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November 13 Tell VTA What Bus Routes YOU Want

Original post made by Penny Ellson, Greenmeadow, on Nov 8, 2007

VTA is studying transit services in Palo Alto. They are holding a second community meeting November 13, 6:30-8:30pm at Jordan Middle school Dance Studio, 750 N. California Avenue to gather public input on what Palo Alto residents and workers want from transit. Their goal is to “explore ways to better serve Palo Alto through new routes, changes to existing routes, including possible changes to Line 88, and improved coordination among several transit operators.”

VTA will present concepts for new routes at this meeting. This is your opportunity to comment and help designers create new bus routes that work better for you. Please participate in this important community problem-solving process.

For more information see: Web Link . If you cannot attend this meeting, you may send comments to: or by mail to VTA Community Outreach Department, 3331 N. First Street, Bldg. B, San Jose, CA 95134.

Parents and students, if you'd like to use buses for your daily school commute, this is a good time to speak up about what routes/schedules you need! Residents, workers...what do you need to help you get out of your car and onto transit more often?

Penny Ellson

Comments (20)

Like this comment
Posted by Dream on about getting people out of their cars
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 8, 2007 at 11:29 am

"Residents, workers...what do you need to help you get out of your car and onto transit more often?"

A system similar to that of the New york subway system--fast service, running every few minutes during the daily commute that can take me to within a block of where I want to be.

In other words, it will never happen in PA

Though I am sure many people feel that PA with it's limited number of riders should be at the focal point of VTA service demands.

Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 8, 2007 at 11:35 am

This is a great start. I hope that there will be representatives from the PA Shuttle and Caltrains too.

What would also be great and I have never heard it mentioned, would be extending the San Jose light rail from Mountain View to University Avenue. This would mean that we could actually get to an airport by public transport, as well as all the other amenities of San Jose.

Like this comment
Posted by Nickle
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 8, 2007 at 11:47 am

Parent-- where would you suggest putting the light rail in Palo Alto?

Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 8, 2007 at 12:26 pm

Right. And not only that, if we put light rail in, it would just be an excuse for ABAG to demand 25,000 new housing units in Palo Alto. No thanks.

How about if we appreciate our friendly neighborhood community, and not destroy it. Palo Alto is small enough to bike across if you really want to be green. How about if we add more bike lanes instead of a new railroad?

Oh, you say you don't live ~and~ work in Palo Alto??? No kidding. Then how about if you follow ABAG's bright idea and go ahead and move to the city your work in? Oh I see, that doesn't work either (because jobs change, company's move, etc.) Hmmm, you mean ABAG developers are just making up a bunch of lame excuses to build more housing in Palo Alto? I see.

I think solving inter Palo Alto commute issues with more bus access is just fine.

How about encouraging more businesses that are in the business of finding alternative fuel/green energy solutions? Now that would be an actual solution that solved global warming AND boosted the US economy (not just a bunch of shuffling while padding the pockets of developers.)

Like this comment
Posted by Penny Ellson
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 8, 2007 at 12:48 pm

The study does include other transit providers in Palo Alto. VTA describes it as a comprehensive study, taking into account all transit, in order to create a comprehensive system that provides more useful routes and connections. They are exploring a lot of options, including smaller community buses with lower fares.

To "Dream On"...Few cities in the world provide the sort of system one finds in NYC, but Palo Alto's transit providers can do better here. We can use our resources more efficiently. You get what you plan for.

I'm a former New Yorker...committed to greener transit in Palo Alto. Requiring transit of that level from a city this size with easy walking/bicycling routes is unrealistic. We live in one of the most walkable, bikeable cities I know of. For many people, walking a half-mile to or from a transit stop is a wonderful way to start and end your day in our temperate climate (aside from being great exercise).

Let's create the most useful system we can with the resources at hand. I hope to see you all on November 13, 6:30, Jordan Middle School Dance Studio.

Like this comment
Posted by Parent of a Gunn student
a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 9, 2007 at 2:33 am

I want to see the VTA 88 bus continue to run on ots current route in the morning until 9 AM and maybe take a break but resume service around 2 or 3PM in the afternoon. There are Gunn High students that not only need to get to school but also to their jobs after school, or to travel downtown for shopping and meeting friends - High School students ARE paying and valid members of our society, and some are already legal adults old enough to vote. It's not a "kiddie school bus" we are asking for here, but a valid community need, especially in light of all the new housing developments that are being built close to the 88 bus route.

