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VTA Rapid Transit Misunderstandings Red Vs. Blue

Original post made by DavidR, another community, on Apr 29, 2015

There is a reasonable focus on the building of a virtual wall down the median of El Camino Real in the local VTA Rapid Transit discussions. But partitioning the town this way down the middle of El Camino Real is not required for the VTA Bus Rapid Transit Program. There are serious ramifications of the proposed median changes, along with the accompanying removal of one general traffic lane in each direction. Not to minimize the damage this dedicated lane setup would do, but there is other reason to oppose the separation of the regular service (22) bus lines from the express (522) bus line. A lot of people don't currently realize that the express line is available, or how it operates. We already have "Rapid Transit" along El Camino Real, and some improvements are underway without any action on BRT Route #2.

Accompanying this post is a diagram of the 3 routes for VTA BRT. VTA Route #1 is already under construction without any removal of traffic lanes. The new BRT bus vehicles will be running through Mountain View in 2015, separate from any consideration underway in how to manage VTA BRT Route #2. It's a bit confusing that VTA has separated one current bus service (22/522) into two consecutive segments and called one BRT Route #1 (Red) and the other BRT Route #2 (blue). You must look at both the Red and the Blue routes to see the path of travel for the current VTA 22 and 522 buses.

Some of the arguments in favor of the most drastic version of BRT Route #2 have relied on pointing up the speed in travel from Eastridge to Palo Alto. Notice how there will already be some speed up to this service with the changes creating BRT Route #1. That will occur before changes begin on BRT Route #2.

At this point, the Environmental Impact Report has not even been finalized for BRT Route #2. Many serious concerns were raised with one draft of this EIR. It appears likely that there will be more issues with the responses when VTA revises the draft EIR as the next step in the EIR development process.

Environmental concerns in Mountain View include traffic and other factors. The VTA's most extreme plan includes closing 7 or more penetrations in the current median and removing some signal controlled intersections. Pedestrian crossings will also be eliminated in some cases. This seems highly contradictory to the plans for a GRAND BOULEVARD vision for El Camino, complete with improved walkability. Additionally, VTA's arguments supporting the drastic version clearly include deterioration to local bus service on the 22 route. Resources promised to be used to favor the 522 route with its (only) 2 stops in Mountain View will also inhibit development of other local service which is seriously needed with the planned local population growth.

As a result of all these concerns, other city councils have put specific conditions questioning the idea of so much favoring of the 522 service versus the 22 service. They point to the elimination of the lane of general traffic as being bad for the environment when all things are considered. What Mountain View has done is to forestall its own examination of that that factor, and just give blind approval to the concept and essentially abandoning due diligence.

So, I offer this perspective, to show that those who question the lane changes and the parking elimination are not anti-transit. They are pro with regard to REASONED CHANGES for transit service, and not blind support of a dogma saying any transit is good transit. It's just not true.

Comments (28)

Posted by DavidR
a resident of another community
on Apr 29, 2015 at 7:13 pm

DavidR is a registered user.

The Voice Blog tool doesn't make the map very visible. Here is a place you can see a larger copy of the map: Web Link

Posted by Jim Neal
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 29, 2015 at 7:57 pm

Jim Neal is a registered user.

This is an excellent analysis and commentary! I agree with you whole-heartedly and hope that this quarter of a billion dollar fiasco will not be forced upon us, but that other more practival alternatives will be considered such as:

* Adding more cross-town routes to Mountain View, perhaps direct lines along shoreline and rengstoff aves.

* Adding wifi to buses

* Reducing fares

* Adding free timed transfers to allow people to pay the same price for travel within a few hours.

These are but a few logical changes that would make VTA Bus transit more competitive with other forms of transportation.

Jim Neal
Old Mountain View

Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Apr 29, 2015 at 8:57 pm

Important points. But the VTA and the politicians lining up for dedicated bus lanes do not seem concerned about what is reasonable or effective. Special interests are at work.

