Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
It is not good news when VTA had multiple chances to pursue superior and more cost-effective options, and when VTA riders will have to suffer as bus and light rail service reductions go into effect next month. Some VTA boardmembers apparently show no concerns for their own constitutents who ride VTA:
"With the BART project, we are planning for the next 30 years," said (Sam Liccardo) the San Jose councilman. "It would be foolish for us to forget a very promising project over the long run over what may be a very dire situation in the short run."
VTA is not a construction agency for a single rail project, but an agency that provides transit operation to about 100,000 riders daily. To blindly pursue this wasteful project, VTA concealed key information from voters about its ability to finance this project and the rest of VTA's services. Only until when voters no longer matter, they said oops and cut service anyway. Despite some of the boardmembers' claim about being green and supporting open government, they are still beholden to crooks like Carl Guardino, who then is beholden to corporations and the highway lobby.
Even though this BART project will turn out nothing but a massive failure, we riders should not allow VTA to further reduce service, but rather bring back the service that we were promised. Perhaps FTA cares if VTA doesn't.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
SamTrans has two holiday gifts. The first is the new buses. The new buses are low floor and have a new paint scheme to match the BRT look. The buses are somewhat similar to what it bought in 2004 except it has more seats due to the new seat designs.
The other holiday gift is the service reduction effective on December 20. SamTrans will eliminate all express service to downtown SF except KX, and that KX will run hourly. Bus on El Camino will also have reduced frequency on the weekends.
Currently, SamTrans buses that serve El Camino leave Palo Alto every 15 minutes on weekdays and weekends. After December 20, some buses will leave 30 minutes apart on weekdays (because KX trips got cut), and on weekends, there will be 40 minute service gaps throughout the weekend (hourly KX will not fill the service gaps left by 40-minute 390). Because VTA will continue to run the 22 and 522 service every 15-minutes, expect a crowd in Palo Alto waiting to transfer from VTA to SamTrans.
Tomorrow VTA will hold a board workshop to address the agency's "structural deficit," which was caused partly by further declines in sales tax revenue and elimination of state funds (also suffered by most transit agencies in California), as well as VTA's mismangement and dishonesty in regards to its financial projections.
Among the recommendations, the VTA board is asked to direct $25 million in 2000 Measure A funds from future bus purchases to operations and to establish an ad-hoc committee (similar to what VTA did in 2003) to develop future recommendations. Those recommendations could involve changes in healthcare and pension benefits, new funding sources, and alternative service delivery models (contract operation?).
After years of planning and development, the Translink smart card payment system is coming to VTA and SamTrans sometime next year. Earlier this year, Translink has been implemented on BART and Caltrain. The eventual goal for Translink is to replace most of the current fare media, which means when it is fully implemented, monthly passes for VTA and Caltrain would be available on Translink only, and that paper passes would be discontinued. AC Transit already took the lead by converting transbay bus passes to Translink only.
However, when it is implemented at SamTrans and VTA, Translink might no longer be called Translink. MTC is recommending changing its name to "Clipper," to evoke a historic connection between Clipper ships and the development of San Francisco.
VTA light rail COA
If you missed the meeting in Mountain View, a VTA staff recorded the meeting and it is available for your information.
Saturday, December 05, 2009
"The community will ask why this is so difficult when BART is already underground "... the community will think the board only wants the cheapest, and not the best, alternatives," Dresden told the board.
Monday, November 23, 2009
- - 20 million VMT reduced as employees forego driving
- - Reduction in CO2 emissions by approximately 8,000 to 9,500 tons per year
- - reduction in non-CO2 emissions ranging from 1 to17 tons per year
- - $1.8 million per year in local spending as employees patronize local businesses in the city and by the bus stops.
- - 62% of the shuttle riders surveyed said the shuttle influenced their decision to live in the city. Landlords and realtors agree that proximity to shuttles make their location more attractive.
