Transportation Element

The State requires this Element to address transport of people and goods and related infrastructure such as streets and highways, truck and transit routes, bus and rail stations, bicycle and pedestrian facilities, and airports. Its policies take into account the physical, social, and economic effects of circulation, as well as regional impacts and coordination needs. The Element supports traffic safety, roadway improvement, parking and transportation management solutions, special transportation needs for mobility-impaired persons, and efforts to increase bus and rail use.

A significant focus of the Transportation Element is congestion, which contributes to air, water, and noise pollution, and to frustration for drivers, bicyclists, and other travelers. Increases in roadway capacity are not anticipated in Palo Alto, so the Transportation Element addresses congestion with policies aimed at reducing automobile dependency, increasing travel alternatives, and encouraging fewer trips.

The Current Plan: A Solid Foundation

The Transportation Element lays the foundation for a multi-modal circulation network that serves vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users. Transportation and land use are inextricably linked, as higher density and mixed use generally lead to more transit usage and pedestrian activity. The Transportation Element encourages a land use pattern that supports reduced dependence on cars and guides City decision-makers to take into account the environmental and social costs of increased traffic when considering future projects.

The Element capitalizes on the fact that Palo Alto is the second largest generator of weekday Caltrain trips behind San Francisco and a nationally recognized leader in innovative bicycle projects and programs. Transportation Element policies call for more northeast-southwest bike routes, easier navigation at railroad tracks and freeways, and better accommodation for bicycles on trains and buses. Much of Palo Alto is ideal for pedestrians, but additional policies emphasize filling in gaps in the sidewalk system and making intersection crossing easier.

The Transportation Element in the Comprehensive Plan continues to support the community’s vision of a less congested and more walkable, transit-rich environment, with the majority of its policies being carried over into Our Palo Alto 2030, including:

  • Reducing auto use through carpooling, increased emphasis on electronic information services, and education about transportation alternatives.
  • Encouraging employers to develop shuttle services connecting employment areas with the multi-modal transit stations and business districts.
  • Supporting efforts to integrate train, bus, and shuttle schedules at multi-modal transit stations to make public transit use more time-efficient.
  • Acquiring easements for bicycle and pedestrian paths through new private developments.
  • Reducing neighborhood street and intersection widths and widening planting strips to slow speeds and improve safety.
  • Providing sufficient parking in business districts to address long-range needs.

Our Palo Alto 2030

The effort to update the Comprehensive Plan is expected to build on the forward-thinking Transportation Element, fine-tuning it to respond to emerging trends and community concerns, including by:

  • Requiring proposed development to demonstrate that adequate public services are available and that its design supports walking, biking, and transit.
  • Supporting reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and promoting electric and alternative fuel vehicle technology.
  • Reinforcing “complete streets” concepts and policies to position the City to qualify for regional grant funding.
  • Supporting Caltrain modernization, including by exploring the potential for grade-separated crossings.
  • Supporting the regional Grand Boulevard Initiative for El Camino Real, including Bus Rapid Transit Improvements to enhance VTA service.
  • Transitioning the Municipal Airport from County to City control.
  • Strengthening policies on preservation of neighborhood residential streets, Safe Routes to School, and general traffic safety.

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Vision Statement

Maintain and promote a sustainable network of safe, accessible and efficient transportation and parking solutions for all users and modes, while protecting and enhancing the quality of life in Palo Alto neighborhoods including alternative and innovative transportation practices and supporting regional transit facilities and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Click here to view the current Transportation Element.