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Rethink Public Transporation With Education and Access

Original post made by Timothy Gray, Charleston Meadows, on Jun 14, 2014

I have been thinking about how to move our society to public transportation:

We place being a public transit user as a big factor in protecting our environment, however we have no place in our education system that gives children the training in how to buy a ticket and get on a bus or train.

Yes, everything, once understood, is simple, but we must provide the experience to gain a comfort, confidence, and agility to use the system. Eco friendly transportation habits are more easily established in youth, so we need to take some of the transportation PR dollars and do less advertising and more experiential training.

Then, the biggest obstacle is making public transportation convenient: Our society has great major bus lines and train routes, however, micro shuttles and trollies that provide easy access to a point of entry are needed before many people, including myself, will step out the door without car keys.

Public transportation needs to be less government (have the users find us) and more entrepenuerial (make services too convenient not to use.) My heart breaks for the lost opportunity as we continue to spend Big Dollars to build transportation "Cadilacs", when we need to spend just a little more money on the "last quarter mile" connections.

The absurdity is that the transportation Gurus have abandoned creativity and decided that people should just live in little boxes near transportation hubs, and are trying to reshape American towns.

Enough is enough ... make the transportation convenient to the people, vs. making the people convenient to the transportation. Here we go again, with a government agency that is trying to deliver solutions to the wrong problem. What happened to the idea of government being a vehicle for people to cooperate, vs. being a tool for the few to dictate? Time for a revolution at the ballot box. Cooperation vs. accumulation of power.

Time for a heart transplant. The patient will survive.

This new thinking can make a real difference.

Comments (14)

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 14, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Very good points Tim.

Just because we have no yellow school buses to get children to school here in Palo Alto, there is no reason that they should be expected to not use a bus. There is a VTA bus which serves many students to Gunn and free Palo Alto shuttles which serve many to Paly. But there are many areas in Palo Alto that these services do not serve.

If our kids could get to school by a private shuttle of some type, as well as private shuttles to the Caltrain stations, or the Light Rail in Mountain View or Even the Foothill College campus, it would keep many cars off the road and teach young people the value of bus transportation. Likewise, an hourly luxury bus shuttle from the Castro Street transport hub or somewhere similar in Palo Alto to both SFO and SJC would also be a much better option than expecting people to use what is already available in shuttles and much better than getting a ride or paying for long term parking. Once again, these shuttles would keep many vehicles off highway 101 as it is easier to get a ride to Castro hub than the airport.

These two simple ideas would make a big difference to traffic congestion in the area. It may take some private enterprise, but with City backing, this type of innovative enterprise could be very successful.

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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jun 14, 2014 at 1:47 pm

I really can't understand where the author of this is coming from. The Palo Alto Caltrain station is the second busiest on the line, even though many of the stops are in much larger cities. Caltrain itself is getting well over capacity, so its not like they're hurting for more riders. Maybe its one of those "I wish other people would use public transportation so I wouldn't have so much traffic" or "I would use public transportation if it picked me up from my house and dropped me off anywhere I needed to go"? Just because you don't use it doesn't mean it isn't benefiting people.

There are very limited public transportation dollars, shouldn't they be going to the systems that are already bursting at the seams with riders?

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Posted by Timothy Gray
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 14, 2014 at 3:05 pm

There are lots of open seats on the 22 and 522 VTA and room for more riders on Cal Train.

Our society's challenge is to get more people to use the Public Transit system.

we have to stop thinking from the Transit District point of view and engage the citizens with solving the barriers to use.

Whether someone doesn't use Public Transit because they are lazy or too frail to get to the far-away closest stop does not matter. -- either way adding convenient access will add ridership.

And there IS capacity in the system that is wasted presently. Let's find out what the non-users have to say about what changes can be made to cause them to "hop on the bus."

The whole point is to provide a menu that people are "hungry for" vs. the bureaucratic stance of here is your "shingle of gravy and you can eat it or go to bed hungry" -- to continue with the same "menu" metaphor.


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 15, 2014 at 11:31 am


Good post. You are spot on, IMO.

