Friday, September 04, 2009

Why I don't work in Sunnyvale...

I decided to stop by the Sunnyvale Smart Station to pick p some compost on the way home from work. (Alas, I go there too late for that...) The ride through Moffett Park reminded me of why I don't work there. The smart station was at the end of Borregas, so a trip down the Borregas bike bridges seemed the easy "low stress" way to go.
It may have been a lower traffic way than Mathilda, but the stress of traffic was replaced by the stress of poor design. At the Smart station, the first obvious problem with the lack of a signal that was tripped by bikes. (The other side of the intersection had nice embossed bike markings. Not so for the southbound side.) Ok. No big deal. There was a ped button nearby, and the signal was fairly quick. Going down Borregas there were a couple large tree branches in the bike lane. Annoying, but there was little traffic.
Finally the first bike bridge. Rather than a straight bridge over the freeway, they created a massive curve. This results in an offset entrance perpendicular to Borregas (and slightly offset from the street.) Luckily Moffett Park Blvd. was fairly low traffic in the area. Still, getting on was not the most low stress maneuver. The long curve over the freeway also means that you are exposed to the maximum amount of freeway noise. The exit on the other end was similar. Why not just extend the bridge straight and have at end a little further down the block? It may have caused the elimination of a couple (unused) street parking spaces. Horrors.
However, Sunnyvale seemed to like the design, and the next bridge suffered from similar problems.
Borregas itself was not too bad. There were few stop signs or stop lights. However, it was built to "Sunnyvale road standards", meaning it was about as smooth as sandpaper. One section was even recently repaved (or maybe 'blackened' would be more accurate. We should really pitch in and get Sunnyvale a good roller.)
The Maude/Borregas/Sunnyvale intersection is the next bit of fun. Borregas and Sunnyvale are slightly offset, making it an interesting left turn maneuver. It's not incredibly challenging, but it does slow you down a bit. From Sunnyvale, you have an overpass over Central and then a grade crossing over caltrain. Then you can sneak under the Mathilda overpass to get to Pastoria and Hollenbeck.
In theory, the Borregas way avoids most of the nasty intersections. However, most of its problems are structural in nature (thus little hope of fast trips). It took me 35 minutes from the Smart Station, and that was with a fairly quick run down Hollenbeck. I could probably go a little faster down some stretches of Borregas. But, would then be slowed down by the bridges. From some the office parks, there would also be some of the other nasty crossings (like Mathilda/Carribean and Java.) I think I would just stick with Mathilda.
But, Carribean has its own problems - lights. At Moffet Park and Mathilda, the light is not well synched with the others and too quick. The result is that Mathilda and turning traffic blocks the intersection, making it impossible for through Mofett Park traffic to move. The signal changes so fast that it turns red before the intersection clears. (Perhaps the city should try to balance its budget by handing out tickets to cars blocking the intersection.)
Other lights seem to suffer from the opposite problem. Java and Caribbean/Mathilda seemed to be red forever, with a few random railroad crossing bells thrown in for good measure (only one that was actually accompanied by a light-rail train.)
The density of office development would seem to be the ideal for setting up transit. If only... Instead it is the ideal area for huge ugly traffic jams. (And the poor configuration and frequency of the light rail seems to guarantee that it will only be lightly used.) But, hey, what do you expect from a Sunnyvale?

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