Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Around the valley

Palo Alto Caltrain station

The station reconstruction at Palo Alto has been completed. Part of reconstruction was to create an ADA-compliant pedestrian underpass. Prior to the reconstruction, the station had an at-grade crossing to allow crossing by the disabled because the ramps for the existing tunnels were too steep.

Caltrain essentially upgraded one of the existing pedestrian tunnels. That tunnel pictured was dark and smelly before the reconstruction. The renovated tunnel now has skylights and fluorescent lighting. The urine-odor also disappeared as well.

Highway 17 Express

Santa Cruz Metro, the agency that operates the Highway 17 Express, placed new low floor buses in service on the Highway 17 route. It is interesting because low floor buses generally have lower capacity than high floor buses. Besides the loss of seats, these buses do not have underfloor luggage area like the older buses.

Ridership on the Highway 17 Express has grown continuously when the service was merged with the Amtrak connector in 2004. The farebox recovery for the route is now over 50%, compared to about 15% for the entire VTA system. At times the buses are packed with UC Santa Cruz students heading home for the weekends and long holidays. One has to wonder why Santa Cruz Metro did not opt to increase capacity by using larger buses and instead purchase buses with lower capacity.

State funding cuts

The loss of state funding for many transit operators has now translated into fare increase and/or service reductions. Monterey-Salinas Transit has recently instituted a large 25% fare increase! The one way trip on the 55 from San Jose to Monterey has gone up from $8 to $10. San Benito County Transit, which connects with VTA in Gilroy, has eliminated bus service from 10 am to 2 pm in Hollister. AC Transit is also considering a fare increase even though voters approved a parcel tax to provide more funding for AC Transit's operation in the East Bay.

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