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El Camino bus lanes nixed by council, again

Original post made on Jan 20, 2012

The City Council spent two and half hours discussing a plan for dedicated bus rapid transit lanes on El Camino Real on Tuesday, coming to the same position it came to after a similar discussion in June -- opposed.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, January 20, 2012, 1:19 PM

Comments (38)

Posted by Serge
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Jan 20, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Is the project completely dead (for the Mountain View portion at least)?

Posted by Incredible
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 20, 2012 at 2:29 pm

"VTA planning manager Kevin Connolly returned as he had promised with more information on traffic impacts, saying that time it would take to get from Santa Clara to Mountain View would be reduced by only one minute with dedicated bus lanes in the middle of the street."

This defies all common sense. Any study that shows that is at best seriously flawed, and at worst..well, let's not go there. Going down to 2 lanes on El Camino and adding a bunch of new signals would be a disaster. It's great to WANT people to switch to buses, but that doesn't mean it would happen.

I can't fathom how a clear-thinking council member would support this and have the impending result on their record. I hope that Abe Koga only supported this because she's affiliated with VTA.

Posted by Rich
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 20, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Let's see; a 2 minute savings versus driving, but then don't you need to add in time waiting for the bus (at least 5 minutes on average if they run every 10 minutes) plus time to travel from home to the bus stop and from the bus stop to your destination (likely more than 5 minutes) if you're doing that comparison?

What is the amount of time that will be added to the average trip of the car drivers when they are backed up in 2 lanes instead of 3?

Posted by B Minkin
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jan 20, 2012 at 2:59 pm

@Rich - VTA said that for a car going between Lafayette and Showers, the difference in drive time would be negligible after reducing the number of lanes. In one direction, it would take only two minutes longer, but in the other direction it would actually be faster. VTA did not explain how this could happen, and no council member asked.

Many residents spoke, almost all in favor of the change. I am not good at speaking in public, so I did not say anything, but the statistics that VTA quoted left me confused. I don't know how you can reduce the number of lanes and keep traffic moving. But only one or two other people even questioned that point, so maybe we are in the minority who could not figure it out. None of the council publicly doubted VTA's claims.

Posted by Konrad M. Sosnow
a resident of another community
on Jan 20, 2012 at 3:24 pm

I work in Fremont so I drive down El Camino every weekday morning to reach 237. Every weekday evening, I turn from 237 onto El Camino in order to get home. I know that others use El Camino to get to/from 85. A reduction from three lanes to two would cause traffic to get even worse than it is now. Margaret Aba-Koga is a stay at home mom so she doesn't care how long it takes those of who have to drive to work.

Posted by Ned
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 20, 2012 at 3:53 pm

Riding the bus is so ghetto any way.

I'm just saying what no one else wants to admit.

Posted by tommygee54
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jan 20, 2012 at 9:03 pm

Perhaps we can have BART come down El Camino like it should have been in the 1950's. Let the officials start thinking of that idea!!!

Posted by DittoDick
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 20, 2012 at 9:44 pm

How much time will be added to the average trip of the car drivers when they are backed up in 2 lanes instead of 3?

Posted by Anna S.
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jan 20, 2012 at 10:27 pm

Let's see: a cost of $240 million minus $75 million from the feds for a balance of $165 million. That would be split between the cities -- San Jose, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Mountain View, and Palo Alto? Coming to $33 million per city? For slightly faster buses and increased inconvenience for other traffic? I can't figure out why the Council keeps turning this great idea down.

Posted by AB
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 21, 2012 at 7:42 am

Lower fares will likely to attract more VTA ridership during hard times than fancy ideas like this.

Posted by AC
a resident of another community
on Jan 21, 2012 at 9:21 am

AC is a registered user.

Regarding the BART comment... I thought I'd mention it again.

BART actually needs to be killed and replaced (on the same routes and coverage, if not better) with rolling stock and rails that aren't so crazy expensive in terms of parts, trains, and labour. Standard rails, light-rail style, etc. Make it cheaper and smarter before throwing it out as the panacea.

I really encourage people not to look to BART as the solution until BART is improved. Otherwise we just give ourselves more headache in the short *and* long term.

