Where will traffic be rerouted once University Ave is closed?

Our plan is to convert University Avenue from High to Cowper into a pedestrian mall. The rest of University will be open to traffic. Traffic through University will be routed to Lytton and Hamilton. We propose that both streets be converted to one-way roads, with Hamilton going towards Middlefield, and Lytton towards Alma and the Palo Alto Transit Center. Two-way cross traffic will continue on Emerson, Ramona, Bryant and Waverley.

What about the loss of parking spots?

University Avenue offers just 120 parking spots in this region. Cars that would normally be parked here can be absorbed by nearby parking structures. The loss of spots can also be offset by changing from parallel to diagonal parking on the one side each of Lytton and Hamilton. Information on parking availability will be displayed more prominently to make looking for a spot easier. No more driving up and down University looking for that elusive spot!

Who will pay for the pedestrian mall project?

A community project such as the Palo Alto Pedestrian Mall project could be funded through grants available for the improvement of public spaces, including transportation grants.

Similar projects in other cities have failed. What makes Palo Alto's any different?

Most examples of failed malls occur in dense cities like Chicago where it's more difficult to produce the "ambiance" intended. Malls that are too long or too wide have also been observed to fail, as it is more difficult to maintain a high crowd density, thus taking away from the ambiance. Pedestrian malls have also been less successful in places with severe winters, such as Buffalo.

However, a small city like Palo Alto with its great Californian weather is a different story. Moreover, University Ave already has a unique place in the local landscape as a shopping and dining center and has heavy foot traffic too, making it a perfect candidate for a successful pedestrian mall.

How will Palo Alto cope with the sudden change?

The plan is not to make these changes overnight. The mall initiative will be implemented in phases, over several years. This process will give people time to transition to new traffic patterns.

To begin with, University Avenue will continue to be open to traffic on weekdays, but will have no parking spots. Traffic lights on Hamilton and Lytton will be timed for 25mph (the speed limit). Thus, cars at the speed limit will potentially not have to stop at any red light, but cars going faster will be stopped at every light. In conjunction with this, traffic that wants to still use University will hit every red light even at the speed limit. The slower traffic, coupled with the loss of parking spots on University, will slowly route more traffic through Lytton and Hamilton. On weekends, University Ave will be closed to traffic completely. A Pedestrian mall will be run on weekends, but with existing infrastructure. The farmers’ market near the Post Office can be moved to the center of University Avenue, increasing foot traffic for downtown merchants.

After a successful test, University Ave between High and Cowper will be closed to through traffic completely.

If the initial process is successful and businesses owners and consumers love the idea, then the city can proceed with a more permanent solution, including new infrastructure such as cobbled roads, fountains, gardens, overhanging canopies and play spaces for children.

What if I have more questions?