Friday, April 27, 2007

VTA plans to lower fares

With the latest proposal to lower fares, VTA is taking a U-turn from the old SVLG/Gonzales/Cipolla strategy of raising fares in an attempt to increase farebox recovery:

(to be effective September 2007)
Adult Day Pass
Current $5.25, Proposed $5.00

Express Day Pass
Current $10.50, Proposed $10.00

Youth Day Pass
Current $4.50, Proposed $4.00

Senior/Disabled Day Pass
Current $2.25, Proposed $2.00

Youth Monthly Pass
Current $49.00, Proposed $40.00

Senior/Disabled Monthly Pass
Current $26.00, Proposed $20.00

(to be effective July 2, 2007)
Community Bus single ride fare
Adult $1.00
Youth, Senior/Disabled $0.50

The proposed fare is a win for the low income, seniors, and disabled riders. For the past few years, these riders have been impacted financially (with transit service reduced as well) in order to fulfill SVLG/Gonzales/Cipolla's delusion of increasing farebox recovery rate (to help financially support the BART project). The new day pass fares will also simplify the fare payment process by rounding up to the dollar and eliminating the extra 25/50 cents needed at the farebox.

With many bus routes being shortened under the COA proposal, lower day pass fares and new community bus fares will help mitigate the fare inequality many riders face when transferring from one bus route to another or to light rail.

Monday, April 23, 2007

VTA roundup

VTA has announced the reopening of the Santa Clara light rail station:

Monday, April 30 continues to be the target date for reopening the northbound light rail platforms on First Street at Santa Clara Street (five weeks early!). Temporary bus stops on First Street will also relocate at that time. Under the new configuration, some buses will stop alongside the light rail platforms, while others will use a stop north of Santa Clara Street, adjacent to the VTA Customer Service Center.

A date for the projected reopening of the Second Street platforms has not yet been identified but service there should resume during the second half of May. In both cases, the reopening of the platforms signals beneficial use, rather than completion of construction. Some work will continue in June, although the construction fencing will be gone and the size of work crews greatly reduced.

While the early reopening of the light rail station is good news, despite the fact that there will only be one way service for a few weeks, keeping the bus stops north of Santa Clara Street after the opening isn't. During the closure, most of the bus stops were relocated north of Santa Clara Street with the exception of the stop for 66, 68, 304 & 305, largely of the fact that 68 does not operate north of Santa Clara Street. The businesses nearby wanted to get rid of the bus stops at the light rail stations because they have historically attracted the homeless and thugs. Nonetheless, transit riders (seniors and disabled in particular) will be screwed as transfers between buses and light rail will require crossing a busy street.

Meanwhile, the overall Caltrain ridership has gone up (and the agency has received a national award for that) with the lone exception of the Gilroy-San Jose segment. In 2000, with four roundtrips a day, the Gilroy trains were at standing-room only. Today, after the VTA sponsored widening of Highway 101, the trains are lightly used:

Apparently Muni is not the only agency that bunch its buses. Without arrival information display, waiting for a bus on Santa Clara Street can be a frustrating experience. No bus shows up for 20 minutes or so, and suddenly two buses arrive at once:

(Taken from a 22 articulated bus, another 22 bus appeared in front)

(There's another 522 behind this 522. It is visible between the tree and the traffic light pole. The 522 appeared in front just loaded up a wheelchair passenger and afterwards passed the next few stops without picking up passengers)

The urban planning students at San Jose State is hosting another event to waste everyone's time on the BART extension:

How will the Alum Rock BART station affect the surrounding neighborhood? Join CommUniverCity San Jose and partners in the 2nd of 3 engaging workshops to have your voice heard!

* Design of the Town Square
* Arrangement of Streets, Trails, and Open Spaces
* BART Entrances, Bus Facilities, and Parking Design
* Redevelopment of Areas Surrounding the Future BART Station

DATE: Saturday, April 28, 2007
TIME: 9:00am - 2:00pm
LOCATION: Portugese Community Center, 1115 E. Santa Clara Street, San Jose (on VTA bus lines 22, 64, and 522 Rapid)

Although community participation is essential for good urban planning, by hosting a workshop on a severely underfunded BART extension, the students are instead giving a false hope for the people in the community.

Friday, April 13, 2007

New Muni Metro extension causing a systemwide meltdown

Ever since the T-Third light rail line began full service last Saturday in San Francisco, the entire Muni Metro system has been severly impacted. Service on the T-line and other lines was unreliable and trains back up in key locations causing back ups. The T-line was expected to have a headway of 8 to 12 minutes, but at various times trains won't show up for more than 40 minutes. At the 4th & King intersection near the Caltrain station, it took up to 10 minutes for some trains to get through the intersection, causing Muni riders to miss their Caltrain connection. In addition, Muni was short of light rail vehicles and operators. Runs were missed and operators had to work overtime.

Blogs and message boards like SFist and San Francisco Cityscape have been monitoring the service daily. Many posters shared their experiences of slow commutes and expressed their outrage for poor planning and operation.

