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El Camino bus-lane trial wins committee's backing

Original post made on Dec 17, 2015

A controversial proposal to create dedicated bus lanes along El Camino Real gained a major boost Wednesday when a committee of city representatives along the route signaled a willingness to try out the idea as the pilot program.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, December 17, 2015, 1:56 PM

Comments (77)

Posted by Lenny Siegel
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 17, 2015 at 2:25 pm

Please read the article carefully. The advisory board recommended a pilot project to test the impact of an HOV lane on traffic. This is a much different proposal than the six-buses-an-hour-in-the-median-lane plan that VTA put forward earlier.

Posted by biker, driver, bus spouse
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 17, 2015 at 2:26 pm

This is not so bad a test. At less than 3% of the original cost - it is a reasonable alpha-test. Thanks Lenny. Without a real test - there is no real data on time saving v. ridership increase. Mixing HOV and bus service is sensible.
How to extract $$ from Google, Linked-In and other private bus use of public facilities? (our public bus stops). Like San Francisco MUNI plan, these private for-profit bus company users, and their clients, should not start to overwhelm the public system on public streets.
That's what I think. The already are using the public stops along ECR in the commute hours.

Posted by Common sense
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 17, 2015 at 2:28 pm

A "pilot" program like this makes a LOT more sense than starting with the costly and irreversible physical barriers originally proposed. Then we can get some real idea of the benefits and side effects, and cut down on the endless speculation and advocacy about BRT occurring in these Town Square threads.

Posted by GDM
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Dec 17, 2015 at 2:30 pm

Right now there are a lot of places along ECR where the right lane is closed because of construction of buildings. This will be an ongoing need. What happens here, we go to 1 lane for traffic.
There is a war going on right now between government and those of us who drive cars. They want us to quit using our cars and instead use the non-existent or almost non-existent buses.

Posted by Steve
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 17, 2015 at 2:37 pm

@ Lenny Siegel: how anyone could possibly think that removing a lane of traffic from el Camino Is a good idea is an embarrassment to common sense and is completely divorced from reality

Posted by Greg Coladonato
a resident of Slater
on Dec 17, 2015 at 2:39 pm

Greg Coladonato is a registered user.

A big thank you to Councilman Siegel for his effective leadership on this issue. I have been opposed to the dedicated left lane design for years (since at least June 2011), and have been attending VTA and City Council meetings ever since expressing support for a right hand lane design with HOV use during rush hour. I am please to see that this policy committee is also taking this direction now too. Here is the public comment I made at yesterday's meeting:

I would like to publicly thank several members of this board for their support for a right hand lane design with peak period mixed flow high occupancy vehicle use, specifically members Whittum, Siegel, Oliverio, Matthews, Wolbach, and Bruins.

I and many of my neighbors in Mountain View believe this configuration maximizes the potential benefits of the project, while minimizing the adverse impacts. It also maximizes the utility of the right lane, and encourages people to carpool. I support this design and believe it to be an inexpensive project which benefits the vast majority of county residents.

I have two ideas to share, that I believe have the potential to enhance the effectiveness of a prospective pilot project.

First, given the relatively modest cost of the minimal or moderate notification options, I would like to propose to this body that it also consider a pilot that runs the full length of the ECR BRT project corridor. If the total cost of such a pilot would be in the low to mid single digit millions, it would be a far better evaluation of the design to have it run the full length from Palo Alto to San Jose.

Second, I would suggest that the board and the VTA give themselves the option of altering the parameters of the pilot if the mixed use lane has so much use that VTA busses are seriously impeded during rush hours. The minimum number of passengers in an HOV could be raised from 2 to 3 or more, as needed, to restore high speed flow in the lane during peak periods.

Thank you.

Posted by Anybodyeverinstalledsprinklers
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Dec 17, 2015 at 2:40 pm

What a great idea.......can we require everyone on the committee to either be forced to drive only on El Camino during the test or be required to only ride the bus anywhere they need to go in Santa Clara County during the test?

While we are at it, how about if we reserve one runway each at SFO and SJC for only the REALLY BIG Planes while those annoying 737's use the one that is left. How could that possibly cause a problem? Or, allow only one track on CalTrain to be used for the current length trains both North and South. Reserve the other one for Trains that are twice the length that won't fit at any of the stations. Shouldn't be a problem. And.....I think you should only be able to hook one pipe up to your water meter. you have to run it to each device in the house from that one pipe with no other paths. Then you everyone on the committee has to take a shower every day in the bathroom that is at the end of the line.

Ever thought of how and why El Camino was expanded to three lanes each way most of the way in the first place? Because demand drove that need. How do you get from El Camino to any train station in less than 20 minutes? To any major shopping or eating area? Good thing all the restaurants on Castro, in Sunnyvale, in Palo Alto, Los Altos, etc are VERY CLOSE to El Camino........oh wait, none of them are, most of them are at the other end of the streets.

What a great idea, please take three sprinkler pipes and a 100 gallons of water and see if there is anyway you can pour that amount of water with the same throughput through just two pipes. It will spill, create a mess, mud everywhere, most of the water not getting anywhere near where you needed it to get to. Hmmm, be ready for the flood, this is going to flat out suck because no one seems to realize that there is already an express bus along this route that will get you to these locations as fast is this insane idea..........

Time to move, enjoy your cool new transit located housing, improperly designed mass transit and the realization in a few years that those houses you thought were soo cool that back up to the train actually have TRAINS running all night long outside your window? And after you can't move on Alma, Evelyn, California, Cuesta, Remington because they are bumper to bumper with the cars that used to travel where they were supposed to on El Camino chose to not wait an hour to get to Palo Alto......

