Since the 1970s the bus stop at the corner of Hackett and Montebello streets has been an asset for those living in the nearby senior and affordable housing complexes. But due to budget constraints, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority is proposing to eliminate the only bus line that serves this stop.
Line 34, a shuttle bus which makes the short, 20-minute trip from Castro Street to San Antonio shopping center, is among those lines on the chopping block this fall. The VTA, hit with decreased sales tax revenue and major cutbacks in state transit funding, has been forced to propose an 8 percent reduction to bus service and a 6.5 percent reduction in light rail service in order to save $6.4 million annually.
The agency has a "dependence on sales tax revenue, and sales tax revenue is dipping, so we have to make some tough decisions," explained VTA spokesperson Linh Hoang.
The VTA board of directors will vote on the proposals in October, and is accepting public comment until Aug. 31. If approved, the cuts would take effect in January 2010.
Among the cuts being considered in Mountain View is the complete elimination of Line 34, which snakes along parts of Shoreline, Montecito, Middlefield and Rengstorff streets every hour between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. It costs the VTA about $180,000 a year to operate Line 34.
Many of its riders are from Paulson Place, a 253-unit senior housing complex near the Hackett and Montebello stop, said bus driver Milton Gentry.
Gentry, an older man himself, seems to have developed a rapport with his riders, but he jokes that "I'm almost too young to ride this bus." He said he had also driven the route in the 1970s and '80s, and that even back then the stop at Hackett and Montebello was a main pickup point along the route.
One rider on Line 34 was chatting with Gentry at the downtown train station stop on Monday afternoon. He said he rides the bus nearly every day from his home at Paulson Place.
"We need this man around," he said of Gentry. "He takes us grocery shopping and to Walmart."
When the bus isn't scheduled to come, he said, "I got nothing."
Last week, more than 20 people showed up for a VTA meeting at City Hall to talk about the proposed reductions in service, one of seven meetings held throughout the county. The main concern of those who attended the local meeting was the elimination of Line 34. Other routes face reductions in service, but 34 is the only line in Mountain View that would be totally eliminated.
Hoang said ridership on the line averages 15 passengers per hour, just shy of the 17-per-hour threshold used to determine whether a line should be considered in the reductions.
Mayor Margaret Abe-Koga said that before the cuts were proposed, Line 34 was the focus of discussions in a city-organized transportation stakeholder meeting earlier this year, where many had hoped to expand service on Line 34. The city's Senior Advisory Task Force wanted a stop at the city's popular new Senior Center, which is not currently served directly by a bus.
"VTA says they are trying to take lines off that will be covered by other lines or types of transit," Abe-Koga said. "But that doesn't seem to be case if they take this line down."
North Whisman resident Mike Zelenski said it was unacceptable for seniors to lose their only mode of transportation.
"Bus coverage in this area is less than adequate as it is now," he said.
The VTA has also proposed service reductions to:
■ Line 22, Eastridge Transit Center to Palo Alto Transit Center via El Camino Real
■ Line 35, Stanford Shopping Center to Downtown Mountain View Transit Center
■ Line 40, La Avenida and Shoreline to Foothill College
■ Line 51, De Anza College to Moffett Field/NASA Ames Research Center
■ Light Rail line from Mountain View to Winchester
For a full listing of all proposed service reductions, go to www.vta.org/servicereductions.
To submit comments to the VTA about proposed service changes, send an e-mail to email@example.com. Or leave a voice message by calling (408) 321-2300, or fax comments to (408) 321-7535.
Comments may be sent by mail to:
VTA Customer Service
3331 N. First Street, Bldg. B
San Jose, CA 95134-1927