I may not be able to make the meeting due to a regularly scheduled class. Where can I mail my input?

Like this comment
Posted by Dream on about getting people out of their cars
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 9, 2007 at 7:54 am

Penny--while you may have the time to meander through the city by foot or bike, my time is too valuable to walk, bike or wait for a bus and then crawl through stops and traffic to get to my destination (i.e. turn a 10 minute drive into a 45 minute odyssey).
PA is a car community--that is a fact-- we can talk about walkable neighborhoods all we want, however it is just all talk--there is no move to really achieve that.
And VTA will not waste it's resources on a city with a limited number of riders. They have to serve the whole county, not just the privileged in PA.

Like this comment
Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 9, 2007 at 9:37 am


I'm amazed at the parochialism of those who - like you - are opposed to better regional transit - e.g. an extention of light rail.

I'm amused that "parent" on the one hand rails (pun intended) against light rail, but on the other hand says "How about encouraging more businesses that are in the business of finding alternative fuel/green energy solutions?"

Ever notice how many of our vocal locals, who are so against decreasing our jobs/housing imbalance are always so quick to claim that they're environmentalists, but their solutions to environmental sustainability always seem to involve someone else making a sacrifice?

This time it's the "retailers". Are you a retailer, 'parent'? I think I know the answer to that.

Like this comment
Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 9, 2007 at 9:38 am

Dream on,

THink bigger than Palo Alto; we don't have a moat around our city, yet. Dream big...

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 9, 2007 at 9:39 am

Dream on

You may be busy and have no time to walk, bike, wait for buses, and be able to drive. However, there are many in our city who can't.

I have one elderly neighbor who should not be driving and wouldn't if there was a better bus service. She can use it sometimes, but not always. I know of one blind lady who is only able to get about independently by bus, otherwise she would need to get rides to get to the places she has to go. We have many teenagers who are driving, but not always able to get their family car, and need to use the bus for not only school, but other activities.

And, wait until all these extra housing units are finished and bring in two cars per household. That will certainly make your 10 minute drive a lot longer.

Some people will not use the bus, I know that. But for the people that can, we will all benefit as a community, not just the riders.

Like this comment
Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 9, 2007 at 9:43 am


People WILL use mass transport if it is affordable, accessible, confortable, safe, well-coordinated among its various modalities, and gets people where they want to go/when they want to go.

What keeps that from happening? A lack of policy-making will, at every level of government.

Like this comment
Posted by Dream on about getting people out of their cars
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 9, 2007 at 10:16 am

Jeremy--I think you summed it all up rather well.

Like this comment
Posted by Penny Ellson
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 9, 2007 at 10:51 am

People can provide comment on their transit needs by writing to or by mail to VTA Community Outreach Department, 3331 N. First Street, Bldg. B San Jose, CA 95134. Kindly copy Gayle Likens, City of Palo Alto Transportation Division at .

Political will comes from the public. That is what democracy is about. If we want elected representatives to engage on an issue, we need to let them know what our priorities are...Help them identify solutions that work for us. Democracy requires daily, active involvement of citizens. Show up in the appropriate forum. Write a letter to your representatives. Help staff find solutions that work. Take personal action to make positive change happen.

I know, "Dream On," you don't have time for alternatives modes of transportation. For the record, most of my trips around town by bike are faster (and far more pleasant) than stop and go auto trips. I've timed them because I value my time, too. I also value my health and our environment. The exercise I get and my reduced car trips are worth the minimal effort.

Further, our school community has been very successful shifting people out of cars. The data on this is very compelling and reveals an opportunity for buses to create more mode shift during peak hours by serving students better.

Public transit is a NEED for many in our community. It may not work for you, but for others (many seniors, kids, disabled, people who cannot afford a car--yes, many of those folks do live and work in Palo Alto) it is VERY important that we maintain public transit lifelines.

We won't achieve perfection, but we can work to get better, more efficient service from available resources. That is what this meeting is about.

I hope to see people at Jordan Middle School Dance Studio on November 13, 6:30pm. Your presence and participation makes a difference.