Nine years ago, the Muni Metro system had another service meltdown, when Muni began using a new computerized train control system in the subway and extended the N-Judah line to the Caltrain station at 4th & King. Because of that meltdown, then mayor Willie Brown recruited Michael Burns, now the VTA General Manager, to manage Muni.

The T-line was supposed to improve transit service to the impoverished Bay View District. Although the presence of rail has helped to spur developments and businesses in the area, the rail line has yet to prove itself to be a dependable form of transportation to the residents in the area.

Richard Mlynarik wrote in the SFist blog: "Would you give any of these criminal incompetents $1.5 billion to build a subway [Central Subway] which will dump MORE trains at the train-gridlocked 4th&King intersection? Would you give them $2 and think they could serve a cup of coffee for that matter?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Santa Cruz Metro - 0, local businesses - 1

The Santa Cruz Metro Board of Directors will take up the issue tomorrow whether the agency should abandon its plan to request the City of Santa Cruz to remove on street parking on weekends that will speed up Highway 17 Express buses.

Highlights from the staff memo:

The METRO Routes (Highway 17 and Route 35) using Ocean Street experience significant delays due to Summer tourist traffic that is generally destined for the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk area on the weekends.

As a result of the examination of the Ocean Street area between Highway 17 and Water Street it was determined that Summer Weekend on-performance would be enhanced by the conversion of the Southbound on-street parking lane to a bus/bike lane from the hours of 10:00AM to 5:00PM.

In the process of examining the Ocean Street congestion issue it was also determined that the time saved by the bus/bike lane on Ocean Street would allow METRO to extend the weekend Highway 17 service to the vicinity of the Beach Boardwalk which would partially compensate for the absence of the Beach Shuttle that was discontinued after 2004.

On April 3, 2007 the CEO of the Santa Cruz County Conference and Visitors Council issued a "Call to Action" designed to mobilize the community to contact the Santa Cruz City Council to express their concerns and opposition to the METRO proposal.

Unfortunately the parking proposal opposition is resulting in many individuals expressing overall condemnation of METRO as an agency and questioning the necessity of public transit service in the community.

Overall, the proposal would remove 31 on-street parking spots. Most of the businesses there have a total of 247 off-street parking spots. The Santa Cruz Conference and Visitors Council has an office located on that street with only one on-street parking spot and no off-street parking.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

South County shuttle conversion to impact college students

The South County Community Bus program, approved by the VTA Board last week, almost got unanimous support from the community. The issue involves the proposed line 18, which will replace line 68 between the Downtown Gilroy Transit Center (Caltrain station) and Gavilan College. Some Gavilan students and staff who can take a direct bus from as far north as Downtown San Jose will require an extra transfer, and perhaps an extra fare, for the trip to the college.

Currently not every trip on line 68 goes to Gavilan. Many of the trips during the peak hours, and most night and weekend trips, end at the Gilroy Transit Center.

With the approval of the plan, there's still an opportunity to provide timed transfer between line 18, 68 and all other buses in Gilroy to mitigate the inconvenience.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

VTA Tidbits

From the April VTA Take One, which is not available from the VTA's web site at the time of writing:

Effective April 9, schedules changes will be made for bus lines 48, 49, 52, 53, 60, 62, 63, 70, 76, 88, 140, 328, 330, and 522. The following will also be effective April 9:

Line 22 - minor schedule changes, some early morning and late night service to Menlo Park will be discontinued.

Line 141 - weekend seasonal service between Great America and Fremont BART station has been discontinued.

Line 180 - major schedule changes, two new northbound trips will be added on weekends from the Great Mall to Fremont BART stations at 7:14pm and 8:14pm.

As a part of the two-year budget planning process, VTA has proposed to reduce "fares for Day Passes and for Youth and Senior/Disabled Monthly Passes, as well as new fares for VTA's Community Bus lines." Meetings will be held in late April and early May to receive comments from the public.

Finally, the delusionals at VTA and the San Jose City Hall will be holding meetings on station designs for the unbuildable and underfunded BART extension. They really wanted to waste our time to get our feedback on the colors of the station walls and ceilings.

BART Station Architecture Open House
April 12, 2007 - 6:00 p.m.

The station architectural design process is well-underway on the BART Project. The City of San José and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) have completed the first phase of conceptual design for station architecture. Several rounds of stakeholder meetings have been conducted to establish a “vision” for the four BART stations in San José.

On Thursday, April 12, 2007, community members are invited to join staff from VTA and the City of San José at the BART Station Architecture Open House to view the conceptual designs of each of the four stations and offer feedback on the initial concepts.

This event will focus on the process that the City of San José, VTA and their design consultants have been through to reach two design concepts for the Berryessa, Alum Rock, Downtown San Jose and Diridon/Arena Stations. Each station has taken on an individual design, incorporating the areas’ history, the community and surrounding neighborhood attributes. Input received by the public will be presented during the next round of stakeholder meetings to further refine the design concepts of the stations. Please join us at:

San José City Hall
Room W118-119
200 East Santa Clara Street
San José, CA
Thursday, April 12, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.

