Blogging Bayport Alameda

April 8, 2015

We’ll be counting cars

Filed under: Alameda, City Council, Transportation — Lauren Do @ 6:08 am

At one of the many March City Council meeting a public speaker, during the non agenda public comment period, decided to get up to talk about your favorite subject and mine: traffic.

In Alameda tradition because he believes that traffic is so bad he was going to do what no one else has thought to do, count cars.   But he did it in a super efficient, super controlled, super scientific way, he sat there with on of those manual clicker thingies that they use on the ferry.  Because no one has come up with a non manual clicker way of counting cars passing through a certain stretch of road.


He told the City Council that he showed up at 7:15 in the morning and counted cars for 2 hours.

Guess how many cars he counted?

Seriously, it doesn’t even matter how many cars he counted because the bottom line is that any number over the number one, which is just me and my car, is going to be “too many” for a lot of people.

So he lays down his magic number:  5170 and pauses for dramatic affect as though this number is supposed to be meaningful in its bigness.  The issue is, as always, lack of context.  Okay, so 5170 over two hours seems like a lot of cars, but what is the actual capacity of the tube?

For the sake of argument, I’m going to use the numbers quote by Keep Measure A’s website.  No one will argue that they are an organization that says that traffic is okay as is, correct?  According to Keep Measure A’s website, the Posey Tube has a “rush hour capacity” of  4000 cars per hour.

So, if this citizen counted 5170 cars during two hours then what his data has revealed could be interpreted as there being additional capacity to spare since the two hour window he counted the tube should have been able to cycle through 8000 cars.  That only 5170 cycled through means that the tube is not being maximized.

But of course, what his number really tells us is…nothing.  Out of context without an hourly breakdown and without measurements from other days, it’s pretty much a useless number designed to shock people with the seeming largeness of the number


  1. Bravo for him doing something rather than just talking about what he’s heard from others. The good thing is that his counts more or less match the counts the city has done and put in all their recent traffic studies and reports. So at least there’s consistency, and now he can look at those studies and know that the reports start with the same baseline that he has come up with and have some trust in the work that is being done while plugging in and participating.

    Comment by jkw — April 8, 2015 @ 7:36 am

  2. I don’t get it, Lauren. What’s the significance of this post? Does it move us foreword in some way that Im not seeing to solve a problem? Does it highlight a critical problem or need ? With all of the council meetings that have been held during this administration, with all the juicy topics you’ve said you wanted to address but haven’t had the time, why this? Why now?

    Comment by Not A Alamedan — April 8, 2015 @ 8:44 am

  3. What this post indicates is that there is such a mistrust of city management that a resident felt compelled to sit out on the street for two hours to do a manual count. And what happened? His numbers are very much like to totals the city came up with, who BTW has to do things legally and by the rules. So we are not further than we were before, but at least we now know that the resident proved that there is room for more vehicles and he and others can no longer waste our time with arguments against development. Development is paying the bills and we need more of it.

    Comment by Bill — April 8, 2015 @ 8:59 am

  4. Tubes can have all the capacity in the world but if they’re plugged on the Oakland side by cars trying to get on the freeway the clicker guy can take a nap between clicks.

    Comment by jack — April 8, 2015 @ 9:29 am

  5. Congratulation to Him ,
    Not relying on twisted numbers used by phony traffic engineer like the one the City relied on for South shore shopping center ,” Supplied by the developer , Conflict of interest anyone ?” they wanted to transform into another emreytown these jackass kept on saying Broadway was a 4 lanes street and so was Otis , very much to the joy of various elected official
    “same people which were saying Trader Joe would never cut it ” they actually forced Safeway to improve , and show the way out to that other one which could not change it’s name often enough … a Trader Joe customer since 1978 yes 1978 , I told them they were wrong …… :-} ! Was I ?
    That planner is long gone so is the next one as well as the all their Director , Wonder why?

    Anyone who has used Broadway for the last 15 years know it is a 2 lanes street , long before some self proclaimed expert cyclist ever came around .

    Broadway became a 2 way lanes as a cheap alternative to tame down on traffic , both Caltran and the City believe a traffic light at San Jose is too expensive and would interfere with traffic ” keep this one in mind the next time you run a red light and have to appear in front of Judge ” yes according to Caltran traffic light interfere with traffic yours and mine , that was precious ….
    Explain this stupid logic to the hundred of drivers which saw their rate increase as the result of countless accident there , By respect I will not mention the kid which got killed on the cross walk nor the countless other injured ….
    Lauren , now you know why so many parent drive their kids to school, Hundreds of them take their life into their own hands , still not financially justifiable , I bet you If your kids were to cross Broadway at San Jose and be hurt you would be spilling your acid all the way to Sacramento never mind this Mayor you would get a recall …..

    Fortunately the Alameda Police Department has regular enforcement after many decades of ignorance they cannot write ticket fast enough.
    Thank you Ladies and Gentlemen from the APD….

    Personally I cannot wait for that eye sore you call the Point which look like it could have been spit out of a computer operated by someone stuck in construction style for anytown USA , just another strip mall without any character ,only thing lacking is a Family restaurant and bar like Hooters to complete the circle .
    Since you rely so much on the tube check out the earthquake data from Caltran if they let you look at it completely.

    One can lead the sheep to the water , they cannot make them drink . Kind like people with strong B.O. they are used to it and can.t smell it .

    Comment by Joel — April 8, 2015 @ 9:52 am

  6. Good news for west end commuters is this: the tube can handle what we throw at it just fine. It’s 880 congestion that slows things down. With regional growth, the backups are worse and further away from the core of the region. This creates beautifully metered traffic by the time it reaches the tube on ramp and there is rarely much slowdown getting on. Build, baby, build.

