News

Peninsula cities call for new Bus Rapid Transit options

Unswayed by proposal for bus-only lanes, council members urge VTA to study more alternatives

A proposal to create bus-only lanes on El Camino Real between Palo Alto and San Jose has hit a political speed bump, with a committee of elected officials from all the Santa Clara County cities along the corridor coming out against the controversial reconfiguration and requesting an analysis of new alternatives.

The El Camino Rapid Transit Policy Advisory Board includes city council members Lenny Seigel from Mountain View and Cory Wolbach from Palo Alto. Chaired by Los Altos Mayor Pro Tem Jeannie Bruins, the group has been meeting monthly with staff from the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) to offer feedback about Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), the VTA's proposal to greatly improve bus ridership along the busy artery.

Of the seven options that the VTA has analyzed in its draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR), none has faced more scrutiny, criticism and opposition from the committee than the proposal to transform the left lanes of El Camino into bus-only lanes. This alternative, according to the draft environmental analysis, would shrink the time it takes to ride the bus from Palo Alto to San Jose from the current 85 minutes to 48 minutes.

Staff from the VTA and supporters of the dedicated-lanes proposal see this configuration as the most promising way to encourage people to switch from cars to buses.

Other alternatives on the table include "mixed-flow" lanes, in which Bus Rapid Transit shares the right lane with cars, and combinations of mixed-flow and dedicated lanes. The VTA's board of directors is scheduled to make a decision about the alternatives in December or January.

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On Wednesday, in a continuation of its Sept. 30 discussion, the advisory board directed VTA staff to explore in its environmental analysis two new alternatives, each with four variations. One alternative would involve a right-lane transit lane; another would focus on curbside transit lanes. The analysis would involve looking at each alternative with just buses; with buses and private shuttles; with buses and high-occupancy (carpool) lanes; and with buses, private shuttles and high-occupancy lanes, according to a report from John Ristow, the VTA's director of planning and program development.

The board asked staff to return with a contract amendment that could be sent to the VTA board, enabling the additional work.

Siegel is among the leading proponents of studying the option of Rapid Transit lanes that could be shared with emergency vehicles, private buses, local buses and high-occupancy vehicles. He said in an interview that the system would also make more sense if the new BRT stations were integrated with the local bus system so that commuters wouldn't have to run across the street from the standard bus stations (which are near the curb) to the new BRT stations, which would be built in islands near the left lane.

Another option that Siegel said should be considered is having the lane dedicated to buses only during certain times of the day.

"The idea is to not have a virtually empty lane reserved for one or two buses," Siegel said.

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Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, a former Palo Alto mayor, has been more forceful in his opposition to designating left lanes on El Camino for Bus Rapid Transit. In recent meetings, both with VTA officials and with the Palo Alto City Council, Simitian advocated for the transit agency to complete its first BRT project, in San Jose, before moving on to El Camino. That project, which runs along Santa Clara Street, Alum Rock Avenue, Capitol Avenue and Capitol Expressway, is now facing significant delays after construction was halted in July for a "safety shutdown" relating to utilities, according to the VTA.

The transit agency recently nixed its agreement with its primary contractor, Goodfellow Top Grade Construction, and the project is now slated to be completed in 2017.

Simitian came out swinging Wednesday against creating a dedicated lane near the median and urged like-minded colleagues to send a strong message to the VTA board that the option should not be considered. San Jose Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio agreed and tried to make a motion to eliminate this option, but the rest of the committee agreed that it should remain among the alternatives considered.

Staff from the VTA offered several reasons why the dedicated-lane proposal should be taken seriously, including that it would put the agency in the best position to tap into federal funding for the $243 million project. That's because this alternative has been shown to have the most potential for increasing transit ridership and decreasing the time it takes for a commuter to reach a destination.

Simitian wasn't swayed by this argument, noting that it's very possible for federal funding not to materialize, regardless of what alternative is chosen.

"We can do the best job in the world and there will still be no guarantee to accessing these funds," Simitian said.

He cited his recent experiences in the state Senate with another controversial transit project: high-speed rail. In that project, Simitian said, the state made a $68-billion commitment to the system to access between $3 billion and $3.5 billion for future federal funding.

"I'm just anxious about spending federal dollars that have yet to materialize (and that) we have no guarantee of ever materializing, even if we spend a quarter billion," Simitian said.

Simitian was equally unswayed by the VTA's argument that deteriorating "levels of service" (a measure of performance for roads and intersections) will become a less relevant factor for measuring impact because of revisions currently under way to the California Environmental Quality Act.

Once implemented, new guidelines are expected to focus on things like vehicle-miles traveled and vehicles miles traveled per capita, rather than automobile delay and congestion. Once the change takes place, traffic congestion will no longer be considered a "significant impact" on the environment under state law, according to the VTA.

But Simitian noted that these guidelines have yet to be adopted and, even if they were, it wouldn't change the fact that traffic is getting worse.

"As an everyday matter of common parlance, slower is slower whether you want to call it a 'significant impact on the environment' or not," Simitian said. "It doesn't change the impact there, it simply changes the terminology."

Other members were more measured in their criticism of the dedicated lanes, an alternative known as "4c." While not a single member of committee advocated for this option, many felt it should be included in the analysis. Bruins said she is "not ready to give up the median." And Siegel, while noting that he leans toward the mixed-flow alternative, urged more evaluation before ruling anything out.