- - 28% of those surveyed do not own a car. Many of them join car-sharing services so they can drive once in a while to go to Costco or Ikea. Fewer people owning cars help free up parking spots for everyone else in the neighborhood.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
The concept of bike sharing is a result of Caltrain's bicycle planning process. When Caltrain released its bicycle plan last year, which outlined various options to provide bicycle parking to provide alternatives to bring bicycles onboard, the bicycle community got outraged that Caltrain didn't plan to increase onboard capacity. After months of pressure, Caltrain relented by increasing capacity from 32 to 40 per bike car. While an increase of capacity help cut the number of "bumps" (denied boarding) faced by bicyclists, there's not that much space that Caltrain could dedicate to store bicycles without taking seats from paying passengers, and the fact that more passengers taking their bikes slow trains down for everyone by having longer dwell times.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
BayRail Alliance will be hosting a meeting next week on the COA for the VTA light rail system. VTA's Kevin Connolly will be presenting. As reported here earlier, VTA is conducting a COA for the light rail to outline future system improvements and proposed operation scenarios to boost light rail ridership. Ridership on the VTA's light rail is lagging behind other similar systems in Portland, Sacramento, and San Diego.
November 19, 2009
City of Mountain View, Council Chambers
500 Castro Street, Mountain View (by Mercy Street)
Meal option will not be provided for this meeting.
ACE, FRA, and CHSRA are hosting a series of meeting today and next week to start the environmental planning process for the Altamont Corridor. Although Altamont did not make the cut to be the high speed corridor between Central Valley and the Bay Area, Sacramento nonetheless included Altamont as a complementary corridor in Proposition 1A.
The good part is that the corridor could be transformed into a near-HSR route with high quality passenger service. The bad part is that there's no funding available to build it, since it is secondary to the main HSR route, which is more likely to receive whatever HSR money that will be made available.
Even if there's no money associated with it for now, a parallel planning effort would make the Altamont a strong back up option if the Pacheco Pass option proves to be infeasible. As we already know, CHSRA does not have an agreement with UP, and not until the passage of Prop 1A, that the Pacheco Pass has generated local opposition in San Jose because of its alignment south of the Diridon station (and some of the proposed solutions proved to be sillier and more expensive). A well designed Altamont corridor could avoid impacts local neighborhoods and provide service in area with high TOD potential (North 1st Street).
All meeting will be held from 3:00–8:00pm in drop-in open house format:
* Tuesday: Robert Livermore Community Center, 4444 East Ave., Livermore.
* Thursday: San Joaquin Council of Governments, 555 E. Weber Ave., Stockton.
* Nov. 17: Fremont Teen Center, 39770 Paseo Padre Parkway, Fremont.
* Nov. 18: Le Petit Trianon Theatre, 72 N. Fifth St., San Jose.
Thursday, November 05, 2009
While spending VTA money to improve Caltrain is wise in general, is it worth it to spend that money south of San Jose?
Today, Caltrain ridership on the Gilroy segment has been significantly reduced from its high back in 2000. The economy, widening on 101, fare increase, and VTA operated express buses have cut much of Caltrain's ridership base. While VTA had projected an increase in train service back in 2000, Caltrain actually cut one of the four round trips so that the equipment can be better utilized for the popular Baby Bullet service.
Based on earlier double tracking south of San Jose completed in 2002/2003, Caltrain has the ability to run 5 round trips. However it is running 3 round trips today. That $61 million might allow Caltrain to run one or two more round trips. However unless VTA has the operating funds and equipment to provide additional service, riders won't see much of the benefits from that expenditure.
One of the reasons Caltrain provides limited service south of San Jose is that the corridor is owned by Union Pacific. The company historically is hostile to passenger rail. UP sees passenger rail, may it be Caltrain, ACE, or Amtrak, as pirates somehow trying to freeload from the company. On the other hand, BNSF, a competing rail company that owns tracks elsewhere in California, sees public agencies as partners.