Posted by Ya right!!
a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 17, 2015 at 2:45 pm

Oh, so now they want to add HOV vehicles to it and tear apart ECR for what, a test to see if it's feasible? In other words screw the car drivers, we are going to do what we want even if it makes no sense at all. We will continue to upset you drivers so that you will want to get out of their cars. This is the message I'm getting. Once this starts, there will be no going back, because of course govt. is always right. They make the big money so they can mess with your traveling commutes.

Have you noticed the HOV lanes on some of the highways? Those that have traffic, they are packed, just like the other lanes. Where the traffic is light, there is hardly anyone in it. Even the carpoolers use the regular lane. Worst part of Carpool lanes is at major intersections when you see the carpoolers try and cross 3 lanes of traffic to get to their exit. And they will even stop in the middle of the lanes so they can maneuver over to their exits. Our roads are a mess thanks in part to these so called creative ideas that make things worse. For the money we pay our city leaders this is is the kind **** we get?

Posted by reader
a resident of Waverly Park
on Dec 17, 2015 at 2:51 pm

Please tell me that this means the trees down the center of El Camino will not be ripped out of the ground?

Posted by PayForIt
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 17, 2015 at 2:55 pm

HOV lanes don't mean anything without effective enforcement. We could pay for a LOT of VTA mass-transit infrastructure improvements if we made speeding/HOV violations more "fair" by linking it to income, as many other countries are doing: Web Link It's the only fair way to enforce.

Posted by Member
a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 17, 2015 at 2:57 pm

The inmates are running the asylum.
It's bad enough to see the empty buses on El Camino everyday, but at least I get to pass them. Now I'll get to be stuck in traffic , increasing the carbon footprint while empty busses pass me. Busses simply do not work in this area, companies and spread to far and wide. So what will happen is people will use wayz, start going down side streets which are residential with kids. Since these folks will be in a bigger rush, someone is going to get hurt or worse. These folks better be held accountable when that happens.

Posted by OldMV
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 17, 2015 at 3:00 pm

I do approve of a brief trial of the Palo Alto "mixed use" proposal, in which the right lane temporarily would be designated by traffic cones and other temporary markers. Three must be no permanent changes to ECR during the brief test period. Unfortunately, the board has recommended far too aggressive a plan. Changes must be incremental, not substantial and irreversible. The plan tested must that with the right lane mixed use for ALL vehicles, not just "buses, shuttles and high-occupancy vehicles." Anything more than that is unacceptable to automobile drivers, who constitute well over 90% ECR traffic. It's our road.

Posted by Foolme
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 17, 2015 at 3:02 pm

@Lenny Siegel

Yes everyone is moving in the same direction just like lemmings off a cliff. This is mind boggling, we have the top tech of the world and the biggest idiots in the world for housing and transportation.

Posted by @Member
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 17, 2015 at 3:02 pm

Are you implying that traffic causes people to kill children with their cars?

C'mon now.

If residential traffic is a concern, add speed bumps and traffic barriers that prevent side streets from connecting to each other in a convenient way. Palo Alto has these all over.

Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Whisman Station
on Dec 17, 2015 at 3:11 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

The best MUNI system is tracked and electrified. The best RTD system for moving commuters is Light Rail. BTDTGTTS.
The downtown Denver part has RIGHT LANE TRACKAGE with shared access to normal traffic, complete with electronic gongs used downtown. ( Think of the Old San Francisco Cable Car System Bells )
Using the VTA Rail System would resolve the empty trains issue it now has.
The other issue is psychological. The arrogant car drivers have met their match with VTA Trains. Cut them off and the train always wins...and the driver gets cited for failure to yield. And the arrogant bicyclist usually has made the last statement by ending up under the train...nothing left to cite.
The failure to yield happened a lot in the first months of operations. Now, EVERYBODY behaves. I can picture the VTA with right lane rails, sharing that lane with other vehicles. Since the ECR is mostly downtown everywhere, VTA Light Rail could finally become useful.

Posted by Seriously?
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Dec 17, 2015 at 3:21 pm

I'm convinced that none of the council members EVER drive down these roads in the middle of the day or at rush hour. Seriously! I'd love to hear from them if they do.

Right now, as has been stated, it's a mess in the middle of the day to drive down ECR because of the construction. And that won't change anytime soon because every possible spot that can be turned into multi-story housing, will do just that. Good luck finding any family-operated, friendly neighborhood stores in another 5 years. Then, you really won't be able to walk to the local store, you'll have to drive. How does that help traffic?

And for those of you thinking you'll be able to cut down California Street from El Camino, consider this:
- 650 new apartments on the west side of San Antonio -- 1,000 or more cars that will need to travel on California or ECR or the already clogged San Antonio.
- Whatever else is going into the next phase of the San Antonio project, bringing more traffic.
- At least 250 apartments at the end of Ortega on Mora, when they finish the toxic clean-up there -- cars belonging to these apartments will be using California, the closest major street
- The newly-announced 195, 5-story apartments on the corner of California and Ortega, also using California.
- All the other apartments being built on El Camino right now, with more to come.

And is it true that the BRT will only make 3 stops in Mountain View? This isn't Manhattan, where transportation is plentiful and goes where people need to go.

Remember, there are a lot of people who can't ride a bus, a bike or carpool. The car is their only option.

Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Dec 17, 2015 at 4:34 pm

An HOV lane on the right (like on expressways) with bus boarding on the right (not obstructed by bulb-outs) was proposed by residents, including Greg Coladonado, before Councilmember Lenny Siegel got involved. But Lenny has done a great job steering the VTA away from seizing the left lanes for a minority of its buses. However, the VTA bureaucracy still wants to seize the left lanes after its 2016 sales tax increase measure is voted upon. As the VTA has been told, unless the ballot measure affirmatively outlaws bad projects, including seizing the left lanes, it will be opposed vehemently and, I predict, successfully. If the San Jose-dominated VTA Board of Directors did not want more money from voters, it would have already approved the left-lane seizure for its planned express buses and median boarding stations.