County Supervisor Ken Yeager called the curbside-lane proposal the "most doable" one politically. Though the curbside-lane design doesn't carry the degree of benefits of dedicated lanes, Yeager said, he doesn't think median lanes will happen, given the resistance.

Wolbach, however, said that he is not prepared to "completely rule out" a dedicated center lane for BRT, shuttles and carpool lanes. Though he said that Palo Alto is currently not in favor of this alignment, he has many constituents who support it. Wolbach also said he thinks a curbside lane is "probably the best" option.

The committee also agreed on Wednesday with a proposal by Oliverio that the VTA consider smaller-scale pilot projects that could be implemented in the short term and that would require little more than a painted curb.

Oliverio acknowledged that "nothing we do will make everyone happy." He suggested going with a small-scale project that would not require a full environmental analysis.

"I'd rather just move forward and try something," he said.

The committee of council members agreed that a pilot should be considered and directed VTA staff to return at a later meeting with further analysis of what it would take to implement the trial.

While the VTA has yet to determine what it would take to analyze the eight new options, an early estimate from the agency suggests that the additional study would take between one and two years to complete and cost between $1 million and $2 million. Under the current schedule, construction would begin in 2018 and be completed by 2020.

The advisory board is scheduled to approve on Nov. 18 a letter to the VTA board urging the additional work. The board of directors would then consider the request in December. If it approves the contract amendment, VTA would then spend three to four months to conduct a "preliminary analysis" that would determine which alternatives merit a more thorough environmental analysis.

Siegel said in an interview that if the study shows that having transit in the right-lane makes sense, this alternative would prompt significant savings over the dedicated-lane proposal.

"We'd end up saving a lot of money over the rather expensive proposal for changing the medians all the way up and down El Camino," Siegel said. "If we're right, it would save money."

Related content:

Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority seeks to reassure critics of bus-only lanes

Palo Alto officials protest rapid-bus plan

Plan for dedicated bus lanes on El Camino Real back on the table

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Peninsula cities call for new Bus Rapid Transit options

Unswayed by proposal for bus-only lanes, council members urge VTA to study more alternatives

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Oct 29, 2015, 8:03 am

A proposal to create bus-only lanes on El Camino Real between Palo Alto and San Jose has hit a political speed bump, with a committee of elected officials from all the Santa Clara County cities along the corridor coming out against the controversial reconfiguration and requesting an analysis of new alternatives.

The El Camino Rapid Transit Policy Advisory Board includes city council members Lenny Seigel from Mountain View and Cory Wolbach from Palo Alto. Chaired by Los Altos Mayor Pro Tem Jeannie Bruins, the group has been meeting monthly with staff from the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) to offer feedback about Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), the VTA's proposal to greatly improve bus ridership along the busy artery.

Of the seven options that the VTA has analyzed in its draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR), none has faced more scrutiny, criticism and opposition from the committee than the proposal to transform the left lanes of El Camino into bus-only lanes. This alternative, according to the draft environmental analysis, would shrink the time it takes to ride the bus from Palo Alto to San Jose from the current 85 minutes to 48 minutes.

Staff from the VTA and supporters of the dedicated-lanes proposal see this configuration as the most promising way to encourage people to switch from cars to buses.

Other alternatives on the table include "mixed-flow" lanes, in which Bus Rapid Transit shares the right lane with cars, and combinations of mixed-flow and dedicated lanes. The VTA's board of directors is scheduled to make a decision about the alternatives in December or January.

On Wednesday, in a continuation of its Sept. 30 discussion, the advisory board directed VTA staff to explore in its environmental analysis two new alternatives, each with four variations. One alternative would involve a right-lane transit lane; another would focus on curbside transit lanes. The analysis would involve looking at each alternative with just buses; with buses and private shuttles; with buses and high-occupancy (carpool) lanes; and with buses, private shuttles and high-occupancy lanes, according to a report from John Ristow, the VTA's director of planning and program development.

The board asked staff to return with a contract amendment that could be sent to the VTA board, enabling the additional work.

Siegel is among the leading proponents of studying the option of Rapid Transit lanes that could be shared with emergency vehicles, private buses, local buses and high-occupancy vehicles. He said in an interview that the system would also make more sense if the new BRT stations were integrated with the local bus system so that commuters wouldn't have to run across the street from the standard bus stations (which are near the curb) to the new BRT stations, which would be built in islands near the left lane.

Another option that Siegel said should be considered is having the lane dedicated to buses only during certain times of the day.

"The idea is to not have a virtually empty lane reserved for one or two buses," Siegel said.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, a former Palo Alto mayor, has been more forceful in his opposition to designating left lanes on El Camino for Bus Rapid Transit. In recent meetings, both with VTA officials and with the Palo Alto City Council, Simitian advocated for the transit agency to complete its first BRT project, in San Jose, before moving on to El Camino. That project, which runs along Santa Clara Street, Alum Rock Avenue, Capitol Avenue and Capitol Expressway, is now facing significant delays after construction was halted in July for a "safety shutdown" relating to utilities, according to the VTA.

The transit agency recently nixed its agreement with its primary contractor, Goodfellow Top Grade Construction, and the project is now slated to be completed in 2017.