Like this comment
Posted by Dream on about getting people out of their cars
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 9, 2007 at 11:09 am

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] I am not sure how your bike trips are faster than a car trip--but I guess that may be the new math that is practiced in PA. for my part, my trips in my car are very pleasant, I do not have to worry about the weather and I can listen to news on the way. Also, at the time of day that I go to work and come back there is very little traffic and the route I take involves only a couple of stop lights to get across town.
I value my health so being in a car prevents me from having to breathe in exhaust fumes directly and/or being run over by cars and buses.
i will begin to take the environment more seriously when our leaders in town stop just paying lip service to public transportation and start taking concrete steps to making it a VIABLE alternative.

Like this comment
Posted by Jeremy Loski
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 9, 2007 at 11:17 am

Penny says "Political will comes from the public."

Penny, I agree with everything you say, above - but I have a quibble with the your statement, above.

Our political representatives are citizens, and while it's true that political will is partly generated from the influence of the polis, it's also true that elected representatives are thought of - in the vernacular - as LEADERS. IN fact, that's the primary claim they make in their respective efforts to get elected. So, are they leaders, or aren't they?

These "leader-citizens" (especially in this region) are MOSTLY ALL well aware of the problems that long commutes cause our environemnet, and thus our health. They are also well aware of the fact that there is almost NO coordination amongst transport agencies in our region. They are all aware that it is a gargantuan and largely thankless task to go after improving mass transport, because it will take time to do this, and make it scale.

I expect LEADERSHIP from political electees on core issues like mass transport, instead of the usual copping out we have seen on this issue from policy makers who are too insecure in their own convictions to act, or too afraid of what standing up for the truth might mean for their political careers.

I'm not talking about policy makers shouting "better mass transportation!!" from the rooftops, like some mad religious huckster; what I'm asking for is *determined, persistent, coordinated* effort that shows *reportable* results and progress on this issue to the electorate on a regular basis. IN other words "Get the job done! - or move aside and let more able people do it"

Anything less is a rather cowardly shrinking from responsibility, 1) to our environment, 2) our region's sustainable future, 2) to the universally claimed quality of "I'm an environmentalist, too" moniker that all electees wear on their campaign sleeves - under cover of the weak excuse of "well, golly-gee, the public isn't demanding this - so what do you want me to do?", or the other weak response that goes like "it's impractible to take the lead on this, because it's not politically viable".

Where do those two (very typical) responses lead us? Nowhere.

There's a difference between leading a community toward a horizon, and leading a community over a precipice.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 9, 2007 at 11:32 am

To those who think that every individual having their own car is the right way to perceive the future, they should look at some of the things that are definitely changing.

London now has a tax for city center driving and it has freed up the roads immensely. Yes it has its faults, but the overall method is working. Get used to the idea. San Francisco, to name one of many US cities, is looking at following suit.

Facebook in downtown PA is actually giving its employees who live within walking/bicycling distance a bonus. Watch for more enterprising companies like this.

Downtown Mountain View has many businesses and also attractive liveable new condos, right beside its transit center. From this center you can use Caltrain northbound, Caltrain and San Jose lightrail southbound, and many bus routes which connect.

On bike to school day recently, the numbers of kids using alternative methods to get to school were up on previous years by significant amounts.

There is going to be more of a trend towards public transport in the future. People do want it for regular commutes. It won't replace the family car anytime soon, but with the price of oil and gas increasing, the fact that the public is trying to get more exercise, and even something like the amount of bicycle shops we have in Palo Alto, all shows that driving to work is not going to remain the norm.

Like this comment
Posted by Penny Ellson
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 9, 2007 at 1:06 pm


I appreciate your comment. My point, perhaps I should have stated it more carefully, is that citizens have an obligation to participate in the problem-solving process in appropriate venues. An opportunity is being offered to transit users to provide information about what they want and need to the staff who will be making service recommendations. I hope people will use this opportunity to provide INFORMATION that our community leaders can use to make better decisions.

Once again the meeting is November 13, 6:30pn at Jordan Middle School Dance Studio. I hope to see you there.

Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 9, 2007 at 3:42 pm

So I suppose my kids conscientiously riding bikes to school when it's not raining and when they do not have too many bulky items to transport is contributing to the "low ridership" the VTA is complaining about...

I guess one just can't win. Public transportation, other than being some people's ONLY option, is competing with with the environmentally friendly bicycle it seems.

My kids will still ride their bikes, but now somehow I'm going to have to find someone who has an available car to get them to school on those days bikes won't be usable, because I can't drive them at those hours. So much for having public transportation in a supposedly upscale, modern and progressive town.

And yes, I'd love to have light rail and BART nearby. I get a bit jealous when I visit places that have ubiquitous and on-time public transit. Why are we so backwater?

