Stoplights planned to change on Embarcadero

Current trio of traffic lights congest traffic

The city of Palo Alto’s Planning and Transportation Commission is reviewing the section of Embarcadero between Palo Alto High School and Town and Country for possible adjustments.

The 1000-foot section is currently regulated by three traffic lights that often slow traffic to a near standstill. Since the addition of the crosswalk near Trader Joe’s in 2009, the city has received many complaints regarding the bottleneck of traffic that forms during the morning and afternoon rush hours due to the three lights in close proximity.

In a report released Aug. 27,  by the Palo Alto Transportation Commission, the city describes several plans it is currently considering for adjustments to the street. These changes range from simple additions of audio cues to walk or stop on the Trader Joe’s crossing to the removal of the current traffic light and crosswalk altogether as well as the construction of a new crosswalk on the existing intersection connecting the Paly and Town and Country parking lots.

With the new construction of walkways in the Paly parking lot and the increased frustration from drivers with the trio of traffic lights, it is likely that the city will opt to move the crosswalk to the main Town and Country intersection, connecting the new walking and bike paths at Paly to a pedestrian crossing.

Palo Alto residents have repeatedly complained to the city in public letters, calling the section of Embarcadero everything from “a bad joke,” to a “nightmare,” focusing their frustration in particular on the crosswalk near Trader Joe’s.

Critics of the pedestrian crosswalk to Trader Joe’s in particular have called it “unnecessary” due to the lack of students needing to cross for half of the day.

Students may have already noticed Paly staff directing them away from the Trader Joe’s crosswalk in the morning, an adjustment made to redirect the pedestrians in the morning so that traffic can move quickly.

The city has seen that by minimizing the amount of pedestrians using the crosswalk that traffic flows much more smoothly.

Plans to further streamline the street may also affect the Paly campus in addition to its students, as the city discussed the possibility of widening the street to accommodate for new turn lanes and the adjustment of corners to help the flow of traffic.

Adding an extra lane to Embarcadero would cut into Paly’s borders and could reduce the size of the parking lot. The parking lot and Southeast corner of Paly were also deemed dangerous by the committee due to the sharpness of their turns, forcing cars to enter the intersection before making their turns.

The report suggested rebuilding these corners with a larger radius in order to soften the sharpness of the corners and allow for smoother traffic flow out of the parking lot and onto Embarcadero.These proposed changes are likely due to parent and adult concerns, as students largely seem indifferent to changes to Embarcadero.

However, students would prefer the quickest route possible to Town and Country.

Marcelo Buxton, a senior at Paly who drives to school, did not see a benefit to the changes.

“Moving the [El Camino] crosswalk sounds like too much work, “Buxton said. “Just walk a few more yards to the crosswalk that’s already there.”