Posted by Steve
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jan 21, 2012 at 10:48 am

I can't believe Kasperzak and Abe-Koga voted for this and I will be sure not to vote to re-elect them. This is silly -- 52 minutes to get to the arena versus 60 by car? What are these people smoking? I get on 237 to 101 to 87 and I'm there in under 20 minutes, tops!!!


Either drive, or take the train, or light rail. Use freeways or transit that already goes there -- that's what they are there for. Dedicated bus lanes on El Camino is stupid for Mountain View.

Posted by Jarrett M
a resident of Castro City
on Jan 21, 2012 at 2:15 pm


BRT isn't for travelling from Mountain View to Downtown San Jose. It's best for travelling from Mountain View to Palo Alto or Mountain View to Sunnyvale or Santa Clara for destinations along El Camino Real. Caltrain and Light Rail don't get anywhere near El Camino in these cities.

While you may think that there's nothing along El Camino in Sunnyvale or Santa Clara right now, that won't always be the case. Sunnyvale, Mountain View, and Santa Clara will continue to grow over the next 20 years and these cities have chosen to cluster most of their growth using "infill" development along El Camino Real near the proposed BRT stations. For example, Mountain View is proposing to increase the residential population along El Camino Real by 2,600 persons, and increasing the population in the San Antonio area, near a proposed BRT stop by approximately 4,000 persons.

The roads and freeways aren't getting any wider. Traffic will increase. We can have lots of traffic and the transit alternatives can be stuck in traffic or we can have traffic and reliable and dependable transit alternatives. Additionally, we should start to think of our roads as more than just conduits for cars. They have the potential to be attractive public spaces and function as community gathering places, in addition to functioning transportation facilities. This vision for El Camino real will help transform its ambiguous expressway/neighborhood serving retail identity into a livable boulevard that the community can be proud of.

BRT in dedicated lanes will set the foundation for this vision. While the speed won't be a huge increase, it's important to remember that the speed will be maintained despite increases in car traffic. Without dedicated lanes, speed will degrade and the headways will degrade due to "bus bunching" which will encourage more current and future residents to drive.

Posted by No Help
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 21, 2012 at 5:53 pm


The El Camino BRT plan runs North-South (or East-West). It doesn't help people who aren't going from one El Camino destination to another El Camino destination. If I'm going from my home, 3/4 mile from El Camino, to a destination 2 miles on the other side of El Camino, this dedicated BRT is useless. And most travel trips are of this nature. Going to get groceries, going to multiple stores, going from work to pick up your kid and take him/her to an activity, going to a meeting somewhere.

The new housing along El Camino you suggest is somewhat irrelevant. Those people aren't signing an oath to never drive. They make the same trips as destinations not along El Camino. And those few thousand folks are still just a speck amongst the several million that live in the South Peninsula/San Jose, and the thousands and thousands who rely on El Camino every day.

It's also food for thought that in the name of public transit, MV built a bunch of San Antonio housing along the CalTrain tracks...but now CalTrain can't figure out its financial model, and keeps cutting trains and stations. What percentage of daily trips into and out of The Crossings are by train?

Posted by No Help
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 21, 2012 at 5:54 pm

The previous message s/b addressed to Jarrett M.

Posted by Jarrett M
a resident of Castro City
on Jan 22, 2012 at 3:56 am

No Help,

To your point about travel behavior:

BRT obviously won't work for every trip under the sun, but El Camino is one of Santa Clara County's backbone corridors and it will continue to intensify in the future under the transif oriented land use plans that have been adopted for the entire corridor. Research shows that when you couple walkable design with increases in density, diversity of land uses, and destinations along a given transit corridor, then auto trips fall and transit ridership increases (Cervero). This is because people don't have to do zig-zag style tours that you describe to accomplish day to day tasks. For example, imagine if most of the destinations in your hypothetical trip itinerary were next to each other or a short bus ride away rather than spread out in random directions.

