File #: 2019-6925   
Type: New Business
Body: Transportation Commission
On agenda: 5/22/2019
Title: Approve Otis Drive Traffic Calming and Safety Improvement Project Design Concept Recommendations
Attachments: 1. Exhibit 1 - Otis Drive Survey Summary, 2. Exhibit 2 - Otis Drive Community Workshop #1 Summary, 3. Exhibit 3 - Otis Drive Community Workshop #2 Summary, 4. Exhibit 4 - Presentation, 5. Exhibit 5 - Draft Design Concept (15% Design Drawings, 6. Exhibit 6 - Consultant Memo on Traffic Impacts, 7. Exhibit 7 - Bikeway Recommendation and Alternative for the Grand Street Area, 8. Exhibit 8 - Consultant Memo on Trees, 9. Exhibit 9 - Tree Placement Diagram, 10. Public Comment, 11. Public Comment 2, 12. Public Comment 3



Approve Otis Drive Traffic Calming and Safety Improvement Project Design Concept Recommendations




To:                                          Honorable Chair and Members of the Transportation Commission


From:                     Scott Wikstrom, City Engineer

                                          Gail Payne, Senior Transportation Coordinator





Safety concerns along Otis Drive between Westline Drive and Willow Street include high speeds, long crossings for pedestrians and a lack of bicycle facilities.  The street is classified in the Transportation Element of the City of Alameda’s General Plan as an Island Arterial, which are streets intended to provide cross-island access for local intra-island trips generally through residential neighborhoods.  Otis Drive is identified as a bicycle priority street and as a primary transit street, and the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District (AC Transit) operates daily bus service along the corridor - Lines 20 (local route), W (Transbay service) and 663 (school service).  Otis Drive is listed in the citywide transportation plan - the Transportation Choices Plan - as a Vision Zero corridor with a goal to reduce citywide traffic deaths and severe injuries to zero. 


The goals of the Otis Drive Traffic Calming and Safety Improvement project include:

                     Reducing driving speeds to the 25 miles per hour limit;

                     Improving safety for all users;

                     Adding bicycle facilities to connect to Wood School, the beach, Alameda Hospital and with existing bike lanes on Westline Drive and Grand Street;

                     Improving bus stops;

                     Improving streetscape, such as gateways and landscaping; and

                     Reducing impacts of flooding/sea level rise.


In 2017, the City identified this segment of Otis Drive as a high priority for traffic safety improvements, and designated $500,000 in the 2017-2019 Capital Improvement Program for the initial phase work.  In 2018, the City conducted a survey and obtained City Council approval to hire Parisi/CSW Design Group for outreach, planning and design services.  In January 2019, the City met with an Advisory Group of City staff and key stakeholders, held community workshop #1, and provided a summary of existing conditions and community input to the Transportation Commission.  In March, the City met with the project’s Advisory Group and held a second community workshop to discuss the preliminary design concept recommendations.


The purpose of this Transportation Commission agenda item is to seek approval of the design concept recommendation.  After incorporating Transportation Commission input, City staff will be requesting City Council to approve a design concept on June 4.  Subsequent stages will include final design of phase 1 starting later in 2019 and construction of these phase 1 initial high priority, low cost calming strategies in 2020.  To complete subsequent phases, which are the more expensive phases, staff will seek grant opportunities.  The project web page link is as follows: <>


Existing Conditions Summary

This segment of Otis Drive, which is about one mile in length, measures 64 feet wide between its curb faces, and currently operates with two vehicular lanes in each direction and on-street parking along both curbs. However, it has no bike lanes.  Otis Drive was built in the late 1950s during an auto-oriented era.  Vehicular speeds are at 33 miles per hour for the 85th percentile speed, which is used to determine speed limits, and have been recorded at up to 75 to 82 miles per hour west of Grand Street.  Over the past five years, there have been 38 reported collisions on Otis Drive between Westline Drive and Willow Street with 12 of them resulting in injuries and one as a fatal collision on Otis Drive at Grand Street.  The weekday traffic volumes are less than 10,000 vehicles per day west of Grand Street and less than 15,000 vehicles per day east of Grand Street with lower volumes during the weekends.  There are five bus stops in each direction along this segment of Otis Drive, with four of the stops located west of Grand Street.