My son, who lives in SF, does not own a car, and rarely drives one. He has taught me some things about daily use of public transportation. He takes CalTrain and company shuttles to his job, and back. He also uses Apps to call up Lynx or Uber or a taxi, when his destination is too far away to walk.

I think it is already starting to happen, Tim. New technology, new generation, new thinking, etc. One caveat: The public/private modes of transportation need to be clean and welcoming, safe, on time and include

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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 15, 2014 at 1:36 pm

I think you are over-thinking this issue. I grew up in west Los Angeles. Us kids use to take the bus down Wilshire Blvd to the downtown LA old opera center for the matinee light opera. We use to take the red train up to Hollywood for the movies. Kids are very smart and inventive.
What is required is a logical starting point and a destination that everyone wants to go to.
Now I take BART from Daly City up to SF for visits to Union Square, Yerba Buena Gardens, Ferry Building and Embarcadero adventures. Also Commonwealth Club events.
Public Transportation has to address the locations that people want to go to. If you do that they will get on the bus / train. Problem is that you have to drive and park wherever the bus / train stop is.

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Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 15, 2014 at 2:10 pm

PAmoderate is a registered user.

There's not enough density on the peninsula for convenient public transportation. Unless people want to build up, it's not happening.

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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 15, 2014 at 5:15 pm

>There's not enough density on the peninsula for convenient public transportation. Unless people want to build up, it's not happening.

Maybe, or not. Prices matter: Gasoline, housing, parking, convenience (time), etc. Suburban towns could dig it, if it pencils, and it really connects them. Again: Clean, safe, convenient, WiFi...let the marketplace provide (including competition among private and public entities, like USPS and Fed-X)....

I think the new technologies might allow it, without major increased housing densities.

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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 18, 2014 at 7:51 pm

Does anyone ever watch the new series by the comedian Louie CK called "Louie?"

In a recent episode of Louie, Louie is coming home on the New York City bus or subway with his two daughters. A bum kind of guy is sitting in a nearby seat and just spits onto the floor of the vehicle. Louie shouts at the guy, "don't spit on the bus" and then the guy yells at Louie and threatens him. The bus driver yells back "what's going on back there?", and the bum shouts "this guy spit on the bus!", blaming Louie.

This is why no one enjoys taking public transit, or if they do they will end not enjoying at some point. There are just too many creeps on public transit.

I mean look at the story today about the guy walking by and kids throw fireworks off the top of the parking structure and he loses his temper and is the one to get arrested. To much crap can happen dealing with idiots out in public. Plus, most people's cars are just much more comfortable.

Maybe they should have some kind of ID kit that you buy, you register first in order to be able to use public transit, and get a smart card and then a computer on the vehicle keeps track of who is in the vehicle and if anything happens. If you do something wrong you then lose your smart card and cannot take public transit. But no one would want to deal with that, especially until the drivers can prove they could deal with it, which they don't get paid to do either.

We need a way to enforce getting anti-social and uncivil people out of the space of regular citizens if we expect to be able to take back the public space at some point.

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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 19, 2014 at 8:16 am

I totally agree with you. I keep reading about the muni in SF and the weird gang stuff that happens. Muni in SF is a wreck. CALTRAIN has limitations - it is good for AT&T Park but does not get you to Market Street in a good way. That is why BART is preferable for Union Square, etc fun - it has police on it and everyone appears to act civil. I think that is because so many people are tourists so they are behaving. Not that many tourists on CALTRAIN - but lots of students and young people I see in the Redwood City Station - working people in other stations.
Buses appear to be the weak spot in this area. Much weird stuff on buses.
That is why putting more buses on El Camino and reducing the auto lanes is so non-productive. Who thinks this type of stuff up? If no one is riding buses there is a good reason. And you can't force people onto buses.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 19, 2014 at 8:37 am

This is why we need to get away from agencies like VTA and MUNI for commuting and start thinking about luxury commuter buses with fewer stops and only available for registered commuters. This is working for Google, etc. but smaller companies and those living outside the served areas are not able to use them.