N-S corridors are somewhat weak at the moment, but again, many destinations are currently, and will be concentrated on El Camino Real. That's why the two bus lines that run on El Camino Real are VTA's most successful lines. N-S corridors will be strengthened, but you have to start somewhere, and targeting a transit improvement for the county's most popular transit lines along a regional corridor targeted for transit oriented development is a smart plan. The dedicated lanes will keep the service reliable and an attractive alternative to the automobile as traffic increases.

While auto traffic will slow on El Camino, there are many other corridors that are strictly auto oriented that traverse the county. I don't think it's outrageous that one corridor, targeted entirely for transit oriented development, get priority transit facilities.

Posted by AB
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 22, 2012 at 7:38 am

Jarret M,

The growth you point to in the PA, MV, Sunnyvale population is exactly the reason why dedicated lanes will be a bad idea. VTA ridership isn't going to increase at the same rate as the population which means more cars so getting rid of 2 usable lanes wouldn't make sense.

If you look at El Camino in PA, MV, there are some specific junctions which can be nightmares like Oregon Expwy, San Antonio, Showers, Grant Rd/237. The money would be better spent synchronizing traffic lights all along El Camino so you don't many red lights.

The idea of dedicated lanes is to make VTA bus rides more attractive. I really don't think not having dedicated bus lanes today is the big detractor keeping people from using buses today. It would be a good idea to poll the intended beneficiaries of this plan why they don't use VTA buses today. Ticket cost has got to be a major factor I would think and I don't see that getting any better in the future.

Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 22, 2012 at 8:46 am

The effectiveness of BRT in the El Camino corridor has been rated in the low 1/3 by the bay regional transet authority (MTC or MTA?). Cost/ Benefit for this particular version of bus system is much below other regional transit projects.
IN CONCEPT: BRT can be great and effective. Scientific American had a great article about a decade ago on how San Palo, Brazil was able to use this system instead of costly 'fixed rail' (hevey = Caltrain, light = VTA). It can be effective. But NOT here and NOT today.
Good vote city council (and still 'reasonable' minority opinions).

Posted by No Help
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 22, 2012 at 10:12 am

Jarrett M,

I might be more convinced if we were tearing down the entire South Bay and starting from that case public transit could be more thoughtfully designed for this area. But this area is already mostly built out. The destinations aren't (and won't be) entirely along El Camino...not close, won't happen.

This will sound extremely futuristic, but I'm semi-serious. At this point, in this area, we're probably closer to individualized, electric-based "jet-packs", that might be able to transport us for short distances, than we are to revamping the entire public transportation grid to fit with peoples' travel/commute needs. Maybe there's an engineer out far off would something like that be, 15-20 years?

Posted by pat
a resident of another community
on Jan 22, 2012 at 12:55 pm

“…imagine if most of the destinations in your hypothetical trip itinerary were next to each other or a short bus ride away rather than spread out in random directions.”

“Imagine” is clearly the operative word, because this is unlikely to happen. As others have pointed out, a small percentage of people will LIVE on El Camino. And most big employers (Apple, Google, Facebook) will not be located on El Camino because they need more space.

People don’t take the bus because it doesn’t take them where they want to go and it doesn’t meet their schedules. Also consider that people make many stops in their commute: drop the kids at school, go to work, stop at the grocery store/dry cleaners/drugstore, pick up kid from soccer practice, pick up kid from day care, go home.

Posted by Kristine
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jan 24, 2012 at 10:37 am

Bus lanes don't make sense. HOV lanes are a better idea.

Posted by garrett
a resident of another community
on Jan 24, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Cars on El Camino, Central, Middlefield, 101, either we plan for more growth or we will have more people driving in from out of town, we will just keep building for cars. I heard on the radio on sunday morning (22 of Jan) that 2 to 4 billion cars will be made. The thing is how are we going to have space for people let alone all their cars
This kind of bus plan is working in New York and London, cheaper then light rail and BART

Posted by No Help
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 25, 2012 at 10:06 am


London is hardly a valid comparison. There are 8 million people living within a small area. Many of the buildings were constructed before cars were even prevalent, leaving no room to widen streets.

Their transit was intelligently designed. If I lived in London, I probably wouldn't own a car. Last time I visited, I could get ANYWHERE in the city limits (even out to Wimbledon) within 20-25 minutes by taking the Tube.

