‘Vision Zero’ Plan Would Reduce Speed Limits, Traffic Deaths

City officials will consider reducing local speed limits and ramping up enforcement to curb traffic fatalities, which rival the annual number of homicides in San Jose.

The Vision Zero plan proposed by District 6 Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio calls for cameras at busy intersections, slowing speed limits by schools to 15 mph and summoning enforcement help from the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office and the California Highway Patrol.

The Swedish government introduced Vision Zero in 1997 in an effort to reduce the number of annual traffic deaths to zero by 2020. The country has since revised that benchmark to halve the number of yearly traffic fatalities by that same deadline. Several European nations adopted the guideline and reportedly saw sizable drops in pedestrian-traffic fatalities, including a 39-percent dip in Sweden, 48 percent in France and 53 percent in Spain.

San Jose claims an injury crash rate about half the national average, according to a report submitted to the City Council's Tuesday agenda. Still, about 40 people die every year from traffic crashes within city limits—a figure rivaling the annual homicide rate. Another 150 are seriously hurt each year.

In 2014, 42 people died in traffic crashes while walking, bicycling, riding a motorcycle or driving in San Jose. Most of those happened on multi-lane thoroughfares.

"There is a need and urgency to do more," San Jose's Director of Transportation Hans Larsen and police Chief Larry Esquivel write in a joint report.

The city found that 93 percent of those fatalities happen on major streets, 73 percent after dark and half by walking along or across roads. Fourteen major roadways—just 3 percent of the city's streets, including Almaden and Capitol avenues—accounted for half of the city's fatal crashes.

Because of existing traffic safety programs, San Jose has already seen a decline in traffic injuries and deaths. In 2014, the city saw zero traffic deaths in school zones and for kids younger than 15. The number of injury crashes for kids aged 5 to 14 has steadily dropped over the decade from 122 in 2004 to 55 last year, according to transportation officials. In 2014, there was one traffic death on a neighborhood street. Also last year, there were two bicycle fatalities—down from six the year prior.

"San Jose has 2,400 miles of roads with essentially no traffic enforcement, which leaves pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers at risk of serious injury or fatality," Oliverio writes in a memo supporting the plan. "Therefore, it is my belief that the council should address this issue by adopting road safety alternatives modeled after the Vision Zero approach. "

More from the San Jose City Council agenda for May 12, 2015:

  • A new audit found that the city of San Jose's employee vacancy rates are unacceptably high, partly because the recruitment process takes too long. Some of the backlog in hiring may owe to San Jose's controversial pension reforms, which knocked new hires down to a lower tier of retirement benefits. But in a report going before the City Council on Tuesday, city auditor Sharon Erickson points to several improvements that can be made to fill some of the 600 vacant full-time positions.
  • Low-income housing tax credits are the main source of capital to build affordable housing. Developers have to find private equity investments for affordable housing projects on their own. Under existing law, however, investors have to become owners of the property to claim those credits against state liabilities. Because state taxes are deductible from federal taxes, reducing state liability conversely increases federal liability for investors. Given the current federal corporate tax rate, investors typically put in nothing more than 65 cents to each dollar of state credit. The city has recommended endorsing a bill by Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) that would allow developers to sell state tax credits without requiring the investor to assume ownership, which makes it more valuable and, according to proponents, boost the amount of private equity available for affordable housing at no cost to the state.
  • City officials plan to support another state bill that would bolster the state's low-income housing tax credit program. AB 35, authored by Assemblymembers David Chiu (D-San Francisco) and Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), would raise the cap of available state tax credits from $100 million to $400 million a year. It would also increase the allowable state match for development and encourage investment in hard-to-develop neighborhoods. Over the last 25 years, San Jose has leveraged these state tax credits to build 130 developments with 13,900 affordable housing units.
  • CalWORKS, a public assistance program for needy children and families, now offers up to 16 consecutive days of temporary housing vouchers for the homeless. Assemblyman Brian Maienschein (R-San Diego) has proposed changing that to 16 days as needed. The city suggests endorsing Maienschein's AB 702 , which would also change the 32-day housing vouchers for domestic violence victims from consecutive days to a lifetime limit.
  • Among the council's top priorities for the coming year are discussions of: a mobile home conversion ordinance, rules about handing out food and clothing to the homeless at St. James Park and a high-rise incentive program.
  • Transportation officials want to lower the speed limit on certain streets by schools and bike lanes.
  • From 1990 to 2007, the city converted 1,400 acres of industrial land to residential—the equivalent of 21 Valley Fair shopping malls. By contrast, San Jose allowed only 86 acres to be converted from industrial to residential from 2007 to 2014. The council will hear a report about San Jose's history of land-use conversion, which has led to a jobs-housing imbalance where there are more residents than available jobs, unlike every other city in Silicon Valley. Under San Jose's general plan, the city's blueprint for future growth, planned growth calls for 120,000 new homes and 470,000 new jobs to reach a balance of 1.3 jobs per eligible worker.

WHAT: City Council meets
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260

Jennifer Wadsworth is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth. Or, click here to sign up for text updates about what she’s working on.


