Sunday, September 11, 2005

VTA insane tax talk heats up

The proposed 1/4 cent sales tax will be the main topic at the upcoming VTA board workshop scheduled this Friday.

In addition to the basic expenditure on assumptions drafted by Gonzales earlier, VTA also evaluated additional assumptions submitted by SV"L"G and the cities in the north county.

In both scenarios submitted by SVLG and the north county, the opening of the BART extension would be delayed for three years to 2018. For the SVLG scenario, the tax would be a temporary tax with a 30 year life, whereas in other scenarios would be permanent. In the case of the north county scenario, the reason for the 3 year delay is to use the extra funds to support Caltrain electrification sooner.

The SVLG version would fund roads and bicycle program, and would eliminate funds for the Downtown-East Valley light rail, along with cutting funds for Caltrain electrification arbitrarily by 10%. The reason for cutting light rail and reduce funding for Caltrain electrification is that these projects don't poll well according to SVLG. SVLG also recommended a 30 year life, rather than a permanent tax, for the same reason.

Caltrain electrification

SVLG underestimated the benefits Caltrain electrificiation, and arbitrarily splited Caltrain station and service improvements (which polled better according to SVLG) from electrification. Currently Caltrain is studying to replace the entire passenger fleet, which most of the vehicles are 20 years old, with new low floor vehicles. The new vehicles would enhance accessibility for the disabled, decrease dwell time, and further improve acceleration.

If a total fleet replacement is to be considered as a waste for Caltrain, wouldn't the total fleet replacement for light rail be a waste as well? VTA replaced its 15-year-old high floor fleet two years ago, with low floor vehicles that, other than improved accessibility, deliver no additional improvements.

Why didn't SVLG arbitrarily split BART into segments (say to Milpitas and then downtown San Jose)? Would one of the segments poll better than the other?

Downtown-East Valley

This is a comment made by the City of San Jose (included in the VTA workshop packet) that demostrated the city's lack of knowledge in transportation:

The Mayor asked for both full and partial light rail options to be brought forward. That means single car light rail all the way down Alum Rock and Santa Clara streets and single car and multi-car light rail down Alum Rock to stop at the BART station at Alum Rock with passengers going down Santa Clara Street to change to bus rapid transit at the Alum Rock Station.

Similarly, bus passengers going up Santa Clara who want to proceed up Alum Rock would change to light rail. The mayor wants the full range of options considered and not just bus rapid transit or single car light rail all the way up or down Santa Clara and Alum Rock. Only then will the San Jose members be in a position to sort out the best option the area.

VTA did not study a light rail extension from Capitol Avenue to 28th Avenue and shouldn't be. Today, passengers riding along that corridor between downtown and East San Jose have a one-seat ride. Building light rail to 28th Avenue means that these passengers would have to transfer between vehicles. Although passengers from the east to downtown could transfer to BART (as Gonzales and SVLG would want them to) for a rail-only trip, most passengers won't because of the high cost involved, along with the inconvenience of walking to and from the subway stop for otherwise a 10-minute bus ride.

If they support BART because it would eliminate a transfer for some out-of-county residents, why would they support a half-ass light rail extension that would add a transfer for in-county residents along the most utilized transit corridor?

San Jose Airport People Mover

Yoriko Kishimoto of the Palo Alto City Council asked about the People Mover, and VTA responded that the project is currently under study. Despite all the promises of a people mover today, the reality is that the project won't go anywhere.

San Jose voters approved a measure in March 2003 that allowed the airport to expand without the people mover to the light rail station on North First Street. The people mover was included in the original expansion as a way to mitigate the anticipated increase of airport traffic:

The expansion of the people mover to the other side of the airport is more expensive and complex than to go to the light rail on North First Street. Although having the people mover going under the runway (rather than going around) would shorten the trip time significantly, it seems rather unlikely due to the security sensitivities after 9/11. Also, we don't know who is going to pay for the operating cost of the people mover.

The likely case is that passenger from BART, just like Caltrain and light rail passengers, would have to take bus #10 to get to the airport, even with an extra 1/4 cent sales tax.


Anonymous said...

There's a bit of an issue with the newer Caltrain Bombardier trainsets when it comes to bikes.

Calling the cars "lowfloor" is a bit of a misnomer as only about a sixth of the seats are located on the low portion, which reduces the amount of bikes Bombardier trainsets can carry. Caltrain becomes a lot less appealing when you get bumped from a train already full of bikes and won't be seeing another stop there for 40 minutes.

If they are going to replace the entire fleet they must also look at increasing bike capacity. Perhaps a smaller, 8 bike, section but on each and every car in the train?

When your home is just a little to far to walk from a station, but takes just a few minutes on a bike, Caltrain makes a great commute alternative.

accountablevta said...

Most of the low floor transit vehicles are not 100% low floor. These vehicles have enough of a low floor section to offer a more level boarding to speed up dwell time. Once passengers are in the vehicle, they can take as long as they please to move inside the vehicle.

Bike access is one of these things to be addressed when purchasing new vehicles, and it is major reason to purchase new vehicles. If Caltrain were operated like it was 10 years ago (no bikes and wheelchair), it wouldn't have a dwell time problem.

Anonymous said...

I ride Caltrain sometimes, and the bike commuters are almost always the ones who take the longest to board.

If the train is one of the old ones, I don't even consider getting on the bike car because both the bikes and the rest of us have to fit through one narrow door, with steps, at the middle of the car.

I've also been on the new trains which have not just the low floors that make boarding quicker, but also have a pair of doors at either end of the low floor section which makes it a lot more like getting on the BART.

The new trains also have two bike cars, not just the one most of the old trains have, which means going from all the bikes having to go through one door, to four doors.

I don't mind getting on the bike car when it's a new train because instead of the bike mob, there's only one or two in or out the same door as the rest of us.