The other issue that make this expenditure unwise is high speed rail. Although HSRA has chosen Pacheco Pass as its preferred alignment, it still hasn't secured any specific corridor between San Jose and Gilroy. Its earlier assumption of using the UP corridor in the program-level EIR is opposed by UP (as expected) and has been rejected by a judge in a lawsuit brought on by Altamont Pass supporters.
If high speed rail is constructed on any corridor, Caltrain or other high speed rail trains would likely provide commuter service between Gilroy and San Jose on electrified high speed tracks (since Caltrain north of San Jose would've been electrified anyway). If somehow HSRA could secure any rights to use the UP right of way, the operating scenarios (separate HSR/freight tracks) proposed by HSRA would not take advantage of the new track funded by VTA.
As if we don't already know, VTA spends capital money based on the desires from its politically driven staff and consultants. VTA could've spend the money elsewhere along Caltrain and have a greater impact. For example, the Santa Clara Caltrain station is currently a safety hazard (by making people board SF bound trains between the tracks). If the station is rebuilt, ACE could once again serve the station after Caltrain kicked ACE out of that station in 2005.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Senate Bill 1561, authored by Senator Steinberg, was enacted to allow RT to exclude passengers who repeatedly violate transit laws from using the system. The purpose of the exclusion policy is to reduce the number of passenger disruptions and improve overall RT service.
Effective October 1, 2009, anyone arrested for a crime or cited on three separate occasions within a period of 60 consecutive days for infractions committed in or on an RT vehicle, bus stop or light rail station will now face a ban of 30 days. Offenders can be banned for up to a year if convicted of more serious offenses.
Interfering with an operator of a transit vehicle, willfully disturbing others on or in a system facility or vehicle, and defacing District property could all result in exclusion.
“The exclusion policy puts Sacramento at the forefront of a continued effort to improve passenger safety on California’s transit systems,” Senator Steinberg said. “Over the next few years, we will prove the exclusion policy can be a valuable asset not only in our region but to transit operators across the state.”
The exclusion policy provides an appeals process for individuals who opt to contest a prohibition order. Transit personnel have also been trained to recognize and facilitate passengers’ special needs.
Friday, October 09, 2009
Saturday, October 03, 2009
In a resounding victory for those who provide and those who depend on public transit in California, the State Supreme Court late yesterday rejected the Schwarzenegger Administration’s appeal of a lower court ruling that annual raids on transit funding are illegal.
By declining to accept the Petition for Review filed by state officials, the high court upheld the ruling of the Third District Court of Appeal that recent funding diversions violated a series of statutory and constitutional amendments enacted by voters via four statewide initiatives dating back to 1990.
“By denying the state’s appeal, the Supreme Court has affirmed once and for all what we always maintained was true: that it’s illegal to shift dedicated state transit funds away from transit agencies and their riders,” said Joshua Shaw, Executive Director of the California Transit Association and lead plaintiff in the case. “This decision validates our position that this practice has been illegal since even before 2007, and that the definition of mass transportation adopted by lawmakers since then to mask these diversions is illegal.”
Public transit officials now hope to work with the Administration and Legislature to restore those funds taken since the Association filed the initial lawsuit in October, 2007, on the heels of the 2007-08 state budget package that raided $1.19 billion from the Public Transportation Account (PTA). Since that agreement, more than $3 billion in transit funding has been re-routed to fill holes in the General Fund.
Although the courts agreed that transit funding raid is illegal, it is not clear whether that will translate into any actual funding restoration by the state. However, any state funding restoration will help transit riders.
The loss the State Transit Assistance fund not only puts pressure on Bay Area agencies, but also throughout the state. In Calaveras County (Sierra foothills east of Stockton), the transit agency there cut service by 40% and eliminated its regional connection to the Central Valley in Lodi. Over there, the service cut impact is not just forcing riders to spend extra minutes waiting for a bus, but actually make it virtually impossible to access essential shopping and medical services. The only regional connection in Calaveras County now is through the adjacent Amador County, which still operates a bus line into Sacramento. Amtrak and Greyhound are not available in those counties.
