Service on the much-fought-over Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) bus line 88 will be cut in half and the Jordan Middle School bus stop will be eliminated July 13, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority board members have decided.
Line 88, which Midtown residents vied to preserve last year when the line was to be axed, will run every hour instead of every 30 minutes. Trips to and from Gunn High School will not change.
The service reductions are part of a scale-back prompted by projected budget cuts of $28.4 million in fical year 2010 and approved by VTA board members on April 2.
Reactions to the cuts were mixed.
"I would hate to see the line cut. We're basically at the end of the line," Pat Markevitch, Jordan PTA president, said. But she acknowledged a discussion she had with one of the school's principals indicated that most students take the VTA Line 35 or Palo Alto Crosstown shuttle, she said. The VTA 88 "is not used a lot," she said.
But Midtown residents said the change in service will have a negative impact on the area.
One woman, a senior who frequently takes the bus but did not give her name, said the existing schedule for the 88 is already "a pain."
Recently, while waiting for the bus, "a stranger gave me a ride and I took it. It was too long a wait," she said.
Midtown resident Shao Ping Chu doesn't bother with the 88 bus -- it is too infrequent. "I take the shuttle bus instead. It's free," he said.
Taylor Pasin, a Henry M. Gunn High School sophomore, sometimes takes the 88 bus. She has seen many students ride the 88, she said. "A lot of kids wouldn't have a way to get home," if the route was eliminated to Jordan, she said.
Pam Radin, Midtown Residents Association traffic chair, said last year the VTA routes were studied by the city, county and residents. At that time, VTA cut Midtown service to California Avenue, which was a significant service for residents. In return, Midtown received smaller, newer community buses that are more frequent and were to serve new housing now being built.
"Thousands of units," Radin said of the new homes. "It seems to me that with those houses on the VTA route of Fabian and East Meadow, it should begin to show ridership and revenue to VTA, especially that the housing really appeals to young professionals who may be more apt to use public transportation and make a greener Palo Alto. That opportunity is lost with VTA's economic decision," she said.
With new school redistricting decisions in June, children from Midtown may actually increase ridership to Jordan, she said.
"Everyone realizes that VTA needs to make an economic profit from their service. I think there's a lack of planning by VTA. Just as this route is going to become economically viable, it's suddenly reduced," she said.
VTA spokeswoman Jennie Loft said the Jordan trips are being eliminated because the Jordan stop "averages zero to one passengers per day." The City's shuttle still serves Jordan Middle School, she said.
But Radin said that during last year's meetings with VTA, the transit agency was aware that the Palo Alto Crosstown shuttle does not service the same route as Line 88.
"Crosstown shuttle doesn't serve the south end of Palo Alto to any great extent. It doesn't extend to new housing on San Antonio Road and to Midtown shopping and to schools. As VTA is aware, the Crosstown Shuttle doesn't serve the original route 88 route and there are no city funds to replace this valuable route to our Midtown community," she said.
Other changes affecting Palo Alto include:
Line 89, Community Bus: Palo Alto Veterans Hospital to California Avenue Caltrain Station: To accommodate increased ridership, this line will be converted from a community bus line to a regular bus line with standard VTA fares. The 6 a.m. southbound trip will be deleted.
Line 22, Eastridge Transit Center in San Jose to Palo Alto Transit Center: On weekdays, the 4:38 a.m. westbound trip will be deleted. On Saturdays, an extra eastbound trip will be added between 7:11 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. On Sundays, an extra eastbound trip will be added between 8:07 p.m. and 9:44 p.m. and an extra westbound trip will be added between 7:53 p.m. and 8:54 p.m.