Thursday, February 25, 2010

VTA plans route changes for 11, 34, 45

VTA will host three public meetings in March to accept comments for proposed route changes for lines 11, 34, and 45. All three routes are considered under-perform according to VTA's ridership standards.

11 - This route was reincarnated in January 2008 to serve the Market Center on Coleman and the Japantown area. The line has a big one way segment northeast of Downtown because of pressure from San Jose Councilman San Liccardo. However this route did not perform well and Saturday service was discontinued earlier this year. VTA proposes to reroute the service between Downtown and 17th & Taylor to provide two-way service and eliminate the service to the Market Center. In exchange, the service will boost from every hour to every 30 minutes.

34 - VTA proposes to extend the service to the Mountain View Senior Center on Escuela Avenue. VTA has attempted to cut the service last year but withdrew the plan.

45 - This line was established in January 2008. Before that it was a part of line 64, which serve Alum Rock Avenue between Downtown and East San Jose. VTA proposes to reroute the line to run on Alum Rock and McKee east of Capitol Avenue. Service along Toyon and Penitencia Creek would be discontinued. In exchange for a shorter route, the line would run every 45 minutes instead of hourly.

The three meetings will take place on the same week in different locations:

Line 11 Public Meeting
Tuesday, March 16, 2010 6:00 p.m.
Northside Community Center
Community Room
488 North 6th Street, San Jose

Line 34 Public Meeting
Monday, March 15, 2010 10:00 a.m.
Mountain View City Hall
Council Chambers
500 Castro Street, Mountain View

Line 45 Public Meeting
Thursday, March 18, 2010 6:00 p.m.
Alum Rock Public Library
Community Room
3090 Alum Rock Avenue, San Jose

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Power outage in Palo Alto

A plane crash in East Palo Alto caused a power outage in the Palo Alto area, forcing businesses to close. Caltrain also suffered minor delays as trains slowed down at each road crossings. Ticket machines and validators also went out of power.

Fight onboard AC Transit

Unfortunately violence between passengers also happens outside San Francisco.

While violence between passengers can be frightening to others, it is completely avoidable.

  1. There are some people that we should not start a conversation with, even though it would appear impolite if we ignore them.
  2. There is no point in escalating the argument. Since no one will win or lose anything by winning or losing any argument, why don't we just shut up and get to where we need to go as quick as possible.
  3. We should never encourage others to fight. (some riders on this video tried to calm the riders down, whereas the riders on the Muni video encouraged the Chinese woman to fight).

Update: This is the video after both got off the bus.

It appears that both men involved in this fight have issues. If you look carefully, the writing on the back of the blue T-shirt the white man was wearing says "I am a motherfucker." What a conversation starter!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Again...Don't mess with FTA

Today, FTA told BART and MTC that the Oakland Airport Connector will no longer be eligible for the stimulus funds because of BART's failure to comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

Last month, while MTC and BART continued their support of the project and pledged to address FTA's concerns, FTA said that BART would not be able to comply with Title VI before the deadline, and that the Bay Area would be better off spending the $70 million stimulus funds in other ways. Transform, which has been advocating against the OAC in favor of bus rapid transit, wants the money to be directed to local transit agencies, which would help reduce the need for service reductions and fare increases.

Transit agencies are indeed short of funding. Muni in San Francisco is trying to address a $16.9 million mid-year budget deficit with series of fee hikes and service cuts. AC Transit has approved a series of bus cuts to be implemented next month. SamTrans and VTA made painful cuts in December and January.

While the $70 million will be useful, it is largely a one-time relief. The more important battle to ensure future funding stability for transit is happening in Sacramento, where the governor has proposed to eliminate sales tax on fuel (which is restricted to transportation uses only by ballot initiative) and create a new gas "fee" that cannot be diverted to transit.

Unfortunately, the Democratic-controlled legislature isn't helping either (from MTC Advisory Committee member Margaret Okuzumi):

The main differences between the proposals are that the Democrats would hold on to the diesel tax. They also propose giving regional agencies like MTC the ability to put a regional gas tax on the ballot to help get money for transit. MTC has been asking for this authority for years and the legislature has always said no.

Giving MTC this authority might be a help. But it’s a risky funding strategy for transit because there is no guarantee that voters would approve a regional gas tax. It has rarely polled over 50% in the past, polling well only once when voters were told the money would fund initiatives to stop climate change. That was soon after Gore’s movie came out, and climate change is no longer a top concern of voters due to the recession and successful disinformation campaign by climate change deniers. Also, anti-tax groups are likely to sue.

Please contact your state legislators (Assembly and Senate) and let them know that they need to preserve funding for transit.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Wednesday, February 03, 2010


VTA tomorrow night is expected to approve its Short Range Transit Plan. SRTP is a routine planning document for transit agencies statewide. It forces them to predict future revenues and how they plan to spend the money.

Last year, VTA predicted it could keep the same level of transit service for the next 10 years. However, a month after approving that SRTP, VTA publicly admitted that it needs to raise fares and cut services. This time, the SRTP assumes new financial realities. Today, VTA uses more conservative scenarios in projecting future sales tax revenue growth (negative growth in sales taxes after adjusted for inflation). Nonetheless, VTA also assumes that somehow State Transit Assistance (which was removed for 5 years by the state legislature to balance the state budget) would come back next year, and that all federal eligible federal capital funds would be diverted fo operations (under the preventive maintenance category).

The current draft SRTP assumes that the reduced transit service will continue for the next 8 years. To handle the projected ridership on some bus routes, VTA would use more articulated buses. In 2013, VTA expects to operated enhanced 522 BRT service. the 523 BRT service on Stevens Creek would start in 2017.

Also included in the SRTP is the first year of BART operation to Berryessa. In 2008, VTA cheated the VTA Board and voters by presenting a financial scenario showing that the Measure B tax would fully fund the operating cost for BART extension. This SRTP however, shows the exact opposite. Starting in 2019, the first full year of operation, VTA is expected to pay $46.32 million to BART for operating subsidy and $10.09 million for capital reserve. On the other hand, VTA is expected to receive $37.34 million from the 1/8% sales tax. Although not shown in the SRTP spreadsheet, the capital reserve is expected to raise every year for the next 15 years.

Even though VTA plans to collect the 1/8 cent tax years before BART opening (thus not having to spend it), VTA would likely exhaust that surplus in less than 10 years after. If this scenario holds, VTA would eventually have to cut bus service or raise taxes to further subsidize the useless BART line. So much for "Measure A pays operating costs for BART, rail, and buses for decades without additional taxes." (Carl Guardino in the 2000 Measure A rebuttal)

In future years, financial projection will change depending on the economy, political leadership, and tax structure. Despite optimistic scenarios used in some years, transit riders were more affected during economic downturns than during economic booms. During good economic times, transit unions generally demand much of the new revenue to go toward their salaries and benefits instead of new services. When good times come to an end, agencies cut costs mostly by cutting service. While agencies including VTA try to cut labor costs, factors like pensions and healthcare seriously limit their options.