Posted by Adele
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 17, 2015 at 4:44 pm

Has Lenny forgot the promises made pre-election?
I am sickened by the flip flop of so many politicians especially our city council
We have absolutely no voice in these decisions

Posted by George
a resident of Rex Manor
on Dec 17, 2015 at 4:49 pm

Again, I suggest that all of us read "Agenda 21"... a magnificent novel based on the direction of our Govt...from local, to State to Federal..
It is the force of Govt. making all the decisions in our lifes...transportation, housing, toilets, light bulbs, etc. WAKE THE HELL UP...
This closing of 33% or the roadway to force the public onto buses, to make us dependent on the Govt. to take full care of us is insane.

Posted by True
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Dec 17, 2015 at 5:20 pm

True is a registered user.

I disagree with Lenny Siegel often. But I want to commend him on championing this test. Hopefully this brings to light the abject absurdity of the BRT plan.

Now, if only we could get good data from VTA to actually measure the efficacy of this test. C'mon VTA, publish the total number of seats on those routes per day, how many are occupied per day, and the cost (to taxpayers) per ride before and during the test.

The test needs to be run the full length of the proposed route, not just a segment.

In addition, traffic density and speed needs to be measured on ECR and on parallel arteries. Again, both before and during said test.

Additionally, it wouldn't hurt to get input from retail establishments along the route with respect to the impact on their businesses during the test.

...and the test needs to be accompanied by signage that reads "This gridlock brought to you by Council-members Showalter & Rosenberg.

Posted by NeHi
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Dec 17, 2015 at 6:18 pm

Nice, at last a proposal that does not stink on ice. I see problems, some of which were noted, but at least it does not threaten a bottleneck at Grant southbound in the morning. There was more info in this article than I've been able to get directly from VTA.

Posted by BRT Solution
a resident of another community
on Dec 17, 2015 at 7:12 pm

So this would let VTA take its new but never used fleet of BRT vehicles out of mothballs and put them into service?

This idea is not exactly revolutionary. Los Angeles has operated a BRT run for some years to which they added the idea of peak our HOV status this past April.

See: Web Link

80% of the BRT implementations in the country use this shared-lanes type of approach. There's nothing that makes VTA special requiring their very complicated unwieldy proposal of separate lanes for BRT and regular buses. But the HOV status should ONLY be at peak hours.

Posted by Committee Agenda
a resident of another community
on Dec 17, 2015 at 7:23 pm

The article does appear to mis-state the formulation of the use of the right lane. It's clearly meant to be an HOV lane, not one reserved just for buses. This mis-statement has upset people like Adele and Seriously above.

For the agenda of that meeting and what was up for discussion, you can see Web Link

It's worth noting that the HOV lanes have been on the right of Lawrence Expressway for YEARS. Reserving center lanes just for BRT (and NOT regular) buses with no allowance for other HOV uses was a COMPLETE WASTE. It would be a recipe for another disaster like the lack of use of light rail.

This innovation as an approach versus the costly new stations on the median also potentially allows combining 22 and 522 bus routes. These are VTA's most popular routes but the cost of operating them could be seriously reduced if they are combined. This subcommittee has previously recommended studying that too. Such a change could reduce VTA's operating cost and remove the need for new revenue from a sales tax increase. Gary should be happy about that.

Posted by concerned
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Dec 17, 2015 at 7:35 pm

Has anyone noticed that Lenny Siegel is essentially a dictator controlling the future of Mtn View according to his agenda items? He is the most radical in support of high density housing to turn Mountain View from suburban calm to congested metropolis, and now the city's "representative" to VTA agreeing to transform the major artery of El Camino into the nightmare of Market Street in San Francisco (if you've lived there, you know the pain of trying to negotiate Market street with its dedicated bus/taxi lanes and limitations on left turns). I'd like to see other cities helping out with housing more than they are, and to see a regional transit solution that addresses people's real needs and does not just dedicate precious traffic lanes to empty buses whose bizarre schedules and routes serve very few.

Posted by Sensible Mass Transit
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 17, 2015 at 8:27 pm

CalTrain already goes from San Jose to Palo Alto parallel to (and usually less than 1 mile away from) El Camino Real. So what additional mass transit benefit comes from creating a new system with large overlap to what little is already in existence? Instead, let's EXPAND the transit system, so that it works for more people, not create a new vanity overlay project.

Just as an example, tt would make a lot more sense to create "cross town" feeds perpendicular to the train service. As it is, the busses on ECR are only going to serve people who both live and work on the ECR corridor. No wonder ridership is low!

Posted by Empty Buses
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Dec 17, 2015 at 8:45 pm

Nothing about this plan changes the fact the buses are mostly empty and there is no connecting network of buses. 95-99% of people still won't take the bus because IT DOESN'T GO WHERE PEOPLE NEED TO GO!

As stated above, let's see the numbers using the bus. But let's also hear the number of empty seats on each bus (or % of capacity at various times of the day)...I've never seen one of those buses at greater than 25% of capacity...usually MUCH less...often just 3-5 people. (not counting the folks who use the late night buses to sleep...maybe that's actually the optimal use!)

I will vote "no" on any VTA tax until ALL congestion-causing El Camino plans are dropped. VTA needs to stop wasting taxpayer time and money on plans that have drawn a resounding "NO" from residents.

