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Posts Tagged ‘San Jose’

The timing would have been fortuitous. Had the VTA simply stuck with its original cut-cover tunnel plans for BART phase-2, then some of the most disruptive construction might have occurred during the COVID shutdown.

As most know, the BART phase-2 tunnel was originally planned as conventional cut-cover, and considerable engineering work had been done on that design. But the cut-cover plan was derailed when San Jose demanded a more complicated deep-bore design. This led to years of delays (not to mention billions in cost overruns).

The reason for the unusual demand was to reduce disruption of local business. Those businesses have now been destroyed anyway by COVID — so all the extra tunnel expense was for nothing. Downtown San Jose will now get a double whammy: COVID followed by BART construction. This was probably not the outcome they were expecting.

One can imagine in some alternate universe that the VTA took advantage of the COVID shutdown to expedite construction. While the pandemic was not predictable, any major delay in the planning pipeline reduces flexibility in construction scheduling. Compare to the controversy over the LACMTA Purple line extension through Beverly Hills. Rather than give in to irrational demands, the LACMTA stuck with original plans, and then expedited that plan when COVID hit.

Project schedule as of July 2016

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Anaheim has its $200 million ‘ARTIC’ station. San Francisco has its $2+ billion Transbay Terminal. But the award for most expensive and useless intermodal station project will surely go to San Jose, for its $10 billion (yes with a “b”) Dirion makeover.

There is a lot that can be said about problems with the project, but this one picture from a recent presentation sums it up:

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The Caltrain/HSR platforms are on the elevated structure, and the VTA LRT stop is proposed to be re-located underground. Note that the layout we have today has both the LRT and Caltrain platforms at-grade alongside each other. So after spending $10 billion, they’ve made the transfer worse — even though convenient “intermodal” transfers was a design goal. With the Caltrain tracks elevated above grade, it would be simple to continue the LRT line at-grade through the station area, with a stop directly at a station entrance (preferably the north concourse side on Santa Clara St).

What’s bizarre is that a group of stakeholders were sent on a junket to study European train stations, including this one in Rotterdam –which as you can see has the trams located at-grade directly outside the station:

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So much for that Climate Emergency.

Last September, Mayor Sam Liccardo and the San Jose City Council adopted a Climate Emergency Declaration that was supposed to focus efforts to reduce the GHG emissions. It followed a similar declaration by Santa Clara County.  63% of San Jose carbon emissions are from automobiles, and yet

San Jose leaders want to squash an effort to divert transportation funding away from highways interchanges and expressway improvements and toward increasing public transit options.

The city council on Tuesday voted 7-2 to send a letter to the Valley Transportation Authority Board of Directors urging them against shifting any money from the funding priorities promised to Santa Clara County voters with the 2016 transportation sales tax, Measure B.

With only about one year into using the 30-year funding source, Mayor Sam Liccardo said that it was too soon to have this conversation. “It is fundamentally disempowering to community and democratic processes whenever we engage in that much outreach and that much engagement and then within a year of us being able to spend these dollars.”

It is amusing that San Jose leaders only now care about adhering to voter promises in the transportation tax measure. Voters were previously promised better Caltrain, LRT, and bus service, only to have that funding redirected elsewhere. It is also strange to say it is “too soon” to have a conversation about funding priorities when VTA has just made cuts to bus service.

 

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The BART-SJ extension includes a redundant station at Santa Clara, duplicating the existing Caltrain service. At last month’s VTA Board meeting, Director Bob Rennie asked staff the following:

Rennie: We’ve had a number of people come to our Board meeting and ask why are we spending the extra money to extend to Santa Clara? I’ve never seen a trade-off of other options. If we have not done a trade-off analysis, are we going to do a trade-off analysis? Can we do a wider station at Diridon instead?

VTA Staff (Dennis Radcliffe): Many of those things were considered, but generally we are not exploring any of those…The Santa Clara station provides parking that we’re not providing at the downtown station.

I know this is pointing out the obvious but….if VTA wants to provide more parking at that location they can build a new garage at the Santa Clara Caltrain station and have those riders board Caltrain. 

 

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When San Jose pushed for a deep-bore tunnel on the downtown BART extension, one of the criticisms heard repeatedly was the station access issues. So it is bizarre that Mayor Liccardo would only now criticize staff for producing a station design lacking entrances:

For San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Councilmember Raul Peralez, who both sit on the VTA board, the higher budget or delayed opening wasn’t as much of a concern as the lack of pedestrian access to the planned Downtown San Jose BART station. The lawmakers called for a second downtown station entrance. The lively session on Friday included discussion of changes to the current plan, with board members representing San Jose raising flags about the concept for the BART station set to be built downtown.