Simitian came out swinging Wednesday against creating a dedicated lane near the median and urged like-minded colleagues to send a strong message to the VTA board that the option should not be considered. San Jose Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio agreed and tried to make a motion to eliminate this option, but the rest of the committee agreed that it should remain among the alternatives considered.

Staff from the VTA offered several reasons why the dedicated-lane proposal should be taken seriously, including that it would put the agency in the best position to tap into federal funding for the $243 million project. That's because this alternative has been shown to have the most potential for increasing transit ridership and decreasing the time it takes for a commuter to reach a destination.

Simitian wasn't swayed by this argument, noting that it's very possible for federal funding not to materialize, regardless of what alternative is chosen.

"We can do the best job in the world and there will still be no guarantee to accessing these funds," Simitian said.

He cited his recent experiences in the state Senate with another controversial transit project: high-speed rail. In that project, Simitian said, the state made a $68-billion commitment to the system to access between $3 billion and $3.5 billion for future federal funding.

"I'm just anxious about spending federal dollars that have yet to materialize (and that) we have no guarantee of ever materializing, even if we spend a quarter billion," Simitian said.

Simitian was equally unswayed by the VTA's argument that deteriorating "levels of service" (a measure of performance for roads and intersections) will become a less relevant factor for measuring impact because of revisions currently under way to the California Environmental Quality Act.

Once implemented, new guidelines are expected to focus on things like vehicle-miles traveled and vehicles miles traveled per capita, rather than automobile delay and congestion. Once the change takes place, traffic congestion will no longer be considered a "significant impact" on the environment under state law, according to the VTA.

But Simitian noted that these guidelines have yet to be adopted and, even if they were, it wouldn't change the fact that traffic is getting worse.

"As an everyday matter of common parlance, slower is slower whether you want to call it a 'significant impact on the environment' or not," Simitian said. "It doesn't change the impact there, it simply changes the terminology."

Other members were more measured in their criticism of the dedicated lanes, an alternative known as "4c." While not a single member of committee advocated for this option, many felt it should be included in the analysis. Bruins said she is "not ready to give up the median." And Siegel, while noting that he leans toward the mixed-flow alternative, urged more evaluation before ruling anything out.

County Supervisor Ken Yeager called the curbside-lane proposal the "most doable" one politically. Though the curbside-lane design doesn't carry the degree of benefits of dedicated lanes, Yeager said, he doesn't think median lanes will happen, given the resistance.

Wolbach, however, said that he is not prepared to "completely rule out" a dedicated center lane for BRT, shuttles and carpool lanes. Though he said that Palo Alto is currently not in favor of this alignment, he has many constituents who support it. Wolbach also said he thinks a curbside lane is "probably the best" option.

The committee also agreed on Wednesday with a proposal by Oliverio that the VTA consider smaller-scale pilot projects that could be implemented in the short term and that would require little more than a painted curb.

Oliverio acknowledged that "nothing we do will make everyone happy." He suggested going with a small-scale project that would not require a full environmental analysis.

"I'd rather just move forward and try something," he said.

The committee of council members agreed that a pilot should be considered and directed VTA staff to return at a later meeting with further analysis of what it would take to implement the trial.

While the VTA has yet to determine what it would take to analyze the eight new options, an early estimate from the agency suggests that the additional study would take between one and two years to complete and cost between $1 million and $2 million. Under the current schedule, construction would begin in 2018 and be completed by 2020.

The advisory board is scheduled to approve on Nov. 18 a letter to the VTA board urging the additional work. The board of directors would then consider the request in December. If it approves the contract amendment, VTA would then spend three to four months to conduct a "preliminary analysis" that would determine which alternatives merit a more thorough environmental analysis.

Siegel said in an interview that if the study shows that having transit in the right-lane makes sense, this alternative would prompt significant savings over the dedicated-lane proposal.

"We'd end up saving a lot of money over the rather expensive proposal for changing the medians all the way up and down El Camino," Siegel said. "If we're right, it would save money."

Related content:

Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority seeks to reassure critics of bus-only lanes

Palo Alto officials protest rapid-bus plan

Plan for dedicated bus lanes on El Camino Real back on the table

Comments

Steve Ly
Los Altos
on Oct 29, 2015 at 8:25 am
Steve Ly, Los Altos
on Oct 29, 2015 at 8:25 am
17 people like this

I agree that a decision on BRT needn't be rushed and that it makes sense to see how the under-construction BRT line in San Jose. No matter how the BRT discussion turns out, however, the proposed sales tax increase on the 2016 ballot needs a strong "NO" vote. Over the last several elections, voters in Santa Clara County have passed multiple tax and fee increases including VTA's 2000 Measure A ½-cent and 2008 measure B sales taxes, Santa Clara County's Measure A 1/8 cent sales tax, the state prop 30 sales tax and the 2010 Measure B Vehicle Registration Fee of $10. Additionally, we're on the hook to pay back numerous state bond issues including high speed rail, last year's Proposition 1 water bond and the infrastructure bonds of 2006.

All of this nickel and diming has contributed into making the Bay Area a horribly expensive place to live; especially for people of modest means, who must pay the greatest percentage of their income in these regressive taxes and fees. Each increase by itself does not amount to much, say a quarter cent, but the cumulative effect is to add to the unaffordability of the region.