The South Bay covers a much more vast area, there are fewer total people, and the transportation grid isn't/hasn't worked hand-in-hand with development.

I haven't been to NY recently, but my sense is that the same argument applies.

Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Yes London, New York is a poor example, I was using the cost side of how they came up with the bus idea. The cost of building, buying land, the traffic mess, the delays of building and just getting the money for such a large project. Cities that have BRT First city opened one was 1974 in Curitiba, Brazil. Seattle has them thur tunnels, i rode one. Boston, Pittsburg, Ottawa, Honolulu, Hamburg, Los Angeles, Amsterdam, Essen, Bogota, Johannesburg, Sao Paulo, Istanbul. Each city some sort for BRT that is shared or just bus lanes. We might think of entire network of BRT, but at least we can see if it will work, how much per mile it will cost over tunneling, tearing up intersections, ripping down buildings, court costs

Posted by Seer Clearly
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 25, 2012 at 9:30 pm

It's pretty disappointing to see how the people commenting on this thread really aren't thinking outside the box. Oil's running out, gas prices will easily triple in the next 10 years (much sooner if Iran decides to play the fool.) Clearly, doing things just as we always have isn't going to work. The only real question is whether we want to find out what happens if we make no changes.

Posted by No Help
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 26, 2012 at 1:30 am


I'm all for creative ideas. Eliminating a lane on El Camino isn't creative, it's not "out-of-the-box, and it will not have the desired effect. More cars would just sit in traffic idling, or cars would divert through more residential neighborhoods.

I'm not an energy or engineering technologist, but that's where the answer needs to come from. That's "out of the box". Think electric people-movers, or skinny electric cars that would run in more narrow traffic lanes. Or photovoltaic energy to run vehicles. Or some new form of energy. Heck, for $75M, you could hand out segways to everyone.

Or, triple the price of gas and see what happens to consumer and business behavior. There would be added emphasis on finding the regs that stipulate miles/gallon increases in future cars. If the desired behavior is incentivized properly, people will move in the intended direction.

Jumping into something foolishly isn't smart planning. Believing that silicon valley drivers will suddenly abandon their cars for this new bus line that runs in only one direction along only one street is simply not credible.

Posted by OMV Resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 26, 2012 at 10:06 pm

@No Help --

I've been reading your posts on this article for several days now and have been disappointed to see your close-mindedness about this topic. But your last post, directed at Seer, motivated me to post in response.

You talk about "jumping into something foolishly" not being "smart planning" as you are focusing on practicality -- and then you suggest electric people-movers, skinny electric cars in narrower traffic lanes, or a multitude of segways? You've lost all your credibility... where to even begin with the ridiculous lack of practicality of your suggestions? How about that people-movers (by which I believe you mean podcars) are a pipe dream and almost completely unproven? How about the small problem of what to do with all the "regular" cars that need regular-sized lanes in your "skinny electric car" scheme? Or that the segway idea would not address longer-distance travel, which is what VTA's idea is meant to address?

Bus Rapid Transit is a proven solution that is in place and successful in cities around the US and the world, as people above have posted. Going with it here would build on a proven bus route, speed it up, and attract more riders. Your ideas, on the other hand, are a lot of hot air.

Posted by No Help
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 27, 2012 at 10:12 am


Those ideas may sound far-fetched ("hot air" per your terminology). I admitted to not being a technologist, and I was brainstorming (a process that precedes many important innovations).

What I do know is that many of our tools today weren't imaginable 10-20 years ago, and people with your train of thought wouldn't have believed them possible (and close-mindedness might've prevented their research and development). Would we have thought that a handheld device could store all our information and communicate clearly with anyone anywhere in the world? Would we have imagined a tool where one could speak into it in one language and have output in another language? Would we have imagined some of the medical advances possible with the mapping of DNA?

The pace of technological advances is increasing exponentially. Traffic and many environmental issues will need to be solved with revolutionary ideas...not 1980s solutions. BRT may work fine in other locations, but just plopping it down anywhere and assuming success is naive.