Posted by Not a new creation
a resident of another community
on Dec 17, 2015 at 11:01 pm

Hey everyone, wake up and smell the coffee. This BRT idea is NOT NEW. The route 522 has already been running for 10 years or so, maybe longer. All this does is put vehicles that VTA has already purchased into use. It's too late, they are already bought!

But, if this all works out, it's possible that some of the empty buses could be eliminated from two factors:

(1) Combine 22 and 522 into just one service.
(2) Entice more people to ride the combined service because it works better AT NO ADDITIONAL COST.

If the HOV lanes are shared with other buses and carpools and right turn people and people turning into driveways, then the flow will not suffer. It's a reasonable design. VTA promised this 15 years ago when they asked for more funding, and it's about time they delivered. So far as you notice, the result has just been more part-filled buses running more frequently, but not really much faster.

Posted by Infrastructure Investor
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 18, 2015 at 2:00 am

Don't listen to the messages on this board. The same three Los Altans continue to manufacture an local opposition that simply doesn't exist. They tried this with the Bullis charter school debacle and since that failed have focused on keeping the less affluent from having a strong bus system.

It's not surprising that the cities suggest this "pilot". The wealthy tech workers will benefit from their company shuttle's access to this new lane. The "HOV" status will likely include those vehicles with CLV stickers that are given out to Tesla's and other electric cars driven by the affluent. Oh, and since this mixed use lane is projected to have only a marginal improvement on bus transit vs a dedicated lane, the folks at the lower end of the economic stratum won't get the benefit that has. We long overdue.

Shame on you, Lenny. Hopefully, the full board will pass the dedicated lane option and this project can get going. We needed a solid transit infrastructure along El Camino ten years ago. No more delays!

Posted by Cut of VTAs legd
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2015 at 5:28 am

Vote NO for any additional VTA money.

Their new project should be how they are cutting their internal waste and reducing the amount of over paid mid managers and supervisors.
It is a black hole where your money goes into managers pockets.
VTA is an over-bloated bureaucracy that is completely out of control. It's time to say "You're done feasting on our money."

VOTE NO in the coming elections! No additional money for VTA!!!

Posted by resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 18, 2015 at 8:33 am

My problem with VTA to San Jose from Mountain View is that it takes 4 times as long to get anywhere and often I need to walk more than a mile on one side or the other. One location, google says is more than 2 hours because it says the last 2.5 miles in San Jose city proper (south side) near 101 must be walked when one is without a car or bike. Another takes 2 hours and only has 1/2 - 1 mile walk or so each side and takes 2 hours each way not counting walking time. El Camino is just not a destination route or starting point for me. This will not encourage me to take a bus at all. There needs to be an understanding of where people commute from/to, not just "we have a bus route, it needs to be faster and people will ride it." El Camino connects few CalTrain stations, fewer high-tech companies, and almost no major shopping and entertainment destinations. Any major connection improvement that would welcome new riders has to provide more transportation (maybe more, fast, often local loops is one way) into the place and back out to El Camino.

Caltrain is much faster to where it goes and cuts the time drastically even over the BRT proposals, but is very expensive and does not run often enough.
I always wonder if CalTrain could run cheaper (like works on all VTA monthly/daily passes) shorter local trains on its tracks like 3-4 times an hour from 6 am to 12 midnight, within the county to connect the county better and fast.

However, I do feel that none of this will amount to much as there is little understanding or care of how growth has been done or what growth does to the environment and quality of life. Growth does not necessarily mean better anymore than eating more means getting healthier. Sometimes it does, sometimes it brings energy and vitality, sometimes it just clogs all the arteries.

Posted by bjd
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 18, 2015 at 9:09 am

I really appreciate this compromise-- "Piloting" an HOV lane is a much less devastating use of pavement along ECR.

However, the entire project sets aside money for several improvements along nearby corridors, replacing some overcrowded 4-way stop signs with much more efficient signals. I wonder if it would be possible and appropriate to expedite these improvements as part of the "pilot" so we can get a better sense of the overall traffic impact.

Posted by Trial not like end proposal
a resident of Gemello
on Dec 18, 2015 at 9:13 am

The proposed trial is nothing like the original proposal for a dedicated lane that only the Express bus could use because the trial allows HOV's. I remember years ago asking VTA why the bus that I ride, #22, was going to have slower commute times. It is because the Express bus would be the only one allowed in the dedicated lane. I was told that allowing bus #22 in the lane would slow the Express bus down.

Doing a trial that allows HOV's makes more sense than going out and building a dedicated Express bus lane. However, a trial allowing HOV's will not accurately represent what an Express bus only dedicated lane would be like. Why do a trial of something that is so different than the proposed end solution?

Posted by AllYouCanEat
a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 18, 2015 at 9:30 am

Not a problem for me. I will simply blast through the local neighborhood streets to avoid this mess.

The city will never be able to force its citizens out of their cars. If they're not riding the bus now, they're not going to in the future. In case you haven't figured it out, Californians love their cars.

Posted by Neighborhood Enforcement
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 18, 2015 at 10:59 am

@AllYouCanEat, Blast away all you want, but be sure to enjoy our speed humps and extreme dips as they rip the undercarriage from your car. You likely won't "Blast" down our street more than one time and survive it with an intact car, but by all means I encourage you to try. That's why we put up the video camera in the first place.

Posted by @Neighborhood Enforcement
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2015 at 11:35 am

I would suggest to take your kids off the streets, Speed bumps or not, the cars will be coming through. You can thank Lenny for that.

Posted by Neighborhood Enforcement
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 18, 2015 at 11:51 am

That's OK, cars come by all the about 5 MPH. It's pretty much impossible to negotiate the dips in our street at a speed greater than that.
Slow enough to say "Good morning, how are you today"

That said, I am in agreement that this will do nothing to get people out of their cars and onto a bus.