In Orange County, the transit agency there made drastic cuts earlier this year and an additional 30% cut is proposed for March next year. Although Orange County is urbanized and has huge transit needs, it is also very politically conservative. The politicians there have no problem with more freeway widening (which are quite wide already), but have a false perception that residents there do not need mass transit. Fortunately, Steven Chan, a Silicon Valley transplant, has started a transit blog there to advocate for better transit in Orange County.
Thursday, October 01, 2009
The price for the regular monthly pass has gone up to $70. The new price for the express monthly pass is now $140.
However, that's not the end here, the VTA board will consider tonight on cutting bus and light rail service by 8%, which would go in effect in January.
Highway 17 Express
Interestingly, even though the fares for various operators have gone up over the years, the fares for the Highway 17 Express have remained the same. When the Highway 17 Express began weekend service in 2004 (as it merged with Amtrak Thruway bus to Santa Cruz), the fare was adjusted to $4 one way, which is still in effect today. In 1994, the Amtrak Thruway fare was $5 one way and the Highway 17 Express was $2.25. Overall, bus riders have been getting more value for the fare dollar especially considering the increasing cost of gas.
How can Highway 17 Express keeps its fares the same for so long? Highway 17 Express is operated by Santa Cruz Metro with funding from the Metro, VTA, and Amtrak. It has an independent operating budget. After the implementation of weekend service, ridership has increased steadily over the years. It enjoys a high farebox recovery of 58% in July 2009, despite a 9% drop in ridership from the same month last year. Stable weekend ridership (which many riders pay one way fares) helps bring in revenue for the line.
HSR open house for San Jose-Gilroy segment
Despite losing the lawsuit (specifically on the lack of agreement with UP for using the rail corridor between San Jose and Gilroy), HSRA nonetheless will hold meetings on that segment next week. Two of them will be held in Santa Clara County.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Gardner Community Center
520 W. Virginia Street
Monday, October 12, 2009
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Hilton Garden Inn
6070 Monterey Road
While the HSRA planning process so far has captured the attention of Palo Alto and Menlo Park residents, who fear that high speed rail would either take their property or somehow cause a decline in their property value, San Jose residents who might be impacted by high speed rail does not have the same political clout as those in Palo Alto or Menlo Park. However that might change...
The HSRA is studying various alternatives for getting trains through Downtown San Jose. Although the current Caltrain alignment is the base line, the existing line south of the San Jose Diridon Station is slow and narrow. Immediately south of the station, the Caltrain line has to cross under the San Carlos Street overpass and above Los Gatos Creek.
One alternative under consideration is a diagonal station for high speed rail (last page in this PDF) right in front of the existing Caltrain station. HSRA engineers said that this alternative (under the SF-SJ segment) is driven by the planning process for the segment between San Jose and Gilroy. Alternative alignments like those could get the high speed rail trains through San Jose faster, but might not be something that San Jose Delusionals have expected.
Monday, September 28, 2009
At the end, VTA's poor light rail performance is a result of poor urban planning, development greed, and the continual neglect of transit riders' needs. Unfortunately, these attitude still exists at the agency and most voters and environmentalists are not aware of that. If the light rail couldn't turn around Downtown San Jose and make the system more viable, building another rail system (like BART) in Downtown San Jose most likely won't help turn it around either (look at Downtown Oakland).
Of course, VTA does not have money for a subway in downtown. However, a BART line that it could fund (to Berryessa) won't bring commuters directly to where the jobs are. Rather, VTA expects commuters to transfer to light rail in Milpitas. Don't be surprise if the BART project turns out to be a massive failure too.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
1250 San Carlos Avenue – San Carlos
6:00 – 8:00 pm
October 9, 6:00‐8:00 pm
Sunnyvale Recreation Center (Ballroom)
550 E. Remington Drive
October 13, 6:00‐8:00 pm
Milton Marks Conference Center
455 Golden Gate Avenue – Lower Level
San Diego A/B/C Rooms
San Francisco, CA
Monday, September 14, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
- Line 10: One more early morning weekend trip reduction
- Line 13: Hourly service all day instead of hourly service during peak hours.
