“Connecting Communities” panel discussion raises questions and concerns

by Lynne Bramlett on November 10, 2019

Menlo Park train station
The Nov 7th panel discussion on “Getting Downtowns Moving with Convenient and Sustainable Access” drew a lively crowd. About 30 people attended the discussion, which focused on strategies to improve downtown access that also help reduce congestion and improve the environment.

Attendees ranged from the City of Santa Clara to Burlingame, with many from Menlo Park. A friendly person collecting names and emails told me that he was an environmental studies student from De Anza College, working for one of the co-hosting organizations to get volunteer credit.

The panelists were Ozzy Arce, Associate Transportation Planner, City of Walnut Creek; Christian Hammack, City of Redwood; Karen Camacho, Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County; and Steve Raney, Palo Alto Transportation Management Association

Presenting in turn, the panelists highlighted implemented methods and ones being considered. The discussion was locally hosted and moderated by members of the Menlo Together organization. The panelists’ passion for their topic was evident.

The urgency of global climate change was the overriding goal for needed change. Many ideas pertained to ways to reduce solo drivers and general traffic via parking strategies. One was that the “best opportunity [for innovative ideas] is with new development” via developer agreements. Another stressed municipal code changes as a way to increase innovation via development.

Ozzy Arre, panelist from the City of Walnut Creek, joked that he “left yesterday to make it today.” He also commented that he was amazed to see all the private shuttle busses as he arrived in Menlo Park. That sparked another panelist to say how surprised he was that Genetech Company “opens up their [shuttle] busses to other people.” The unspoken thought is that if this works in South San Francisco, it can also work elsewhere.

Karen Camacho from the Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County, shared some successful housing developments on small lots with limited parking. However as one of the attendees pointed out, “What the cars are connecting is the major land-use issue” that wasn’t discussed at the meeting.

The panel discussion at the Arrillaga Community Center was part of TransForm’s Connecting Communities Series. A list of future seminars  is available online.

Lynne Bramlett is a former Library Commission who continues to lead the library’s monthly Film Discussion Group. She’s lived in Menlo Park for almost 24 years is an active volunteer and engaged resident. This is her first article for In Menlo.

Photo of Menlo Park train station by Scott Loftesness (c) 2016

One Comment

resident November 10, 2019 at 2:02 pm

Unfortunately, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, and Stanford are popular destinations for commuters, but because they at the fringe edge of SamTrans and VTA’s service areas, they are neglected by both SamTrans and VTA. We’re never going to get BART to Menlo Park and we will probably never get VTA light rail either. We do have Caltrain, but service is very poor outside of rush hour and the rush hour trains are often uncomfortably standing-room-only. Because of the poor VTA and SamTrans service, getting to the Caltrain station is very difficult without a private car that you have to find somewhere to park.

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