No funds yet for city-wide shuttle

Service from downtown to be part of North Bayshore transit study

On Tuesday City Council members struggled to realize visions of a city-run shuttle that would make stops downtown, at San Antonio shopping center and the movie theaters, to name a few.

"The whole idea of a constantly circulating shuttle that makes it easy for people to get around is something constituents have been asking for for a long time," said council member Laura Macias.

The possibility of testing such a system for a year or more was considered by the Council, but the cost, upwards of $1 million a year to have three vehicles circulate around the city every 15 to 20 minutes, made them hesitant.

In the end a majority of council members said they wanted to see the idea wrapped into a study of potential transportation improvements in North Bayshore where Google and other companies use private shuttles to ferry their employees to and from Castro Street, among other more far-flung destinations. The North Bayshore transportation study is underway as Google and others plan to develop space for thousands more employees north of Highway 101.

No help from Google

"If you go to North Bayshore and look at Google's parking lots, there's just so many buses standing there," said council member Ronit Bryant. "There's a lot of resources just standing there. A private-public partnership would work."

Council member Margaret Abe-Koga said city officials approached Google "to see if they would be willing to let us use their shuttles during the day when they are sitting out in the parking lot at Shoreline. They never got back to us."

Google and other tech companies might be unwilling to share their shuttles because intellectual property could be stolen as someone looks over the shoulder of a laptop-using employee, noted Mayor Mike Kasperzak. But he said there is probably very little laptop use among those who take the short ride from downtown to Google headquarters.

"Unless we have a million (dollars a year) to do this, I think this is a non-starter," said council member Jac Siegel, who estimated the cost at $350,000 per vehicle. "Unless we can get other entities to help us I don't know where we are going to get the money."

Council members said there may be grant money and VTA funds for such a shuttle, and Kasperzak mentioned the possibility of working with San Antonio Shopping Center developer Merlone Geier if the shuttle were to run down California Street to its shopping center.

Council members also expressed disappointment that no one came to the meeting to speak in favor of the shuttle. A survey posted on the city website found that 64.5 percent of 248 respondents would use such a shuttle. Most said it would need to cost less than $2.

City staff had also not been able to find any studies or recruit any help in analyzing the feasibility of such a system from the Mineta Transportation Institute or U.C. Berkeley.

Charging for parking?

Kasperzak said he would be more supportive if the city began charging for parking in certain areas, spurring drivers to consider paying $4 for parking or $2 for the shuttle. "We have people circling around downtown looking for parking space and they can't find any because it's all free," he said. "At this point in time, I'm not in favor of dragging staff through this process anymore," despite his desire for better transportation in the city.

"We have looked at this issue a number of times over the years," said council member Abe-Koga, former chair of the Valley Transportation Authority board. "The questions that have always arisen are, 'Who are we trying to serve?' and 'What would be the best route?'"

Macias said students and seniors were among those that could use such a shuttle, but with other buses and shuttles already serving those populations, Bryant said the most undeserved by transit were those trying to get to the Shoreline area, possibly Shoreline Park or the Century movies theaters on North Shoreline Boulevard. A VTA bus from Mountain View High School is already very popular among students, council members said. Seniors use a mid-day VTA shuttle, No. 34, which connects downtown to the San Antonio Shopping Center on a route that passes a senior housing complex on Montecito Avenue and the city's Senior Center on Escuela Avenue. But ridership on the 34 has been low for years and is now below 15 riders per hour, which means it may be cut by the VTA. Ridership actually went down after it was re-routed to include the senior center, Abe-Koga said.

"We will have to make a decision soon whether we should cut it or not," Abe-Koga said of the shuttle. She suggested using the $150,000 to $250,000 the VTA uses to run the 34 shuttle to go towards a new city-run shuttle, adding that the city would also have to be willing to put up some funds.

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3 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 25, 2012 at 12:43 pm

The city is talking about $500 million for a new freeway offramp, but a local bus service that could eliminate the need for a tiny fraction of the cost is going to fail because of lack of funding?

3 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Jackson Park
on Oct 25, 2012 at 2:26 pm

If there is such a demand for a service the public is ready to pay for, why isn't the council asking VTA to look into a regular bus route serving those destinations?

3 people like this
Posted by gcoladon
a resident of Slater
on Oct 25, 2012 at 2:45 pm

gcoladon is a registered user.

