As recommended by the RIDES Task Force, VTA transit information is now included in the Google Transit trip planner, which is directly accessible from the VTA's main web page. It is a huge improvement over the 511.org trip planner with a faster and more familiar user interface.
Despite the speed and relative accuracy with online trip planners, online trip planners are generally rigid and don't educate new riders on using transit without going online. In the Google and 511 trip planners, they both list light rail lines with route numbers, which is not used at all both at the station and on the vehicles.
Google Transit and 511 trip planners cannot replace good timetable and map reading skills for savvy riders. The VTA customer service number and 511 are also helpful when traveling with a cell phone and need a timetable on demand.
VTA's PR department is now blowing smoke publicly after receiving two old grants and a permission to draft the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) from the FTA. These two FTA grants that VTA intends to reimburse itself for preliminary engineering was carried over from FY05 and FY06, before VTA withdrew itself from the Federal New Starts process after receiving "not recommended" status from the FTA for years.
Although VTA has completed the state requirement for Environmental Impact Report (EIR), VTA was not able to obtain permission from the FTA to begin the EIS until recently. The reason was because the BART to Warm Springs extension was under study and the EIS for that project was not approved until late last year. BART started the EIS for the Warm Springs extension in 2004 when the agency wanted to seek federal funds for that project. Originally BART intended the Warm Springs extension to be totally state and locally funded, with a huge portion coming from the operating surplus coming from the SFO extension which never materialized.
VTA has scheduled several "scoping" meeting for the BART project this month. While the presentations to be made by the staff at the beginning would be a waste of time, your feed back is important. The purpose of the "scoping" meeting is to determine areas of concerns the staff should study.
Breaking of a 2000 Measure A "promise"
This Thursday, the VTA Board will vote whether to shelf the Alum Rock-Santa Clara light rail project and recommend BRT instead. For many months, VTA Watch has reported that the light rail extension there is unlikely due to funding concerns, but this time VTA will officially break one of its "promises" in 2000 Measure A.
If VTA can break this "promise," VTA can also break its BART extension "promise," especially knowing that BART will bankrupt the agency and harm local transit, like what the SFO extension has done to SamTrans and Caltrain. Which promise is worthier to break? It depends whether you are a transit rider or a highly paid VTA staffer or consultant.