Survey Results

In August and September 2018, the City conducted a survey with almost 600 respondents (Exhibit 1).  The respondents stated that they find using Otis Drive most challenging due to the following three issues or concerns: traffic speeds, safety of people bicycling and safety of people walking.  The most common topics mentioned in the open-ended question responses included safety, opposition to change and traffic speeds.  Community members who do not want changes stated that they are not in favor of bike lanes, do not want the street to be configured like Shore Line Drive or want Otis Drive to remain a high-capacity vehicular-oriented street for cross-island access.


Workshop Results

The City held two workshops at Wood School to help better understand community member priorities and to gather community input.  To announce the workshops, the City sent a letter to the adjacent properties and property owners for each workshop, issued a community advisory/press release and distributed the information via social media, email list servs and the City of Alameda web site as well as neighborhood barricades - sandwich boards - located on Otis Drive at Westline Drive, Grand Street and Willow Street.  Wood School affiliates also sent announcements to their school community.


On January 31, the City held workshop #1 with over 60 community members participating to discuss concerns related to speeding and safety while walking, bicycling, taking the bus and driving on Otis Drive between Westline Drive and Willow Street.  The workshop topics also included ideas for safety improvements and traffic calming.  City staff received comments via email, phone, in person and comment cards as shown in Exhibit 2.  The top three responses on the question pertaining to issues on Otis Drive were: speeding, lack of pedestrian crossings and lack of bicycle facilities.  The top two responses on the question pertaining to measures to implement were a center left-turn lane and the installation of bicycle lanes.


On March 20, the City held workshop #2 with over 30 community members participating to discuss preliminary design recommendations for addressing speeding and safety while improving walking, bicycling, driving, and public transit on Otis Drive.  A summary of the comments received is provided in Exhibit 3.  Most community members supported the preliminary recommendations.  Some community members expressed some concerns, e.g., the conversion of the four-lane street to three lanes, and a parking-protected bikeway adjacent to Rittler Park.  There were requests for an additional crosswalk at Tarryton Isle and mixed preference for the type of long-term solution at the Grand Street intersection, which includes either a protected intersection or a roundabout.





The recommended concept for the one-mile study area segment of Otis Drive between Westline Drive and Willow Street is expected to reduce speeds and improve safety for all street users including people who walk, bike, take the bus and drive (Exhibits 4 and 5).  The concept achieves key community goals as follows:

                     Safety: Provides a safer street by converting the four-lane street to a three-lane street, which the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) deems to have substantial safety benefits;

                     Bikes: Installs buffered bike lanes where no bicycle facilities currently exist;

                     Pedestrians: Makes it easier and safer for people to walk across Otis Drive with additional marked crosswalks, flashing beacons where warranted and painted bulb-outs;

                     Buses: Improves the operations and safety of the AC Transit bus lines by moving the bus stops from the near side to the far side of intersections, providing ADA improvements and removing low ridership bus stops;

                     Intersections: Improves safety and reduces delay at intersections by extending red curbs (e.g., “daylighting”), installing turn pockets and improving signal phasing and timings;

                     Trees: Installs street trees that provide additional landscaping, stormwater runoff improvements and beautification; and

                     Long-term Vision: Selects a long-term vision for the corridor by recommending the installation of a roundabout at the Otis Drive/Grand Street intersection and by providing more protected spaces for people bicycling and walking once City staff secures additional grant funding.


