Increased traffic in Bay Area slows emergency response times

Byby Leslie Brinkley KGO logo
Thursday, September 24, 2015
Increased traffic in Bay Area slows emergency response times
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With a booming economy Bay Area roads have become so congested and rescued have turned into a real life or death matter on the roads.

MENLO PARK, Calif. (KGO) -- The Bay Area's booming economy is adding more cars on the road, but that added congestion is more than just a headache. First responders in the Bay Area say it's becoming a matter of life or death.

Video from a dash camera on a Menlo Park Fire Protection District engine shows how narrow lanes and median strips impeded the response to an accident on the Dumbarton Bridge.

It took first responders 16 minutes to get to the scene, but their goal is seven minutes.

"There's nowhere for the traffic to go, it is gridlock. So as you saw in the video, six minutes out of 16, we traveled the wrong way down the road. There is no other alternative," Menlo Park Fire Protection District Chief Harold Schapelhouman said.

On Tuesday it took emergency crews 10 minutes to get to a fatal motor cycle accident on Highway 101 in Palo Alto.

"When your actual response time is double the response time you want to have, it's a problem," president of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District Board Virginia Chang said.

"It's a thriving economy. It's people who can look at an app on their phone and find a way around the traffic and end up on your residential street. Years ago, only we knew those shortcuts," Schapelhouman said.

Atherton considered reducing traffic on parts of busy El Camino from six lanes to only four to add bike lanes -- things emergency responders say would make their job harder.

Fire officials hope that building public awareness about the obstacle courses emergency vehicles have to navigate will make communities think twice about adding things like tree-lined medians and bike lanes.