The current plan only includes one main entrance — located just north of Santa Clara Street — across an already-busy intersection from many of San Jose’s largest employers and attractions.

“I’m just very concerned about setting ourselves up for having pedestrians cross and clear (Santa Clara) when we know the number of assets in downtown where we expect people to be coming from… San Jose State University, City Hall, Adobe world headquarters, Zoom headquarters, all the entertainment venues,” Liccardo said. “All of those are south of Santa Clara.”

VTA’s off-the-cuff estimate for the addition of a second, south-of-Santa Clara underground entrance to the station would be in the $100 million range.

Major downtown metro and rail stations typically have entrances going off in multiple directions. The SJ downtown stop will have just the single entrance.

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The idea of extending BART from Diridon to the Santa Clara Caltrain station never made any sense, as it merely duplicates the existing Caltrain service. But it makes even less sense if San Jose has no plans to upzone the surrounding neighborhood:

Santa Clara University — along with Bellarmine College Preparatory and Cristo Rey Jesuit High School — wants to build a 290-unit apartment complex to house faculty and staff along with a tech business incubator.

While the university owns the land on Campbell Avenue where the proposed development would be built, it’s zoned for industrial use. And even as it wants to add more affordable housing, San Jose is grappling with a notorious jobs-housing imbalance and trying to preserve shrinking industrial land.

This week, the city’s planning department shocked the trio of schools by suggesting the City Council deny their request to have the space — close to a Caltrain station and a BART station slated to open in the future — rezoned for transit-oriented residential use.

The Planning Commission did vote to override staff objections. City Council will take up the matter next month.

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Tuition at SJSU has been soaring. 13% of students experienced homelessness over the past year. And yet the highest priority for San Jose State is…a multi-level parking garage:

A historic track where two of San Jose State’s most famous Olympians trained will soon be no more. The university said Bud Winter Field on the South Campus will be turned into a new parking garage.

“Yes, there were plans to see if a new track could be installed,” said San Jose State Athletics Media Relations Director Lawrence Fan. “But the greater need for San Jose State and San Jose State Athletics is a multi-level parking structure.”

The new garage is 1.25 miles south of the main campus, so it won’t be all that useful for commuters attending class.

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This has been a grim year for pedestrians in San Jose, with 23 fatalities (thus far). But San Jose leaders have come up with a brilliant solution: widen roadways and speed up the traffic!

Officials in San Jose think a possible solution to the recent uptick in fatal pedestrian deaths plaguing the city could be to widen the roads at a couple of traffic trouble spots.

The plan involves a land swap that will allow officials to widen Branham Road and Snell Avenue, two of the most problematic streets in the city. San Jose plans to use the strips to widen Branham and Snell. Right now, the roadway narrows down and forces cars to merge within a short distance.

This project will widen a 2-lane road into 4-lane, with medians along with new signals. This will greatly speed up traffic, leading to more death and destruction. It is crazy they call it a pedestrian safety project.

In a 2017 memo, Councilmember Khamis called this a “Green” infrastructure project, and proposed taking $2 million out of the Essential Services Fund to help pay for it.

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Branham Ln current configuration

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Senator Wiener’s legislation for transit housing (SB-627) is dead now, and the car-centric planning around BART stations continues on. Here are the latest neighborhood plans for the San Jose Berryessa station. The Mercury News describes this plan as having “more intense densities and new visions of how the ambitious Berryessa district development might appear.”

As you can see, the retail center looks like just another suburban strip mall (click image to enlarge).

berryessa

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The Bay Area is notorious for preventing infill development around transit stations. But with Branham LRT station in San Jose, things have hit a new low.

The San Jose General Plan designates the area around the Branham LRT station for mixed-use development. Nonetheless, the VTA-owned property is zoned “A” (agricultural!). To facilitate transit-oriented development, VTA submitted a request to change the zoning. Developing the Branham parking lot is a no-brainer, since it has just 13% utilization.

But neighbors and Councilmember Johnny Khamis are pushing back, forcing the VTA to at least temporarily withdraw the application:

When VTA’s application was filed recently, San Jose City Councilman Johnny Khamis said he would demand it address traffic around the northbound on-ramp to Highway 87 near the site before he would even consider a land use amendment.

“I let VTA know that they would have big opposition, including myself, to developing that property…without traffic mitigation measures at least started. “To change the zoning to housing before we address the traffic concerns, it seemed irresponsible to me,” he added.

Gee, if only there were an LRT station nearby to mitigate the traffic….

branham

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