As Facebook continues moving their people to their new Menlo Park campus (and the location of my former office), people in Menlo Park and East Palo Alto express concerns about the traffic generated through their towns.
Willow Road at Highway 101. I rode my bike across this most days twice a day when I worked in Menlo Park.
Facebook submitted their Draft Environment Impact Report to the cities of Menlo Park and East Palo Alto (EPA), along with interested parties such as Caltrans, the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC) and San Mateo County City/County Association of Governments (C/CGAG).
Although they would like eventually to employ up to 9000 people in Menlo Park, Facebook says they’ll remain within the existing 2,600 trips per day cap that Sun Microsystems agreed to when the campus was originally built. They’ll do this through an aggressive Transportation Demand Management program that encourages getting to work through means other than solo driving. Currently, about 60% of Facebook employees drive solo to work. (Compare to Stanford, where the majority of staff take ‘alternative’ transportation; and Yahoo where 36% of workers drive solo to work).
Willow Road over Highway 101.
Menlo Park City Commissioners looking at the transportation data last week, however, are dubious. To stay within Facebook’s trip cap, they believe Facebook will need to reduce the available parking, and note that the alternative transpo mode share needs to jump up another 10 percentage points, though City Commissioner Penelope Huang’s is concerned more about her own drive rather than the impact this traffic may have on the livabiity of the neighborhoods along the commute routes: “Sitting on the freeway, trying to get across Menlo Park, trying to get across to the East Bay – that’s further impacted by this development.”
Bike lane on University Avenue, East Palo Alto is completely obstructed by trees and brush.
Residents expressed similar concerns at a meeting in East Palo Alto, with the added bogeyman of gentrification. Several people also saw this as an opportunity to look at improving bicycle facilities along University Avenue and at the ‘daredevil’ Willow Road interchange with Highway 101. FWIW, nobody drives down University Avenue to the Menlo Park “Sun Quentin” campus unless a traffic incident closes Willow Road or Marsh Road.
Facebook proposes these efforts to limit their impact on traffic through Menlo Park and East Palo Alto:
• TDM program coordinator;
• Commute assistance center;
• New-hire transportation orientation packet;
• On-site amenities to prevent the need for mid-day trips;
• Caltrain shuttles to / from Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and (!) Redwood City (the last of which saves commuters from the Peninsula a full zone);
• Shuttles to / from Fremont BART and ACE stations for East Bay commuters;
• Approximately 80 commuter shuttles to / from San Francisco, San Mateo, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale,Cupertino, Santa Clara, San Jose, Campbell, and Los Gatos.
• Vanpool program;
• Carpool matching assistance through ZimRide, an online carpooling and ridesharing service
that focuses on college communities and corporate campuses;
• Preferential carpool and vanpool parking;
• Guaranteed ride home program;
• Subsidized public transit passes (all Facebook employees get a Caltrain Go Pass);
• Subsidies for employees who walk or bike to work;
• Bicycle parking (both short-term racks and long-term lockers or storage facilities – these already exist at the campus);
• Bicycle-share programs (currently, Facebook has 20 loaner bikes available at their existing Palo Alto office building);
• Showers and changing rooms (already in place in all Menlo Park buildings); and
• Alternative and flexible work schedules.
Facebook also mentions the tunnel underneath Bayfront Expressway at the Sun Quentin Entrance. That’s been fenced up for as long as I’ve known, but Facebook proposes opening this up so people on foot and bike can more easily get across that 8 lane highway. That intersection if infamous for red light running drivers.
My old commute: San Jose -> Caltrain -> Bike on Willow Road over Hwy 101 -> Sun Quentin Campus.
I applaud Facebook for their trip cap proposal, but there are challenges. What do you think? Can they pull it off and keep things to 2,600 car trips per day?
Trivia: In 2006, I walked to my job interview here from the Menlo Park Caltrain station after the spending the night at a hotel near SFO Airport.
I think what this shows is why so many new tech companies are choosing to locate in more urban settings with easier transportation options: look at both Zynga and Twitter drastically expanding in San Francisco or Pandora in downtown Oakland. Tech employees overwhelming seem to prefer living in urban settings and I have a feeling most don’t enjoy the commute down the peninsula, even if it is on a wi-fi enabled coach.
I am a bike commuter, but I don’t see why this is a Facebook problem. if the city wants Facebook, their employees, and not to mention, tax revenue, then maybe the should accommodate all the increase in traffic. After all, Facebook could go anywhere they want.
If they can patch up University, I’m all for it. I take it between Sun Quentin & the airport/golfcourse all the time as I head down the peninsula, and it’s the worst-maintained “bike lane” in the entire Silicon Valley, imo