Thursday, January 15, 2009

Evacuation instruction

As a result of last year's light rail derailment, VTA finally put meaningful information on emergency evacuation on its light rail (as supposed to the car card earlier). This information is similar to those at Muni and BART. Like BART, VTA put drawings on how to get out of trains on elevated structures or in tunnels, even though VTA only has over a mile long elevated structure in Milpitas and a 1/4 mile subway under San Jose Diridon station.

Friday, January 09, 2009

HSR Authority proceeds with project level EIR

With the approval of Prop 1A last November, the HSRA is now in charge of a monumental task to build a high speed rail system in California.


HSRA and the Federal Railroad Administration have announced that they will prepare environmental documents for the San Francisco-San Jose HSR segment. Public meetings have been scheduled later this month:

San Mateo County: SamTrans Auditorium, 1250 San Carlos Avenue, San Carlos, California, January 22, 2009 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.

San Francisco: San Francisco State University, 835 Market Street, 6th Floor (Rooms 673-674), San Francisco, California, January 27, 2009 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.

Santa Clara County: Santa Clara Convention Center, 5001 Great America Parkway, Great America Meeting Rooms 1 & 2, Santa Clara, California, January 29, 2009 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The environmental document approved in 2007 was programmatic-level, largely without detail information on specific designs and mitigation measures. The environmental document that they will prepare is project level, which will include details omitted in the prior documents.

Meanwhile, the HSRA will seek an agreement with Caltrain, which owns the rail corridor between San Francisco and San Jose. Although some have a very ambitious vision for the corridor, it could take a long time to implement (if not scaled down) because of the difficulty constructing in a highly active rail corridor (Caltrain service would continue) as well as obtaining matching funds mandated by Prop 1A.


Because of the state's budget crisis and poor economy, the state treasurer hasn't sold any of the HSR bonds needed to finance the consultant work. The agency could soon be running out of cash.

Although the wisdom of using state bonds to finance this project is certainly debatable, there's also a clear need to have a vision for an integrated statewide rail network. It is important to note that the same corridor for intercity high speed trains could be used by regional commuter trains.

One of the top reasons for opposing the BART project is that BART trains simply aren't compatible with high speed rail. The money that would be spent building BART tracks could only run trains as far as from Richmond. If VTA were more wise and visionary, it would have invested in an integrated network connecting the Central Valley and beyond.


Initially, Barack Obama's victory gave high hopes and expectations that the federal government would provide strong support for high speed rail and other transit projects throughout the country. Recently, some advocates are concerned that high speed rail could be left out of Obama's priorities.

Athough Democrats tend to be in support of pro-environmental programs, environmentalists are just one of many fractions in the Democratic coalition competing for attention. Groups that tend to support the existing highway based paradigm include labor unions, which are a major base of the Democratic Party. In addition, the Democratic administrations also tend to be more fiscally responsible than the Republicans, which only made the competition between various interests more intense.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Thursday's VTA board meeting

Tomorrow the VTA board plans to approve a "full funding" plan for the BART project. That full funding plan only includes the segment to Berryessa (Flea Market), which is the segment that VTA is trying to obtain federal funding for. That "full funding" plan is necessary to release additional funds in Alameda County needed for BART to build a line from the Fremont station to Warm Springs, in which VTA will pick up construction from there on.

Although it may seem like an outcome of the Measure B vote, the Berryessa segment is actually a project that VTA could undertake without Measure B. VTA intentionally delayed in committing a feasible funding plan so that VTA could pretend that they really need the tax. Perhaps Measure B opponents like Rick DiNapoli and Bill Baron were right that the tax was actually to backfill VTA's inefficient operation. Unfortunately, VTA and SVLG was able to deceive voters into believing that VTA is not involved with Measure B and the BART project. They needed to sucker voters who professed to dislike VTA into giving more money to the same agency.

While VTA is certainly the worst transit agency in the country, and that VTA itself deserves a lot of the disaffection, VTA bus and light rail service is no less valuable than other "glamorous" and "popular" transit like Caltrain and BART, especially for those who are transit dependent. It was wrong for VTA to hide itself to sell a project that it has trouble to complete. We cannot neglect the importance of VTA's service and the struggles everyday VTA riders face.

