The council will be updated on the lane changes across from the BART station that were made to accommodate the new apartment complex across Owens Drive from the eastern BART station. With retail included in the project on the first floor, there needed to be parking on the street, thus Owens was narrowed from three lanes to one in front of the new complex.
I reached out to city traffic engineer Mike Tassano to discuss the rationale for the changes. They stemmed from a task force that was convened to develop guidelines for “transit oriented developments.” Those recommendations included cutting down lanes, which has happened on Owens, Gibraltar and Willow roads in Hacienda Business Park near the BART station.
Tassano assured me that the peak hour traffic flow from the BART station was well within what can be handled by one through lane. The traffic was between 450 and 500 vehicles in the peak hour, significantly less than the 600 to 800 vehicles per hour that triggers the consideration of a second through-lane.
The challenge that motorists have been dealing with is the stop light for pedestrian traffic at the Iron Horse trail. During the peak evening hour, between 150 and 200 pedestrians were using that cross walk. Because the street was so wide, they were given 30 seconds to cross the street. As Mike explains, some pedestrians would push the crossing button, see no traffic coming and then run across the street. Then the light would change, backing up motorists. With one lane, instead of three, there were significant back-ups.
Last week, the city finished work on a different approach that Mike believers will result in much shorter crossing times. The city redesigned the median and the crosswalks in the median so it is designed for being crossed in two stages. That should allow for much more efficient traffic flow, while not unduly inconveniencing pedestrians. The pedestrian window will be 10 seconds on eastbound Owens compared to the former 30 seconds.
The other change reduced Willow Road to two lanes and eliminating the free-flow right turn lane onto Owens. With that lane in place, crossing Owens to the BART station meant crossing 10 lanes (150 feet) of roadway. The sharp right turn is designed to slow motorists to make it safer for pedestrians.
Tassano is confident the two-stage cross walk will resolve the back-ups.
Incidentally, this is not the first time a lane has been removed from Owens. In 2003, one westbound lane was reserved for taxis serving the BART station. Tassano said no traffic model shows Owens requiring three lanes as it was originally built.