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Pleasanton's plan faces the future.

Pleasanton's plan faces the future

On Main Street in Pleasanton, California, an East Bay city of 45,000, you're charmed by the false-front appeal of an old ranching town. On Hopyard Avenue, a mile away, you glimpse the future: gleaming office parks that anchor the I-680 corridor, a commercial aggregation that extends 30 miles north to Walnut Creek and Concord. By 2000, this corridor may boast as much office space as downtown San Francisco.

This spread of business to suburbia is one of the most striking trends of the 1980s. It's fueled not least by the desire of employers and employees to fleet urban congestion. Unfortunately, we usually bring congestion with us--and find ourselves bumper-to-bumper in places that didn't dream of traffic jams a few years ago. Enter Pleasanton. With its relative lack of public transportation and its concomitant dependence on the private automobile, it typifies many of the new business communities. But it also foresaw problems and wanted to head them off. By and large, its citizens didn't oppose commercial growth--but they did oppose gridlock. As proposals for business parks flooded in, a citizens' task force pushed for and the city council established the Traffic Systems Management Program. Gail Gilpin, the program's head, says the challenge is to manage demand (drivers) as well as supply (roads), to "make better use of the highways we already have."

TSM gives private employers the responsibility --with city aid--for easing traffic. Every business with 50 employees or more (including the city itself) must devise a plan to reduce its work force's commute traffic by 45 percent within four years. Measures include:

Ride sharing. With the help of RIDES for Bay Area Commuters, companies encourage car and van pooling. Perks include preferential parking.

Biking. Some 32 percent of the Pleasanton work force lives within reasonable biking distance (5 miles) of work. Companies such as Pacific Bell have built showers and lockers to encourage a two-wheeled commute, at least in clement weather.

Flexible work hours. In Pleasanton as in many areas, the roads can handle us if we don't all show up at once. Flexible schedules allow employees to arrive and leave at off-peak hours. Because people retain the use of their cars, this is by far the most popular means of reducing traffic.

Gilpin believes the plan's big advantage is its flexibility. The goals are firm, but the companies can implement them in their own ways. So far, of the 64 companies in the program, 52 have met their goals.

Says AT&T transportation coordinator Dale Chesnutt, "It was difficult at first to make people realize they had to worry about traffic out here, too. But they're really getting behind it now."

Joe Callahan, codeveloper of Pleasanton's Hacienda Business Park, helped push for the ordinance and now is a member of the program's advisory board. He says, If we didn't get a program in place, no matter how many freeways or arterial roads we were willing to build, we wouldn't fix the problem. Initially it was hammer-and-tongs stuff trying to get some of our tenants to adopt TSM. But now that it's working, some who fought it have become its biggest proponents."

No one claims Pleasanton's program is a complete panacea. It's one town's response to what is at heart a regional problem. Transportation experts believe we'll be trapped in the slow lane until we make other, tougher regional decisions--opting to concentrate new housing closer to existing jobs, for example.

In the meantime, the Pleasanton example is worth study. The city of Los Angeles' nine-point free-flowing traffic plan, intended to improve air quality as much as traffic flow, shares many of the lessons learned in Pleasanton.

Photo: Halcyon days of the horseless carriage were shown in 1911 Sunset

Photo: Today's commute is a little tougher: L.A.'s rush-hour blues have counterparts in San Jose, Denver, elsewhere

Photo: Van pools form key part of Pleasanton's transportation plan. This van carries AT&T employees and others to and from Stockton, 45 miles to the east
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Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sunset's 90th Anniversary Special Report; transportation plan
Publication:Sunset
Date:May 1, 1988
Words:670
Previous Article:Can the West grow wisely and well?
Next Article:Tough decisions for San Diego.
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