Sunday, March 27, 2005

VTA's new buses and more

Appeared on the March 30 agenda is a recommendation to approve the purchase of smaller buses. VTA plans to initially purchase 5 28-foot buses through the state's contract.

Also on the agenda is a resolution to oppose the closure of College Park Caltrain station, as well as a decision on the San Jose Grand Prix. The map of the new race course is included in the packet.

The two last minute resolutions on the College Park and the Grand Prix were submitted in the same "SJ Council/VTA board members' memo to the board" manner, essentially locking in five votes on the board.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice...

Palo Alto's City Council voted to oppose the VTA's proposed sales tax increase. It is good that Palo Alto is seriously considering the impact of the proposed sales tax increase and the benefits they would, or would not be getting.

Five years ago the same council supported the original Measure A. Sandy Eakins, a member of the PA's City Council at that time, sold herself to the Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group and was a strong advocate for the sale tax plan. During a VTA special board meeting on August 9, 2000, when VTA was about the place Measure A sales tax on the ballot, Eakins moved to amend the language of Measure A to include funding to study a BART extension from Santa Clara (where the original proposal ends) to Palo Alto. She did so after hearing a suggestion from her colleague at work!

Why is Palo Alto getting screwed in the 2000 Measure A? It is because of poor representation at the time when the plan was drafted. Instead of evaluating the project list seriously and negotiating a plan that ensures regional equity. Its representive choose to accept a fantasy idea from her colleague! It was a good thing that the voters kicked her out of the council in 2001.

VTA thought that they could go back to the council with the same lame plan and hope that some confused members would get fooled again, but not this time.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

VTA to restart its restructuring committee

Date: Thursday, March 24, 2005
Time: 4:00 PM
Location: County Government Center 10th Floor Conference Room 70 West Hedding Street San Jose

Monday, March 14, 2005

Gilroy Caltrain service spared for now

Despite the current budget crisis Caltrain is facing, Caltrain plans to keep the Gilroy service pretty much as it is for now.

Caltrain Joint Powers Board held a budget workshop earlier today, and presented revenue increasing and cost cutting measures. Instead of massive service cuts, as VTA has done to its service over the last few years, Caltrain is suggesting adding more popular Baby Bullet service, as well as a fare increase.

During the budget presentation, the staff argued to keep the Gilroy service, despite its low ridership and excess train capacity, because of the high level of fares collected. The JPB staff also argued and that cutting the service would result in relatively small savings. However it appears that the JPB staff included the total fare paid by Gilroy riders (beyond the Gilroy-South San Jose zones) in its calculation of revenue generated by the Gilroy service.

Let's see how serious VTA is regarding the Gilroy service and whether it is going to do anything to improve the ridership on that line.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

VTA partly at fault for Caltrain's fiscal emergency

This week, the Caltrain Joint Powers Board will meet and vote whether to declare fiscal emergency. If the board approves as expected, the Caltrain staff will propose train cuts and fare hikes to close the budget gap.

Transit agencies in the three counties that contribute operating funds to Caltrain (San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara have their contribution frozen for the last few years. It is hard to demand an increase in contribution in light of the current economic climate, esepcially in San Francisco where Muni is facing a $50 million plus budget gap. It is time to look at the system where the greatest savings can be achieve with the fewest riders impacted.

One of the area where the ridership and revenue continues to be sagging is the Gilroy-San Jose segment. Due to the VTA sponsored freeway widening, along with the dot-come bust, the ridership declined. Back in 2000, these trains used to be nearly full.

Falling ridership means falling revenue for Caltrain, which partly contributed to the current budget gap of about $11 million.

While that portion is solely funded by VTA, it would be a wise for VTA to reduce service on that segment and shift funds to protect the service and the ridership between Palo Alto and San Jose. Meanwhile the Gilroy-San Jose corridor could be serviced by express buses using the new VTA sponsored lanes on the freeway.