Increased Safety - Three-lane Streets

This recommended concept would convert the four-lane street to a three-lane street.  According to the FHWA’s informational guide, streets with motor vehicle travel lane reductions from four lanes to three lanes have multiple safety benefits for people driving, walking and riding bikes, by achieving the following:

                     Reduces collisions by at least 19 percent through the use of a center two-way left turn lane;

                     Improves speed limit compliance by three to five miles per hour, which reduces the severity of collisions;

                     Decreases vehicle travel lanes for pedestrians to cross;

                     Allows for better visibility of pedestrians waiting or attempting to cross the street;

                     Improves circulation for people bicycling when a bikeway is added; and

                     Improves travel flow since through vehicles are separated from left turning vehicles.


This recommended concept would have minimal impacts on motor vehicle travel time and delays.  The motor vehicle travel lane reduction recommendation would reconfigure the street similar to Fernside Blvd. between Versailles Avenue and High Street, which has less than 10,000 vehicles per day.  The Otis Drive study area is well under the 20,000 vehicle per day threshold that FHWA uses as an upper limit for feasible motor vehicle travel lane reduction projects even when considering future development.  As mentioned above, the weekday traffic volumes are less than 10,000 vehicles per day west of Grand Street and less than 15,000 vehicles per day east of Grand Street with lower volumes during the weekends.  Exhibit 6 is a memo from the consultant that explains the motor vehicle travel impacts in more depth.


Bicycle Infrastructure Improvements

The recommended concept consists of one-way Class 2 bike lanes with painted buffers to left and right of each lane.  One-way bike lanes in the direction of motor vehicle travel would be located between the parked car with a one-foot buffer as a door zone and the motor vehicle travel lane with a two-foot buffer to separate motor vehicles from people bicycling.  Bicycle racks will be installed in the landscape strip at Rittler Park.


A parking protected bike lane next to “floating parking” was considered but was ruled out for most of the project alignment due to the large number of residential driveways fronting on Otis, each of which creates visibility and conflict concerns between bicyclists and motorists.  The eastbound stretch of Otis Drive adjacent to Rittler Park between Rosewood Way and Sandcreek Way, however, does not contain any driveways and was further evaluated for a parking protected bike lane. Parking demand on this section of Otis is generally light during weekdays but quickly fills to capacity when the fields at Rittler Park are in use and particularly during the weekends.


The primary advantage of a protected bike lane is the physical separation and safety benefits for people bicycling from moving vehicles potentially reducing more severe collisions.  Some of the disadvantages include: parked vehicle passengers are forced to enter or exit into a vehicular travel lane or a bike lane rather than directly adjacent to a sidewalk; increased delay for eastbound vehicles on Otis during parking maneuvers, people bicycling could potentially encounter conflicts with people accessing and egressing vehicles parked across from the bike lane; the bike lane would be of limited width and will necessarily include a portion of the gutter pan.


While the safety benefits of a protected bike lane can often outweigh the disadvantages, only a limited portion of Otis Drive is suitable for such a treatment and would require transitioning to and from a Class 2 bike lane facility to Class 4 protected bike lane and back again in a relatively short distance. As result, the City Engineer recommends maintaining a continuous buffered Class 2 bike lane facility for the full length of Otis Drive including adjacent to Rittler Park. Staff seeks input and comment from the Transportation Commission regarding the treatment of this section of Otis Drive.  Exhibit 7 shows the City Engineer’s recommendation of a Class 2 bike lane treatment in the Grand Street area as well as an alternative Class 4 protected bike lane treatment, which is recommended by Bike Walk Alameda.  The Transportation Commission may recommend staff to proceed with either treatment.


Pedestrian Improvements

The recommended concept would install additional marked crosswalks, pedestrian or school crossing warning signs and painted bulb-outs on Otis Drive at uncontrolled crosswalks at Tarryton Isle, Larchmont Isle, Arlington Isle/Heather Walk, Waterview Isle/Sandcreek Way and Glenwood Isle. The low cost, painted bulb-outs at these intersections as well as at the signalized intersections of Westline Drive and Grand Street extend the pedestrian waiting area to provide better pedestrian visibility, shortened pedestrian crossing distances and traffic calming by narrowing the roadway.  The low-cost curb bulb-out treatments include striping and vertical delineators.