Like this comment
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 10, 2007 at 11:06 am

"Residents, workers...what do you need to help you get out of your car and onto transit more often?"

Honestly, to get any meaningful number of us out of our cars you'd have to solve the basic transit problem .... currently mass transit makes sense only if you live relatively far from where you work and can take express commuter services which aren't significanly slower than driving and don't have a lot of deadtime (i.e. live in Morgan Hill and work in Palo Alto, live in Palo Alto, work in San Francisco), or if you had a very dense transit system (which in the Bay Area would require billions and billions of dollars to develop and operate), or if you have no alternative (students, elderly, or poor who can't drive a car for one reason or another) For example, if I live within ~ 10 miles of where I work, I can either drive my car point-to-point and get to work in <25 minutes or I could take mass transit (~ 5 minutes to walk to nearest pickup point, ~ 5 minutes to wait for next bus, train, etc, another ~5 minutes waiting at each of the 2 more connections that I have to make, plus another 5 minutes to walk from the nearest transit stop to my workplace. The deadtime would be roughly ~25 minutes IF all goes well. So to take local mass transit to get to a workplace relatively close to where I live would at least double my commute time ... I either have to spend less time at work (drag on productivity, economic competitiveness, career) or less time with my family (drag on quality of life). Also, since local mass transit is not point-to-point and makes many stops to pick-up and drop passengers it will be significantly slower than driving even without deadtime. So, its not really about "political will" ... its about common sense. People just don't want to do things that will make their quality of life deteriorate. I've lived in different cities from the west coast to east coast and in between ... the only reasonably practical mass transit system I've used was the subway system in Manhatten ... which "works" because everything is extemely dense,compact and grid-based. I really don't want to see the NYC living environment replicated here. So paradoxically, due to the deadtime problem and slowness of local transit options, it becomes relatively less useable the closer you live to your workplace/destination (unless of course you really live within walking/biking distance and can skip using mass transit or a car... and never change jobs to a new location).
I don't want to imply there aren't some useful incremental improvements to regional transit that can be made ... make it more convenient for the long haul commuters so fewer of them choose to drive on the freeways and work with larger employers to provide more shuttle services to/from big office parks. I don't think that people should waste their time talking about "political will" when the fundamental transit deadtime and inefficiency problems have never had any realistic solutions available. Coming at it for the angle of "We can't make people want to use transit, but we can tax car useage to death" is just asking for "political will" to commit "political suicide".

As far as VTA goes, the route 88 situation shows why VTA transit won't be a viable commute option for many of us. Removing less used feeder routes and increasing frequency of service on main trunk routes is a tradeoff, but it shuts out completely anyone who needs that feeder route to get to a main corridor.

Like this comment
Posted by Penny Ellson
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 10, 2007 at 5:05 pm

First, to Parent...Thank you for encouraging your children to bike to school. They are getting great exercise, reducing impacts on our environment, reducing congestion and problems on school oorridors, learning and practising safe street skills, building a very healthy lifetime habit of making responsible transporation choices. That's wonderful for you family and our community.

I think VTA is open to finding ways to improve service to Gunn and throughout our city. They want to know what parents and students want and need so they can design optimal routes. It would be wonderful if we could shift more students out of cars--even carpoolers could have less impact on the environment and reduce congestion further by taking the bus to school. What is unique about this study is that all of the transit providers are at the table sharing information so that they can create a system within Palo Alto that provides better routes, better connections, improved headways. Available resources may prevent us from achieving perfection, but we should still work with VTA to do the best we can with what we have.

Dan is quite right on several points, but we need public transit in our community and we need to design it so that the resources we have are used efficiently. That is the pupose of this make sure that we are using available resources well.

I'm not suggesting we should all throw out our autos and rely entirely on transit...BUT if we improved bus lines so we could use them more often and more easily and each of us opted to use modes of transportation that create less impacts more often, we collectively could make a significant difference.

Further, south Palo Alto is undergoing a period of housing growth that outpaces anything this town has seen in fifty years. We don't have street capacity adequate to serve all of those new households if they are going to overuse automobiles as many Palo Altons currently do. Mode shift had better happen or our quality of life WILL change.

Help make a difference. Tell VTA how they can use resources to serve you better. I hope to see you at the meeting at Jordan Middle School Dance Studio this Tuesday, November 13, 6:30pm.

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