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VTA Chops down 135 trees for BRT LANES!!!

Original post made by Jim Neal on Apr 16, 2014

While most people were busy with last minute tax preparations, the VTA was busy cutting down 135 trees in San Jose to make room for the new BRT Lanes according to today's Palo Alto Daily Post and CBS News:

Web Link

We keep being told "No decision has been made yet", but it is clear to me that the decision HAS already been made! It appears to me that no matter how many people are against this, there is simply too much money involved for them to pass up this project.

What happened in San Jose is exactly the kind of problem that I have been concerned about. They keep telling us about all the great things the project is supposed to accomplish, but what about all the NEGATIVE impacts associated with it?

They cut down 135 trees including several decades old redwoods for 1 LANE! Can you imagine how many will get the ax if this runs all the way up El Camino? I guess we should be thankful that they are not yet considering running BRT to the North Bayshore or both the feral cats and the burrowing owls would be toast!

According to the article linked above, the VTA held several meetings about the BRT lanes, but the tree cutting was not the focus of any of the meetings, nor was it mentioned in the online fact sheet that was posted.

The VTA's response was to say that they will plant two trees for every one that they cut down. Oh really? Where? I'm sure that the redwoods that were massacred will take solace in that.


Jim Neal
Candidate, Mountain View City Council
Web Link
info@electneal.org

Comments (34)

Posted by Robert, a resident of another community
on Apr 16, 2014 at 7:53 pm

Wow Jim, you make it sound like this happened out of the blue, without any sort of community involvement. Now I know you're hot on bashing mass transit, but try to refrain from acting suprised when something that's been planned for a decade actually occurs, it makes you look incompetent.


Posted by Jim Neal, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 16, 2014 at 9:15 pm

Jim Neal is a registered user.

@Robert - It seems you missed the part where I said "According to the article linked above, the VTA held several meetings about the BRT lanes, but the tree cutting was not the focus of any of the meetings, nor was it mentioned in the online fact sheet that was posted."

As far as bashing Mass Transit, I haven't driven a car for over 18 months and take mass transit almost every single day (Caltrain, Muni, Bart, and VTA), so I think I am more qualified than most to speak on the subject.

I am glad though that you told everyone that this has been planned for a decade. It seems to confirm what I said in the my other article about it not mattering what we want or think.


Jim Neal
Candidate, Mountain View City Council
Web Link (Campaign Website)
info@electneal.org


Posted by Linda Curtis, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 18, 2014 at 9:13 am

VTA Board Chair Ash Kalra said himself what Neal is saying: The trees were not focused on in any of the discussion groups and were not mentioned in the fact sheet. I have the fact sheet on paper, so neither online or paper versions leaked the truth of the tree removal. Only the stuff that sounds good is revealed.

But VTA's own manager who studied the dedicated Bus Rapid lanes revealed that with the BRT dedicated fast lane from Santa Clara to MV (on the "fast" bus not sharing their lane with anyone) could make this trip ONE MINUTE faster! Lat's not be fools to fall for this travesty.


Posted by Linda Curtis, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 18, 2014 at 5:49 pm

Trees like those lost along Santa Clara Street and Alum Rock Avenue (the southern parts of El Camino Real & The Alameda) will not grow back in the life time of many of us, who very much enjoyed and appreciated them. They really clean the air and shade the pavement & concrete, which encourages more walking and bike riding. Cleaning the air and encouraging more walking & bike riding are important to improving the ecology of the Bay Area, yet that is what VTA claims they are doing with their baloney BRT project, that can move a rapid bus (at the expense of the flow of all other vehicles on the roadway) only a mere ONE minute faster than that which they already have. Their real mission is receiving more money to their already gluttonous, inefficient department, the biggest money hog of all County of Santa Clara Departments. BRT is no improvement, just a waste of our tax money and our trees!


Posted by Think, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 18, 2014 at 5:54 pm

Linda-- what you don't seem to understand is that 1 minute improvement is when traffic is light. Try rush hour. Much faster to take the bus than drive, which is the whole point. Get more commuters to ride the bus and cars are taken off the road.


Posted by tree hugger, a resident of Waverly Park
on Apr 18, 2014 at 8:43 pm

If new redwood trees are planted, they'll be about 40-50 feet tall in less than 10 years.


Posted by Curious, a resident of another community
on Apr 19, 2014 at 3:00 pm

@Think
Surely, VTA must have done some cost/analysis study before embarking into years of expensive planning. Are the numbers available for public consumption?


