Palo Alto community creates survey to spotlight traffic congestion, city calls for special transportation town hall

PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- The City of Palo Alto hosted a special transportation town hall on Monday to address concerns from its community.

Back in July, Mayor Liz Kniss suggested residents may have exaggerated about congestion throughout the city. She stated, "I think some of our reports of traffic are really exaggerated."

Her comment caused neighbors in the Crescent Park community to take action. Many who live in that part of the city told ABC7 News the hectic traffic runs through the heart of their community.

Although Mayor Kniss has apologized for calling residents' concern an exaggeration, Crescent Park neighbors suggest a recent survey will prove traffic is a serious problem.

"The real problem is, you never know what it's going to be," neighbor Greg Welch said. "I know from a lot of my neighbors, that unpredictability is really part of the problem. You don't know what to plan for."

Welch and nearly 200 other Crescent Park neighbors participated in a nine question survey about area gridlock. The survey was sent out after Mayor Liz Kniss's critical comment at that July council meeting.

RELATED: Less traffic in Palo Alto? City greenlights plan to synchronize traffic signals

The survey found 88-percent of participants consider traffic in Palo Alto a significant issue that negatively impacts their quality of life.

The full results of the survey can be read here.

Community concerns include the time it takes drivers to reach freeways, or travel a short distance. Other complaints involve bike safety and the possibility of impeded access for emergency vehicles.
"I was probably wrong," Mayor Kniss told ABC7 News on Monday. "I apologized and said, 'Let's have a town hall to talk about it.'"

John Guislin spear-headed the community survey which questioned action by city leaders. Among the list of recommendations by residents, the most common was freezing development.

"We're never going to build enough housing to catch up to the job growth in Palo Alto," Guislin said. "So, you have to pause that job growth and go back and build the houses, fix the infrastructure to make it workable."

After Monday's Town Hall, Guislin says the next step would be to get traffic experts involved. This is something that may prove difficult, as the city has gone without a Chief Transportation Officer in the last six to eight weeks.

ABC7 News was there in August when the City of Palo Alto announced plans to synchronize traffic signals across more than a dozen city blocks, between Middlefield Road and the Dumbarton Bridge.
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