    Comment by BMac — April 8, 2015 @ 10:00 am

  7. I wish Oakland’s Broadway had timed lights so it would not take so long to get home to Alameda during rush hour. It seems to work well on Fell St in SF. And travelling westbound on 880 and getting off at Broadway can be quite challenging, even when you hog the intersection. (I am not sure if you would get into the Tube from Broadway any other way)

    Comment by Elaine — April 8, 2015 @ 10:23 am

  8. Theoretical Capacity is interesting, but the real metric people should be focusing on is flow rate.

    Having 5k cars coming out of the tube when it’s theoretically capable of 8k could mean one of two things – there aren’t enough cars to reach the full capacity of the tube (and therefore folks are flying through the tube) or the there are cars entering and exiting the tube are taking longer to get out (slower flow rate).

    Feh. I now take Fruitvale Bridge into Alameda during my evening commute hours and I’m a much cheerier soul.

    Comment by Dave S. — April 8, 2015 @ 11:02 am

  9. 7. Elaine, Oakland purposefully does not synchronize the lights on streets like Broadway, Webster and Harrison. They want local traffic and pedestrian access. Creating a freeway through their core business district for Alamedans to escape is not high on their priority list.

    Comment by BMac — April 8, 2015 @ 12:41 pm

  10. Oakland is the largest hang up with the tubes…getting out of and into. Many people don’t understand the left lane on Broadway is for tube only and the land over is for the freeway on ramp. In on Webster street in Oakland you have all the double parking which causes confusion. Getting out of the tubes you have people waiting in the tunnel for the last moment to cut over in front of cars to the right to get onto 880.

    #5 Joel, you seem to think of one thing only…what you like and want. I would be more of a Trader Joes shopper but half of it is wine and beer, the vegetables and meat are not always fresh, and they are limited in what they have to offer. I like food which Safeway offers…and as you may remember South Shore use to have a Safeway and Albertsons.

    You call the development on the West end a eyesore, but that is what is in demand, not everyone wants what you what which is good. Go shop where you want and let the rest of us shop where we want. You seem to have a limited biopic point of view.

    Comment by Jake. — April 8, 2015 @ 1:10 pm

  11. #6 When’s the last time you left the Island during the morning commute through the Tube? Oh wait.
    It is true that most of the back up is because of the freeway, but it is also true that it comes in bursts as people try to make it to work by 8, 8:30 and 9 (at least in my observation).

    Comment by AK — April 8, 2015 @ 3:27 pm

  12. #11: Given people work in different places, with a range of travel times from the far portal, I find it hard to believe there’s a statistically significant pattern there. Do the 8 AM people who work in Oakland congregate at 7:42 AM? Might they not be 8:30 people for Walnut Creek?

    Comment by BC — April 8, 2015 @ 3:42 pm

  13. I wrote these into my phone in February and March while riding the bus.

    Actual travel times from leaving the traffic light at Webster and Stargell to passing through the stop light at Harrison and 7th in Oakland.

    Minutes duration
    2/4/15. 8:54 to 9:00 am 6
    2/5/15. 8:49 to 8:57 am 8
    2/6/15. 8:20 to 8:24 am 4
    2/11/15. 8:53 to 8:59 am 6
    2/18/15. 8:48 to 8:53 am 5
    2/23/15. 8:52 to 8:59 am 7 “Stalled car at exit of tube”
    2/24/15. 8:56 to 9:02 am 6
    2/26/15. 8:49 to 8:54 am 5
    2/27/15. 8:27 to 8:34 am 7
    3/2/15. 8:28 to 8:34 am 6 “High Street Bridge Closed?”
    3/3/2015. 8:34 to 8:40 am 6
    3/5/2015. 8:36 to 8:42 am 6
    3/6/2015. 8:31 to 8:35 am 4
    3/10/2015. 8:19 to 8:25 am 6
    3/12/2015. 8:47 to 8:53 am 6
    3/18/2015. 8:46 to 8:53 am 7
    3/20/2015. 8:23 to 8:26 am 3

    Average time: 6 minutes

    Non commute time comparisons
    2/10/15. 12:26 to 12:27 pm 1
    3/9/2015. 12:29 to 12:31 pm 2

    For my next data adventure I’m thinking about taking two months and counting the number of single occupancy vehicles I see in the tube during commute time. Maybe I’ll get one of those clickers too!!

    Comment by brock — April 8, 2015 @ 3:59 pm

  14. Wow the formatting really went to shit on that post.

    Comment by brock — April 8, 2015 @ 4:00 pm

  15. 7 Elaine; The lights on Webster and Franklin used to be timed, and there were signs posted, directing drivers to avoid Broadway like: “Thru Traffic Use Webster/Franklin”. That was before the X-crosswalks in Chinatown mandated pedestrians continuously occupying the intersections around 7th and 8th.
    Ah for the good old days…

    Comment by vigi — April 9, 2015 @ 9:28 am

  16. Doesn’t matter about tube capacity if one of the lanes is blocked by a disabled Target Shuttle like Friday morning.

    Comment by Gerard L. — April 9, 2015 @ 11:54 am

  17. It doesn’t matter if half the population moved away from Alameda, tube traffic would still be messed up if there is a disabled vehicle in the tube.

    Comment by Brock — April 9, 2015 @ 12:27 pm

  18. @16. Was this today??? The 9:30 shuttle didn’t show up … but I ran into a neighbor who gave me a ride to BART.

    Comment by bayporter — April 9, 2015 @ 1:24 pm

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