MEMO 1: Brief Statement of Topic

I plan to explore various realistic methods by which the City of Berkeley can improve traffic flow on some of the major thoroughfares within the city. Any observer to the city during a typical weekday can see that congestion problems exist on streets coming to and from the University of California, a major destination for many automobiles entering the city. Although a cause of this traffic congestion is due to Berkeley’s characteristic narrow right-of-ways and lack of proper street alignments leading from the campus, I believe that improvement can be made to the existing facilities so as to improve traffic flow at all times of the day. In particular, I will investigate three key areas that see heavy traffic: 1) Telegraph Avenue south of Dwight Way, 2) University Avenue, and 3) College Avenue. These three arteries are some of the primary routes taken to enter and exit the city.

While the City of Berkeley would like to discourage automobile use as much as possible by setting low priority for street maintenance, improvement, and traffic planning, the fact remains that there are congestion problems on key arteries within the city. While the narrow streets and lack of larger primary roads is an inescapable fact of the street system, I believe that modest, inexpensive (relative to massive street reconstruction) steps can be taken to both improve traffic flow and maintain the city’s de-emphasis on auto transportation. While the city has an interest in discouraging traffic from entering the city, it is in most people’s best interests to accommodate what traffic does remain in an efficient manner. Adding parking lots and new businesses will increase traffic, but improving the flow of existing streets while not adding new terminal facilities will not add to the traffic already in the city. Also, the routes in question do not act as regional thoroughfares to traffic passing through Berkeley to other destinations. Improving flow on these routes will not attract transient motorists who will see these improved routes as a shortcut to another destination.

Some of the possible solutions I plan to investigate are removing parking lanes and converting them to traffic lanes, traffic signal synchronization, adding left-turn lanes, adding reversible lanes, and restricting turns during peak hours. It is my goal to recommend a solution that provides minimum disruption to businesses and residents and is low cost, as the money available for infrastructure in the Berkeley city budget is probably small. Also, I will attempt to reconcile my conclusions with prevailing attitudes policymakers have toward discouraging automobile use within the city.