Posted by BCS Parent
a resident of another community
on Apr 29, 2015 at 10:09 pm

I am in complete agreement with David Roode. This is exactly a Red vs Blue issue. As we all know, in Blue states, they tend to provide fast and efficient taxpayer-subsidized transit for ALL socioeconomic groups while Red states correctly focus on heavily funding transit solutions for only our kind. As David Roode eloquently argues, we need to push back the rising tide of Blue here and stop fast and efficient public transport along El Camino.

Posted by MWoman
a resident of Waverly Park
on Apr 29, 2015 at 10:29 pm

BCS Parent: I don't know if you're making an attempt at sarcasm or if you just didn't read David's posting, as well as the previous articles on this subject. The VTA plan would cut the stops to TWO through Mountain View, as well as eliminate pedestrian crossings (endangering those who walk or ride bikes) and remove two auto lanes on El Camino, causing tremendous gridlock, heavy pollution because of idling truck and auto traffic, remove hundreds of fully grown trees along the median, and cause severe negative impact on commerce along this road. The VTA's plan is NOT a sensible, well planned nor constructive plan for public transit. The effort should be spent improving the lines we currently have and increasing the frequency so more will find public transit actually usable. Town Staff forwarded serious concerns with this plan to the VTA, and the VTA didn't even bother to reply. Yet, three of our City Council jumped to approve this ill-conceived plan, over the concerns of their own staff! David is absolutely right that we need to THINK and allow for the RIGHT transit... not just ANY transit.

Posted by BCS Parent
a resident of another community
on Apr 29, 2015 at 10:42 pm

Yes! I completely agree! We at the charter school believe that ANY improvements to transit that results in more residents from South county invading our fair county should be blocked.

Instead, we need to pile in all the county tax revenue into improving transit for our hi-tech workers. Did you know that employees at Google earning 200k+ in salary and stock have to rely almost exclusively on Googles shuttle buses? Why don't we fund a fleet of private limousines to pick them up at their homes regardless of where they live? That way we would not sacrifice the hundreds of trees on the median of El Camino Highway!

Let's all follow David's lead and keep up the flood of misinformstion. Sure, it didn't work when we tried to destroy LASD, but maybe it will work here. Have faith people and let's fight for Purity!!!

Posted by eric
a resident of another community
on Apr 29, 2015 at 11:22 pm

BCS Parent, your "transit always good" thinking is impressive in how... binary it is. Very Red State of you. You must watch Fox News a lot.

Posted by MWoman
a resident of Waverly Park
on Apr 29, 2015 at 11:30 pm

Eric, With the second post by the supposed "BCS Parent" its apparent that the poster is not what s/he purports to be, and is merely an internet troll. Too bad there are people like that in the world, but they have to find attention somewhere, I guess. The moderator will take care of them.

Posted by BCS Parent
a resident of another community
on Apr 29, 2015 at 11:48 pm

Eric, you missed our point. David and I are completely against transit that brings in certain elements into our community. That is why we insisted on the enrollment preference area for our charter school. Sure, it was illegal and we had to finally abandon it, but it kept our school Pure.

We like transit that helps people in the upper-middle class, but it's not a universal yes-to-transit.

I hope you don't take offense at MWoman's name calling. Some people have nothing better to do than complain.

Posted by DavidR
a resident of another community
on Apr 29, 2015 at 11:55 pm

DavidR is a registered user.

The nutty poster with mental issues should read the original article. There is no plan to change any routes or service. The 22 and the 522 routes already run through Mountain View. They're just talking about making the 22 runs less frequent, and bumping up the frequency of the 522 routes, to run as much as 8 times an hour. The buses will be empty and the changes won't bring more of any people into town. The problem is the 522 route only stops 2 places in all of Mountain View or Los Altos. It will be HARDER to get into town. Not easier.

It's people who just go along with wasting money because they think it's got to be better or the bureaucrats wouldn't do it that make it happen.... waste money.

Posted by BCS Parent
a resident of another community
on Apr 30, 2015 at 12:45 am

Thank you David for doing your civic duty and fighting improvements in bus travel along El Camino. Thank goodness we have a transportation expert at our disposal who seems more than happy to share his vast wisdom and experience with speeding up his service along El Camino.

