First, I want to make clear that no final decision has been made about how the future Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system will operate along El Camino Real. The Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) is currently studying the impacts of seven project alternatives that emerged after an initial round of public meetings held in 2012.
The alternatives cover a range of possible projects — from making no improvements to the transit system to installing 14.1 miles of dedicated bus lanes from Embarcadero Road to Lafayette Street along El Camino Real. Though dedicated lanes were not embraced by every city along the corridor, I supported studying its impacts and benefits as that information is crucial to providing an accurate comparison to the other project alternatives, using various criteria like how smoothly traffic will flow, transit usage, traffic impacts, and cost.
The goals of BRT are clear: 1) to improve reliability, travel times, amenities, safety and access for the 15,000 daily weekday riders (Route 522 and 22 combined) that take VTA bus service to work, school, and appointments on El Camino Real; and 2) to accommodate the demand that future growth will put on our road network by providing solutions that make non-auto modes like public transit and bicycling more appealing. This will be a benefit to auto users as well as non-auto users.
In an effort to decrease greenhouse gases and improve mobility, many cities along El Camino Real, including Mountain View, adopted the practice of focusing development along corridors already served by public transit, as opposed to areas that can only be reached by car. Young people today have increasingly supported that shift through more affordable and environmentally conscious alternatives such as going car-free and living closer to job centers to have other travel options and the numbers are showing increased ridership on most all transit systems.
We're not trying to force people to live a certain way; we're planning so that we can meet the variety of competing needs that will arise. An effective, green-vehicle rapid transit solution will increase transit usage and benefit other modes of transportation as well. Additional infrastructure investments this project will bring to the area will provide safe and better access for bicycles and pedestrians. The El Camino Real corridor is one of three corridors being planned for the Bus Rapid Transit network.
The current environmental review process is an opportunity to study and determine the most beneficial transportation improvement for both current and future residents and commuters. Public review and input is expected again in summer 2014, and I look forward to having those discussions again with VTA staff and the many stakeholders, who care as much as I do about the future of our city and valley.
It's certainly been a pleasure for me to serve as Mountain View and North County's representative on the VTA board of directors and be a part of moving the BART extension project forward into San Jose, which is ahead of schedule, the light rail double-tracking project into Mountain View to allow for increased express service, and the BRT, which all contribute to a bright outlook for increasing transit options in our county.
Margaret Abe-Koga is a member of the Mountain View City Council and the VTA board.