Before increasing taxes YET AGAIN, waste needs to be removed from transportation projects. For example, VTA needs to eliminate waste and "gold plating" of the BART money pit's cost by reducing the scope to eliminate duplicate facilities. Specifically, a revised "build alternative" needs to be added to the study that eliminates the duplicative and wasteful section between the San Jose and Santa Clara Caltrain stations. The BART segment from the San Jose to Santa Clara Caltrain stations would duplicate both the existing Caltrain line and VTA's 22 and 522 buses to a station that has only about 1000 riders per weekday.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2015 at 8:55 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2015 at 8:55 am
22 people like this

I would like to see a rapid bus service using 101 along the Peninsula between SFO and SJC. I think a service could be designed with stops at each Peninsula City, Baylands for Palo Alto, Moffett for Mountain View, etc. A regular service in both directions at say hourly intervals would make it simpler for someone flying to get a ride to the 101 stop rather than a ride to the airport, some places may even have space for parking.

This type of service potentially saves 2 cars on 101 as each car dropping off or meeting a passenger at the airport has to go both ways. Public transportation to both airports isn't easy, this just might be a better alternative. Putting some effort into reducing cars on highway 101 makes a lot of sense to me.


Downtown Worker
Menlo Park
on Oct 29, 2015 at 9:02 am
Downtown Worker, Menlo Park
on Oct 29, 2015 at 9:02 am
10 people like this

I do think there's a role for Bus Rapid Transit along El Camino. Outside of Palo Alto, there's a lot of new apartments going up all along El Camino, and a lot of these people are going to work in Stanford Research Park, where all the new jobs in Palo Alto are going to be located. That's a lot of strain on El Camino. Frequent bus service has worked elsewhere - it's worth trying here.

That said, this particular proposal was too much, too fast. I'd like to see the VTA get bus ridership up to be a significant fraction of riders on El Camino before they dedicate a lane. Having a lane with buses, emergency vehicles and HOV makes a lot of sense, though - it definitely works for 101, and it would speed up commutes for anyone who is carpooling or going somewhere with their kids.


resident 1
Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 29, 2015 at 9:13 am
resident 1, Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 29, 2015 at 9:13 am
10 people like this

People keep talking about all of the jobs in PA. The main large companies like Yahoo, Juniper are in Moffatt Park. All of the other large companies are in the Tasman lit-rail path - Cisco / Samsung. Facebook is in Menlo Park and Oracle is in Redwood City. Google / LinkedIn are in MX / Sunnyvale.

Yes - you have Stanford Research Park. At least you have that.
You all keep waving your hands and yet all of the large companies have moved out and are not in PA.

So maybe you can please take that off the table like you are the monolith of major companies.

The major company you have here is SU - and they need to step up to the plate for more low-cost housing for their staff positions.


Robert
another community
on Oct 29, 2015 at 9:57 am
Robert, another community
on Oct 29, 2015 at 9:57 am
6 people like this

@Steve Ly

"All of this nickel and diming has contributed into making the Bay Area a horribly expensive place to live"

By far the largest expense of living in the bay area is the cost housing, way beyond any sort of local sales or other taxes, so if you're truly concerned about the middle class that should be your focus. Otherwise, you can drop the whole government "nickel and diming" us to death nonsense.


Martin
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 29, 2015 at 10:06 am
Martin, Old Palo Alto
on Oct 29, 2015 at 10:06 am
23 people like this

El Camino is VTA's highest bus ridership corridor, so it makes sense to speed it up. We need to focus on moving people not cars. If net result is more people per hour, then this is a win.

For people who complain about traffic, reminder that there's 280, 101 and Central Express that are geared for cars.


resident 1
Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 29, 2015 at 10:15 am
resident 1, Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 29, 2015 at 10:15 am
4 people like this

Robert - you are our resident expert on the Oakland area - and you have reported that they will see the same major changes that we are going to see here. We all don't get to vote on what the state of CA is planning for our area - it will be a rout. we collectively are the money tree for all of the other CA projects out there that need funding.


Midtown
Palo Verde
on Oct 29, 2015 at 11:10 am
Midtown, Palo Verde
on Oct 29, 2015 at 11:10 am
22 people like this

I am a senior, 40-year Palo Alto resident. My friends and I are concerned that the proposed change to dedicate two lanes of El Camino Real to buses would result in congestion that could endanger our lives. Our private, unofficial contact with emergency response personnel supports our concerns.
I have with some difficulty collected material from various sources and reports including Caltrain, VTA, news reports, surveys, and independent reviews. I have summarized (and quoted) from these in the following.
Proposals by Caltrain and VTA in combination create untenable problems in Palo Alto.
According to Caltrain’s in-depth Final Environmental Impact Report the problems at the Alma intersections cannot be eased through strategies such as lane reconfigurations and new traffic signals. Because the train corridor is bounded by Alma to the east side and homes and businesses to the west, it cannot be widened. Thus, traffic problems at its intersections with Charleston Road, Meadow Drive, and Churchill Avenue will remain "significant and unavoidable," according to the EIR. The report says that "no feasible mitigations exist" to change this.
Another Palo Alto intersection, at Palo Alto Avenue near Sand Hill Road, would also have traffic problems, though Caltrain expects to reduce the delays by widening Sand Hill and adding a traffic lane that would allow southbound cars to turn on red.
The VTA’s own analysis of the ECR bus lane proposal reports that at most intersections, the length of delays will remain the same as now, according to the audit. But traffic is expected to get worse at Page Mill Road-Oregon Expressway and Alma Avenue in Palo Alto … as some cars divert to those routes to avoid El Camino Real.
Beyond this, there is the currently congested intersection of Embarcadero and ECR at Town and Country shopping center.
Finally, diversion of traffic to Middlefield Avenue in Palo Alto will add significant traffic delays due to the closely spaced traffic lights at the Midtown shopping strip and at the nearby Middlefield and Oregon Expressway intersection.
In combination, this additional congestion of already congested intersections would severely impact the ability of emergency vehicles to respond and to access Stanford Hospital Emergency facilities. As a senior citizen, this is a major concern!
I will certainly vote against any measure that reduces the number of traffic lanes on ECR.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2015 at 11:24 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2015 at 11:24 am
3 people like this

