Thursday, July 26, 2007

VTA releases revised COA plan

VTA recently released a revised COA plan after a series of public meetings. The revised plan has addressed most of the concerns raised during the public comment period.

Summary of the changes made in the revised plan:

- Foothill College will be served by the extended route 40 from San Antonio Shopping Center, and line 52 will also serve the college from Downtown Mountain View as it is today. Line 23 will end at De Anza College.

- West Valley College will continue to have service from the north and the east. Line 53, originally proposed to cut service south of De Anza College, will rather be extended along the current line 54 alignment to West Valley College. Line 54 will end at De Anza College as proposed earlier. From the east, line 37, rather than be eliminated, will be extended from Camden & Union to Winchester light rail station, and then to West Valley College via Hacienda, Burrows, Pollard, Quito and Allendale, similar to the alignment suggested by Zakhary Mallett of VTA Riders' Union. Line 27 will end at Good Samaritian Hospital as originally planned.

- The Villages in Evergreen Valley would be served by the realigned line 39. In addition, line 39 will be converted to a community bus route and will also serve the new Evergreen Village Square. Evergreen College will be served by line 31 from Eastridge as originally proposed.

- Line 35 will continue to serve Stanford Shopping Center. VTA originally planned to cut service to the shopping center due to duplication of service by SamTrans, even though SamTrans does not collect sales taxes generated at the shopping center.

- Line 51 will serve De Anza College

- Line 61 and 62 will operate on Hedding between Coleman & 1st St, thereby maintain service to traffic court (which some people who go there should get there on transit and not driving), county jail, and the Hall of Justice.

- Line 63 will continue to serve the Almaden Valley (except the Via Valiente portion) and line 13 will maintain its current routing.

- Line 65 will be converted to community buses but will maintain service to Downtown San Jose. In the south, the line will start on Blossom Hill and Meridian. The original plan would cut service to downtown, thereby eliminating direct service between the San Jose City College and Downtown San Jose.

- Line 76 will be maintained but will operate only on days when Los Gatos High School is in session.

- Line 88 will operate from San Antonio Shopping Center to the VA Hospital via San Antonio, Fabian, Charleston, and Arastradero. School days service will be provided along Louis. The original plan would operate along El Camino and Arastradero. The portion between the VA Hospital and California Avenue Caltrain station would be taken over by a new community bus line 89.

- Lines 66 and 68 will keep their current route.

- Lines 104 and 122 will keep their current service.

Major changes including routing of lines 23, 64, and 81, along with the implementation of new lines 168 and 181 are still in the revised plan. The revised plan also includes the elimination of lines 38, 44, 59, 85, 101, and 305.

The VTA Board is scheduled to approve the COA operating plan at its meeting on August 30.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Can VTA make it?

This year, as in the last two years, the San Jose Grand Prix race track will cross the light rail tracks in Downtown San Jose. The light rail system will be split apart during the Grand Prix.

Unlike last year when the light rail system was split in four ways during the racing weekend. VTA would be splitting the system in three ways: lines from Mountain View and Alum Rock would continue to Downtown San Jose. The line from Winchester will continue to Santa Teresa at the Children's Discovery Museum.

The line from Winchester to Santa Teresa, although it will be much more user friendly, does present some operational challenges. The stations between Race and Winchester can only accomodate two car trains, whereas other stations can accomodate three car trains. Also, the Winchester line has two single track segments, which limits train frequency. It is possible that VTA would operate some trains from Santa Teresa only to San Jose Diridon Station.

Friday, July 06, 2007

More on SB 264

Apparently Sally Lieber's yes vote on SB 264 didn't come without strings attached. Margaret Okuzumi of BayRail Alliance recently went to Sacramento and descibed the politics there on the VTA Rider's Union list:

Sally Lieber voted for the bill, but on the condition that Alquist agrees to support a request Lieber will make to the state Bureau of State Audits asking them to audit VTA. Alquist promised to do this, saying, "You have my word". Otherwise Sally would have killed the bill in committee.

Okuzumi praised Sally Lieber's move of not pissing off powerful interests by voting against the bill, yet able to obtain a concession of a state audit of VTA. The state not only can perform financial audit but performance audit as well.

SB 264 has yet to be decided by the Republican governor, who could veto the bill.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

SB 264 passing through the Assembly

The seemingly harmless Senate Bill 264, which would give VTA an option to raise the sales tax by 1/8 cent, is heading to the full Assembly. In the Senate and in the Assembly committees, the bill was passed largely by party line votes, with almost all the Democratic majority voted yes and all the Republican minority voted no.

Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, who once sat on the VTA Board and disappointed with its San Jose centric power-politics, chose not to exercise her power to reform VTA and voted to support the bill. She did so likely in an attempt to get support from labor as she plans to run for the County Supervisor seat against Liz Kniss. Labor has been a key for Supervisorial candidates because of the large population size of the district. Before the establishment of VTA when the transit system was govern by the County Board of Supervisors, the influence from labor earned the transit system the name "Santa Claus transit." VTA currently is the highest paid transit system, even though work pressure is less than those in San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles.

The bill that would prolong the unsustainable tax-and-waste culture at VTA did not escape the editors at Gilroy Dispatch, which wrote an editorial highlighting the deficiencies at VTA.

If the Assembly passes the bill and the governor signs it, be prepared for a fight next year.