  1. Vision Zero, a laudable goal. However, you can lower the speed limit in school zones to 5 mph, but it will do no good unless there is rigorous and constant enforcement. That means high priced tickets, with a $500.00 enhancement for exceeding the speed limit in a school zone, for example. But who’s going to do the enforcing in SJ? SJ cops don’t even respond to burglaries or other low level crimes. Tickets are not crimes, they are merely infractions, so the likelihood of real enforcement is even less. Use the CHP? Then even more diamond lane scofflaws will get away with it. Even now you have a greater chance of being struck by lightning than you do of getting a ticket for being a solo driver in the diamond lane or talking non-hands free on your cell while driving. Stake out Plummer from Hillsdale to Presentation HS in the morning and you’ll see dozens of Presentation Moms, and Junior and Senior girls with licenses, speeding toward school. 25 mph limit, 35 mph is the norm. It’s the same in the p.m. when school’s out. It’s probably that way at almost every school zone. Without enforcement, this new program is another mostly worthless feel good program. Don’t pass laws you cannot or will not enforce, because it subtly erodes respect for the law.

    • “SJ cops don’t even respond to burglaries or other low level crimes.”

      This is not true. SJPD officers and CSO’s do in fact respond to burglaries and other “low level crimes.” Those same officers and CSO”s conduct followup investigation when reasonable leads exist. It might take hours to get there based on the number of crimes in the queue and the priority calls working at any given time but SJPD does moat certainly respond even when staffed at 852 and falling.

      Have you heard the recent hiring board met and offered 17 people a job that begins with the next police academy. Ya 17 For an Academy budgeted for 60 that the City was patting itself on the back if they wrre able to offer 30 a job….

  2. Vision Zero,
    As a driver and pedestrian in San Jose I’m happy that traffic fatality’s are down in San Jose. Actually I’m rater surprised.
    I’m not sure motorist are as much to blame as people doing stupid stuff in the street.
    Riding bikes against the light or walking across a green light seems to be way more common than drivers running a red light.
    Bicyclist at night with no lights or reflectors, in dark cloths a great way to get yourself killed.

    Who are the people ridding around on Friday night by the hundreds running lights all over town and all over the lanes.
    Critical Condition Mass? Seems we could use some enforcement on the lower end of the problem too.

    Common sense class in our schools, is something we need in the schools around here. Traffic safety would be a great place to start as it was when I was a kid.
    Maybe it needs to be tweeted of face booked every day!

  3. From PO,

    “Deliver previously funded and proposed safety investments in the Traffic CIP valued in excess of $80 million. This “pipeline” of new safety improvements.”

    Really, 80 million, how much more is the city hiding funds.

    Wow, I love this when we cannot hire anymore officers to provide traffic enforcement. But let’s use this to pay the county and CHP to do the job for us.

    How much money is the city hiding?

    The Swedish government, is this your weak post to cover your free trip? Come on is the best you can do PO, how about San Jose PD be allowed to reallocate officers to traffic control.

  4. A city plan that tries to achieve a jobs to employed residents ratio of 1.3 (from .86 currently) is of course impossible. City leaders need to be honest with the public and property owners and plan for a more realistic ratio, around .95 to 1.0.

  5. Why would the CHP or S.O. even consider helping the city of San Jose with its history of treatment/dismantling of SJPD….Hello McFly???? Confirm ex-Mayor Reed and current Mayor Liccardo want to impose their illegal ballot measure statewide to cut CHP and S.O. pay/benefits as well? Im sure if CHP or S.O. accepted a contract it will be 3 to 4 times more than the actual cost of having SJPD do the job. Plus I don’t think CHP and S.O. have 7 letter disposition codes for all their encounters with this racially sensitive city.

  6. COUNCIL AGENDA: 5-12-15 ITEM: 3.4

    Why would you want to work here when the Workers Comp Unit is so short handed they will not / or ordered not to approve already granted disability payments / treatments that were already approved by the city.

    I had to wait over 6 months to have approval for a surgery that I was given an agreement for a life time settlement.

  7. What does coming close to the number of murders have to do with anything? Even in recent years, San Jose has very few murders relatively speaking.

    • You might have a point if “murder” was the only thing SJPD was tasked with responding to and investigating but it isn’t so I guess you don’t have a point.

  8. 5/9 shots fired between two groups in the area of Osgood Ct. Multiple callers stating one down and bleeding. Victim transported to RMC. Cops recover an AK47 and a .45 along with multiple pounds of weed nearby.
    5/9 Taco Bell on Alum Rock robbed at gunpoint dark skin male with hoodie fled
    5/10 Men break into home in Berryessa armed with pistols . Pistol whip occupants and flee,
    5/10 Victim walks into RMC with multiple stab wounds from a fight on the westside.
    5/10 carjacking at gunpoint King and cunningham. Suspects flee with victims wallet and phone
    5/10 shots fired at 2nd Margaret. Male exits vehicle fires 5-6 rounds into other vehicle. Victim arrives at VMC with a gunshot wound to the upper chest.
    Just a snippet of approx 36 hrs….. Voltaire whats it like to see SJ through your rose colored glasses? Whats the common theme here? Perhaps all victims went to RMC? Perhaps none of this was reported on the local news? Perhaps if these incidents happend in Oakland at least 1-3 people would potentially be homicides? The common theme is RMC saves more lives than any trauma center in the entire bay area. Cheerleaders like yourself do no good to the citizens of this city! BTW the comparison being made was the fact that auto fatals rival homicides. Get a clue.