One thing that I would like to put out there is that I suspect most car traffic on ECR travels at most a few blocks. ECR is not the type of street that anyone would want to drive further than a few blocks unless both the starting point and destination were adjacent to ECR. For almost everyone else, Central/Alma would make more sense for some and Foothill and the highways for others.

If and when ECR is very slow, then back streets become the norm. I did this recently as WAZE took me from San Antonio to Grant Road in a timely fashion since ECR was completely red and my final start and end were both west of ECR.

With these functions in cars and on phones, the back streets are going to be really hit as they already are without the dedicated bus lanes.


38 year resident
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 29, 2015 at 11:29 am
38 year resident, Old Palo Alto
on Oct 29, 2015 at 11:29 am
13 people like this

@ Martin..if El Camino is VTA's highest ridership corridor then Bus Rapid Transit will be a colossal failure and waste of taxpayer dollars. My office is located in Palo Alto on the El Camino with a bus stop right in front of it. The buses are always near EMPTY everyday of the week no matter what the time of day.

We live in a car culture and nothing will change that. You just can't force people to ride a bus and we don't need a dedicated lane for ghost buses, who's only function will be slowing down traffic for everyone driving their cars.

I'm surprised that Corey Walbach is representing Palo Alto on this committee. Based on his quote (political double talk) he will be pro conversion. Why doesn't he indicate the number of his "many constituents" who want to see this happen? He is a pro-government,control of your life advocate, as liberal as you can get. He's the last person that should be on this committee.


38 year resident
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 29, 2015 at 11:33 am
38 year resident, Old Palo Alto
on Oct 29, 2015 at 11:33 am
5 people like this

@ Midtown...I doubt very much that you will get to vote on this matter, as will any of us. This appears to be a rammed down your throat, done deal, whether we like it or not. The committee will have no sway in the VTA decision. Just a bunch of political posturing.


Bill
Barron Park
on Oct 29, 2015 at 12:30 pm
Bill, Barron Park
on Oct 29, 2015 at 12:30 pm
5 people like this

The fact that El Camino is still a state highway, on not under local control, is an anachronism left over from the 1940's. Both 101 and 280 have long taken on the role as major transportation corridors that El Camino one had.

If you want to kill projects like this, get control of El Camino and put it under local jurisdiction.


Carol Gilbert
University South
on Oct 29, 2015 at 12:31 pm
Carol Gilbert, University South
on Oct 29, 2015 at 12:31 pm
16 people like this

I will actively work against anything that will reduce the number of lanes available for autos on El Camino.


muttiallen
Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 29, 2015 at 12:34 pm
muttiallen, Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 29, 2015 at 12:34 pm
22 people like this

I encourage anyone who wants to personally experience what will happen with a dedicated bus lane to drive through Menlo Park from Valparaiso to Stanford at noon or 5 pm. ECR narrows to 2 lanes for part of this section and the traffic is terrible. So, we don't need to wait to see the impact. It's already happening.


Impove the traffic lights
Ventura
on Oct 29, 2015 at 12:40 pm
Impove the traffic lights, Ventura
on Oct 29, 2015 at 12:40 pm
18 people like this

Let's spend $250 million (or less) to improve the traffic lights to be more responsive and also networked together so that drivers on El Camino Real experience a lot more green lights. This way, everybody wins, buses included, and we don't have to dedicate any lanes to buses.


Lois
Midtown
on Oct 29, 2015 at 12:54 pm
Lois, Midtown
on Oct 29, 2015 at 12:54 pm
16 people like this

I have lived in this area for 50 years and remember when El Camino in South Palo Alto and Mountain View was two lanes in each direction. It was such a relief when a third lane in each direction was added. It amazes me that they are talking again about reducing El Camino to 4 lanes again. One big mistake!!


Vanessa Warheit
College Terrace
on Oct 29, 2015 at 1:19 pm
Vanessa Warheit, College Terrace
on Oct 29, 2015 at 1:19 pm
10 people like this

I'm deeply saddened that this important project has been delayed yet again. One of the best things about BRT is that - unlike light rail - it's flexible. Why not try the median lane for a temporary period and see how it goes? Then if it's not working, try moving the buses over to the right lane? Why do eight more studies? Why wait (and wait) for perfection when what we need is just a step in the right direction? Transportation represents 40% of our carbon emissions, and we need to lower them as absolutely fast as possible. How are we supposed to do that when our elected officials aren't offering us any solutions? It's time for Simitian to get out of the way and let some fresh blood make some real progress.