Rectangular rapid flashing beacons are an optional treatment that may be used to supplement pedestrian or school crossing warning signs where there are high numbers of crossing pedestrians (typically 40 pedestrians crossing for any two non-consecutive hours during a 24-hour period, see CA MUTCD §4L.101(CA).03B and §4N.02.14D). FHWA guidelines related to rectangular rapid flashing beacons show that these beacons increase vehicles yielding to pedestrians at crosswalks from 18 percent to over 80 percent.  The recommended concept shows these flashing beacons as being installed at Larchmont Isle, Waterview Isle/Sandcreek Way (updated flashing beacon) and Glenwood Isle and at the remaining uncontrolled intersections only as warranted in the future. 


Stop Signs - Not Warranted

The CA MUTCD states that multiway stop control (e.g., three and four-way stop sign control) should be limited to locations with a history of five or more collisions within a 12-month period, or where the major approach averages at least 300 vehicles per hour over any eight hours of a day and the minor approach averages at least 200 combined pedestrians, bicyclists and vehicles per hour for the same eight hours, among other criteria (CA MUTCD §B.07.04B and C). Based on an initial review, the intersections noted above would not be expected to satisfy these criteria.


Bus Stop Improvements

The recommended concept would improve the operations and safety of the AC Transit bus lines by moving the bus stops from the near side to the far side of intersections on Otis Drive at Westline Drive for the westbound direction only and at Larchmont Isle for both directions and Otis Drive at Grand Street for the eastbound direction and by removing low ridership bus stops at Heather Walk/Arlington Isle.  Bus stops are preferred on the far side of intersection to improve visibility at intersections, especially for bus riders crossing the street who would do so without a bus blocking their visibility.  AC Transit staff support both moving and removing the abovementioned bus stops, and they have been active participants in the concept development process. 


The bus stops on Otis Drive at Heather Walk/Arlington Isle have only about 15 weekday bus boardings and other higher demand bus stops spaced in close proximity, which is why the recommended concept removes the bus stops at this intersection allowing for improved bus operations yet requiring some bus passengers an increased walking distance.  With this bus stop removal, the bus stop spacing between Larchmont Isle and Grand Street would average 1,500 feet, which is within the range as stated in the AC Transit guidelines for Transbay services at 1,000 to 2,600 feet and is slightly longer for local routes totaling between 800 and 1,300 feet.


Bus benches will be installed at stops that typically experience a moderate number of boardings such as at Larchmont Isle and Westline Drive where space permits.


Intersection Improvements - Traffic Signals

The recommended concept includes low-cost improvements to the traffic signals at the signalized intersections of Otis Drive at Westline Drive and at Grand Street and Willow Street.  In this low-cost, short-term fix phase, the concept includes improved signal timing and phasing to reduce traffic delays.  The concept also considers the provision of leading pedestrian intervals, transit priority signals and the possible addition of video detection.  Ultimately, the age of the signal control boxes will determine which intersections can be upgraded in the short-term for these additional considerations.  The Grand Street traffic signal would not accommodate a left-turn phase (i.e., left-turn arrow) with existing equipment and the purchase of additional mast arms would be cost prohibitive for the low cost, short-term phase, which is why the recommended short-term concept focuses on the provision of left-turn pockets at this intersection.


Intersection Improvements - Daylighting with Red Curb Extensions

The recommended concept includes extending red curbs to improve the visibility for people walking and bicycling at intersections to increase safety for all street users. This improvement would reduce on-street parking at most intersections.  An estimated 70 on-street parking spaces on Otis Drive and side streets would be eliminated with this safety countermeasure out of the more than 500 on-street parking spaces that currently exists, which amounts to 13 percent of the curb space that could be used for parking.  Daylighting at intersections is a safety benefit, and the impacts to parking demand are expected to be minimal since there is an abundance of available parking along Otis Drive except for when Rittler Park is in high demand.  By Rittler Park, parking Ts would be added to facilitate more efficient parking and at most one parking space would be removed there.


