Thursday, July 22, 2010

Free VTA schedules on your iPhone/iPod Touch

Vashishtha Jogi, who developed the original iPhone/iPod Touch app for VTA, has released a free version of the same application supported by advertisement.

The full version with additional features is available for $1.99.

The current version has updated July 12 schedules.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A ride on the 22

One of the VTA Watch readers Arcady had an interesting experience on the 22:

Last night I was coming back from Fremont to Sunnyvale, taking the 180 to Downtown San Jose to connect to the 22. It was all going quite nicely, the 180 was just a couple minutes late, there was a good amount of time to connect to the 22, it left on time at 11 pm... and then one of the passengers, who had probably had imbibed considerably earlier in the night, decided to puke up some of what he had earlier drunk. Now, this in itself was an annoyance, but I helped the other passengers open some windows and everything seemed to be fine. Until the bus driver realized what had happened. At that point he stopped the bus, probably conferred with supervisors by radio, and then told everyone "this bus ride is over, everyone off" and promised that a replacement bus would arrive eventually, but it would take at least half an hour to do so.
As this was still near downtown, I opted to walk to the train station and take a taxi back, so I did not see the end of this story. But I also didn't know about this VTA policy. It's certainly a major annoyance to passengers, who are now at least half an hour late (and potentially miss their connections with other buses, like the SamTrans at Palo Alto). On the other hand, yeah, there's something of a health and safety hazard with vomit on the floor. Anyway, I thought you might be interested in hearing this little VTA anecdote.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Could AC Transit drivers go on strike?

AC Transit today issued a statement to its workers urging them to stay on the job. Recently the agency was not able to reach an agreement with the union and it is imposing a contract on those workers. Currently the union is suing the agency trying to overturn that contract. If the court rules in favor of AC Transit, the workers could go on strike as soon as next week.

Regardless of the court outcome, nobody wins in this fight. If the union win back the benefits and old work rules, it will increase costs the agency. Because AC Transit doesn't have sufficient funding to begin with, AC Transit would have to cut costs by eliminating services, resulting in layoffs. AC Transit already plans for another round of service cuts later in the summer after the first one went into effect in March.

If the union chooses to strike, it would receive little if any sympathy from the public. A strike could have a long term negative effect to the transit system as some of the customers would go buy a used car to get around. Once they have a car, they won't go back to the bus.

Voters in the AC Transit service areas have been pretty sympathetic to the agency and have approved parcel tax increases in the past to maintain service. That attitude could change if the public believes that the workers are not willing to make concessions to save services. In San Francisco, there will be a measure on the November ballot that would end the automatic wage increases to Muni drivers. Muni drivers have refused to make concessions twice, whereas other unionized workers in San Francisco have made various concessions including furloughs.

This economic crisis is deep and severe enough that all prior projections about populations, jobs, and tax revenue probably have thrown off course permanently. We need a new business model that can sustain transit services in light of declining revenues. Labor costs is an important factor, especially as labor costs in the Bay Area have grown faster (while productivity has declined) than the rest of the nation during the last decade. Of course, we cannot forget that the Bay Area has made many bad transportation decisions during that decade. Too much money has been spent on wasteful projects and not enough money has been invested to maintain essential services.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Around the Valley this summer

An upgraded TVM has been spotted at Gish Station, that is supposed to take ATM and credit cards soon.

MST now has MCI coaches.

Late night service will be coming back on line 63 on a trial basis. If this trip carries sufficient riders, it can continue on a permanent basis.


New bus stop locations at San Jose Diridon Station effective next week.

Caltrain is rebuilding the Santa Clara Station partly to accommodate ACE and Amtrak trains. ACE used to stop at the Santa Clara Station from 2001 to 2005, when Caltrain decided to kick ACE trains out of the station to make room for more Baby Bullet trains (Southbound ACE trains used to stop on the northbound platform). San Francisco County Transportation Authority is a funding partner on this project (see the TA logo above the VTA logo).