VTA continues to push buses lanes for El Camino | March 15, 2013 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

Opinion - March 15, 2013

VTA continues to push buses lanes for El Camino

by Gary Wesley

While the future of air traffic at Moffett Field may be the most important concern for Mountain View residents (as some still want expanded aviation — including pre-dawn commercial air cargo), there is a plan for El Camino Real that should also concern residents.

The Voice reported last June 24 that the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) had just met with the seven-member Mountain View City Council about a plan for new buses on El Camino — including dedicated bus lanes in each direction. According to the article, only two council members, Margaret Abe-Koga and Ronit Bryant, were sympathetic to the plan. The chief planner from the VTA, Steven Fisher, told the council that the state agency in charge of El Camino (Caltrans) would not permit a project in Mountain View to which was not supported by the city.

It turns out that the VTA had made the same pitch to the Sunnyvale City Council on May 22, but that council had voted against dedicated bus lanes. In response, the VTA canceled a meeting with the Palo Alto City Council and scheduled only an informal presentation to the Mountain View council with no voting requested.

On Nov. 1, the VTA board of directors (which includes Margaret Abe-Koga as this area's representative) voted to proceed with an environmental review of the VTA's bus plan. Under the $200 million "optimal" plan, dedicated bus lanes would not extend north of Showers Drive in Mountain View. In other words, the rich and powerful from Los Altos (at San Antonio Road) and Palo Alto would not be burdened.

Dedicated bus lanes with traffic light preference and boarding stations in the center of the roadway would not only slow traffic on El Camino, but would also slow crossing at each intersection. The paucity of riders will not change even when it becomes even harder to drive because few places of work are within walking distance of El Camino Real.

It is great that someone has a plan for El Camino Real. It is under-utilized. But not every plan is consistent with the interests of existing residents.

GaryWesley lives on Continental Circle


Posted by dc, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Mar 21, 2013 at 8:50 pm

Because we all work and live off El Camino? The road is a part of a route to some where else. You will force traffic to use side streets or over crowd the lanes. No one is riding the express 22 in large numbers! Why would this be an improvement?

Posted by Mike Rodgers, a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Mar 25, 2013 at 6:45 am

El Camino's 3 traffic lanes are already full to badly congested, even in non-commute hours in many sections of the route from Palo Alto to Santa Clara, and nearly grid locked in sections already on certain parts of the rush hour. The traffic is nearly all local in some way.

It is THE major local through fare throughout most of this route, with no practical viable local alternative route in many, if not most cases.

You are not going to get people into buses or on bicycles or all the way to heavily trafficked Central Expressway just to go to the grocery or the hardware store, or to take the family out to dinner and beyond, i.e., the desired "behavior change" opportunities are minimal in the traffic populace.

Given the current congestion and lack of alternate routes and the intended CA style design of neighborhood street and traffic patterns to create cul de sacs instead of thru traffic patterns in city sections adjacent to El Camino, cutting one lane from auto traffic will have horribly congestive results on El Camino traffic and local quality of life.

One doesn't even have to go through the proper game theory data collection and simulations to see that gridlock throughout much of the route will be the rule, not the exception, and not just during the commute hours, but also throughout the day and evening. This will not be a linear progression, i.e., losing one lane for cars isn't a 33% increase in traffic load and congestion, mathematically it is much more complex, and the traffic interactions will cross different inflection points, creating a exponentially devolving quagmire instead of efficiency.

I wonder if the VTA even bothers to run the type of data collections and simulations that say Las Vegas did to greatly improve signal light sequencing and state machines and traffic efficiencies within their existing local thoroughfares, before forcing such a drastic measure on the citizens of the valley?

If to enable a 10 minute faster #22 route for bus travelers costs the other 90-95% of El Camino traffic to take an extra 15 minutes of engine idle time just to get the groceries or run errands, what economic and environmental efficiencies have we achieved?

Posted by Hardin, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 25, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Most likely the gridlock generated by this proposal will cause even more traffic to spill into surrounding neighborhood streets, which we've seen recently can have horrific results with regards to pedestrian safety.

Commuters (myself included), are notoriously single minded when it comes to driving. If you take away a major artery for traffic to flow, it will find its way elsewhere. I don't see a plan to address this side effect in the VTA's proposal.

As an aside, wouldn't there be a potential conflict of interest if Margaret Abe-Koga participates both in the leadership of the VTA and in the City Council on this particular issue? I would think she would need to recuse herself one one or both commissions, in this case.

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Mar 25, 2013 at 3:19 pm

When you are getting to near gridlock, time to think beyond the car. You got 101, Central, and El Camino Real that are getting crowded each passing year. Yet nothing changes expect traffic and more in the valley. Job growth.

You got 1,200 Samsung workers on top of the Moffett Towers that most likely will have to drive. When will become a choice not to drive everywhere, even just for a cup of coffee.

Posted by Political Insider, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 25, 2013 at 9:25 pm

Amazing that this idea is still being pushed by VTA. Lets hope some council members come to their senses on this issue. No one is going to take a bus from PA to SJ along ECR when their is easy freeway access. It might work in high density cities, but we are no where near that type of housing density. Maybe 50 years from now.

Posted by Steve, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Mar 26, 2013 at 8:08 am

VTA isn't about moving people effeciently, their goal is to make themselves viable. Despite spending billions, they have failed to coax riders onto their pathetic mass transit. Being unable to provide a useable alternative to the car, their next strategy is to strangle traffic so badly that we're forced to take the bus. In one motion they can make El Camino impassible to the public, and monopolize the only alternative.
Are they our masters?

Posted by Reader, a resident of another community
on Mar 26, 2013 at 11:06 am

The VTA just doesn't get it. Bus only lanes on El Camino will be a total disaster which will only worsen traffic on both El Camino as well as side streets.

Posted by Disband, a resident of Cuernavaca
on Mar 26, 2013 at 2:32 pm

What's the process to disband VTA? The light rail project has been a flop. They've been told "no" on this El Camino proposal, and yet continue to spend money pursuing it. They're looking for projects to continue justifying their existence, and in the process are wasting taxpayer (?) money.

Their recent meeting to re-engage on the El Camino proposal was completely lacking in transparency...probably by intention. This project would effect hundreds of thousands of people, and I saw one small notice in the PA Post (which has no online edition)

What can we do to end this nonsense? Voice...can you write about that?

PS - Just a question. Do counsel members sitting on the VTA board have a conflict of interest when they vote on VTA issues in their cities? Wouldn't they feel somewhat beholden to the VTA organization?

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