Starting with commuter buses that run along the highways with one stop per City near the highway and shuttles running to and from the stops would attract many people. Similar services to and from SFO and SJC would also make a difference to the number of cars driving into each airport.

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Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2014 at 9:12 am

Again, attitudes like the ones above are all the more reason its silly to focus on "incentivizing" Palo Altan's to use public transportation. Growth in ridership generally occurs naturally as cities grow, however, there is a minority, who unfortunately too often is the majority of the electorate, who does all they can to de-incentivize people from using public transportation. This includes preventing new housing from being built near job centers, mandating that a huge percentage of some of the country's most valuable land be reserved for parking, forcing renters and home buyers to pay for auto storage regardless of whether or not they drive, etc. Its this same group that then turns around and complains that they won't use public transportation because it doesn't provide what is essentially a chauffeur service.

Thankfully though, most of our elective representatives "get it", and are spending those limited public transportation dollars on systems that are highly utilized, and in areas that don't have their heads buried in the sand regarding growth.

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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 19, 2014 at 11:40 am

I love comments from Robert - FROM ANOTHER COMMUNITY. Where do you live Robert? Atherton? They work very hard there to keep out business so they have no ABAG responsibilities. Menlo Park is also working to reduce the amount of commercial space - or limit it. Another ABAG dodge effort.
Los Altos? they are working on maintaining a low profile.
Everyone seems to think Palo Alto is suppose to take up the slack, take up the commercial effort so we build up our ABAG requirements and be the point group for everyone's need to criticize.
Is anyone from the above cities going to take the bus? I mean the VTA bus?
Everyone likes CALTRAIN and BART so that leaves the VTA bus.
Robert - do you take the VTA bus?

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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 20, 2014 at 5:26 am

The 49'ers -Jed York are included in the Silicon Valley Leadership Group which is actively working transportation issues related to Levi Stadium.
Look at the membership of the group. They collectively should be able to determine how to successfully implement projects which benefit their interests.

Enough parking was not included in the original design of the facility so now everyone is scrambling over soccer fields for parking lots, Joe Montana's development across the street, and trying to restructure the overall transportation grid in that area. The city of Santa Clara - elected officials - put this in motion and are scrambling to address all of the wishes and desires of the competing interests.

Blow that problem up for the entire peninsula. CALTRAIN is effective on the eastern side of the peninsula. BART needs to close on the western side of the peninsula with a depot on SU campus - west side. The need is obvious but half the population will argue against it.

You can put an idea on paper but competing interests and limited funding will fragment the total picture. It is not a Palo Alto problem that the VTA is not working the issues to maximize benefit. It is not a Palo Alto problem that the muni in SF is a disaster - which is in part a union labor disagreement. The transportation system has to connect all of the pieces so everyone has to be able to agree on how to do that. The labor unions are a major player in the success of the total end result - they are driving and maintaining the transportation units.

Robert's take on this issue is not addressing the overriding issues.

The elected officials of each city affected, including SU, need to allocate time, energy, and funding to make that happen. Again - competing interests, limited funding, and time to allow other concepts to override the allowable space impact the end result. That is not a Palo Alto problem - it is a generic problem affecting all cities in the area, including Santa Clara, San Mateo, and San Francisco Counties.

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Posted by Resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 28, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Article in the Wall Street Journal today on Maryland's Incredible Purple People Mover.
As you recall Bethesda and Palo Alto were indicated as the two richest towns in the nation up to a certain size. The on-line system had a lot of discussion as to who and how that designation occurred.
Turns out that the MTA in Montgomery County, Maryland is trying to create a light rail transportation system that connects Bethesda to DC.
The article goes on to describe all of the lack of funding concerns and compares this to California's high speed tail. Same drama. Same misguided set of criteria to justify this boondoggle. Same political maneuvering with preposterous ridership numbers. The subway is faster. So who wants this? The developers.
So a pattern appears that is nation wide with developers and the MTA in the center of it all.
The key statement is that "mass-transit routes cannot be easily changed, something important to developers and land owners......The company needs the train to win rezoning that it wants from Montgomery County."
This is all familiar.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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