The pilot bus should have rider counts at every stop. That would show how very few people will be using the bus, but if by some chance ridership jumps, VTA can hang their hat on that. Don't just block the lane, count how many people sitting in the bus at each stop.
THEN we'll have data to show if a full blown BRT has any chance to make a difference.

Posted by Mark Noack
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 18, 2015 at 12:45 pm

Hi folks,

Some of you may have already pointed this out, but I wanted to highlight something pretty important to this story that I failed to include in the original article that went up yesterday.
The BRT advisory committee recommended the dedicated lanes for only the peak traffic hours on weekdays. So this BRT pilot would operate much like the carpool lanes on highways with enforcement only at certain times of the day.
In my rush to get this story out for Express yesterday, I forgot to mention this. I already updated the online story, and I hope to add much more information in the coming days for the print edition.

Posted by Ken
a resident of Stierlin Estates
on Dec 18, 2015 at 1:24 pm

You forgot to include one more thing. Whether BRT or this test succeeds depends on getting people to give up their cars and take the bus. Our transportation planners and politicians have been pushing that idea for years. To make this work, we need some magic. To believe this will work will require some magical thinking.

Posted by Ellen Wheeler
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Dec 18, 2015 at 1:33 pm

Thanks for the update, Mark Noack.

Posted by DoctorData
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 18, 2015 at 4:23 pm

DoctorData is a registered user.

I may have voted against Lenny Siegel in the council election, but I am deeply disappointed at the level of personal invective directed against him by commenters that clearly did not read the article they are commenting on. The article clearly states that the trial will be for a Lawrence Expressway style HOV lane at the right, not a dedicated BRT lane. I remain skeptical that an HOV lane will work out well, but instead of jerking my knee, I will wait for the data from the trial to prove or disprove the utility of the idea.

Perhaps instead of a verification code, the web server should present an SAT-style reading comprehension test before allowing a comment to go through.

Posted by Empty Buses
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Dec 18, 2015 at 4:35 pm

Why is there a push to "compromise" when the first idea is terrible?

Posted by Empty Buses
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Dec 18, 2015 at 4:43 pm

Just read that VTA is close to opening toll lanes on 101 in Santa Clara County. The plan is for rates to fluctuate based on how much traffic there is...that'll be pretty.

Honest question. Did the public specifically approve toll lanes? If yes, then so be it. If no, it's time to decommission VTA. If a public agency won't listen to the public, why does that agency continue to exist? At a minimum, VTA should have a publicly elected board.

Posted by Empty Cars
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 18, 2015 at 5:32 pm

Most cars jamming up the streets are almost completely empty, except for just a single person--the driver.

Contrast this with the shared transit buses and shuttles that transport 4x-100x that number.

The right lane pilot will not prove anything. It does not provide the dramatic improvement in bus speed along El Camino, but it will certainly annoy some drivers that hate change of any sort. The only scenario suggested that provides strong performance with minimal impact is the dedicated left lane.

Posted by Robert Neff
a resident of another community
on Dec 18, 2015 at 10:16 pm

Yesterday my 522 driver told me that the new buses will be in service on January 4.

(He was less optimistic about ever getting 3-bike racks on the buses. Cruiser bikes, with wide handlebars, are a big problem.)

I worry that the right turning traffic on ECR will slow down the new express lane unless they can plan for a dedicated right turn lane at big intersections. If the bus has to wait for right turning traffic which is waiting for pedestrians when the light turns green, it will be slower than it is today (at least in the morning.)

Posted by Not fixing angthing
a resident of Bailey Park
on Dec 19, 2015 at 6:17 am

until the VTA finds a REAL solution expect single car driving to persist. VTA is doing nothing to change that, just making it worse.

Posted by biker, driver, bus spouse
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 19, 2015 at 11:12 am

The right-hand-lane HOV version of BRT also preserves the left turn lanes through the median that are vital for my own "driver" commutes. The dedicated (and very expensive) new center median project would have eliminated all of those.
? 22 and 522 combined? That makes absolutely no sense to me. It would be like combining a Local and and Express train. It does not work because one uses all-many stops and the other uses limited-large stops. On CalTrain, take the Baby Bullet to SF and the local train back. I guarantee - public transit riders know the difference.
The VTA botched BRT construction in San Jose - I think all the city representatives are also aware and wary of that also!

Posted by Combining 22 and 522
a resident of another community
on Dec 19, 2015 at 1:44 pm

Train and BRT are two different services. Train stations are already spaced similar to the 2 mile spacing VTA has declared for BRT in its plans for the dedicated lanes. This spacing is at the upper extreme of BRT station spacing, and is designed to minimize the cost of station construction.

Unlike train stations, the BRT stops have no infrastructure such as parking lots and taxi stands to support increased demand for the widely spaced stations. When a Caltrain bullet station skips stops, it is achieving a spacing of 4 to 8 miles, which is a lot bigger deal than the paltry 2 mile spacing designed into the first BRT proposal. So, it's not precisely the same thing as spacing BRT stops widely.

BRT is commonly implemented with stops every 1/2 to 1 mile. This does not differ markedly from the existing 22 route bus stop spacing, which is already at the upper end of distance between stops for a local service line. So, it is not pushing it to think about operating one combined service. Freeing these resources could allow resources to operate local loop services which run along El Camino and also into the roadways away from ECR, where service is lacking today.

