VTA bus-line service reduced in Palo Alto

Jordan Middle School, Line 88 stops slashed

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.


Like this comment
Posted by Sarah
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 9, 2009 at 10:19 am

Hopefully, the city can expand their shuttle bus system to pick up the slack. Right now, the shuttle busses are heavily oriented towards north Palo Alto, with poor service in midtown and south Palo Alto.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 9, 2009 at 10:32 am

This is sad news.

But, how has VTA promoted its service in Palo Alto? Do they advertise on bus stops as to where and when the next bus goes? Do they serve the stations by meeting and waiting for trains? Do they in fact do anything to aim to get new riders? Do they have one ticket for more than one journey so that riders can transfer between routes for short overall distances rather than buying two tickets? Instead, they just make a poor service worse?

Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 9, 2009 at 1:34 pm

VTA is a disgrace. It has completely abandoned North Palo Alto(no Line 88) and now is cutting even more service for Palo Alto. Certainly is a blessing to have a reliable Palo Alto Crosstown Shuttle.

Like this comment
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 9, 2009 at 3:02 pm

The council has been approving dense housing developments saying that it will support mass transit for at least the last 20 years. With the VTA pulling reducing the mass transit options, it's time to re-evaluate where Palo Alto is going with it's dense housing.

With these dense housing experiments have come a degradation of the quality of life - crumbling infrastructure, overflowed schools, etc. It's time for a moritorium and let the city "catch up".

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Posted by Sarah
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 9, 2009 at 3:26 pm

Don't count on VTA. Expand the city shuttle system. Smaller busses and shorter routes are more practical for residential areas anyway. It is great the Caltrain is expanding service with more and faster trains, but we need to a good local transit system to get people to and from the trains, as well as around the city.

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Posted by jenny
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 9, 2009 at 4:23 pm

Palo Alto belongs to Santa Clara county. VTA major service is at Santa Clara county. How come south Palo Alto cannot have good commute tools ? In this area, there are lots of residents living in condos or affordable houses. Why the city/ county take away their public transportation ? How to improve " traffic "? How to improve " Green " environment ? I hope City council needs to think about it ? Or Palo Alto should do his own plan -- Extend free shuttles to cover all area ?

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Posted by Barron Park Mom
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 9, 2009 at 8:05 pm

Way back when Palo Alto had it's own bus service for Palo Alto. Then the county said, "Let us expand the bus system all over the county and we will include Palo Alto and use our buses." So here we are many decades later with practically no service. People south of Palo Alto have bus, light rail and train to get around the county. We barely have bus service to get to the train or light rail. Maybe they are expecting us to ride bikes. This really stinks. Senior citizens have it the worst. This lack of public transportation is San Mateo's fault. We could have had BART coming through our community, but they had a NIMBY attitude.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 9, 2009 at 8:17 pm

Isn't a previous mayor on the VTA board? What is she doing about public transport for Palo Alto? All I have heard from her is about Caltrain/HSR. She should instead be trying to fix the mess of public transportation. Not all Palo Altans are able bodied enough to ride a bike!!

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Posted by go figure
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 10, 2009 at 3:48 pm

The 88 line schedule is pretty confusing. I was afraid to try it for fear of ending up in Mountain View with no way home.

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Posted by curious
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 10, 2009 at 3:57 pm

If you want to try attracting more kids to the bus a useful experiment would be to really simplify the free shuttle routes
(1) Middlefield Road from the Community center to Cubberly and back again
(2) Charleston Road from the JCC, Terman, Gunn and back again.

Another idea would be to have the shuttle operate from the elementary schools to the middleschools... if parents could drop the older kids off at a bus stop at the same time they drop their younger kids off at school it would reduce traffic around and between schools. Does anyone have the numbers of how many families have kids at more than one school?

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Posted by A resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 13, 2009 at 2:20 pm

Right now, the VTA 88 bus is not operating with the schedule of Terman or Gunn in mind. In the morning, the bus would arrive at either school well before or long after the first bell ring. In the afternoon, the bus would arrive just minutes before the final bell ring and passes by without stopping because no students are there waiting because it's still their class time, and the students will need to wait for the next bus. I don't know who makes this stupid schedule and think the students can be attracted to use the buses.

Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on Apr 13, 2009 at 5:41 pm

Can I have a cut in my taxes commensurate with the cut in VTA service?

Like this comment
Posted by Luis Figueroa
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Mar 10, 2010 at 4:11 pm

Hello from Mexico I have relatives in Santa Clara and Iwould like to send mi six grade boy next year with his uncle to experience the american culture and to learn more english,I would like to know if there is a program for foreinger students to course a year with you.
Sincerly Yours
Luis Figueroa

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