Posted by Jim Neal, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 20, 2014 at 8:36 am

Jim Neal is a registered user.

@Think - When I was driving, the buses were never faster, Even the express buses because they still need to stop for traffic lights just like cars, plus they need to stop to pick people up at each stop. If these buses are as wildly popular as the VTA seems to think they will be, then they will be picking up and dropping off about 15 people per stop. This takes at least an additional minute or two. The bottom line is, the buses will only be faster if the VTA designs the bus only lanes to create traffic jams.

Then there is the question that I mentioned that no proponent of BRT has addressed yet, cost. How much will the fares be? How heavily will this have to be subsidized by taxpayers in order to make the fares reasonably competitive? I have a feeling that if once people get to see the numbers, they'll be much less motivated to support the bus version of High Speed Rail (HSR).


Posted by Karen, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Apr 20, 2014 at 9:49 am

Neal is right. Just last summer, Councilmemer Margaret Abe-Koga, then the north county' s representative on the VTA Board, said and wrote in this newspaper that no decision would be made before THIS SUMMER. The decision to install bus-only lanes on El Camino in Mountain View was made long ago. Any more meetings and votes on the subject will just be FOR SHOW.


Posted by Konrad M. Sosnow, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 21, 2014 at 9:35 am

VTA does not care how many cars will be forced to drive on neighborhood streets because of VTA reducing El Camino car throughput by 33%.

It takes me 30 minutes to drive to Milpitas at rush hour but 90 minutes by VTA.

As a consultant, I charge by the hour. Taking VTA would reduce my income by 10 ours per week, or 20%. I can't afford to take VTA. I am sure that there are many more people in similar situations. VTA is great for going up and down El Camino Real, but very slow and inefficient if you are going elsewhere.


Posted by Linda Curtis, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 21, 2014 at 11:23 am

@Think: My understanding from what the VTA's own manager said was that when the buses bested their travel time in the non-dedicated lanes, the times were compared at the same times of day: So still only ONE minute faster for the buses that have cast all the other vehicles out of their dedicated lane(s). Think how much worse for all the other drivers this will be.

More congestion overall makes it harder for the buses, too, when they must switch lanes back and forth from the #1 lane to the #3 lane, as is the plan along the BRT route now. This is certainly more dangerous for all on the roadway as well.

So: not really faster, more dangerous, worse for cars, trees removed & the shade along with them making walking less inviting.

So why do it? For Federal funds and for increased surveillance of citizens.


Posted by Think, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 21, 2014 at 1:38 pm

I don't know about the veracity of 1 minute l, but it is interesting to note that the distance between mountain view and Santa Clara is only 4 miles....

Also what is not discussed by the commenters is how much FASTER it would be for bus riders comparing to service today. It's about a 22 minute ride today. Driving is about 12 minutes today so bus would be 11 minutes. That means that bus riders will get from point a to point b TWICE as fast as they are today. With the much faster bus rides, there will be more users which will take cars off the road.

More fares mean costs per rider will go down which will drive fares down.

Change is hard. We love our cars, but the costs are spiraling out of control...


Posted by Think again, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 21, 2014 at 2:05 pm

What is discussed, among VTA and the supporters of this idea, FAR less even than any benefits to bus riders -- this was conspicuously missing from Abe-Koga's guest editorial in the Voice, despite her striving to present an objective appearance -- is the effects on traffic (both ECR and nearby neighborhood streets) after removing existing traffic lanescto dedicate them to buses.

The whole proposal hinges on the social-engineering assumption of getting people "out of their cars and into buses." It is a speculative idea, but the VTA proposes physical changes to El Camino, which would make "BRT" compulsory and virtually impossible to undo if it proves a dud. (Like the VTA Light Rail with its 27% use of rider capacity, for good reasons as demonstrated in earlier comments.) Buses are great for people whose commutes they match. How well does this fit existing ECR commuters?

Undoing a failed (but "theoretically" sound) BRT would not be as easy as undoing the failed Prohibition amendment to the US Constitution, another famous "well-intended" social-engineering initiative whose advocates ignored its fully predictable bad consequences.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 21, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Good discussion...

Something that hasn't been talked about that since it is going to be impossible to have people with low paying service jobs to live in or near Mountain View, they will need to get here somehow from cheaper areas. Automobiles are expensive, but buses are not. A more efficient bus system will a better commuting experience for this class of workers.