There also seems to be a tacit - and false - assumption amongst those who fear increased traffic from the BRT project that no one would actually ride the BRT. I encourage anyone thinking about this issue to look at the photos of what is proposed (or just ride a BRT in one of the dozens of places where it's already been implemented). If you do, you'll see that it's a very attractive option - as are the protected bike lanes that are part of the dedicated-lane BRT proposal. Personally, I'd much rather get on a clean, quiet, wifi-enabled bus with right-of-way than have to fight traffic and then try to find parking. And sure - let the Google buses share the lane. And charge them! Why not let them subsidize our public transit?

The other tacit assumption is that doing nothing is a viable option. If you look at growth projections for the bay area, the traffic is going to get much, much worse unless we start moving people around in something besides cars. The Policy Advisory Board has just pushed us farther in that dismal direction.


Jane
College Terrace
on Oct 29, 2015 at 1:27 pm
Jane, College Terrace
on Oct 29, 2015 at 1:27 pm
11 people like this

What no one has mentioned is the VTA dedicates bus only lanes in the center they intend to eliminate all the left turns except for the major intersections.


Don't act on ideology alone
Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 29, 2015 at 1:36 pm
Don't act on ideology alone, Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 29, 2015 at 1:36 pm
12 people like this

VTA has steadfastly refused any sort of "trial" so we would actually see the mess the proposal would bring.
Don't be fooled by pie in the sky dreaming, this plan ruins cities.


Rose
Mayfield
on Oct 29, 2015 at 1:54 pm
Rose, Mayfield
on Oct 29, 2015 at 1:54 pm
12 people like this

I drive ECR from PA to MV regularly. The lights are usually timed. But, I'd much rather get out of my car and onto a bus, especially as I get older (now 66). Our population is growing nonstop. We have to change from a car culture to public transportation. I suugest Simitian and others acknowledge that times have changed. We have to move out of our comfort zone and begin to take risks. Will BRT be a perfect solution? Of course not. But it's a first step in transforming how we move from city to city. We can't continue to drive in single occupancy cars. Those days are over.


Midtown
Palo Verde
on Oct 29, 2015 at 2:19 pm
Midtown, Palo Verde
on Oct 29, 2015 at 2:19 pm
13 people like this

Rose:
Just wait! I'm 20 years older than you are. My knees hurt too much for me to walk to the closest bus stop and stand there waiting for a bus. When I shop I have to seek lowest prices, so I have to go to several stores. I also have to find a way to get my groceries and frozen foods home. I have to shop at the San Antonio shopping area 'cause I can't park downtown or at Town and Country. Shopping is one of the ways I get to see other people. I'd like to go to Avenidas more often, but the buses don't go near enough.I only drive about 3,000 miles a year, but if my wife and I give up our cars we give up our independence and our social life.
That's no way to live ... it's just surviving.
Wait, Rose. With a little bit of luck you'll get here, too.


Sherie
another community
on Oct 29, 2015 at 3:25 pm
Sherie, another community
on Oct 29, 2015 at 3:25 pm
4 people like this

Who is this "staff" that Gennady talks about? Do they have names? Why aren't they identified by name? Or are their identities being shielded for some reason, like professional courtesy or fear of retribution?


stanhutchings
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 29, 2015 at 3:27 pm
stanhutchings, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 29, 2015 at 3:27 pm
3 people like this

If the traffic on ECR is speeded up by coordinating the lights, buses AND autos will get to their destination much faster. It would not be a bad idea to get rid of most left turn signals that are not at a major arterial - people will just have to U-turn to go back.
Personally, I think Google, Ford, Toyota, Nissan and other autonomous vehicle manufacturers should contract with VTA to provide "bus" service up and down ECR. Provide 4 or more seats every 5 minutes or less, and the ability to provide portal-to-portal service with ride-sharing. Then trips for us older folk would be much more convenient, especially if it ever starts raining again. We might start taking the "bus", especially if the cost were reasonable. Not having to pay a driver and expensive big bus maintenance would be a plus, and 24/7 service is feasible. I could go to a concert or lecture, and not have to worry about parking.
Autonomous "buses" should not even be limited to ECR; they should be called on demand, much like a taxi. This is the 21st Century, the age of Technology. We should use it to our advantage. Buses and trains are so 20th Century.


resident 1
Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 29, 2015 at 3:40 pm
resident 1, Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 29, 2015 at 3:40 pm
3 people like this

Between the Caltrain / HSR problems and the ECR bus problems this city is being yanked around by the powers that be. How do we plan any projects that are on the transportation routes. ABAG directed the peninsula to do upgrades and now some of those upgrades are subject to tare down and movement.

On the other site for HSR some person was threatening us with taking the whole Caltrain route and turning it into a 4 rail system which would require a huge amount of eminent domain activity.

This is costing us time and money to sit around while other people in other places are stage managing their "great projects".

I think it is time for put up or shut up and get the legal staff involved.
If we commit to a project based on what we know today and no one is providing up to date information then sue them if they come back at you.


38 year resident
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 29, 2015 at 5:23 pm
38 year resident, Old Palo Alto
on Oct 29, 2015 at 5:23 pm
5 people like this

To Vanessa.....with all due respect....we live in a car culture and you cannot force people to ride the bus. As I said in a previous post, the buses are nearly empty no matter what day of the week or time of day. A dedicated bus lane will not change that fact.