It's ridiculous to have a fast express bus that doesn't stop every block to let people on and off. Why can't they do that? As long as they call it an express bus, it must be fast and efficient, no?

But, my friend.. Be careful! By saying that the buses will all be empty is a little over the top. Why just today I saw lots of people on El Camino boarding and disembarking the buses! So, I would abandon that line of reasoning since it is so easily disproved.

It's a darned shame we lost the fight against LASD, but we can sure stir up a lot of trouble for VTA and the disadvantaged people they are trying to help!!!

Posted by I see your IP Address
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Apr 30, 2015 at 9:19 am

Looks like the troll has invented a personality to try and make it seem this is a class thing. He had zero statements to that, so he invented "BCS Parent" to try and make everyone think there are a bunch or racists behind this. Don't feed the troll please.

Posted by OMV Resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 30, 2015 at 11:07 pm

@Jim Neal -
Regarding wifi on buses, VTA is well on the way. There is already wifi on all VTA Express buses (the solid red-colored buses that often travel longer distances on freeways), and they are apparently in the process of adding it to local buses. When I recently rode the 22 on one of the longer buses with the flex-joint in the middle, I noticed the woman in the seat in front of me connect to on-board wifi, which I didn't even realize was offered. I tried it and it worked for me as well.

And for those who might not know, VTA has offered wifi on light rail for 2 or 3 years now.

Posted by Wifi
a resident of Blossom Valley
on May 1, 2015 at 12:13 am

Doesn't caltrain have wifi? I mean, they should by now given the massive capital subsidies that were funneled out of transportation funds meant to help EVERYBODY and not just the wealthy commuting tech worker.

Can you imagine the EMBARRASSMENT if VTA beat CalTrain to wifi?

Anyone know when CalTrain went live with wifi?

Posted by Interesting Reading
a resident of another community
on May 1, 2015 at 12:47 am

VTA is having another meeting tomorrow, for their board, as pointed out by someone above. Buried in the meeting material after the VTA Budget Fantasy section is the summary of the reaction to the Draft EIR for BRT Route #2. They need board approval, eventually, for modifications to create the final EIR. I uploaded the DEIR summaries here. The attitude of the VTA staff is most distressing. Everyone against dedicated lanes should take a look at these 18 pages. Here it is: Web Link

Posted by Interesting Reading
a resident of another community
on May 1, 2015 at 12:48 am

Here's that web link: Web Link">Web Link

VTA is having another meeting tomorrow, for their board, as pointed out by someone above. Buried in the meeting material after the VTA Budget Fantasy section is the summary of the reaction to the Draft EIR for BRT Route #2. They need board approval, eventually, for modifications to create the final EIR. I uploaded the DEIR summaries here. The attitude of the VTA staff is most distressing. Everyone against dedicated lanes should take a look at these 18 pages. Here it is: Web Link">Web Link

Posted by Go with the winner
a resident of Castro City
on May 1, 2015 at 5:14 am

I love CalTrain! Much better that roads for getting up the Peninsula and then lots of shuttles to take me where I want to go. VTA should get in on those connecting shuttles. IMO Caltrain should be the focus for the future. It's a proven people mover. Busses up ECR seem very antiquated in comparison.

Posted by Cal Train Subsidy
a resident of another community
on May 2, 2015 at 8:05 pm

Trips on Caltrain run from San Francisco to Gilroy, or 78 miles. The BRT Route #2 length is 19 miles. After that, for another 11 miles in a separate phase, the 22 route meanders on to East San Jose meaning the max length of travel is about 30 miles.

So, yes CalTrain is better, but it is an entire different type of travel. Airplanes are better still, but what's that got to do with the price of potatoes. Does this mean VTA is about to get into Air Travel? Man, that would interesting. VTA from Palo Alto airport to SJC, don't you know?

More importantly, trips on CalTrain are subsidized by 40% but on VTA it's a 90% subsidy. So it's not fair to compare the fares. Why doesn't VTA provide a subsidy to low income patrons to use CalTrain? That would be a heck of a lot cheaper than running this BRT service up and down the King's Highway in parallel to a third of the distrance Cal Train travels from SF to Gilroy

Posted by Reality
a resident of another community
on May 2, 2015 at 8:14 pm

Another argument for BRT is that it is not only for the wealthy high-tech workers to use, but could be used by EVERYONE.

