Council rejects light rail station plan

Several million dollars of changes proposed for little-used NASA Ames station

Council members decided Tuesday night not to spend a few million dollars improving access to an isolated light rail station.

The council was presented with various options for running a more direct path along Ellis Street to the NASA Ames light rail station. It was prompted by the approval of nearby office projects, including one for over 1,200 Samsung employees at 625 Clyde Avenue.

Access from the office sites now requires an indirect route, on the wrong side of Ellis Street, to the Moffett Field gate and across a desolate part of Moffett Field, though station users apparently brave several illegal crossings of streets and light rail tracks to beat a more direct path across a large vacant lot just north of Highway 101. That path traced the route of a proposed walkway.

The city's public works department staff proposed various solutions to make it easier to cross numerous obstacles, proposing new crosswalks, traffic controls and even an elevated walkway over the light rail tracks where they run under Highway 101. Costs ranged from $1.3 million to $4.7 million for the preferred alternative, which would have put new walkways on both sides of Ellis Street north of Fairchild Drive. A bridge and elevator to the station was found to be too costly.

Council members eventually agreed with member Ronit Bryant, who said women would feel safer walking to the Middlefield station than the "completely desolate" NASA Bayshore station. She had taken light rail to the NASA station, and said it wasn't much further to take a "very pleasant walk" to the Middlefield Road station from the Samsung site. She said she phoned the public works director immediately and had a long conversation about why the project was necessary.

According to Google maps, the NASA station is a .7 mile walk from the Samsung campus to be built at 625 Clyde Avenue, while the Middlefield Road station is a .6 mile walk.

City staff members said the NASA Bayshore station is the least-used station on the light rail line, with only 100 riders a day. In comparison, the nearby Middlefield station sees 300 riders a day, while the downtown stop sees 1,100.

"If the station was moved it would have a lot more people using it," Bryant said. Council asked city staff to speak with NASA Ames about that possibility.

"If you work at NASA Ames, how would you even get there?" Byrant said. "It's outside the fence. It's just plunked there."

Resident Patrick Moore said the station is also avoided by several women who use the nearby Hacker Dojo on Fairchild Drive, a community space for computer programmers.

"In my opinion, for $3 million to $4 million we might be able to get easements or right of way through the east Whisman neighborhood" to the Middlefield station, Bryant said. As for the NASA station, "I can't imagine myself walking there."

Bryant added that would rather spend money on retaining walls under the Middlefield Road Highway 237 underpass to allow for new walkways from new office development on the east side of Highway 237 to the Middlefield Road light rail station.

"To me that's more important," she said.

The NASA station was built in

anticipation of the development of the NASA Ames Research Park, a massive development on over 70 acres that would have included upwards of 1,000 homes and a major college, office and research and development campus. The plan has been delayed for years, and the group leading the project, University Associates, has been silent on its status.

Council members declined to vote on the Moffett station project, essentially tabling it while other options are explored.


Like this comment
Posted by not surprised
a resident of North Whisman
on Dec 10, 2013 at 12:04 am

If only Prometheus has asked for this. It would have been funded for certain.

Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 10, 2013 at 1:58 pm

Promotheus must not have any plans to change zoning in the area so they told council to pass on this.

Prometheus probably needs the public money for other large, high density projects that they have in the pipeline.

Like this comment
Posted by Greg Perry
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 10, 2013 at 2:57 pm

The big dog in fights like this isn't Prometheus. It's the Building and Trades Council, who want it for the prevailing wage construction jobs.

Take a look at the map if you want to understand light rail. The train starts out going northwest, makes a 165 degree turn, and leaves going southeast. No matter how much you spend on extra sidewalk, that train is going to be super slow.

Like this comment
Posted by Doug Pearson
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Dec 10, 2013 at 5:23 pm

Ronit Bryant said, "If you work at NASA Ames, how would you even get there?" A very good point, since NASA Ames' Ellis Street gate is closed some of the time the Bayshore NASA station is open.

One of the proposals for alleviating traffic in North Bayshore was to extend a branch of light rail from this station to North Bayshore. That would be worth checking out, at least. It MIGHT be worth doing. A related proposal was to extend the light rail from Downtown Mountain View to North Bayshore. To repeat myself, that would be worth checking out, at least. It MIGHT be worth doing. IF it turns out that both extensions are actually worth doing, then certainly they should be connected, making a loop from the Bayshore NASA station to Downtown Mountain View to North Bayshore to the Bayshore NASA station.

Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 10, 2013 at 6:42 pm

Don't think Prometheus would go along with any changes.

Like this comment
Posted by OMV Resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 10, 2013 at 9:26 pm

@Doug Pearson --
Good thoughts. A similar, and far less expensive, option for alleviating traffic in North Bayshore would be to run shuttles from the Googleplex area, over to Google's proposed campus at NASA (via the new bridge Google has proposed), over to the the NASA light rail station. This would allow shuttles to connect to light rail coming from the east (including BART connections in a few years) and allow the shuttles to avoid getting stuck in 101 traffic and the Shoreline interchange. Something to consider when looking at the future of the NASA light rail station.

Like this comment
Posted by Curious
a resident of another community
on Dec 11, 2013 at 9:16 am

@OMV Resident
How would (public) traffic go through NASA/AMES? Isn't it currently gated?

Like this comment
Posted by OMV Resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 11, 2013 at 1:38 pm

@Curious -
Good question. Yes, the route that I described goes through an area that is currently gated. The city and anyone running shuttles would need to work out an arrangement with NASA/the Feds to allow access through the gates or create a non-gated route. I mainly mentioned it here because this option was discussed over the past year when the city was studying transportation in the Shoreline area. We shouldn't forget this possibility when we talk about what to do with the NASA light rail station.

Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Dec 12, 2013 at 7:31 am

Upgrades, improvements to both safety and station service. Extend the line to San Antonio will increase ridership. Shuttles between Downtown to North Bayshore then to Ellis, turn around headback to Downtown.

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

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