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.