I think this project may inconvenience the greedy, wealthy people who want to be able to clog the streets with their cars as they go out and spend money on junk. What about the people that are living paycheck to paycheck? Let's think beyond our own greed please!


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 21, 2014 at 3:22 pm

"... which would make "BRT" compulsory and virtually impossible to undo if it proves a dud...Undoing a failed (but "theoretically" sound) BRT would not be as easy as undoing the failed Prohibition amendment to the US Constitution, another famous "well-intended" social-engineering initiative whose advocates ignored its fully predictable bad consequences...."

Yes, let's compare adding a bus lane to Prohibition. So exactly the same thing... :)

It's not compulsory..if you want to clog up the roads, by all means keep driving your car!

Oh, and if you don't like it when people use side streets to route around clogged streets, then simply put in speed bumps. But not those gentle little rounded mounts ,but the rectangular ones that will really jar the driver if they don't slow way down.

Congestion is going up anyway..the question is do we just do nothing about it or do we provide viable options that will help lower income people get to their jobs, plus get cars off the road which will provide overall help with the problem.


Posted by Curious, a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2014 at 3:29 pm

@Hmmm

Not every bus user will ride the BRT. With dedicated lanes, a more local bus or one that goes on El Camino for only a portion of its route will have one less lane of traffic (same for shuttle buses corporate or public a la Marguerite).

If the goal is really to give priority to buses, how about good old priority lanes for all buses (BRT, VTA, shuttles...)? Much cheaper and benefits a much larger number of bus users.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 21, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Unlike the massive and incompatible train, lightrail or brand new road projects, this can be tweaked along the way. If later studies show a net benefit in allowing all buses (commercial too!) to use the bus lane, then that could be easily done.

There is no question that having a bus only lane will massively speed up the bus route. If there is no other benefit, it's still worthwhile to do. Fortunately, there are other benefits as well.


Posted by MVResident67, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 21, 2014 at 3:41 pm

