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Posts Tagged ‘VTA’

Silicon Valley is supposedly America’s capital of innovation. But its transportation sales tax measure is a huge step backwards. It would spend $3 billion on highway expansions, leaving hardly anything on bikes and transit. According to the environmental group TransForm, the measure performs badly on reducing automobile VMT.

Silicon Valley already suffers from some of the nation’s worst gridlock. Rather than provide transit alternatives, the VTA is proposing further cuts to the bus network. The transportation expenditure plan would lock those cuts in place for the next 2+ decades.

Getting around by bicycle won’t be any easier either, as the plan allocates just 4% of funds for bike/ped infrastructure. Compare to Alameda County, which will be spending 10% of its local funds on bike/ped. Or the upcoming measure in San Luis Obispo county, which would spend 15% of funds on bike/ped projects.

The one big transit capital project is, of course, the BART extension to San Jose. However, the expenditure plan would continue the line out to Santa Clara Caltrain station, wasting hundreds of millions of dollars duplicating the existing Caltrain service.

Speaking of Caltrain, the Caltrain advocates are happy that the expenditure plan includes $1 billion for grade separations and “capacity improvements”. Their joy will probably be short lived as the VTA has always re-purposed Caltrain funds to pay for BART cost overruns.

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VTA proposes cuts to bus network

A bus network is a compromise between ridership and coverage. Trunk routes provide the bulk ridership, while feeder lines fill in the geographic gaps. Geographic coverage is pretty important for low-income riders without cars, seniors, persons with disabilities. And in a place like Silicon Valley, geographic coverage is also needed for reaching the remote office parks.

However, feeder routes do not generate much farebox revenue. And with VTA struggling to pay for a ludicrously expensive BART subway, it is looking to cut bus service:

Despite a Santa Clara Valley population and jobs boom, ridership on buses and light-rail trains has dropped a staggering 23 percent since 2001, forcing the Valley Transportation Authority to consider its biggest shake-up ever in transit service.

Tough, unpopular decisions loom if the VTA hopes to attract those new passengers, get them to their destinations and improve its dismal 10 percent fare box return, which is the worst in the nation among similar agencies.

At the crux: Is the board willing to cut sparsely used, unprofitable routes that carry a handful of passengers — many of whom have no other means of transportation?

“This is going to take quite a bit of courage,” VTA General Manager Nuria Fernandez said following the release of a 68-page report on bus operations. “Ridership continues to decrease. Our fare box is not getting any better. Clearly we are going to have to make a choice to take a chance or nothing will ever change.”

Currently, about 30 percent of VTA bus service is geared to covering areas where bus rides are vital to the very few riders those lines carry. The two-year, $50,000 report by consultant Jarrett Walker + Associates said if that was lowered to 20 percent or 10 percent and money was redirected to the most heavily used routes, ridership and fare revenues would likely increase.

VTA riders are being given a hobson’s choice. They can choose either a comprehensive network with 30-60 minute headways, or a much more limited network with 5-15 minute headways.

The one choice they aren’t being given is to restore cuts made in bus funding.

In 2002. the VTA provided 1,508,300 revenue-hours of bus service. By 2013, service levels declined to 1,290,216 revenue-hours. The reason for the decline was to pay for very expensive expressway, LRT, and BART projects. The only logical choice is to reduce the highway spending, and to bring BART costs under control, in order to avoid eviscerating the bus network.

vta_graph

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It is amazing how the highway lobby gets their hands on all the money. When a BART extension project took tracks over Mission Blvd in Fremont, the highway lobby used the opportunity for a massive $150 million road widening:

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This monster freeway interchange lies just south of the new Warm Springs BART station. The entire station area has been surrounded by a moat of highways and freeway interchanges.

Even though there have been various bike plans for the south Fremont area, none of it has been built (unless you count riding on the shoulder of a high speed arterial). So good luck using the new BART station to generate walkable, bikeable TOD development that was promised. And anyone dumb enough to try biking through there will suffer the consequences.

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At its March 6 meeting, the VTA Board received the Supplemental EIR for the Vasona LRT extension. This $175 million project will add one or two new stations, and expand the Winchester station.

Now you are probably thinking that with Silicon Valley’s massive housing shortage, the VTA would be planning to use these stations for TOD, right?

Sadly, no. Here is the new Winchester Station-and-Park-and-Ride lot:

winchester

 

And here is the new Vasona Junction Station-and-Park-and-Ride lot:

vasona

 

And here is the Phase-2 (optional) Hacienda Station-and-Park-and-Ride:

hacienda

By the year 2035, the extension is projected to generate 729 new daily transit trips. How awesome is that!

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Moffett Park Clusterfuck

This is Moffett Park station — a stupendous example of  VTA incompetence. This photo below is of Moffett Park Dr, the main street running past the station.

Note the total lack of sidewalks, or bike lanes of that matter. And the special touch of making transit riders climb over a railing, just to reach the platform:

Moffett Park Station

See that parking garage in the distance? Here is a closer look:

Moffett Parking Garage

Believe it or not, this 1217-space parking garage was built as part of a Sunnyvale “Green Building” Initiative. Another fine example of promoting transit-oriented development in Silicon Valley!

moffett_overhead

Moffett Park station, by the way, is one of the least used VTA LRT stations. I can’t imagine why that is?

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As the name suggests, “Capitol Expressway” is the most unlikely street to blow $60 million (!) on pedestrian and streetscape improvements. Or for that matter, building a $310 million light rail line:

San Jose, Calif. – On Friday, October 5th, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) will celebrate the completion of pedestrian safety and access improvements along Capitol Expressway and future VTA rapid transit and light rail corridor. The Capitol Expressway Transit Improvement Project will ultimately transform Capitol Expressway into a multi-modal boulevard offering rapid transit, light rail transit, and safe pathways with connections to the regional transit system. Phase 1 of improvements includes new sidewalks, enhanced and additional street lighting, and a landscaping buffer between the sidewalk and roadway. A ribbon-cutting event is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Beshoff MotorCars – Mercedes-Benz, 3000 E. Capitol Expressway in San Jose.

“The long awaited transformation of East San Jose has begun and I could not be happier for our community,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese. “These fundamental improvements have made this corridor much safer for pedestrians and bicyclists, especially children who are walking and riding to many of the local attractions in the Evergreen area.”

This Press Release is insane. No parent is going to allow their children to walk or ride a bike on this monstrosity, no matter how much landscaping gets added:

Oh, and what exactly are the pedestrian improvements?

Upgraded street lighting for automobiles; and newly installed pedestrian lights to better illuminate bus stops and pathways. Fencing has also been added along the corridor to discourage people from jaywalking.

As you can see from the photo above, it is obvious why jaywalking is a problem.

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VTA Parking Glut

Turns out there is a silver lining to VTA’s dismal light-rail ridership. The agency has a glut in parking spaces at its park-and-ride stations:

(Click the chart to enlarge.)

For transit-oriented-development, it doesn’t get much easier than this. Unlike BART, there is no need for expensive parking-replacement garages because there is no parking demand (or any other riders for that matter). The only challenge is dealing with the stations located inside a freeway median, but that is not an insurmountable problem.

And while the VTA study identifies the problem, it falls short on solutions. It proposes two parking scenarios for year-2035 planning purposes. The first option would actually increase parking supply, based on ludicrous ridership projections. The second option, which was clearly preferred by the consultants, would decrease parking slightly (no more than 15%), while still maintaining a healthy surplus of 3,000 parking spaces.

Surely they can do better than that.

 

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