Consider that the 522/22 service distance is quite long, running from Palo Alto to Eastridge in San Jose. One possibility is to combine the 2 routes just in the north county, by having closer stop spacing on 522 say above Mathilda Avenue in Sunnyvale. 22 would stop service at that point and 522 would be the sole service operating through Mountain View and Palo Alto. Then the stop spacing on 522 would be around 1/2 mile. It's false to consider the time to ride the entire length from Palo Alto to Eastridge because so few people do this. The closer spacing would not add so much time to travel from Mathilda to Palo Alto, but again, few people do this either. You're usually talking about a subset even of that shorter distance. The added convenience of closer stops at the start and end of a trip outweigh the small amount of extra time consumed actually riding.

Check it out. BRT is very frequently done with 3 or 4 stops in a 2 mile segment. There are flavors of BRT. The popular flavor is not 1 stop in 2 miles.

Posted by Thoughts
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 19, 2015 at 2:39 pm

I don't think there is a "best" alternative, but I think we need to do something. Drive up and down El Camino and see the massive amounts of development that is happening. Retail, offices and apartments. We can't add lanes to accomodate the increased traffic, so what options are there?

In high density situations, the only solution that I've seen is a public transit option that travels unimpeded by automobile traffic. Train, subway, skytrain or dedicated bus lane. I don't see any of those options being feasible except for the bus lane.

I read that some would simply direct people to Caltrain, but El Camino and the train stations is beyond walking distance so that is no good. We need a solution that stays on the El Camino co-oridor.

Posted by El Camino Development
a resident of another community
on Dec 19, 2015 at 4:32 pm

Most of the traffic originating from those new developments on El Camino is not going to "destinate" along El Camino. Mostly the trips are to some place a ways away from El Camino but in the same general "slice" of territory between 101 and 280 which includes that section of El Camino. So BRT service on El Camino isn't going to help that.

It's ironic, but it's true. The traffic on El Camino doesn't just go up and down that route.

Example: Apartment on El Camino wants to shop at Costco on Rengstorff and 101. Apartment on El Camino wants to go to the Y on Grant Road. Store or Restaurant on El Camino wants business from residence near Moffett Field, or near Cuesta Park, or anywhere not along El Camino. People aren't going to walk 1 or 2 miles to El Camino and then walk another mile to get to the BRT stop and then travel closest to that restaurant and then walk another mile to finally get there.

This may look like a lot of building on El Camino, but in the end, it's still not a dense urban environment. At most times of the day there's still plenty of capacity for car traffic. If you have the 2 new dialysis centers that built out on El Camino recently with large parking lots, you're not going to find their patients arriving mostly by BRT no matter what you do. El Camino is central to a lot of territory that is not within service reach of BRT. That's the bottom line.

You need to worry not just about construction on El Camino but about construction all over. El Camino is one of several backbones for traffic. It's not the whole story and it won't ever be. You can expect bus ridership to go up, but ALSO car traffic.

Posted by DC
a resident of North Whisman
on Dec 19, 2015 at 7:33 pm

I think you will need to ban right turns to make this test work.
Otherwise the Bus will be blocked by people turning into driveways or turning onto ECR or turning off ECR.

Posted by Street car
a resident of another community
on Dec 20, 2015 at 10:26 am

Why not a street car down the median/left turn lane similar to SF?

Posted by Light rail
a resident of another community
on Dec 20, 2015 at 10:38 am

On another note, why not wrap light rail from downtown to shoreline so commuters can get to work along that route? People can cal train it into MV and the light rail to businesses.

Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Whisman Station
on Dec 20, 2015 at 1:41 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

For timed and untimed HOV lanes, there can be some changes that can help both the HOV and regular drivers.

Change the laws to allow right or left turn drivers be allowed the full use of that timed or untimed HOV TO THE INTERSECTION that they want to turn on. No last second dashes across other lane to make a right or left turn. That makes enforcement of this law very easy. Just have the cops see who cheats by not making a turn when they are supposed to.

When other cities create HOV lanes, they are ADDED and do not " steal them " from existing highway lanes. Light Rail trackage does the same thing. Light Rail is elevated or added alongside a highway and never deliberately interferes with an existing highway. Exceptions are allowed for downtown or busy corridors near the terminus of the service.

Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Whisman Station
on Dec 20, 2015 at 1:50 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

Full use BETWEEN SIGNALED INTERESECTIONS. Once in that lane, a NON HOV vehicle MUST turn at the next light.

Signalling an HOV lane is in effect. An overhead GREEN UP ARROW: all vehicles may use that lane. a RED X means the HOV LANE is operational. A few exemptions apply like the one above.

Posted by Lawrence Expressway
a resident of another community
on Dec 20, 2015 at 5:53 pm

The last post describes the way that the HOV lanes work on Lawrence Expressway. Why should we expect that those on ECR would be implemented any differently?

No system is perfect, but the peak hour HOV designation for the curbside lanes on El Camino Real represents the NORMAL way that priorities are given to buses in rapid bus lanes. More creative uses might involve preempting some sections of parking rather than one of 3 travel lanes during the peak hours. That has a clear method of quick enforcement--towing. In Los Angeles they also permit all-door boarding of the bus at busy stops to speed travel time. The biggest slow down in effect on the 22 and 522 line(s) is actually the time it takes to stop and board passengers. Slow traffic doesn't compare to all the delays from boarding. The more success in attracting uses, the more the delay for boarding.

In April, Los Angeles Metro bus BRT service on Wilshire Blvd added peak hour priority for HOV to already existing BRT service. Since then they have tried out the all-door boarding as well. It's working for them, even if not perfect. See: Web Link

Posted by True
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Dec 21, 2015 at 8:12 am

True is a registered user.


Seriously? As horribly screwed up as VTA's light rail is, the last thing it needs is expansion.