"I think this project may inconvenience the greedy, wealthy people who want to be able to clog the streets with their cars as they go out and spend money on junk. What about the people that are living paycheck to paycheck? Let's think beyond our own greed please! "

~~~~~


Are all drivers "greedy, wealthy people" or just the ones who go out and spend their money on "junk"?


Posted by Steven Fisher, VTA, a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2014 at 3:42 pm

As VTA's Project Manager for the El Camino Real BRT Project, I would like to respond to Jim Neal's blog post and some of the subsequent comments. VTA has made no decision regarding El Camino Real BRT. This summer an environmental report will be released for public comment on seven alternatives that are fully analyzed regarding the benefits and impacts of each alternative. The analysis includes effects on transit ridership, traffic impacts and yes, tree removal. The VTA Board of Directors will make a decision on a preferred alternatives based on the analysis presented in the environmental report and what we hear from the public, including cities, neighborhood and business groups.

Regarding Linda Curtis's assertion that based on a conversation with me, she concluded that dedicated lanes only save one minute of time from Santa Clara to Mountain View, I want to clear up that misconception. A dedicated transit lane would actually save ten minutes of time for someone making that trip and result in significant travel time savings.


Posted by Curious, a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2014 at 3:44 pm

@Hmmm

Dedicated lanes would also entail years of construction where traffic and life will be miserable for all ECR users.

Also central lanes would not work for local buses (not enough stops, too many lanes to cross to continue their routes onto shoreline, escuela, el monte....).

Again, much simpler, much faster and much more practical to put priority lanes,if your goal is really to improve bus commutes for all bus riders.










Posted by MVResident67, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 21, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Thank you for your comments Mr. Fisher.


Regarding dedicated BRT lanes...

Could you please clarify for me how many additional stoplights would be required on El Camino Real between the intersection of ECR & 237 and say, El Monte Road?

I recall being at a meeting awhile ago and I thought that I heard a VTA representative mention something like EIGHT additional stoplights would be required along that stretch of ECR...is that correct?


Posted by Linda Curtis, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 21, 2014 at 4:04 pm

I totally agree with "Think Again." Failed and we are stuck with it, at the cost to trees, and drivers who cannot make buses work no matter what the cost.

And peaking of cost, MV is trying to form the Transit Management Agency (or Assoc.?), just like the Metropolitan Transportation Authority that is now raising the bus fares in SF. Our TMA can also be a joint effort with VTA as is the one in SF with their Metro. And then they can do the same to us after they got us dependent on them, just as is happening in SF.

Don't support the MV TMA or BRT!


Posted by Jim Neal, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 21, 2014 at 4:04 pm

Jim Neal is a registered user.

@HMMMM -- As thy say, time is money and it is also the one thing that you can never replace or get more of. You try to imply that only the rich and greedy drive. I have never been rich and do not consider myself to be greedy.

I was supporting a family of 6 on a salary of less than $44,000 a year about 20 years ago and 10 years ago I was supporting them on a salary of $67000. During that entire time I had cars because it was cheaper than taking public transportation and because I was sometimes required to go visit customer sites throughout the bay area.

The cars I bought were less than $1000 and lasted about a year or two, but they got me where I needed to go most of the time; and when they didn't I called AAA.

I work in Berkeley and taking public transportation can take anywhere from 2 hours to 4 hours EACH WAY. As I pointed out earlier, even taking VTA the three miles from my house to North Shoreline is $8 round trip! It also stops running there at about 6pm so I have to take a taxi there and back after that time.

The VTA bus service is barely acceptable if you don't have anywhere to go in Mountain View except up and down El Camino Real, but what about those of us who live and/or work somewhere else in Mountain View? BRT will do nothing for us. In my opinion, it is ridiculous to spend the amount of money they want to spend and cut down thousands if not 10's of thousands of trees for a project that will benefit so few people. It seems to me that the greed is on the other side.


Jim Neal
Candidate, Mountain View City Council
Web Link (Campaign Website)
info@electneal.org



Posted by Curious, a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2014 at 4:05 pm

@Mr Fisher

Would you be so kind as to publish the details of your travel time estimates? Which distance? What time of day? For which of the 7 or so options considered?

Can you also qualify the relative impact of having a dedicated lane in the Mountain View portion?


Posted by Sparty, a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2014 at 4:37 pm

>so I think I am more qualified than most to speak on the subject.

Wow Jim, aren't we arrogant!

I will for SURE be voting for anyone but you.




>It seems to confirm what I said in the my other article about it not mattering what we want or think.

Gee that sounds like you Jim, anyone who doesn't think the Milk Pail is a national treasure is a liar or a fool.

People have different opinions. If you don't like it, maybe you should abandon your campaign, otherwise you might be exposed to more of them.


Posted by Jim Neal, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 21, 2014 at 5:12 pm

Jim Neal is a registered user.

@Sparty -- Nice try, but you are taking my comments out of context. The full text of what I said was:

"As far as bashing Mass Transit, I haven't driven a car for over 18 months and take mass transit almost every single day (Caltrain, Muni, Bart, and VTA), so I think I am more qualified than most to speak on the subject."

If I was as arrogant as you want to make me out to be, I would have said "I know I am more qualified than most". I specifically said "I think" because it is my opinion and people can feel free to agree or disagree as they see fit.

I also fail to see how you conclude that I think that anyone who disagrees with me about the Milk Pail is a liar or a fool. Even the quote you used is wrong:

"It seems to confirm what I said in the my other article about it not mattering what we want or think"

That quote referred to my other article about the VTA (Web Link) not anything about the Milk Pail. I also find it amusing that you accuse me of making an insult that I never did, while hurling insults of your own towards me:

"Wow Jim, aren't we arrogant!"

