Friday, June 13, 2008

Light rail COA

According to various sources, VTA is embarking on a COA for the light rail system. VTA is trying to boost ridership on the light rail just like what the agency tried to do for the bus network last January.

With fixed infrastructure and the lack of funds to improve them, it is not clear how large of a scope the light rail COA will be. It is also not clear whether that COA will effectively address some of the chief criticisms such as:

- Light rail operates too slow through downtown San Jose.
- Light rail is too slow to get to Mountain View from South San Jose.
- Light rail is too aroundabout to get to downtown from East San Jose.
- Transfer is required from Milpitas to Mountain View and from Almaden to basically everywhere.

Some believe that light rail should've skipped downtown and head straight on the freeway to the airport. A lot of people think the Almaden light rail shuttle is a joke and should be discontinued, which VTA actually considered as a part of a 21% service reduction proposed in 2003.

Despite criticisms, light rail does work for some people. Light rail is popular for folks in South San Jose and Campbell to get to downtown, as it is the only market where light rail is actually competitive with automobiles. However, most of the jobs are not in downtown.

It is hard to imagine major operational improvements to the light rail without having significant price tags. For instance, the Mountain View-Winchester line has several single track sections that may need to be double tracked for scheduling flexibility. Also, an extra track or two may be required to provide express light rail service, an idea which VTA General Manager Michael Burns once expressed an interest in. VTA's already in a hole when it comes to money for projects, where will the money come from to expand the tracks?

It is interesting that the same group of delusionals, such as Rod Diridon, who created the light rail system are also advocates for the BART extension.

5 comments:

295bus said...

I've puzzled a bit about how the VTA's light rail could be fixed.

Mostly what's needed is faster access to downtown north, from pretty much anywhere.

Any ideas how to do that?

Anonymous said...

Some may recall that in the early 1990's there was a plan to operate LRT similar to a bus network on many major expressways/streets. Since that time, VTA has only favored possible extension from
-Santa Theresa connecting to Almaden Spur
-Almaden Spur to DeAnza
-DeAnza to Sunnyvale/Locheed
-Mt. View to Palo Alto via Central
-Convention Center to DeAnza along Stevens Creek
-Los Gatos from Winchester
-Along Santa Clara/Capitol
-Along 10/11 streets using Tully to Eastridge (removed from list).

The only projects moving is the Capitol Corridor, Santa Clara/Eastridge alignment, and longterm is Almaden/De Anza/Sunnyvale extensions.

Without $$$ even that Santa Clara/Eastridge will probably use the enhanced buses which are planned/programmed in the corridor (522/523).

295bus said...

Interesting.

Some of those have merit, but overall, the philosophy seems to be just "replace busses with rail, and ridership will magically explode".

Not that this is *never* true, but that seems to be basically how the current VTA light rail system was planned--nuff said!

My $0.02--there's need for an E/W line between Santa Clara CalTrain, the airport (tunnel under runways), downtown north, and the eastside.

accountablevta said...

The light rail simply didn't work because the downtown is weak. Downtown is weak not because of whether or not light rail or BART goes there, but rather developers have better options outside downtown.

Anonymous said...

accountablevta: You're half right. The system is very downtown-centric, but most of the jobs are in or adjacent to the golden triangle, which is served, but not that well.

The biggest problem is that transit times between major transfer points are slow. Caltrain and Bart to Tasman, and Tasman to Downtown come to mind.