Board members, including Mountain View's Margaret Abe-Koga and Palo Alto's Gail Price, voted unanimously on Nov. 1 to include two options for the bus rapid transit project in an environmental impact report. It could place hybrid-powered, WiFi-equipped buses on dedicated lanes on the county's most popular bus corridor, El Camino Real.
The buses would be unhindered by car traffic or long waits at stoplights, thanks to sensors on the buses that communicate with traffic signals.
The EIR will study both a "revised" project — dedicated lanes up the center of El Camino Real in the city of Santa Clara only — as well as the "optimal" project, which would mean dedicated bus lanes from Santa Clara to Showers Drive in Mountain View. The street configuration for dedicated bus lanes would make room for the bike lanes long desired by cyclists, who see no other likely hpoe for bike lanes on El Camino Real.
The move means that the Mountain View City Council, with two newly elected members, may vote on the project again next year. Despite majority support from residents and bike and transportation advocates who spoke, the current council voted 5-2 against dedicated lanes in Mountain View in January, citing concerns about increasing traffic on side streets. Members Margaret Abe-Koga and Mike Kasperzak voted in support.
Proponents of the system say that traffic on El Camino Real will only get worse without alternatives to car travel, while opponents say traffic will get worse from removing a lane in each direction to accommodate bike and BRT lanes.
Corinne Winter, director of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, called it "a unique and unprecedented opportunity to have dedicated bike facilities paid for by the county's transit agency."
"It shocks me that local jurisdictions would not jump at this chance to revitalize their business districts along El Camino Real," Winter said. "Having dedicated bicycle facilities on this corridor will expose the businesses there to a large number of clients that are more likely than motorists to stop and shop."
The EIR will provide more information for decision makers in Mountain View and Sunnyvale, VTA officials say. The Mountain View City Council voted 4-3 against dedicated lanes earlier this year.
VTA officials say Caltrans, which has jurisdiction over El Camino Real, won't allow the dedicated lanes in cities where it is opposed.