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October 14, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, October 14, 2005

Letters to the Editor Letters to the Editor (October 14, 2005)


VTA defends ridership estimates

Editor:

Recently the Mountain View Voice questioned the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority's ridership projections for the BART-to-Silicon Valley extension in an editorial titled "False Positives on the BART Project."

VTA worked under the guidance of the Federal Transit Administration to develop these projections, which utilize the Association of Bay Area Government's regionally accepted population and job growth scenarios and reflect an aggregate of public transportation usage patterns across the nine-county Bay Area. On the surface it might appear "convenient" that the federally-mandated formula resulted in higher ridership numbers, but the increased ridership also increased the overall cost of the project by requiring additional parking facilities and passenger trains to accommodate greater loads.

There's no question that by 2030 the Bay Area will have experienced marked population and job growth. But without multi-modal transportation infrastructure in place to meet future demand, economic growth will be stifled. Every community in Santa Clara County will feel the economic repercussions of companies that choose to locate outside the Valley because of the high cost of local housing and freeway congestion.

Through the Smart Growth Scenario adopted by ABAG and MTC, the BART-to-Silicon Valley project will create the opportunity for new development strategies. Strategies that focus high-density development around transit stations and services, providing an environmentally friendly way to address transportation needs without adding automobiles to our highway system.

It takes time for commute habits to change, and that's made particularly difficult by the economic downturn and the unprecedented loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout the Bay Area. Your Oct. 3 editorial acknowledged that within just two years of opening the Mountain View light rail extension, when the Bay Area's economy was robust, ridership on the extension was meeting VTA's estimates. What might those numbers look like in 2012?

Public transit usage throughout the Bay Area is on the rise. VTA light rail and bus usage is climbing, and BART, Caltrain and SamTrans are all reporting increasing ridership numbers. This is the time to set the wheels in motion that will ensure the Bay Area's public transportation network will stand up to future demand. Michael Burns General Manager Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority

Public transit should be encouraged

Editor:

In a recent article ("Light rail light on riders," Sept. 30), and numerous others, one gets the impression that this publication takes a dim view of the value of public transit. I think a disservice is being done here.

First, your "empty cars" statement gives an incorrect impression. I have used the light rail many times and have yet to see an empty car. I often bring my bike and have boarded to find all the bike racks full. This all occurred before the recent improvements and changes.

But the bigger issue concerns the alternatives. The increasing price of gas is obvious to all. We obtain much of our oil from unstable and potentially hostile sources. No expert would be willing to say that oil will last even 30 more years, given the rate of consumption and worldwide growth of same.

It is true that Californians are "joined at the hip" with their autos and are very difficult to separate from them. However, it is crucial that we try to encourage, not discourage, people to seek alternatives to the prevalent but immensely wasteful one-car, one-driver scenario. George Schuttinger Sierra Vista Avenue

Light rail stuck in the slow lane

Editor:

Thank you for the informative article on light rail. Having lived in the Washington, D.C. area with Metrorail, I am a fan of public transportation and currently use Caltrain to commute to work.

When I returned to Mountain View last year after three years in D.C., I decided to give light rail a try when I went to San Jose for Pope John Paul II's memorial Mass. I have friends who live in downtown San Jose and thought it would be a convenient and easy way to visit them. Unfortunately, the trip took three times as long as it would if I had driven.

My feelings on light rail mirror council member Laura Macias' comments. I, too, was excited about the idea of light rail in Mountain View, but the reality is very disappointing. On dedicated tracks with safety fences in place, the trains run at no more than, I would guess, 35 miles per hour. Why is that? When I called the VTA for an explanation, the representative could not give one. I explained that until light rail moves at a faster speed in those areas where it is safe to do so, I did not see myself giving up my car.

Few, if any, people would want to plan on spending three hours of a Friday or Saturday evening on transportation alone. The Valley Transportation Authority will not see the ridership they desire until they make the transit time comparable to that of driving time. I would have no problem extending the commute time to downtown San Jose by 20 or so minutes. But when the commute time is, as Ms. Macias noted, extended by an hour, even the cost of gas will not get me out of my car.

I suspect that the "something new" for which "potential transit riders" are waiting is a faster light rail. I send this letter to you in hopes that the VTA will see strong responses to your article and rethink how light rail is run. Helen M. Ciernick Springer Road


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