Slick promotional photos will not convince anyone to ride either, except out of curiosity to try it once. And why should Google buses pay to use publicly financed roads? They are doing what you want them to do by reducing car use. How hypocritical of you. They should be rewarded, not penalized.

As muttiallen wrote in a previous post, if you want to see lane reduction in action, just try to get through Menlo Park from Stanford to Valparaiso at critical times during the day. It's gridlock, plain and simple.


Jim Hols.....
Registered user
Community Center
on Oct 29, 2015 at 6:29 pm
Jim Hols....., Community Center
Registered user
on Oct 29, 2015 at 6:29 pm
8 people like this

I searched for usable statistics about bus ridership on the El Camino line. The information on the website is totally insufficient to remotely understand ridership and bottlenecks.

Before the VTA usurps lanes they have a responsibility to really justify their plan with clear stats on current ridership.
For instance, there are no stats of ridership percentages by time of day or average trip times by day and hour.

I used the contact form on the website to request more information, either on the website or some other way and after 2 months have not even received an acknowledgement much less any info.

VTA is a bureaucratic government agency looking for any way to grow bigger, hire more people, and have more sway in the county.


Joe Brant
another community
on Oct 29, 2015 at 6:57 pm
Joe Brant, another community
on Oct 29, 2015 at 6:57 pm
15 people like this

To say that we live in a "car culture" is true but entirely misses the point. Sure, people like to drive, but it's exactly because everything is sprawled out, public transportation is lacking, and streets are not safe or comfortable to walk on. You're telling me that if you hypothetically could get to work on public transit cheaper with more reliable travel times you wouldn't even consider it? People have their preferences but at the same time they're not stupid. If there are good alternatives, they will use them.


Mike
University South
on Oct 29, 2015 at 8:04 pm
Mike, University South
on Oct 29, 2015 at 8:04 pm
11 people like this

When I ride 22 or 522 the bus is at least hslf full.


Stephanie Klein
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 29, 2015 at 8:21 pm
Stephanie Klein, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 29, 2015 at 8:21 pm
11 people like this

@38 year resident:

I think you are wrong about the busses on El Camino. I ride the 522 or the 22 along ECR from the PA Caltrain station to Sunnyvale a couple of times a week in the middle of the day and in the late afternoon during rush hour, and I can tell you they are well used. At mid-day they are usually about half full, and more than half full (i.e. you usually have to sit next to someone) at rush hour. I also ride a crosstown bus in Sunnyvale/Cupertino and it also has a good ridership. I believe that a dedicated bus lane is a good idea and would likely attract more riders.

I might point out that many of the people who ride the bus have no other means of getting around. I have a car but choose to ride the bus because I can get work done while on the bus and can avoid the hassle of driving.

It seems to me that if you want to reduce traffic you have to do something to get people to stop driving solo. An efficient and fast bus service is one way to do that.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2015 at 9:23 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2015 at 9:23 pm
4 people like this

I was recently attempting to drive ECR when it was gridlocked. According to WAZE the road was red ahead and it suggested a route of backroads west of ECR which I would not have known to get me to my destination. It was efficient, but it was residential. I feel sure that the more ECR gets backed up, the more these streets will feel more traffic. Definitely not the aim.

Another thing which we do not have in the Peninsula is an efficient ZipCar station. For those who live near transit routes and use them for regular commutes, they will still want an occasional car. ZipCar or similar will suit people who live in these situations. Why isn't local transit authorities promoting and aiding ZipCar and similar carshare options. Not every trip will be Uber, but some might work with ZipCar (Costco, Target, Ikea type runs).


Robert Neff
Midtown
on Oct 30, 2015 at 11:25 am
Robert Neff, Midtown
on Oct 30, 2015 at 11:25 am
11 people like this

I've been riding the 522 on most workday mornings for 9 years, Palo Alto to Sunnyvale. I like the bus service, though it is nearly the same as it was 9 years ago.

To see how long it takes, just look at the 522 schedule. Morning is nice, evening is slower. It is well used when I ride, and often near full after Fair Oaks. Fewer riders in Palo Alto, since near the end of the line, with no comparable service to San Mateo Co.

I wish VTA would make as many improvements as possible to the line, without waiting and waiting for the completion of study after study for BRT. Many of the BRT improvements could be done now:

All door boarding and proof of payment, as SF Muni does now on all buses, to speed stops.
Bus priority implemented at ALL cross streets (currently none in Sunnyvale?).
Figure out where the worst delays are, and work with Caltrans to modify signal timing or implement better bus priority. My bus stops at Wolfe every day.
Eliminate all day free parking on El Camino Real, and use the space for dedicated right turn lanes, making the right lane work better for the 522 and 22..
Test new locations for bus stops to improve the service along the route. Mountain View has 1.7 miles between stops!
Start using the new buses, currently sitting in the bus yard off 101. More pleasant to ride, and double current bike capacity. Maybe the Wifi will work, too.
These are all improvements that can happen right now. After 9 years, I'd like to see more action on improvements.


Counterclockwise
University South
on Oct 30, 2015 at 1:09 pm
Counterclockwise, University South
on Oct 30, 2015 at 1:09 pm
1 person likes this

"Why isn't local transit authorities promoting and aiding ZipCar and similar carshare options."

Every time they tried that, ZipCar lost too much money.


