Thursday, May 20, 2010

VTA to restore night service on line 63 in July

Riders submitted a petition asking VTA to restore the night service on line 63. VTA responded:

At the April 1, 2010 VTA Board of Directors Meeting, Ms. Joyce Weissman presented a petition, signed by 136 people, requesting implementation of a new weekday southbound trip on Line 63 leaving downtown San Jose around 10 p.m. Ms. Weissman previously made a similar request supported by a petition with 300 signatures to the VTA Board in November 2009.

In January 2010, as part of the 8 percent service reduction, four Line 63 night trips were eliminated due to low ridership. This resulted in the last trip leaving downtown San Jose at 7:39 p.m. Previously, the last trip left downtown at 9:29 p.m. and carried about nine to ten passengers.

Staff is planning to add a later-night southbound Line 63 trip starting on July 12, 2010, based on the information presented by Ms. Weissman. This new trip would start at 7th and Santa Clara Streets at 9:34 p.m. and end at Almaden and Camden at 10: 15 p.m. This time was chosen to maximize connections with other bus routes along the line and the availability of a bus to run the route efficiently.

VTA will add this trip on a trial basis for 6 months. If the trip does not meet the minimum ridership standard of 15 riders per hour, VTA will remove it again. It is important that those who signed the petition for a later service need to use it to justify the existance, especially in this tight budgetary times.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Nutty San Jose HSR tunnel idea continues

After seeing the high cost and difficulty of putting high speed rail deep underground in the San Jose Diridon Station area, the City of San Jose has requested HSRA to study a shallow undergound option in hopes to reduce cost and improve constructability.

Under the shallow tunnel option, rail tunnels leading to and from the station would be built using tunnel boring machines. At the station area and the station approaches where the tracks join, the underground structures would be build by cut and cover. The shallow underground alternative has a similar alignment as the deep tunnel alternative, where the station would be located diagonally in front of the current train station.

The advantage of the shallow tunnel is that it costs $1.3 billion rather than $3 billion, but that's where the advantage ends. Under that alternative, the HSR station would have be dug out under the current light rail tunnel in front of the station and would have to occupy the land under the proposed baseball stadium, which is to be located south of the train station.

Deep tunnel option (upper) and shallow tunnel option (lower)

The shallow tunnel alternative would require changes to the BART project. Under that scenario, the BART tunnel would run under the proposed HSR tunnels rather than over it.

Because VTA has no funds to build BART beyond Berryessa, switching positions between the two rail lines is a feasible option. What VTA should also consider is to drop the redundent portion between San Jose Diridon and Santa Clara stations entirely. However, even if VTA is willing to address that issue, the conflict between cut and cover construction and the proposed stadium would likely kill this alternative.

Another option the city requested to study is to route HSR over the freeways rather than following the existing Caltrain corridor. Although this option has constructability concerns because of the need to maintain traffic flows on the freeway, it also presents an opportunity to build an iconic bridge for San Jose. As long as that iconic bridge does not end up to be another Bay Bridge fiasco, it might be the most reasonable option. With this option, the city would make HSR a part of the city's identity rather than to hide it.

Some of the cities further north on the peninsula are fighting HSR by pursuing another lawsuit against HSRA (HSRA already lost the first one). If San Jose is truly interested in HSR, it needs to decide how to accommodate HSR without adding more costs to the project.