Thursday, November 29, 2007

New maps and timetables ready, light rail's 20th anniversary, Caltrain proposed schedule change

VTA's web site has now included new bus schedules that will take effect on January 14. Throughout December and early January, VTA will be tabling at various sites offering trip planning to riders.

Light rail's 20th anniversary

20 years ago, the Santa Clara County Transit District opened its first segment of light rail in North San Jose, between Younger Street and Old Ironsides station.

Is the light rail's 20th anniversary something worth celebrating?

After two decades, various system extensions, and an expensive conversion to low floor rail cars, light rail has received way more criticisms than praises. The light rail's passenger load and farebox recovery rank low compared to other light rail systems in the rest of the country. Light rail has not helped turn Downtown San Jose into a major employment or shopping destination. For the majority of commuters having jobs in North San Jose, Sunnyvale, and Mountain View, the 10 mph segment in Downtown San Jose is a huge liability rather than an asset. A lot of folks said that light rail should've skipped downtown and instead head straight to the airport.

The scary part is that these downtown delusionals that were once counting on light rail are now counting on BART in hopes to turn the downtown around. If folks in South San Jose are not riding light rail to downtown, or even drive to downtown at all, why should these downtown delusionals think they could get folks from Oakland or Berkeley to go to downtown San Jose?

Caltrain proposed schedule change

Since the August 2005 schedule change that increased the number of Baby Bullet trains, there are gaps over an hour long in early evening service for both northbound and southbound trains. The current proposal would add an additional round trip within the gap and reschedule other trains to provide an hourly headway. Caltrain says that it can add trains because of the operational efficiency resulted from the new maintenance facility in San Jose.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

More route changes coming in January

While it seems that VTA has settled the operating plan down for January, at least two changes will take place that will be different from what was approved by the VTA board in August.

DASH - With the approval of the City and Downtown Association, it will resume the old route before August 2005 when buses go straight on San Fernando Street from the train station to 4th Street. The current deviation on Santa Clara Street has added travel time as buses wait at lights on Almaden Boulevard (freeway onramp) and on Santa Clara Street. This change is reflected in the January 2008 service preview map, which will be released by VTA soon.

Line 11 - Sponsored by VTA Boardmember/San Jose City Councilman Sam Liccardo, line 11 will operate on 3rd Street and on Jackson Street (instead of 6th and then Empire) from Downtown San Jose to Hedding Street & 17th Street. The alignment from Hedding & 17th to Downtown San Jose will stay as originally approved. This change, which will create a large one way loop operation, is not reflected in the preview map.

In addition to the route changes, the VTA and SamTrans board will vote next month whether to amend their interagency transfer agreement. The proposed change will partly mitigate the planned loss of line 22 service in Menlo Park by allowing VTA pass holders to board SamTrans buses in Menlo Park without paying additional fare. In return, VTA will honor SamTrans pass holders on VTA buses throughout Palo Alto. While the existing interagency transfer agreement (which honor each other's passes at shared bus stops) applies to VTA pass holders in Menlo Park today, a change in transfer agreement is necessary because Menlo Park will no longer have shared stops after the elimination of line 22 (the only VTA service) there.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

VTA November update

Dean Chu voted off

Incumbent Sunnyvale City Councilman Dean Chu, who is also the current chairperson at VTA, was defeated yesterday for another City Council term. He is the only incumbent from that city to be defeated in this election. His opponent, David Whittum, is against new taxes, including sales taxes by VTA. Chu, who has served on the VTA board for several years, has become one of the most reliable votes outside of San Jose to support San Jose and VTA administration.

Due to rotational representation, Sunnyvale will no longer have a regular membership on the VTA board next year, instead it will have an alternate membership. Chu will no longer be able to serve as a regular nor alternate member on VTA next year. However, he may be able to keep his membership on the MTC. Chu's predecessor on the MTC, John McLemore, has continued to serve on the MTC years for a few years even though he was no longer a member of the Santa Clara City Council.

$40 million staging site

With the support from San Jose downtown delusionals, VTA has done a big favor for the City of San Jose in the name of construction staging.

In a bidding war for a site in downtown San Jose, VTA recently agreed to purchase the property, which is zoned for high density development, for nearly $40 million. VTA said it needs the property so that "the lot will be used to store cranes, compressors, generators and soil cement mixing tanks, and later precast deckbeams, steel I-beams and steel struts..." only if voters in this county passes a new sales tax for VTA.

VTA does not have plans for permanent usage for much of the property and VTA admits the site can support private developments in the future. Regardless, VTA is spending $40 million, along with associated financing cost, to keep the site as an open air parking lot for years to come.

For the City of San Jose, VTA's purchase of the property is a blessing because the city would have much more control (with the city's representation on VTA) over future developments of the site without having to spend its own money. In 2002, the city unsuccessfully tried to include this property into a redevelopment zone, which would allow the city to obtain this property through eminent domain.

Although in the long run, property values will go up. Will the future resell value be high enough to justify the initial purchase price and the financing cost? Can VTA make enough money off of future developments on this property to provide any significant funding for BART construction?

Pending platform retrofit work

On November's VTA Take One is a story about the pending platform retrofit work for the remaining light rail stations south of the Convention Center. If the VTA Baord approves the construction contract next month, work will begin in late February all the way until late November. Most stations will close for about 8 weeks for construction. Tamien will remain open on weekdays during construction, and Santa Teresa will remain open throughout construction with temporary platforms. Substitute bus service will be provided during closure. No construction nor closure will occur over the 4th of July holiday.

Santa Clara-Alum Rock scoping meeting

VTA has scheduled a scoping meeting for the Santa Clara-Alum Rock corridor on Wednesday, November 14, 6:00pm at the San Jose City Hall. VTA is starting the state EIR process for the corridor and the agency will be studying both BRT and single car LRT.