CalTrain: If I want to go from San Jose to Palo Alto (4 zones), the round trip fare is $14.50 and the monthly pass would be $179.00.

For those that travel by train, they see how the seats are full and standing room only, so CalTrain must be very successful revenue-wise. $179 * all those riders, plus people paying the $14.50 day for more occasional use.... Gotta be revenue neutral at least?

But, here is the dirty little secret. Companies can buy annual passes ("GoPass") for their employees at only $15/month EACH!!!! That's right. The "regular Joe" pays the same amount for a single day on CalTrain that these wealthy high-tech workers pay for an ENTIRE MONTH!

The inequity is EVEN WORSE. These annual passes do not have the same limits as the individual tickets or even the monthly passes. Those are limited to a number of zones. The annual pass for wealthy high-tech workers is UNLIMITED! Meaning, they have unlimited travel across all 6 zones 7 days/week! If a monthly pass user wants the same level of service, it would be $338/month!

So, let's review:

non-wealthy-non-tech-worker pays: $338/month for unlimited CalTrain access
wealthy-tech-worker pays: $15/month for unlimited CalTrain access

Disgusted yet? Wait, there's more!
Does the "regular joe" paying $338/month get a tax deduction for using public transit? NOPE!
Does the high-tech company get a tax deduction for paying for their employee's CalTrain pass? YUP!

So, that means that every tax dollar saved by these companies is less revenue to the state and federal government, which means less services for everybody. Hospitals, fire, police, parks, etc...

When one hears arguments against enhancing our bus services and instead piling that money into the train system, please look at the reality of the situation. Low-middle income folks do not benefit from this AT ALL. It is simply a money grab to benefit people that do not need the money!

I'm glad that we have VTA advocating for most of the Valley's residents and not just the greedy few. Can't wait for BRT to be launched!

Posted by CalTrain Farebox
a resident of another community
on May 2, 2015 at 8:43 pm

Even with any discounts for corporate participation in Go Passes, Cal Train recovers from its Farebox 60% of the cost of service. It's all figured in.

CalTrain base fare from MV (or even Menlo Park to Downtown San Jose Diridon station/The Arena (Terminus of BRT Route serving Mountain View, #2) is TWO ZONES, not Four. Round Trip Fare by Clipper Card is $9.50, not $14.50. 8-ride (4 round trip) fare is $35.25 or under $9 per round trip. Cost of service by VTA is probably about $14.50, though. Maybe that's what you are thinking of.

Also CalTrain gives about a 50% discount to senior, youth or disabled. Fare for that ride for these guys is $4.50 round trip to San Jose.

Posted by Cal Train Travel Time
a resident of another community
on May 2, 2015 at 8:49 pm

Mountain View to San Jose Diridon/Arena travel times is 15 minutes to 23 minutes depending on the train. Fares are as listed above. BRT deludes itself into thinking it will cover that route in 30 minutes, but I don't believe it. That's 12 stops which has to be at least 12 minutes, so the bullet bus would have to be going over 60 miles per hour, which wouldn't be safe, and the technology to turn every traffic light green doesn't exist, or we'd need to stop cross traffic in advance of BRT arrival at the intersection, like a train crossing. Not gonna happen.

Posted by Ouch!
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 2, 2015 at 9:20 pm

It sounds like Caltrain has a better "farebox recovery" percentage than BRT, but then its because it charges so much more! OF COURSE you would make more money. The problem is that it leaves out the lower economic classes who cannot afford the high fares.

The sick part of this is the anti-bus shills complain about VTA's lower recovery percent! The BRT project is forecasted to increase this pct to 60pct or greater!

And really, that is the issue. Once BRT is successful, everbody from all classes and ethnicities will be forced to travel together. The same people that want elite public schools for the wealthy, want elite transit options that would keep them separate from the less advantaged.