Short Range Transit Plan

Meanwhile, the VTA board is also set to approve a Short Range Transit Plan at the same meeting. Like the same plan last year, VTA is insisting that they will keep the same level of transit service for the next ten years (another unfulfilled 2000 Measure A promise to increase service) and its wage escalation rate at 3.5%. However, the plan this year assumes lower tax revenues because of the current economic downturn. Somehow, to create an illusion that no cuts would be needed, VTA also lowered its operating cost estimates from last year. Finally, VTA is still attaching the 2000 Measure A expenditure plan that was approved in 2006 on this year's SRTP. The 2006 plan assumed a 1/4 percent tax that voters never approved, and was determined by a VTA consultant to be unworkable.

Monday, January 05, 2009

January meetings on transit changes

Pretending that VTA can provide the same level of service as before, VTA has scheduled a series of meetings on transit changes. Essentially, most of these changes involved reduction of trips on many routes to boost frequency for lines 66 and 68.

Slight service reduction (at most a few trips) on these routes:
10, 13, 18, 27, 33, 46, 48, 55, 57, 60, 61, 62, 70, 71, 72, 73, 77, 81, 82, DASH

Significant service reduction on these routes:
31, 45, 63, 64, 88

Slight service increase (at most a few trips) on these routes:
25, 26, 52, 58

New Saturday service:
37 (evening service would be reduced in return)

Line proposed to be discontinued:

Route changes:
14, 17, 49

Schedule changes:
22, 23, 26

Conversion to regular bus from community bus:

Significant increase in service:
66, 68

Prior to January 2008, Line 66 and 68 operate every 15 minutes only during rush hours. Today, 66 runs every 15 minutes in the middle of the day between Milpitas and Downtown San Jose. Line 68 runs every 15 minutes during rush hours between Downtown San Jose and Santa Teresa LRT, but mostly every half hour between Santa Teresa and Gilroy. VTA is proposing to increase service for both lines to every 15 minutes throughout the day for the entire routes.

For lines 180 and 181, VTA is proposing to run 181 all day except for the evening, and reduce 180 to every 30 minutes between Fremont and Milpitas (today it runs every 15 minutes). VTA is also proposing to realign the service off Mission Blvd and I-680 and onto Mowry or Stevenson. The realignement would certainly avoid the congestion on 680 and would take advantage of the new HOV lanes opened on the 880, but VTA needs to identify a park and ride lot somewhere along the route in Fremont. Many of the riders live in Fremont (and thus don't need to take BART) but these riders can't park at the BART station.

Meeting dates and locations:

Wednesday, January 21, 2009
2:00 p.m.
Alum Rock Youth Center
Community Room
137 N. White Road, San Jose
This location is served by VTA Bus Lines 25, 45 and 71.

Monday, January 26, 2009
4:00 p.m.
Lucie Stern Community Center
Community Room
1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto
This location is served by VTA Bus Line 35.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009
2:00 p.m.
Campbell Community Center
Roosevelt Community Room
1 West Campbell Avenue, Campbell
This location is served by VTA Bus Lines 26 and 60.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009
7:00 p.m.
Fremont Community Center
Teen Center
39770 Paseo Padre Parkway, Fremont
This location is served by AC Transit Lines 214 and 218.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009
3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
County of Santa Clara Issac Newton Senter Auditorium
70 West Hedding Street, San Jose
This location is served by VTA Light Rail and Bus Lines 61, 62, 66, 180 and 181.

Thursday, January 29, 2009
4:00 p.m.
Morgan Hill Community & Cultural Center
Hiram Morgan Hill Room
17000 Monterey Road, Morgan Hill
This location is served by VTA Bus Line 68.

Thursday, January 29, 2009
7:00 p.m.
Gilroy City Hall
Council Chambers
7351 Rosanna Street, Gilroy
This location is served by VTA Bus Line 19.

After these meetings, the VTA Board is set to approve this plan sometime in the Spring and implement it in July.