model will likely become the new normal. 

The Continued Popularity of Active Transportation Modes

Walking, cycling, and other active modes of travel have become more popular during the pandemic, but while the initial shelter in place (SIP) reduced vehicle traffic, particularly during typical rush hour commutes, volumes have rebounded to nearly pre-COVID levels. Street calming measures will be vital to encourage the continued growth of human-powered forms of travel, including slow streets, flex streets, and complete street pilot programs.

The Need for More Transit Investment (Operations and Infrastructure)

Transit commute mode share has dropped significantly due to fears of COVID-19 transmission and key indicators such as increased personal vehicle purchases and reduced ridesharing also indicate a move away from trains and buses to single occupancy vehicles (SOVs). The American Public Transit Association has stated that transit can be used safely during the pandemic as long as passengers wear face coverings and contact tracing programs in many countries have not found clusters of cases linked to transit. Transit agencies are in need of immediate and long-term financial support to continue serving essential workers and re-establish regular commute service.

Driving alone is more popular than ever, so now what?

COVID-19 has made it even more difficult to disincentivize driving to work alone. As workers return to the office, an active management approach will be needed to reduce gridlock and minimize the growth of vehicle miles traveled (VMT), including congestion management and roadway pricing, transportation demand management (both carrots and sticks), and parking pricing strategies. It will be essential to financially support and promote the safety and benefits of transit and alternative modes.

Bay Area Shared Streets and Outdoor Commerce During COVID-19

As transportation patterns have shifted due to COVID-19, programs and pilots reclaiming right of way (ROW) are being rolled out to adapt to various community needs both to rebalance transportation access and reallocate ROW to meet new public health requirements.  

While many Bay Area communities already had permit programs for street closures, sidewalk commerce and parklets – a new concerted effort has been launched by cities to streamline the regulatory process and reduce and eliminate fees to make way for programs that have essentially become a lifeline for businesses that need on-street and outdoor commerce to survive. 

These initiatives have taken on a greater focus and urgency with the extent of pandemic and the limitations and restrictions that most communities continue to have with indoor dining.  Several formal and ad-hoc programs have been adopted throughout the Bay Area including: 

SFMTA’s Shared Spaces 

Shared Spaces is a multiagency program of San Francisco’s Economic Recovery Task Force. The SFMTA requires permit applications for businesses that do not already have them for outdoor seating or that need to use the parking lane or have a street closure.  The following Figure provided by the SFMTA illustrates the total permits issued for public spaces/ROW from the program since its inception. A complete list of current and concluded shared street projects can be found on the shared spaces website: https://www.sfmta.com/projects/shared-spaces  

Oakland Flex Streets Initiative 

OakDOT launched the Flex Streets Initiative in June to streamline the permitting process for sidewalk, parking lane, and roadway encroachments.  The goal was to support economic recovery by making it easier for local businesses to use larger portions of the sidewalk, parking lanes and streets.  There are four new Flex Streets locations: 

  • 13thStreet, between Broadway and Franklin Street (13th Street Commons) 
  • Washington Street, between 8th and 9th streets in Old Oakland 
  • Telegraph Avenue, between 16th and 17th streets (Van Kleef Way) 
  • Webster Street, between West Grand Avenue and 22nd Street 

The Temescal Telegraph Business Improvement District is organizing a “picnic on Telegraph” on October 25th where the neighborhood businesses temporarily close down a portion of Telegraph Avenue from 39th to 51st Streets (11AM-8PM) for dining, shopping and other activities. 

San Jose Al-Fresco Dining 

The City of San Jose launched the Al Fresco Dining program in June and has made some adjustments including later hours of operation and extending the program through December 31st.  The Al Fresco program accepts permit applications for the use of public and private parking lots, parks and plazas, sidewalks, and street closures.  The application is free for customer service, retail, education, and other business functions. 

Redwood City – Eat Sip & Be in RWC 

Redwood City established the Eat Sip & Be in RWC established an open-air dining experience for restaurants to open their businesses to the street as illustrated on the program website:  https://visitrwc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/eat-sip-be-map-v2.pdf.  The dates for the program are every day from June 26 – December 31, 2020.   

Palo Alto Uplift Local – Temporary Street Closures 

The Palo Alto uplift local program is a city council supported effort that has evolved from the original summer streets program and is now extended through December 31, 2020.  The purpose is to enable outdoor dining and commerce at Palo Alto’s various commercial districts:  California Avenue, University Avenue and Ramona Streets. 

Additional Ad-Hoc Weekend Street Closures 

Both the City of Pleasanton and Town of Danville have approved partial street closures for weekends in the effort to support economic recovery.  The size/extent of the closures have been adjusted over the summer with feedback from local businesses.  

Conclusion 

Outdoor space, sidewalks, and public right of way continue to be a lifeline for our communities as we struggle through this epidemic.  Whether our communities have a formal or ad hoc/adjustable approach, its clear that these shared street programs are essential in assisting our businesses find a way to tap into the community by safely following the county health code guidelines and enabling them to keep their doors open.