Posted by VTA Magic Accounting
a resident of another community
on May 2, 2015 at 9:37 pm

Sure, Forecast Quadruple ridership on any route and you can increase your farebox recovery, especially when it starts so low..... and VTA spends lots of other money on other routes with even less farebox recovery than 22/522.

The reason CalTrain has lower farebox recovery is not due to the more expensive service to provide travel three times faster than VTA Express routes. VTA charges $4 for the express routes you know and still only averages 11% farebox recovery. Cal Train gets people to pay more for superior service, about the same as VTA express service for travel from MV to Downtown San Jose, except VTA doesn't have an express route that makes that journey. Similarly if you want to reach Menlo Park you have no option on VTA but Cal Train does it in express fashion for what, $3?

No, CalTrain expenses per mile are about the same as VTA's per passenger. VTA just offers bad service. Cal Train goes faster and receives less subsidy, but that could change. VTA's money could go to subsidize Cal Train more and then for the same expense to VTA, Cal Train travel could be cheaper. Of course, it's also still going to be 3 times as fast and offer greater distances.

Posted by Jay
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 2, 2015 at 9:54 pm

Why are we comparing the train to the bus? When I use the bus, I get on and off several times to run errands. When I take the train, I have to get all the way over to a train station, wait up to an hour and get to a single destination. Then, I have a long commute over to where I need to go. The reason is that Caltrain is not near anything. The only time to use it is if you have an expensive, subsidized shuttle that will take you away from the tracks and toward civilization.

As someone wrote, you might as well also compare to airports! Those are faster and their "farebox recovery" is net positive and much higher than caltrain!

Anyway, I do see value in both train and bus. Caltrain was doing horribly and after they did their BRT-like project (baby bullet), ridership dramatically increased. I think it's time to do the same with bus service.

Posted by Jay Not
a resident of another community
on May 3, 2015 at 1:19 am

Oh really, Jay, you use the bus do you? What Bus Route serves you there in Cuesta Park? And where exactly do you get off and back on again after running errands? I'm not featuring how that would even be possible. The 22 is the closest bus route that might work like that. So how do you feel about the plan to cut the frequency on that route?

Posted by MWoman
a resident of Waverly Park
on May 3, 2015 at 2:49 pm

I wish VTA shills like "Reality", "Ouch" and "Jay" would realize they aren't fooling anyone. Their "argument" is phony and flawed, and they hope to get mileage by calling this a "class" thing. It is not - and the VTA's desperate ploy won't work.
The VTA is one massive failure, and they run empty busses on poor schedules. Very few will walk or take a mode of transport to the stop (in all weather types) wait for the bus, then take it to their destination, get off, walk or take a second mode of transportation to their destination, then carry their purchases (even groceries get pretty heavy eventually) back to the bus stop, wait, board the bus, get off at their stop, and walk or take a second mode of transportation home. And what if you had more than ONE stop to make that day? It simply doesn't work for this area. We are not New York or Paris - where public transportation was the original mode of travel and has kept up with the world. This mode of transportation cannot be created in the situation of crossing multi-suburbs and was never meant to do so.
The gridlock for El Camino and all side streets (all the way to Foothill Expressway and Middlefield) will pour pollution into the air and endanger people all along these routes. It's only seen as a positive by the VTA - and VTA employees (obviously the posters who are so 100% for this fiasco) and try to make it a class issue in hopes to deflect criticism for this miserable plan.
Want the truth? Take a factual and simple survey: "Are you for or against the VTA dedicating two lanes from El Camino for only bus lanes." You'll get the answer that represents what the majority of residents want. THAT is "representative government" and THAT is fair.

Posted by Bus user
a resident of Castro City
on May 3, 2015 at 2:54 pm

I think that people saying bad things dont use bus. Bus lane is faster and cheaper so why not do it?

Posted by why not
a resident of another community
on May 3, 2015 at 3:39 pm

Well, for one thing, the 522 only stops 2 places. VTA signs there do little to highlight the faster 522 service and the fact it is same price.... There plans call for million dollar upgrades to both stops. would not a nice clear sign help....NOW. pass that up to your bosses!

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