I never expected that everyone would vote for me as different people have different things that motivate them. I can only present the facts as I see them and then give my OPINIONS about them. After that, it is up to you and the rest of the voters to decide what kind of local government you want. I will make the same offer to you as to others who disagree with me, if you want to meet over a cup of coffee, hot chocolate, tea, or whatever to discuss your point of view with me, let me know and we'll find a time that works for both of us. I will also be at the Council Meeting tomorrow at City Hall, so anyone who wants to can find me there and speak to me.

Jim Neal
Candidate, Mountain View City Council
Web Link
info@electneal.org


Posted by Sparty, a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2014 at 5:28 pm

Yeah, we know some of your quotes are about other subjects. You've taken over the comments here as your personal campaign platform. It's easier to find a thread where you didn't post your campaign spam.

Why not give it a break once in a while and NOT remind us you are running for city council? It doesn't make your point any more or less valid.


Posted by Linda Curtis, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 21, 2014 at 6:06 pm

Why don't we just add a lot more bus routes and more frequency of buses, and have them run around the clock? That would be money better used than for dedicated fast lane buses that only stop at a very few of the most major major intersections (=hard for most to walk to). And they have to cut in and out of the fast lane to pass through the different cities that do and do not allow the bus to hog the fast lane in their city (=dangerous).

John Inks, last year's mayor discussed with me last week about how we keep having to hear from VTA on this because they need a little longer route to get more money for this. He told me that was because San Jose and Palo Alto have both flatly refused it.

And I never said I talked with a VTA manager of this plan about this plan. I read a VTA manager's statements concerning it. If the "10 minutes" were misquoted as "1 minute" then it's on the report of the City Council meeting. I'll look for that reference again to show you all should I find it again. Yet even if it is ten minutes faster from the City of Santa Clara to the City of MV, that is not sufficiently better to warrant all this cost of ripping up everything for a illogical sounding plan, that is dangerous to others on the roadway and ugly for the neighborhoods.

Just add the additional bus routes and more buses at more times, around the clock, as I suggested, and all people who need to or choose to can use them can get around much better than with this plan.

And if we want really fast buses that can really bring people in from out of town to work, let's add an ecologically fueled fleet of buses on the freeways! They could use the commuter lanes and bring people in quickly from afar.


Posted by Jim Neal, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 21, 2014 at 6:08 pm

Jim Neal is a registered user.

@Sparty -- Do you have something against free speech? I won't accept special interest money and I am not independently wealthy so I have to use the methods of communication with the public that are available to me. The online version of the voice is a good way to reach people and to exchange ideas. Would you know who I am if I didn't post here? If more people like you took advantage of the offers I keep making to meet personally, maybe I wouldn't be posting as much. But since most people prefer to only make comments here, this seems to be the best way to reach them.

Jim Neal



Posted by Hmmm, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 21, 2014 at 6:38 pm

Jim-you keep talking about 8 dollars round trip to go theee miles. What kind of math is that?!?!

Web Link

It sounds like you are taking an express bus. Regular buses are 2 bucks each ride or 4 round trip. Or with a monthly pass, you could do that ride every day for 2.30 round trip. Of course you could make more rides to drive costs even lower!

Sounds like you love your car and that's great, but the BRT project does not ban the use of your car. It just makes regular use of a bus along el camino VIABLE!


Posted by Jim Neal, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 21, 2014 at 7:09 pm

Jim Neal is a registered user.

@HMMMM - I explained this before too, but I am happy to do it again. It takes 2 buses to go the 3 miles to North Bayshore. Each one costs $2, so $4 one way, $8 round trip. Also, yes I do love my car even though I haven't driven my car in 18 months for personal reasons. Lastly, I never said the BRT project bans the use of my car, so please do not put words in my mouth.

Jim Neal


Posted by Steven Fisher, VTA, a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2014 at 8:23 pm

MVResident67 - The alternatives that have a dedicated lane through Mountain View would install one new signal at Distel Circle and three new pedestrian signals at Crestview, Bonita and Pettis

Curious - the travel time savings I referred to, was between the proposed station at Showers and ECR, in MV, and the station at Lawrence and ECR in Santa Clara, during the PM peak hour with alternatives that have a dedicated bus lane for that stretch.

Thank you all for your comments and questions. The environmental report when published will have lots of useful information on the project alternatives.


Posted by Curious, a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2014 at 8:39 pm

Mr Fisher

Thanks for the clarification, what is the incremental time saving by having dedicated lanes in Mountain view vs. mixed flow in that section?

Also, will you be measuring the effect of dedicated lanes on travel time for non BRT buses?

Looking forward VTA sharing all these numbers and respectfully engaging with Mountain View.


Posted by Think again, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 22, 2014 at 12:46 am

It's amazing to watch those already personally sold on this idea misrepresent and, it seems, carefully misunderstand objections to it.

The obvious "compulsory" feature that "Hmmm" here didn't grasp is that proposed physical changes to El Camino wouldn't just permit, but force, a fraction of the road to be dedicated to buses -- which can't be undone, like moving the Golden Gate Bridge barriers to reconfigure lanes, or passing a constitutional amendment to undo another. Planned reduction of ECR's automobile capacity is the big risk here, and one that Believers simply wave away. It's like removing lanes of 101, on the guess that commuters will be "enlightened," and ride Caltrain instead.

What this shares with larger social-engineering experiments like Prohibition (and the grandest of all failed social-engineering initiatives, Communism) is obvious, predictable downsides that its partisans labor not to acknowledge, or even -- if they're True Believers -- to see.

I am actually a longtime fan of buses. They're efficient, and far more versatile than sexier alternatives like subways and Light Rails that cities build, then subsidize forever. I commuted for years by buses. That however is not the whole story here, it's just the only part some people want to talk about.


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