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City Traffic:
City to reduce level of service
by Nottin Moveeng
January 2006

The WGNA has
taken a position
on the proposed
exemption from
Level of Service:


Esssentially, the WGNA
questions the stated
purpose of the
proposed change;
questions why the
policy would allow
degradation of service
to Level F ("total breakdown");
questions the number
of intersections (13)
proposed for the trial
run of the idea
(why not 4 or 5?);
questions the way that
the new mitigation fees
would be calculated
(developers will pay
significantly less
than before).

San Jose has grown beyond what its street infrastructure can accommodate. Rather than limit further growth, the City is choosing to make traffic jams and gridlock legally acceptable.

The City wants to release developers from the current requirement to maintain a "level of service" at certain intersections. Why? The City says that these intersections are developed to their maximum level of service for autos already, and that further efforts will just destroy the ability of the intersections to serve transit riders, bus riders, etc.

Instead, the City wants to obligate developers to improve the "level of service" for alternative forms of transit. So the money might be spent on trees, lighting and more pedestrian-friendly streetscapes, more bike lanes and so on.

Could this be a give-away to developers? Likely. The proposal would have developers contribute $2000 per "peak time trip," which for a 100-unit complex would amount to around $200,000. City staff say the $2000 figure is derived from what developers typically pay for traffic improvements in San Jose. The $2000 figure is almost certainly lower than what developers would have to pay to try to maintain LOS at the proposed exempt intersections.

Under the current system, developers hit monetary roadblocks as they grow an area over the capacity of its infrastructure. That's because they need to try to improve streets if they tip the traffic situation over the acceptable level of service. Under the proposal, developers will no longer hit these roadblocks - they can increase the traffic at an exempted intersection, even though the traffic may be at an unacceptable level of service already. The developer would just pay the "peak time trip" fee.

The good parts of the proposal are: giving the city and neighborhoods flexibility in handling funds, rather than limiting them to spend it in a vain chase after levels of service we probably will never see again anyway; diverting funds from cars to alternative transit (especially bike and pedestrian) modes; acknowledging that the city's declining level of service is increasing the need for traffic calming in neighborhoods.

Direct your questions and comments to Manuel Pineda of the Department of Transportation at 408-277-3839.

from Ken Yeager's office

Greetings. As you may be aware, the City's current Transportation Impact Policy requires that a proposed development must improve traffic flow conditions to mitigate the increased automobile traffic, usually resulting in physical improvements at intersections such as widening the street or additional turn lanes. The proposed change to the City's policy recognizes that changes to certain intersections may negatively impact adjacent properties, sidewalks, and transit stops and that it may be more desirable to have other multi-modal transportation improvements funded instead. This could include traffic calming measures such as gateway features, pedestrian level lighting, bike lanes and other enhancements.

DOT is proposing that 13 specific intersections in the city of San José, five of which are located in District 6, be exempt from being subject to future traffic flow improvements.

The intersections in District 6 are: The Alameda/Hedding Street; Bird Avenue/San Carlos Street; Lincoln Avenue/Willow Street; Meridian Avenue/San Carlos Street; Stevens Creek Boulevard/Winchester Boulevard.

In addition, the comment period for the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) has been extended until December 6. The EIR is available at the Planning Department in City Hall and a number of libraries, including the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library and the Willow Glen Branch Library, or online at

Ken Yeager
District 6
408-277-2206 phone
408-292-3781 fax

Copyright 2006