Posted by hate busses
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Dec 21, 2015 at 10:37 am

I don't know why, but I have always hating riding buses.
Now, Trains can be fun. Sometimes cars can be. Traffic never is.
Buses never are.

On a side note: Can something be done about the unsanitary messes on the 22 and 522 busses that I have seen in the past?

Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 21, 2015 at 5:37 pm

USA is a registered user.

Lawrence Expressway is basically a limited-access, multi-lane highway. El Camino is a surface street with commercial driveways every few feet. It is a very different traffic pattern.

Posted by Doug Pearson
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Dec 21, 2015 at 7:46 pm

The number of comments is more than I can follow, so I'll just add my bit to make it worse:

I definitely approve the idea of a test before jumping in with a full-blown, permanent implementation.

An essential part of the test is a serious survey of actual traffic before the test, during the test, and, if changes are made as a result of the test, after the changes.

Only real traffic survey results can show the impact of the test. And, yes, the scope of the traffic survey should extend to side streets that might be used as an alternate to El Camino Real before, during and after the test.

Posted by AllYouCanEat
a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 22, 2015 at 12:20 am

@Neighborhood Enforcement

"Blast through" was a bad choice of words, but my plan is still the same.

Posted by psr
a resident of The Crossings
on Dec 22, 2015 at 12:35 am

Unless all the proposed cross street closures are ALSO done during this test, it won't be worthwhile. Those will ALSO cause more congestion and make side streets more congested and dangerous.

Running a test is an excellent idea. I have suggested it repeatedly on these boards. However, if the same people who want to force these changes are also the same people designing the test, it is totally worthless. The test should be designed, conducted and analyzed by either an independent committee (i.e. NOT paid for by the VTA) or one with community members included. I'm not interested in another biased study, conducted by those with an agenda of forcing this project through.

Posted by El Camino
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 22, 2015 at 1:21 am

El Camino is a far better place to have rapid transit than Caltrain. Notice that almost the entire length of the track is suburban residential or industrial. Sure it intersects some low density downtowns, but that is an exception, not the norm.

Contrast this to El Camino that has virtually no houses along it. Instead it has a mix of retail, office, services, apartments, etc... It is the longest and highest density roadway in the valley. Development is scaling up this already high density. Nothing can be done about that. Gotta have fast and efficient transit right there where it is needed.

Hopefully this test idea is just a temporary distraction and the real project can get under way. It's going to be great to hop on a bus and enjoy all the new businesses that are coming in all up and down the corridor. Plus all the service staff that will be reliant on transit. What helps them will help our small businesses thrive.

Posted by The bus already lost
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Dec 22, 2015 at 6:39 am

The best place for rapid transit it where it will be used. If the masses do not use the bus, the bus fails in comparison to the train.
People want to ride the train.
I wasn't opposed to using the bus though until VTA lost it's collective mind with the BRT proposal. Now i boycott anything VTA.

*I won't be voting yes on anything that gives VTA any more money. We don't need to fund broken, unthinking bureaucracies. They have wasted far too much of our money in the past. No more until they fix themselves.

Posted by rainbow38
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Dec 22, 2015 at 8:12 am

My questions to David Whittum: "How many persons in a car for HOV use? What are "conventional peak commute periods weekdays"? Does the mean that all cars can use the right lane during other hours and on weekends? What about holidays? If all the cities don't want this, drivers will have to know what rules apply where and when and this may increase the number of accidents."

This weekend I went at least five places in about four hours. This wouldn't have been possible using public transportation. The items I purchased were put in my car - also not possible using public transportation. There's no way I could have carried all the purchases on/off buses and in/out of stores, especially the 30 lb. box of cat litter. This is a reality that I haven't seen addressed.

Posted by @rainbow38
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Dec 22, 2015 at 8:46 am

I'm opposed to BRT, but try not to think in such absolute terms. Yes, the trip you described would not be possible by bus. That said, I bet there are other trips that could be possible by bus, or train, or bike, or by just walking.
It's not a world of absolutes. Nobody is saying sell your car and always use other modes, but I bet if we both sat down and looked at your schedule we could easily come up with some trips that could be made w/out a car, and with little or no impact to the overall outcome of your day.
If people made just 5-10% of their local trips w/out their cars we would see a traffic benefit.
That means once or twice per 20 trips in your car, you walk or do on a bike. Ot also means the trips you do take in your car are easier because others are also doing the 5-10% thing. Unless physically unable everyone should be able to do this. At least around here.

Posted by TIM TAYLOR
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 22, 2015 at 9:34 am

The VTA annually comes up with nonsensical plans and annually the public has to take the time to show their overwhelming disapproval. For the reasons stated above by the majority of comments it is clear that unfortunately city governments felt some obligation to toss the VTA a bone. Siegel from Mtn View will not receive my vote come next election. Pay attention to the vast majority of the people.

Posted by @El Camino (bjd)
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 22, 2015 at 10:12 am

My concern with the "density" of El Camino is that it is a corridor, not a destination. There are many massive new apartment complexes being built, but most of them aren't all that close to the proposed BRT stops. I've heard this referred to as "Stack&Pack housing". We will end up with more drivers and a gridlocked ECR.

Caltrain at least has the hope of being a destination-oriented transit, connecting hubs of high density and linking with other transit systems (BART, VTA). Caltrain can also cover greater distances faster-- you could never take a bus between San Jose and San Francisco, no matter how "rapid".

