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Apple Campus 2 in Cupertino: Traffic vs. Employment

Some residents worry that in addition to all the jobs the new campus will bring it will also bring traffic headaches in an already bustling city.

Parking at the sprawling Apple Campus 2 will be spread between six separate lots and garages, and the company will increase its employee shuttle service, but will that be enough to reduce potential traffic burden in the vicinity?

Traffic is probably the No. 1 concern expressed by community members, city officials said.

In public comment meetings held in 2012 traffic was a major issue in discussion groups discussing points to be considered in the City’s Environmental Impact Review (EIR).

It’s not just Apple Campus 2 that is behind the concern, there are other projects either underway or planned that could also impact traffic in the city.

“I would appreciate knowing what the City and County's mid-term and long-term planning is to alleviate what is certain to be more of an issue once the Rose Bowl, Main Street, Biltmore and Apple Campus II projects are fully on line as productive members of our community. Oh yes; and then there is also the construction going on behind the International House of Pancakes; a multi-story office project. I also believe Kaiser is planning more expansion of their medical complex at Homestead and Lawerence Expressway,” wrote Gary Jones in a Cupertino Patch blog.

The new campus, recently reported to be wildly over budget by $2 billion and behind schedule by more than a year, to be located in the northeast corner of the city at a former Hewlett-Packard campus will be home to about 13,000 employees. Apple had hoped to be in the new building by the end of 2015 but now it’s looking like it will be 2016. Demolition of the existing buildings on the site is anticipated to start in June, according to some reports.

Apple believes it addressed potential traffic volume increases in the area by planning to beef up its shuttle service to employees by 20 percent. In a plan proposal submitted in the fall the company said that program would reduce “peak hour trips from 28 percent to 34 percent.” The limited parking supply at the site will be used “as an incentive for employees to take advantage of Apple’s alternative commute offerings,” the proposal says.

“Traffic, traffic and traffic. I think this is going to be a common theme throughout here,” said Pat Robbins who lives on Pruneridge Road in Santa Clara at a public meeting last year.

Most of Pruneridge Road— Apple is asking the City to sell it a portion of Pruneridge for the project—will be closed to make room for the spaceship-looking building leading some to think that will force traffic on to Homestead or possibly even I-280 to get around the campus. The 176-acre campus will be bordered by Homestead to the north, I-280 to the south, Wolfe Road to the West and N. Tantau Avenue to the east.

“The thought of closing Pruneridge Avenue at Tantau is [unacceptable] to the surrounding neighborhood. Our children walk, skateboard, ride bikes, etc. through this intersection daily to reach their schools (Cupertino High, Hyde Middle and Segwick Elementary). Have you not sat at the intersections of Pruneridge Ave. and Lawrence or Lawrence and Stevens Creek lately? We need to keep the Wolfe access to 280 available to those of use traveling West on Pruneridge,” Denise wrote on Sept. 4, 2012 in a comment on Patch article Critics Calling Out Apple Campus 2 Design.

The project calls for adding an additional exit lane off of I-280 onto Wolfe Road, but a spokesman for CalTrans had no knowledge of the project.

“(Interstate) 280 is a tragedy now at 8 o’clock in the morning, 5 o’clock at night. This can’t get any better,” said Cupertino resident Tom Dyer at a public meeting last year. His worries include the construction time as well as the time after the campus is built.

The City of Cupertino is driving the EIR and the process through which all projects must follow, but has yet to address the exit lanes yet with CalTrans.

The City is working with consultants on the draft EIR, which is expected to be released in late spring or early summer, said Aarti Shrivastava, director of community development.

Some small changes made by Apple in its last iteration of the project called for taking out 70 underground parking spaces under the main building and expanding the garage structure along I-280 and Tantau Ave., Shrivastava said.

That could affect traffic on Tantau “to some extent,” she said.

Overall the city doesn’t believe traffic will be a problem once the campus is complete.

“Historically the HP campus was also very busy. In orders of magnitude the Apple proposal isn’t as significant as it might look to be,” said Rick Kitson, public and environmental affairs director. “It’s not as if it was an empty field and is suddenly being replaced with a large office building. It’s replacing a series of smaller, older office buildings.”

The loss of HP in the city was a hit on revenue, but Apple’s plans should more than make up for that once the project is complete.

“It's great that Apple can create so many new jobs, but definitely we must work hard to keep the impact on traffic to a minimum,” wrote Chris Zhang in an email.

The concerns are not lost on anyone at the city, officials said.

“Rest assured that traffic will be a major factor in the upcoming Apple EIR. I expect funding for some mitigation will come out of that process. Traffic should also be addressed in the upcoming General Plan Amendment process,” wrote Mayor Orrin Mahoney in an email exchange with concerned citizens. “I encourage the people copied on this email to stay engaged in both of these activities.”

Other Cupertino Patch articles on this topic:

Critics Calling Out Apple Campus 2 Design

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