- Line 22: 24-hour service will continue. VTA originally proposed to cut the overnight service as SamTrans also planned to eliminate its overnight route. SamTrans later decided to keep the overnight service while eliminating its peak hour express service to SF.
- Line 34: VTA will not eliminate this route, instead some trips will be cut.
- Line 39: Peak hour service will remain at every 30 minutes instead of hourly.
- Line 45: Saturday service will not be cut.
- Line 54: One Saturday night trip will be kept.
- Lines 61 and 62: Weekend service will be reduced from every 30 minutes to hourly on each route, which means service to every 30 minutes along Bascom. Extra service will be provided on the 62 between Civic Center and Capitol/Berryessa to maintain service at every 30 minutes.
- Line 76: VTA will operate this route until June 2010, which will be discontinued.
- Line 101: VTA will reduce service to one round trip rather than full elimination.
- Line 103: No changes proposed.
- Line 180: Keep evening service.
- Line 181: Combine two trips rather than eliminate one of the trips
- Line 304: Reduce one round trip rather than shortening the route.
- Line 522: Changes in trip reductions.
- River Oaks Shuttle: Operate the service until July 2010, then eliminate route. This route receives grant funds and has to be operated until the grant agreement expires.
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
It is hard to win environmental lawsuits. Generally, judges generally give deference to government agencies that produced these documents as if they were police officers in a traffic or criminal trial. Ordinary citizens generally do not have the financial resources to hire consultants to counter the government's claim on technical basis, and generally do not have the kind of credibility, even though history shows that government agencies and consultants can literally lie to achieve their politically-predetermined results.
Essentially, HSRA lost the suit on the fact that it does not have the access to the Union Pacific owned right of way (UP clearly told the agency NO prior to the adoption of the program level EIR), which HSRA says it is necessary to travel from San Jose to Gilroy under the Pacheco option. Also, the judge found that the agency's evaluation of vibration impacts to be inadequate.
HSR Town Hall
Last night, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo hosted a Town Hall meeting on High Speed Rail. On the Peninsula, the high speed rail project is a contentious issue. Also like any recent town halls throughout the country, it has attracted anti-health care reform protesters. However, the Town Hall went smoothly as anti-health care reform protesters stayed outside and Eshoo refused to answer any questions on health care.
During the Town Hall meeting, Eshoo took a commanding role and read questions verbatim from her constituents. Executive directors and chief project managers from Caltrain and HSRA were on a panel answering the questions. Her constituents raised concerns about the community impact of the line, possible loss in property value, and potential need to eminent domain. Eshoo agreed with her constituents that HSRA needs to do much more in communicating with the public.
The meeting clearly showed incompetence from Mehdi Morshed, HSRA's executive director. At the meeting, Morshed was not able to anwser some of the questions directly and clearly. On a question about how HSRA came to the conclusion to support the Pacheco corridor, Morshed told Eshoo and the audience that the reasons are in the program EIR. The anwser was clearly not satisfactory. Eshoo later told the panel that she expects anwsers that are to be real anwsers.
On the other hand, Staff from Caltrain were able to provide direct answers on many of questions. Bob Doty explained the complexity of tunneling. Caltrain executive director reminded the audience about the need for an improved Caltrain system and how this project would benefit Caltrain.
The Town Hall showed the lack of confidence from Eshoo's constitutents on HSRA's ability to build this project and listen to the community's concerns, which has fueled a lot of opposition and fear mongering for the last several months.