This is a democracy. I believe I'm speaking with a sense that most folks in this area travel routes that are not efficiently handled by our local public transit grid.

But hey, if this BRT plan is to have true credibility, then guessing isn't necessary. Have an independent party (BRT wouldn't be they're not doing this for completely altruistic's a way to increase revenues) do a study. Find out how many cars travel on El Camino today. Find out how many folks in Santa Clara County would eliminate their daily El Camino travel if there were a fast bus along El Camino. Find out how much slower the resulting flow would be on El Camino. Those numbers can be easily surveyed (and should be prior to any investment). My intuition and daily interactions tell me this BRT proposal would have extremely minimal effect on switching behavior. Maybe I'm wrong...but I doubt it. And despite assertions in this steam of blogs, I've seen no LOCAL research to prove otherwise (hence spending $75M on this is not "smart" planning).

There's a difference between SHOULD and WOULD. We all mostly agree that people SHOULD take fewer auto trips and use more public transit. But, WOULD they do it? I think the answer is "no" with this particular plan. And the answer is such a resounding "no" that it would be a disaster (in wasted money and traffic congestion) to embark on this specific plan.

At this point, I'm probably just repeating past I'll step aside and leave room for others to debate.

Posted by Rodger
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jan 27, 2012 at 10:56 am

How about making the special bus lanes overhead in areas where there is not enough room for them at ground level. High quality buses are the wave of the future and are better than rail, when a bus wants or needs to go off of the express lane it's easy as they go on any road.

Posted by John
a resident of North Whisman
on Jul 27, 2016 at 6:54 pm

Margaret Abe-Koga has supported bus-only lanes on El Camino Real for many years.

Posted by Stop already
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jul 27, 2016 at 10:53 pm

It's obvious the politicians and mass transit oligarchys are going to continue to push push push this agenda and try to wear people down, make everyone think "this is what people want". Drink the Kool-Aid.


Posted by Huh?
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 28, 2016 at 1:45 am

MV has changed over the last twenty years. Most current residents are supportive of the bus lanes. Most are also supportive of rent stabilization and a reasonable minimum wage.

Times have changed. The local populace is more educated and more compassionate. I'm glad that VTA continues to direct investment in transit!

Posted by Stop already
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jul 28, 2016 at 9:38 am

See? Drinking the Kool Aid

Posted by John
a resident of North Whisman
on Jul 28, 2016 at 9:41 am

Thanks to the VTA employee or contractor (above) for telling us what most Mountain View residents want: bus-only lanes to nowhere with a couple of VTA employees on each bus. No room for other traffic. Sure thing. We believe you - not.

Posted by Jim Neal
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 28, 2016 at 10:03 am

Jim Neal is a registered user.

I think this shows the insidious nature of these kind of projects. An agency will get an idea in its head and it doesn't matter how often the community says 'no', they will force themselves on us anyway! Vote for choice and vote NO on the VTA tax in November!

Jim Neal
Old Mountain View

Posted by John
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 28, 2016 at 10:17 am

The VTA is an albatross. No one needs to have empty prison sized buses marauding down the El Camino going nowhere slowly. Consider every driver making $100K with a pension worth $4MM at retirement. Add the $Hundreds of Millions to operate. Most folks can see the tremendous waste of our tax dollars. We could give everyone, demonstrating a need, a free ride share to work, school, medical facility, or grocery store and save $Millions and $Millions. Show your Medi-Cal or Snap card and get where you need. Call it a TAP Card (Transportation Assistance Card. Ride sharing and autonomous vehicles are the future. We need to divest of the past and invest in the future. Dismantle the VTA. Provide transportation to those in need and get them where they need to be. Free WiFi is not getting anyone on the bus.

Posted by JP
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 28, 2016 at 11:31 am

"Free WiFi is not getting anyone on the bus."

How insightful! Why would anyone commute on the bus for rre wifi when it can take over 1 1/2 hours to go between PA and SJ. It will really take the addition of center bus lanes to make this work. Thanks for pointing this out!

I'm now going to vote to give VTA more money for these important transportation projects.

Posted by Stop already
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jul 28, 2016 at 10:12 pm

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]

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