  9. How deluded are the folks running this City?

    They will accept this explanation from the City auditor:

    “A new audit found that the city of San Jose’s employee vacancy rates are unacceptably high, partly because the recruitment process takes too long…”

    … and conclude that if they could somehow streamline the process people would suddenly decide that working for below market rate pay and benifits in a City where they can’t afford to live is a good idea

    …and then will all pat themselves and there staffs on the back for ‘”discussing” these ‘high priorities”

    “Among the council’s top priorities for the coming year are discussions of: a mobile home conversion ordinance, rules about handing out food and clothing to the homeless at St. James Park and a high-rise incentive program.’

    Way to go SJ!

  10. Mr.Oliverio’s suggestion that “red light traffic cameras” can be as effective as live police officers in deterring traffic collisions is another example of playing with matches by someone who doesn’t even know that fire is hot. The system is workable in smaller agencies or in larger jurisdictions with staffing sufficient to make it work but sadly, SJPD is not one of those anymore. Mr. Oliverio, did you even bother to read the law regarding all the conditions required by law for the operation of red-light traffic cameras? It’s section 21455.5 of the California Vehicle Code. I’ll try to provide some highlights:

    The local jurisdiction must “ensure that only those citations that have been reviewed and approved by law enforcement are delivered to violators”. Mr. Oliverio, do you have any idea what that means? Generally, even if SJPD had any to spare, an investigator needs to obtain a DMV driver’s license photo of the registered owner of the violator’s vehicle and then try to compare that photo to the photo from the traffic camera and see if they match. This is much more time intensive than it sounds and presumes that the vehicle will have only one registered owner listed and that the driver’s license photo is reasonably current. A substantial number of people renew their driver’s licenses by mail and may go years without updating their photos. Appearances do sometimes change dramatically as people age. This may help to explain why, in a large jurisdiction like Sacramento, only about 35% of the camera-violations result in the issuance of a citation. Yet, 100% of the work must still be done by the investigator.

    In a city the size of San Jose, an investigator will quickly become inundated with hundreds of citations a month and these will gather dust while waiting for photo comparison. The backlog would undoubtedly result in a year or more passing before the offender ever receives a notice, if he ever receives one at all. Meanwhile and long afterwards, SJPD would need to store the photos, camera equipment calibration logs and maintenance records, to include who might have repaired any of the equipment, what their response time was and logs showing when a repair ticket was sent and when it was executed. This must be provided upon request of the violator, each and every time it is requested, and the violator doesn’t even have to go to court. The violator never signs a “promise to appear notice”, and isn’t then even required to appear in court so there is no particular consequence for creating hours of investigative work and squandering of resources.

    If that weren’t enough Mr. Oliverio, the supplier that operates the red light camera, in cooperation with SJPD, must submit an annual report to the State Judicial Council. The report must include: The number of alleged violations captured by all the cameras they operate in that jurisdiction; The number of citations issued by a law enforcement agency based on information collected from the traffic camera system; The number of violations that involved traveling straight through the intersection, turning right, and turning left; The number and percentage of citations that are dismissed by the court (I can’t even imagine where this latter number is going to come from when a substantial percentage of violators won’t even show up to court because they never signed a “failure to appear” notice and don’t have to, and I can’t even begin to imagine the nightmarish amount of administrative and clerical work that would be involved. In fact, Mr. Oliverio, call the traffic court right now and find out the percentage of citations dismissed last month. Let me know in 6 months from now, if you can; And finally; The report must include the number of traffic collisions at each intersection that occurred prior to, and after the installation of, the traffic enforcement camera and this every time one is installed at a new intersection.

    This doesn’t take into account the number of drunk or drugged drivers that a cop would catch that a camera cannot, or the number of robbery, burglary, or other felony suspects or petty criminals that the camera can’t stop and investigator after they blow that red light.

    Mr. Oliverio, if you want to use technology to enhance enforcement, then put a police uniform and a hat on an ATM machine and let a violator punch in the violation they want as well as the amount of the fine they are willing to pay. If you are truly serious about traffic enforcement for the sake of public safety, then hire more cops and staff a Traffic Unit!

  11. Mr Oliverio cannot be taken seriously. This is the same man who stated that the citizens in SJ neighborhoods with burglary spikes are safe because the “bad man” only breaks in when people are not home. Maybe he should go over to the house of the 87 year old woman off of San Felipe and tell her that or maybe go tell the two females near The Ranch that those two scums that were wielding kitchen knives and kicking the bathroom door where they were hiding was just confused and didnt know they were home and most likely would not of hurt them. PLO is very dangerous. Politicians that make decisions and wild comments at the expense of hundreds of thousands of citizens. I sometimes wonder if they just have a Tarot card reader or maybe a spin wheel in closed chambers. I dont know how else they come up with these plans that have Zero Vision.