For further information on the BART Station Architecture Open House or process, contact Henry Servin at (408) 975-3078, City of San José Department of Transportation; or Brandi Hall at (408) 952-4297, VTA Marketing and Public Affairs Department.

We look forward to seeing you!

San Jose's problem is not the lack of BART or any subway. Having a small subway station (the delusionals call that the Grand Central Station!) at First and Santa Clara will not fix anything, as Ron Compton pointed out in a letter to the editor:

"I worked for our local transit system for 31 years and have dealt with the conventioneers; I've heard their complaints. San Jose is one of the hardest cities to get around in. You have all the hotels in town and all the shopping centers out of town."

Sunday, April 01, 2007

VTA's Comprehensive Operations Analysis

Since last year, VTA has hired outside consultants to examine VTA's transit operation. The VTA staff has recently presented the draft transit service operating plan to the VTA Transit Planning and Operations Committee and will also present it to the VTA board for discussion this Thursday.

The proposal will result in a 10-12% reduction on vehicles during the peak hours, but a 4.7% increase midday and 5.2% increase Sunday. The presentation says the operating hours are equivalent. The maximum vehicle requirement is 308 buses during the afternoon peak hours.

Highlights pulled from the COA presentation and memo to the Transit Planning and Operations Committee:

Routes 23, 25, 26, 55, 57, 60, 64, 66, 79, 71, 72, 73, and 77 will have improved frequency. Routes 27, 46, 54, 63, and 82 will see improved midday frequency. 65 will have reduced frequency.

10- Cut service to airport employee lot
22- Cut service between Menlo Park and Palo Alto
23- Service between De Anza College and East San Jose via Alum Rock east of downtown SJ, and improve frequency to every 12 minutes
26- Operate short line service on the eastern portion
27- Cut service west of Good Samaritan Hospital
31- Cut service north of Eastridge
33- Cut service between McCarthy Ranch and Baypointe
35- Cut service between Palo Alto Caltrain and Stanford Shopping Center
52- Reroute to cover San Antonio Shopping Center and use the current 23 alignment to Foothill College
53- Cut service south of De Anza (according to maps)
54- Cut service south of De Anza
55- Change routing to interline with 54, cut service south of De Anza

57- Adding short runs between Bowers and West Valley College
60- Adding short runs between Santa Clara Caltrain and Winchester LRT
61- New route to using 62 alignment along Bascom and use 36 alignment to East San Jose, to be interlined with current route 62.
63- Cut service south of Coleman, end at Almaden LRT

64- Reroute eastern portion to run on McKee
65- Cut service between Fruitdale light rail and Downtown San Jose, as well as south of Hwy 85
77- Cut service north of Great Mall
81-Operate between Downtown SJ and Vallco only, eastern portion to be replaced by line 64
82- Cut service north of Downtown San Jose

Express routes
101, 104, 122, 140, and 305 will be eliminated
103, 321, and 330 service reduced
180- increase service to every 15 minutes midday (appears to discontinue Milpitas-Downtown SJ segment during peak hours due to reduced peak vehicle requirements)
181 (new) - direct peak hour service between Fremont BART and Downtown San Jose, 15 minute frequency
168 (new) - Gilroy-Downtown San Jose Express via 101, 85, and 87, 30 minute frequency during peak hours

The goal of the re-arranged service to BART is to meet every BART train.

Community routes (that will be operated by VTA drivers in-house using shuttle buses)
11- New route serving Downtown San Jose, Japantown, and the Market Center on Coleman
13- Convert from regular bus, replacement 63 south of Coleman
All bus routes that serves locally in Gilroy and Morgan Hill will be converted to shuttle buses.
32- Convert
34- Convert
40- Convert
42- (new) Replace route 72 south of Monterey and Senter
43- (new) Alum Rock LRT-Eastridge, in service only when 522 is not running
45- (new) Replace current 64 between Penitencia Creek and Alum Rock LRT
88- Convert and serve between California Ave and San Antonio Shopping Center
All contracted light rail shuttles will be brought in-house

Routes that would be discontinued: 36, 37, 38, 39, 44, 58, 59, 67, 76, and 85
58- Service to Alviso will be covered by River Oaks Shuttle
36- Eastern portion would be replaced by 61

Overall, the biggest losers are Los Altos, Saratoga, Monte Sereno, Almaden (San Jose), and foothills of Evergreen (San Jose). The biggest winner is Downtown San Jose with the new express service to Gilroy and Fremont (direct) even though it will lose 65 and 85.

The Santa Clara Street corridor will have on average 6 minute headway for local service with 22 and enhanced 23. VTA plans to provide rapid service (523) for the 23 corridor in the future, providing a higher level of rapid bus service between Downtown San Jose and Alum rock Light rail. How would this arrangement interface with Downtown-East Valley project? Is light rail no longer preferred or even viable on the Santa Clara Street corridor?