A change in the HSRA leadership will go a long way to restore the confidence needed to take this project forward. The main question is whether there's political will to change the agency's leadership.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Any transit strike is going to be frustrating for transit riders. The last known strike affecting South Bay transit riders is the Santa Cruz Metro strike in 2005, which interrupted the Highway 17 Express bus service operating between Santa Cruz and San Jose. That strike was supposedly averted but then began when negotiation suddenly broke down. That strike lasted about a month. During that strike, getting over the hill was difficult and the only service is the overcrowded Greyhound buses that ran a few trips a day.
While it is possible that the strike could be averted in the last minute, it is nonetheless a good idea to be prepared in case it happens.
If BART workers go in strike next Monday, VTA express buses in Fremont would stop temporarily outside the BART property, so that its drivers would not cross the picket line (since VTA drivers are represented by another chapter of the ATU). In Fremont, AC Transit bus line 99 continues north to Bay Fair and stopping at every BART station in between. At Bay Fair, AC Transit bus 1R continues to Oakland and Berkeley.
In addition, Amtrak Capitol Corridor service operates between San Jose and Sacramento via Fremont.
On the Peninsula, Caltrain would continue to provide regular service, but SamTrans service would stop outside BART property and route KX would serve Millbrae station to connect Caltrain riders with SFO.
Monterey bus fare cut
Because of an infusion from the Stimulus fund, MST plans to reduce the fares it raised in January. In January, the agency raised it fares by 25% from $2 per zone to $2.50 per zone. From September 5, the fares will go down from $2.50 to $2.25 per zone. Fares for seniors, disabled, and children will go down by 15 cents. That fare cut will last until the next Memorial Day in 2010.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
VTA staff proposes to order 70 hybrid buses from Gillig using the Stimulus money. As reported last month, three companies submitted bids. Although the bid from Orion came out to be the lowest, VTA rejected the bid from Orion because VTA says Orion buses did not meet its specification for being over 40-feet long. VTA also rejected the bid from New Flyer because the bid came out to be the highest.
October fare change
VTA plans to move the scheduled fare change from January 2010 to October. This move would generate an addition $1 million in fare revenue, which VTA says would offset the service reduction needed.
Rude and unprofessional response to the Grand Jury Report
Michael Burns may have came in to VTA as a fresh face who has empathy for everyday transit riders. However over the years his relationship with Carl Guardino have tarnished his image.
These are the wordings that Burns chose in response to the Grand Jury Report. Not only these words are inaccurate, insulting, but down right rude:
"The report lacks balance, and appears to rely on the type of anti-BART, anti-public transit rhetoric that was circulated by a group that opposed three VTA measures that were on the ballot in the 2008 General Election."
"It appears that the grand jury was biased in its work, and did not seek and/or accept factual information in response to opinions and statements made by anti-VTA zealots."
These words may fit if Michael Burns were a partisan political thug like Karl Rove. However Burns is supposed to be apolitical. Calling someone anti-VTA zealots is like calling someone unpatriotic just for having a different political view. If people like Michael Burns cannot show tolerance and not willing to engage in substantive debates, is there any hope for this agency to change?
In its response, VTA basically defended its policies on advisory committees and claimed that it did not hide financial information prior to last year's election.
However, VTA's record is inconsistent. VTA says in its response to the Grand Jury that it told the VTA Board that it needs a new 1/4 cent sales tax to fulfill the 2000 Measure A promises, and that it is not inappropiate for VTA not to provide a Measure A expenditure plan before last November because of the bad economy. Despite quite appearent evidence that VTA cannot afford what it says it wants to build, Michael Burns asked the VTA board to "reaffirm" support for the light rail extension to Eastridge (which was nearly shovel-ready but got funding removed) and told reporters last year that Measure B was the only thing needed to build BART to Santa Clara.
Only until earlier this year the sales tax projection showed that VTA cannot afford to build BART beyond Berryessa, and which that projection was made before the recent steep sales tax drop that has triggered a proposed service reduction for January.