Tree Plantings

The recommended concept includes planting street trees at the 21 vacant tree wells along the Otis Drive study area, planting additional trees at other potential sites and removing and replacing several pyrus trees, which are a short-lived species that are performing poorly and look to be over five years old.  This tree planting recommendation helps implement the City’s Master Street Tree Plan and the Climate Plan, and addresses the request of community members to improve the appearance and aesthetics of the street and to increase the tree scape and landscaping.  The recommended tree species are different from the City’s Master Street Tree Plan and tree ordinance, and the update for Otis Drive is recommended so as to better accommodate the potential for increased salinity due to sea level rise.  Exhibit 8 is a memo from the consultant that explains the tree-related recommendations.


Long-term Vision

Pending a successful grant application, the recommended long-term concept would install a roundabout at the Otis Drive/Grand Street intersection and would provide more protected spaces for people bicycling and walking.  The roundabout at Otis Drive/Grand Street is preferred over a signalized intersection with bulb-outs (“protected intersection”) because a roundabout would provide for more multimodal capacity that could flow through the intersection compared to a traffic signal, would reduce the potential for broadside collisions, lower maintenance costs and would allow for an opportunity for green space and place making with an entry way feature.  Trees located in raised medians were considered but rejected since raised medians would block access to driveways along the corridor and would not significantly improve stormwater management due to the crown in the middle of the street.


Painted bulb-outs proposed in the short-term concept at signalized and uncontrolled crosswalk intersections would be upgraded to raised bulb-outs. The channelized right-turn lane at southbound Westline Drive would be removed and raised bulb-outs would provide a combined pedestrian and bicycle waiting area (i.e., a “protected intersection”).





The funds for this project are budgeted in the Public Works Department’s account for Capital Improvement Program (CIP #91818) with an additional $500,000 that will be requested in the upcoming CIP for fiscal years 2019 to 2021 from City Council in June. Funding sources include Measure B/BB Local Streets and Roads and local Developer Impact Fees and General Fund.





The proposed Ordinance does not affect the Alameda Municipal Code. 


This action is in conformance with the Transportation Element of the General Plan (2009), which lists Otis Drive as a transit priority street and a bicycle priority street, as located in school and recreation zones and as an Island Arterial, and lists other priorities that will be addressed in the Otis Drive project, such as multimodal, safety and environmental improvements and considering needs for individuals with disabilities.


The Alameda General Plan Safety and Noise Element Policy SN-5 states: “Ensure that the City prioritize public safety through the implementation of a Vision Zero policy to reduce annual pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities and serious injuries resulting from collisions with faster moving vehicles and unsafe street design.”




In accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), this project is Categorically Exempt under the CEQA Guidelines Section 15301(c) Existing Facilities (Minor alterations to existing facilities including bicycle facilities) and Section 15304 (h) Minor Alterations to Land and the creation of bicycle lanes on existing public rights of way. On a separate and independent basis, the project also is statutorily exempt from CEQA pursuant to Public Resources Code Section 21080.20.5 (restriping of streets and highways for bike lanes in an urbanized area that is consistent with a bike plan).  City staff prepared an assessment of the project related traffic and safety impacts, and recommends a concept that alleviates potential vehicular traffic impacts and bicycle and pedestrian safety impacts.  No further environmental review is required because the project fits within the above categorical and statutory exemptions that are specifically designed for these types of bicycle infrastructure projects in urban areas.





Approve Otis Drive Traffic Calming and Safety Improvement Project Design Concept Recommendations



Respectfully submitted,


Scott Wikstrom, City Engineer


Gail Payne, Senior Transportation Coordinator




1.                     Otis Drive Survey Summary

2.                     Otis Drive Community Workshop #1 Summary

3.                     Otis Drive Community Workshop #2 Summary

4.                     Presentation

5.                     Draft Design Concept (15% Design Drawings)

6.                     Consultant Memo on Traffic Impacts

7.                     Bikeway Recommendation and Alternative for the Grand Street Area

8.                     Consultant Memo on Trees

9.                     Tree Placement Diagram