We have a long way to go to have a truly transit-friendly Peninsula, both on ECR and Caltrain. But I believe Caltrain at least has a chance to get us there. Ideally we would have smart, efficient links between ECR and Caltrain anyways, and we can void this conversation altogether :)

Posted by El Camino Transit
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Dec 22, 2015 at 3:47 pm

I definitely see the need for a dedicated transit lane on El Camino. That road has the highest # people living and working on it than any other in Santa Clara County. The roads are clogged with automobiles that almost exclusively carry only ONE person. (Embarrassing!) Even though it already has the highest density, the developments coming in will scale that up faster than any other road in the county. That's a fact. It's already in motion.

I don't understand how CalTrain solves anything. Go to Castro station and you will see that most people boarding in the morning are DRIVING to the station. Why are they driving? Because even this station that is in a residential downtown area is not well located. Even the VTA haters in this discussion are complaining that it's hard to get to the train stations. Not enough parking or the hilarious complaints that there aren't free city-sponsored shuttles that will carry them there! Really??? Listen to yourselves.

Caltrain has it's purpose. It will continue to take wealthy tech workers between San Francisco and Valley even if a fast and efficient transit service is built along El Camino. It's not an either/or proposition. From some of the comments above, it is clear that some people do not like to ride with people of lower economic classes, so they will continue to drive and/or use the far more expensive Caltrain option (which keeps the poor out).

Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Dec 22, 2015 at 9:38 pm

Unfortunately, the headline suggests that the plan to seize and waste an entire lane on El Camino (on the left in each direction) was endorsed when, in fact, committee members have called for a mixed use lane on the right that is HOV during commute hours on weekdays (like Lawrence Expressway). The VTA would simply have taken the left lanes on El Camino for occasional VTA express buses except for the threat to passage of its planned 2016 sales tax increase measure. And if that measure does not outlaw the later seizure of the left lanes, voters would be smart to reject the measure. Such a ban on seizing lanes for some buses could be reversed someday if merited by later developments but only by a subsequent vote by county voters. I predict that VTA will not put such a ban in its proposed measure and the measure will be defeated.

Posted by Not high tech
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Dec 23, 2015 at 6:35 am

They drive to cal-train because clueless VTA is focused on trying to compete with Cal Train instead of enhancing it.
If VTA decided to run buses to the cal train station instead of wasting all our money on this ridiculous BRT idea.
Cal train is already moving MASSES of people daily compared to the sparely populated buses. Instead o trying to disrupt the system that has PROVEN they can move the masses over generations, try helping by adding supplementary buses to Cal Train. Cal train has already won the North/outh commute battle of the agencies. VTA should continue to improve transit by focusing on short trip east/west routes, not the north/south route.
I make 64K a year and I take the train because it WORKS. Not a wealthy high tech worker. I'm also not going to vote for any VTA funding this election no matter what. They're completely misguided, in their own bureaucratic bubble where only the increase of their budget is the goal.

Posted by Steve Ly
a resident of another community
on Dec 23, 2015 at 11:09 am

This is a good compromise. As a bus rider I'm glad they're not doing the center lanes so that I don't have to run across traffic depending on which bus shows up first

Posted by Bus rider
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Dec 25, 2015 at 11:31 pm

I hope they do the center lane for buses. It makes sense and will work wonderfully.

There is no legitimate reason not do the project other than NIMBYism.

Posted by Steve Ly
a resident of another community
on Dec 28, 2015 at 8:23 am

Bus Rider "There is no legitimate reason not do the project other than NIMBYism."

Wrong. There are many reasons to oppose it: congestion, increased emissions from cars stuck in traffic, loss of trees in the median of El Camino, inconvenience to bus riders because local and express buses stop at different locations, excessive costs, etc. etc.

Posted by Happy New Year
a resident of another community
on Dec 28, 2015 at 12:14 pm

Dear Bus Rider. Inside G2 says VTA will start BRT vehicles running on the 522 route soon after 1 January. What there is no excuse for is that they haven't done this long ago, since they've owned the vehicles for quite a while! We don't need no stinking center lane to run BRT service.

Happy New Year!

Posted by VTA Terminology
a resident of another community
on Dec 28, 2015 at 1:06 pm

The 522 isn't labeled Express by VTA, nor is the 22 labeled local. 522 is "Rapid" and 22 is "Core" The 22 route stop spacing meets some of the rules for non-local, faster, bus service because it is pretty widely spaced. The 522 is spaced at the absolute upper end of high spacing for any BRT service, about 2 miles between stops. Much BRT service has closer spacing than this, on the otder of 1/2 mile is very common. On the other hand in downtown San Jose for 522 there are some stops spaced under 1/4 mile apart. Those should be combined.

The big advantage of using the curb lane is it would be possible to consolidate and give 522 more stops, and then eliminate the 22 service completely. Right now both buses run at the same time and very close together. That's waste. The question is do you need to offer fares for cash and ticket sales on buses on ECR. Also as of Jan 1, VTA is eliminating the sale of day passes on all buses, both 22 and 522 routes. If you want the day pass discount you need to have a clipper card, which you can buy at Walgreen's. You prepay that card and then no cash changes hands wen boarding, so it's faster, much faster.

Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Dec 28, 2015 at 3:04 pm

"We don't need no stinking center lane to run BRT service."

Well, by definition, unless it has a dedicated right of way it really isn't BRT...

Posted by BRT Definition
a resident of another community
on Dec 28, 2015 at 10:08 pm

A full 80% of BRT services in the country use shared access to the transit service lane. There can be segments dedicated to BRT on a portion of the route without it covering the entire length, especially if the overall service covers a long distance. The 522 and 22 routes are EXTREMELY long bus routes.

LA Metro is a very large transit operation. For info on one recent BRT implementation see this page Web Link

You'll note that even during PEAK hours, they let bicycles ride within the "dedicated' lane. You'll also note that the peak hours are just 5 or so hours on weekdays. That's a lot of sharing at other times, with cars and so forth.

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