Although VTA disagrees with the Grand Jury's finding that VTA intends to collect the sales tax for the extension to Berryessa, VTA's response was evasive and said that it would begin collect the tax once the Measure B conditions are met. The fact is that Measure B tax could only start after VTA receives a funding agreement from the federal government for the project, and that VTA is applying for federal funds only for the portion to Berryessa. Given that VTA does not have the funding to build the line beyond Berryessa, and that VTA certainly would not be able to build it at the same time it is building the Berryessa portion, VTA in effect would begin collecting the tax only for a portion of what they campaigned for, whether it is for the initial years during construction for the remaining portion, or even if the other portion is never built at all.
If VTA were not able to receive federal funds, VTA could still build BART to Milpitas. While the Milpitas portion would provide a useful connection between BART and the light rail (in which the portion from Milpitas to Berryessa would add nothing to make the connection better), VTA would not be able to start the Measure B tax since there would not be any federal funds involved. To collect that money, VTA would have to go back to the voters to change the requirement, and that voters are unlikely to buy into another VTA lie again.
The past General Manager Pete Cipolla may have been rough around the edges and insensitive to the needs of riders, but the rudeness and thuggery from the VTA management has gone into a while new level with Michael Burns. Instead of a dialogue, he engages in intimidations against those whose primary interest is to improve transit service. His choice of word "anti-VTA zealots" clearly demonstrates his unprofessionalism and bias toward the construction/consulting lobby.
Friday, July 31, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Recently, yellow stickers are appearing inside VTA buses over the driver's area. These yellow stickers remind drivers not to talk on cell phones (including hands free) or text while driving. Some agencies apparently have gone much further by prohibiting drivers from possessing a phone while on duty. In Boston, a driver got a suspension by carrying a cell phone (was reported to the management by a journalist who thought the driver was talking on the cell phone but was actually talking on the bus radio). Another driver in Boston got fired by making a stop enroute, leaving his driver seat and talk on a borrowed cell phone.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009 at 7:00 p.m.
Campbell Community Center, Roosevelt Community Room
1 West Campbell Avenue, Campbell
Tuesday, August 11, 2009 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
County Government Center, Isaac Newton Senter Auditorium
70 West Hedding Street, San Jose
Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 3:00 p.m.
City of Mountain View, Council Chambers
500 Castro Street, Mountain View
Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 6:00 p.m.
San Jose Public Library, Almaden Branch
6445 Camden Avenue, San Jose
Thursday, August 13, 2009 at 3:00 p.m.
Dr. Roberto Cruz - Alum Rock Branch Public Library
3090 Alum Rock Avenue, San Jose
Thursday, August 13, 2009 at 7:00 p.m.
Milpitas Public Library, Room A
160 N. Main Street, Milpitas
Monday, July 20, 2009
SamTrans has scheduled 4 bus cuts meetings starting next week:
- * July 27 - Municipal Building
33 Arroyo Drive, South San Francisco
- * July 28 - SamTrans headquarters
1250 San Carlos Ave., San Carlos
- * July 29 - City Council Chambers
701 Laurel St. , Menlo Park
- * Aug. 6 - Cunha Intermediate School
600 Church St., Half Moon Bay
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Hybrid bus procurement
The item would authorize the agency to purchase 107 low floor hybrid buses to replace the older buses on the current fleet. Three manufacturers have submitted proposals: Gillig, Orion, and New Flyer. Funding for this purchase is provided by the Stimulus funds and 2006's Prop 1B. The staff will come back to the board once a vendor has been selected.
October fare change
As reported earlier, the VTA board will likely approve the scheduled fare change from January to October. The staff report also says that they're planning a service reduction for October. VTA is experiencing a 21% drop in sales tax revenue, which VTA earlier anticipated for a 8% decrease. Even if the board gives approval for a service reduction, it is unlikely that the staff will be able to conduct proper public outreach required for an October service cut.
VTA has settled with three of its unions (TAEA, SEIU, AFSCME). The new agreement would not provide wage increases and would impose mandatory furloughs, but would not result in any employee layoffs unless the economic condition goes dramatically worse. VTA has yet to reach an agreement with ATU. Without an amended agreement, it is likely that VTA will have to further reduce service and layoff ATU employees to cut costs.