Carlito's Waysman
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 31, 2015 at 12:09 am
Carlito's Waysman , Old Palo Alto
on Oct 31, 2015 at 12:09 am
1 person likes this

Couple days on weekdays for the past 10 years, we head down to Sunnyvale to take care of personal business in the afternoon, 10 years ago Alma Street was our way to drive down there, traffic was manageable, we were able to make a left turn from Lowell into Alma with almost no wait, then it became harder and harder , nowadays we wait 7 to 10 minutes just waiting for a break in Alma street traffic to merge in, and once we make it on Alma it is a complete gridlock, with the commuter trains running more often the green lights become red more often than normal and it paralyzes car traffic, add the traffic lights out of sync plus the almost empty VTA rail cars that stops massive car traffic just to move 3 or 4 people at a time ( VTA daily ridership is 34 300 with 62 stations and 42 miles of track compared to San Francisco Muni daily ridership 214 600 with 57 stations and 34.6 miles of track), and the next thing is giant heartburn.

We opted to take El Camino instead, and it turned out to be a hit and miss
, and we noticed that a big percentage of El Camino traffic is of drivers using it as a second option due to overcrowding of 101 to get either to the East Bay thru 237 or the South bay thru Hwy 85 or a short cut to get to Hwy 17, and that explains the gridlock most of the weekdays from Palo Alto to the 85 overpass in Mountain View; on some days it is faster than Alma.

Then we tried Middlefield Road, with its share of multiple traffic lights and 25 MPH zones, VTA rail car crossing with passengers you can count with one hand, green new drivers that somehow got a drivers license, turns out to be very close to El Camino in regards of driving time.

Highway 101? no way, traffic up the gills, accidents almost every day, snail pace if moving at all.

And still some government morons want to take away lanes of traffic instead of adding new ones? In what planet do they live? Do they ride the bus every day and found out that it works for them?


Downtown Worker
Menlo Park
on Oct 31, 2015 at 7:57 pm
Downtown Worker, Menlo Park
on Oct 31, 2015 at 7:57 pm
5 people like this

If we want to get cars off the road, why not offer low-income workers discounted transit passes instead of discounted parking spots? The low-income workers downtown can park for $100/year instead of the normal $500. If the city offered cheap bus passes instead, some would take it and we'd help traffic. If none took any, we'd be no worse off.


What busses?
Mountain View
on Nov 1, 2015 at 10:41 am
What busses?, Mountain View
on Nov 1, 2015 at 10:41 am
6 people like this

I have been watching the 22 and the 522 for over two months now, at all times of the day, up and down ECR from PA to Sunnyvale. I have NEVER NEVER seen one more than half full. NEVER. The majority of the time there are 2-6 riders at best, MAYBE during rush hours there are more but again, never more than half. Check it out, look at these busses, see for yourself.

Ridership statistics should be very easily confirmed if the VTA cared to release but I'm sure that doesn't happen because it looks so bad.

NO WAY TO THE VTA


Ahem
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 1, 2015 at 10:59 am
Ahem, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 1, 2015 at 10:59 am
2 people like this

Downtown Worker said:

"... why not offer low-income workers discounted transit passes instead of discounted parking spots?"

Great idea to free up more parking spaces for "high income" workers... let the "low income" workers ride the bus.


Curmudgeon
Downtown North
on Nov 1, 2015 at 12:58 pm
Curmudgeon, Downtown North
on Nov 1, 2015 at 12:58 pm
6 people like this

"Great idea to free up more parking spaces for "high income" workers..."

Yup, and raise the rates to accommodate'em.


John
Mountain View
on Nov 1, 2015 at 5:28 pm
John, Mountain View
on Nov 1, 2015 at 5:28 pm
3 people like this

Come to the VTA Board of Politicians meeting on Thursday, November 5 (starting at 5:30 pm) at the Board of Supervisors chambers in San Jose - or watch online. If you watch (and don't work for the VTA), you will probably resolve to vote against any VTA sales tax increase measure added to the ballot next year or ever.


Keenplanner
another community
on Dec 1, 2015 at 4:24 pm
Keenplanner, another community
on Dec 1, 2015 at 4:24 pm
2 people like this

This is the best project for all residents of the peninsula who want more mode choices for traveling El Camino Real. I've ridden other BRT systems in other parts of the world, and I know they only work when given a dedicated lane, infrequent stops, signal activation, and frequent buses. If this is built, it will offer residents a chance to travel faster than driving in a single-occupancy vehicle. It will also support the greenhouse gas reduction goals outlined in Plan Bay Area.
It's about time that Palo Alto residents put the needs of others and the environment before their concerns about getting stuck in traffic. It's time to start looking at alternatives to driving, even in Palo Alto.


Curmudgeon
Downtown North
on Dec 2, 2015 at 5:01 pm
Curmudgeon, Downtown North
on Dec 2, 2015 at 5:01 pm
Like this comment

"It's about time that Palo Alto residents put the needs of others and the environment before their concerns about getting stuck in traffic."

Being stuck in traffic IS a detriment to the environment; it emits needless carbon while needlessly wasting fuel. Traffic jams artificially created to satisfy the egos of a tiny minority, such as this one, are uniquely egregious and unjustifiable.

It's about time certain residents of other communities put the needs of the planet ahead of their impulse to snark the neighbors.


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