TL;DR summary: San Jose pilots road diet through commercial district; sales tax receipts on road diet street grow 30% more than city as a whole; safety improves significantly; bike and pedestrian counts significantly higher; trivial impacts to motoring traffic volume and delay even as speeds are reduced. Read the background and details below.
Lincoln Avenue Road Diet Background
On February 27, 2015, the city of San Jose, California piloted an experimental road diet on Lincoln Avenue to address safety concerns in the Willow Glen neighborhood. The four lane arterial was narrowed to three lanes where it passes through the heavily pedestrianized Lincoln Avenue Business District. This trial was supported both by members of the Willow Glen Neighborhood Association (representing interests of residents), and the Willow Glen Business Association.
After the road diet pilot was implemented, a few, well organized loudmouths organized strong and very visible opposition to the trial. Although businesses on Lincoln Avenue mostly reported revenue remained about the same after the road diet, a few business owners reported income was drastically down, and also reported their customers hated the new road configuration. SJ DOT, in the meantime, found bicycle and pedestrian traffic increased significantly while commute-time motor traffic times changed only a few seconds along this arterial.
Sales tax data shows more revenue for Lincoln Avenue businesses
This information is still preliminary, but sources at City Hall tell me they have sales tax data for the business district affected by the road diet on Lincoln Avenue. City wide, sales tax revenue for restaurants is up six percent for the final three quarters of 2015 (April 2015 through December 2015), compared against the same period in 2014. By comparison, restaurant revenue on Lincoln Avenue is up eight percent, or 30% more than the city as a whole.
For other, non-dining retail on Lincoln Avenue, revenue has increased at the same rate as the rest of the city. It’s impossible to know from this data if the road diet helped restaurant revenue grow faster, but it certainly contradicts the anecdotes that businesses were losing money due to the road diet.
City Hall sources also tell me that for the first time since 2009, there have been zero fatalities or serious injuries due to a traffic collision on Lincoln Avenue in the area of the road diet. Further analysis also shows traffic volume and delay remain minimally impacted, even as bicycle and pedestrian traffic continue to increase.
District 6 City Council Candidates on the Road Diet
Lincoln Avenue through the Willow Glen Neighborhood is represented by District 6 council member Pierluigi Oliviero, who terms out later this year. Eight people are running to take Oliviero’s office in the June 7 election. Among those who have made public statements regarding the road diet:
- Myron Von Raesfield, Helen Chapman, Dev Davis, say they like the idea but believe the process was divisive, needed to be more clear, and want more data before committing to an opinion either way.
- Candidates Eric Fong and Chris Roth are unapologetically in favor of the road diet.
- Ruben Navarro is vehemently against the road diet, claiming it causes more accidents. Traffic safety can be improved by removing crosswalks and enforcing pedestrian jaywalking laws, according to Navarro.
In light of this new evidence, it should be interesting to see if Von Raesfield, Chapman, and Davis modify their positions on the road diet. I’m told the Lincoln Avenue road diet may be on the city council agenda for June 21, 2016.