Hamilton station settlement
The Hamilton light rail station was built on top of a berm connecting to an overpass. After service started in 2005, the station area has experienced earth settlement and require frequent maintenance on the track to make sure the track is properly aligned. The VTA Board is expected to approve a contract to fix the settlement issue. In the meantime, VTA has reduced powerwashing on the platform to cut the amount of water seeping into the berm, which is causing the settlement.
The repair will require two weekend light rail shutdown in that area.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Thursday, July 09, 2009
Thursday, July 02, 2009
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Percentage wise, Muni's fare increase is the highest at 33% from $1.50 to $2.00. AC Transit is about 14% (same as VTA which will be in effect next January if not earlier) . Others go up by a less than 10%.
10 years ago, Muni fare was at $1.00. With this fare increase, Muni would have doubled its fare within a decade. According to the National Transit Database, Muni's operating cost increased by about 45% between 1999 and 2007, while providing slightly less transit service in 2007 than it was in 1999.
In comparison, VTA's total operating cost went up by over 50% in the same time frame, while revenue from fares only went up by just over 34.6%. Although VTA's total revenue miles and hours increased by 20% during that 8 year time frame, the ridership in 2007 was just less than 80% of what VTA carried in 1999.
Meanwhile at Caltrain, although operating cost went up by 68% from 1999 to 2007, revenue hours and revenue went up by 78% (with the Baby Bullet service). Weekday ridership has gone up by 50% during that time frame, but ridership on weekends was less in 2007. Overall, unlike VTA and Muni, Caltrain actually improved productivity.
The cost to deliver transit has increased dramatically over the last 10 years, however consumer prices went up by about 28.4%.
With increasing fares, it is harder to promote healthy and environmental sustainable behaviors these days. In 2009, you could still buy a burger at a fast food restaurant for 99 cents like it was 10 years ago. Fewer people rely on transit these days considering the higher cost.
Also, while funding shortfalls creating by the economy and budget cuts deserve attention, transit agencies also needs to do more to control costs. Controlling cost not only involves maintaining a reasonable wage and benefits including health care, but also by choosing the right mode of transportation cost-effective for riders. Over the years, VTA and Muni have expanded its light rail lines that are much more expensive to operate and maintain, while in most cases ridership did not go up as originally projected.
In the early part of the 20th century, transit used to be a profitable business, over the decades, to save cost, streetcars were replaced by buses, and private operations were converted into public subidized operation. However, our society today needs more mass transit as a way to make our communities environmentally sustainable and accessible with a growing senior population. The question is whether the transit systems the way it is now will be able to handle future demand?
Friday, June 26, 2009
However, with rising unemployment and drop in sales taxes, VTA internally is planning for a 10% service cut possibly for October and move the approved fare increase date from January to October. These changes would require public meetings and board approvals, which need to happen soon.
Other agencies have done more planning earlier in preparation for service reductions. AC Transit has proposed a plan to reduce service by almost 15% after a series of public meetings. SamTrans is also preparing for a cut of up to 15% and scheduled public meetings in July to receive comments. While details are pending, SamTrans cuts most likely involve trimming express service and elimination of overnight routes. AC Transit's cuts involve drawing a new bus network in Hayward and Fremont, as well as elimination of some routes in other cities.
On the other hand, VTA hosted public meetings last year and is spending money now to promote cost-neutral service adjustments. Is VTA leaving us unprepared for significant service reductions soon after?
Thursday, June 18, 2009
While the light rail is smaller and lighter than trains like Caltrain, the light rail can be deceptively fast. Riders and pedestrians should never ignore gate crossing warnings. In the Campbell section, the light rail trains do not blow horns (which isn't loud anyway compared to Caltrain) and can travel up to 50 mph. The disruption continued into the evening at around 8pm when VTA announced that service has been restored.