Whenever those in government ask, "What problem should we be solving?", and "Who should we be solving a problem for?", a little light bulb goes on near my head, and I wonder, "Can private enterprises use their own capital to try to figure these problems out, rather than have taxpayers footing the bill?" Especially if we're talking about automobiles, and not trains (which are quite a bit harder for private enterprises to build, compared to setting up a shuttle bus route).

3 people like this
Posted by Steve
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Oct 25, 2012 at 2:52 pm

I'd bet Google doesn't own the buses serving its campuses. Perhaps the city might work a deal with Bauer, or some other company that can run an efficient bus line.

3 people like this
Posted by CT
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Oct 25, 2012 at 3:12 pm

i completed the survey and our only interest in a shuttle was for a ride from Mountain View High after school, so students could get to downtown area without having to walk the long stretch from MVHS to Grant or make bus changes, since there is more walking to get home once they get near downtown. We have work conflicts for pick-ups and also find Grant is VERY congested.

3 people like this
Posted by Otto Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Oct 25, 2012 at 5:20 pm

Wait.. what is VTA for? Why is Mountain View even thinking about getting into the transit business? The county already has a transit agency. Shouldn't the city work with the county on something like this?

Could it be that people don't really want to take buses? Even if we call it a shuttle.. people know it's really still a bus.

3 people like this
Posted by Nancy Morimoto
a resident of The Crossings
on Oct 25, 2012 at 5:25 pm

A shuttle is really important if the city wants to allow more density in the San Antonio Change Area. If there is gridlock, a distinct possibility here, then all the wonderful new retail, office and/or residential development will be a negative, not a positive for the city. Every possible avenue for reducing vehicles in the area need to be used.

3 people like this
Posted by W
a resident of The Crossings
on Oct 25, 2012 at 10:07 pm

reducing traffic is very important to the residents. Shuttle could help with the traffic problem.

3 people like this
Posted by GSB
a resident of Rex Manor
on Oct 26, 2012 at 12:04 am

Daniel left off a very important part of Abe-Koga's quote regarding Google. She said the ask was made "about 5 years ago". The way the article is written alludes to the ask being made more recently.

A lot has changed in 5 years. Going back and posing a question on partnership again shouldn't be out of the question.

3 people like this
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 26, 2012 at 2:26 pm

VTA and the City of Mtn View should work on a plan that is high tech, sleek efficent shuttles. Could a better design and layout of seating to deal with the privacy issue.

3 people like this
Posted by jupiterk
a resident of Gemello
on Oct 26, 2012 at 3:00 pm

if the city council members and employees steal less from our taxes, there is money to run 100+ shuttles in our city for many years. What we have is a system where the local govt is spending too much on themselves and leaving almost nothing for the people who are paying these millions in property taxes,sales taxes...

3 people like this
Posted by City should stay out of bus business
a resident of Monta Loma
on Oct 26, 2012 at 4:45 pm

The city should stay out of the shuttle business. Actually it should stay out of running any type of business. If Google ran there company like the government governs, then they would have failed a long time ago.

We have bus system like Otto said, if we need more, then they need to step up, not the city run it's own bus system. Lets just spend spend spend, the tax payers will pay for it. Right?

3 people like this
Posted by Sparty
a resident of Shoreline West
on Oct 27, 2012 at 1:43 am

Save some money on the animal shelter, turn around and try to spend it all on some bus

3 people like this
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 29, 2012 at 12:25 pm

We have 2 Caltrain stations to start, we have 2 major office parks. Idea is to blend VTA and a local easy to ride shuttle. Start planning, look at certain routes and the cost. Sell, Market and get riders.

3 people like this
Posted by PA Resident
a resident of another community
on Oct 29, 2012 at 9:50 pm

It is well known that VTA is not taking public transit very seriously in the north part of the county, with the exception of El Cam and a few other destinations.

For Palo Alto residents needing to get to Foothill College, as an example, VTA is poor as most of the buses are full at popular times and all PA residents need to get to MV to take a bus to Foothill.

Getting shuttles that run in Mountain View is a good idea, but why not have MV/PA shuttles rather than the two cities having their own?
The invisible line between the two cities is quite unrealistic when it comes to trying to get people where they want to go.

3 people like this
Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Nov 1, 2012 at 12:20 pm

VTA provides service where it gets used. They cut service in Palo Alto because ridership was so low. They kept some of the routes used by Gunn High students but it took some intense lobbying. If Mountain View can convince VTA that they can fill buses, VTA will give it a trial. Otherwise, forget it.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Willowgate

on Jun 5, 2017 at 10:36 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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