News

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

Palo Alto concerned about traffic impacts of county proposal

A controversial plan by Santa Clara County to create dedicated bus lanes on El Camino Real between Palo Alto and San Jose is back on the table, despite strong concerns from local officials that the project will only increase congestion on local streets.

The Santa Clara County Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) is analyzing the highly controversial "dedicated bus lane" alternative in its environmental analysis for a project it calls "Bus Rapid Transit." The goal of the project is to improve bus service on the 17-mile corridor between downtown Palo Alto and San Jose and get more people to switch from cars to buses.

The decision to study the alternative comes despite a strong preference by Palo Alto for a "mixed-flow curb lane" alternative, in which buses continue to travel in the right lane and bus stops are enhanced with bulb-outs and other amenities. The dedicated-lane option would designate the left lane in each direction solely for buses, leaving two lanes for cars.

In June 2011, VTA officials indicated at a study session that the mixed-flow option is the preferred option in Palo Alto, even as other communities would get dedicated bus lanes. Since then, the city has been corresponding with the VTA and urging the agency to conduct further analysis on the traffic impacts on the mixed-flow option.

On Monday night, the council learned that the more dramatic "dedicated-lane" proposal is once again being considered for nearly the entire El Camino stretch, Palo Alto's reservations notwithstanding. Furthermore, because El Camino Real is a state road, the city may not have the power to prevent the shifting of two central El Camino Real lanes from bus to car use.

The VTA does, however, plan to solicit cities' opinions as to whether they would like to remove parking spots on El Camino Real to create bicycle lanes, John Ristow, the VTA's director of planning and program development, told the council Monday.

The Bus Rapid Transit project, Ristow said, would support the investments made by the city and private developers in the El Camino Real corridor, and would serve as a "catalyst" for the "Grand Boulevard Initiative", a regional effort aimed at transforming the congested artery into a more inviting destination for pedestrians and bicyclists and encouraging people to switch from cars to buses.

"To us, it's really the objective and purpose of project to improve that transit choice and in so doing ... we really want to have a project that provides a terrific travel option that's competitive with the automobile option," Ristow said.

The buses would run people back and forth every 10 minutes and serve local "jobs, schools and entertainments," he said. The VTA projects that its average number of weekday boarding is expected to increase from 12,512 in 2013 to 14,588 in 2018 even without the project. With the mixed-flow option, the ridership would jump to 15,303, while the dedicated-lane option would boost ridership to 18,616. By 2040, the projected ridership for the two design option would jump to 22,228 and 30,336, respectively.

The current plan calls for having four bus stations in Palo Alto: near the University transit center, Embarcadero Road, California Avenue and Arastradero Road. It would cost about $233 million to implement and require an annual operating cost of $12.9 million. The mixed-flow alternative in the entire corridor would cost $91 million to build and would come with an annual operating cost of $21.6 million.

The county is estimating that having dedicated lanes would reduce the time it takes buses to travel from Palo Alto to San Jose from the current level of 85.2 minutes to 48 minutes. The time it takes to travel from the north end of Palo Alto to the south would shrink from 22 minutes to 9.8 minutes, according to VTA's analysis. The time it takes to travel the 17-mile corridor by car is expected to go up from 40 minutes to 43.7 minutes.

Though both the dedicated-lane and the mixed-flow alternative are being evaluated, VTA officials noted in the presentation that "operationally, dedicated lane is superior to mixed flow" and that car-travel speeds would be "minimally affected." Many cars, Ristow noted, would be diverted to other routes, modes and times.

For Palo Alto officials, that's part of the problem. According to Chief Transportation Official Jaime Rodriguez, the dedicated-lane proposal would cause many people to switch form El Camino Real to Alma, prompting the service level on Alma to plummet to the level of Service F, the lowest possible level. The impacts are expected to be particularly severe on intersections of Alma with Churchill Avenue, Charleston Road and Meadow Drive.

"Traffic will divert from El Camino to get to parallel streets," Rodriguez said, adding that the proposal seems "really bad for Palo Alto."

"It seems we're much better off with it ending at Showers," Rodriguez added, referring to Showers Drive in Mountain View, where the dedicated-lane alternative was expected to reach its northern terminus under the original proposal. Ristow said staff decided to analyze stretching the dedicated lanes all the way to Embarcadero in response to a suggestion from Mountain View.

The presentation did little to sway Palo Alto council members from their prior position. Councilman Greg Scharff expressed frustration about the fact that VTA staff didn't clearly spell out the different impacts of having dedicated lanes go to Embarcadero and having them stop at Showers. He also noted that it was his understanding, based on prior meetings and correspondence, that the VTA was giving "no serious consideration" to having dedicated bus lanes in Palo Alto. The inadequate information makes it difficult for the council to determine its next actions, which could include forming a committee and gearing up for a legal battle to oppose the county's drive to convert lanes.

Vice Mayor Liz Kniss, who served on the county's Board of Supervisors before rejoining the council in 2012, wondered what influence, if any, the city will have on the final decision, given El Camino's status as a state road. Ristow said the final project will be proposed by the VTA and would require approval from the state Department of Transportation (Caltrans).

"We are not the governing board," Kniss said. "Regardless of our comments, the decision will be made by Caltrans."

Palo Alto's planning staff plans to draft a letter stating the city's concerns about the project and bring it to the council for approval on Jan. 12, just before the deadline for commenting on the Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The deadline for comments on the EIR is Jan. 14.

Comments

3 people like this
Posted by Sam
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 18, 2014 at 10:09 am

Hooray!


3 people like this
Posted by Fine with me
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2014 at 10:22 am

I think it makes a lot of sense to have dedicated commuter bus lanes on El Camino, which could have more people using the bus, and just saving people time. This is almost a no brainer, and while I haven't read the full article yet, it will be interesting to see what all the complaints are about.


2 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 18, 2014 at 10:30 am

A number of letters from other cities were on the SJM Letters to the Editor who expressed frustration with this plan. There is huge building on El Camino of condos which will be affected by the noise and exhaust from the buses.
I had relatives at Webster House and the buses were on Webster - sitting at the light and emitting exhaust and noise. NOT OKAY in the summer when you are out on the porch.
Buses emit dangerous exhaust - no getting around it.


7 people like this
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 18, 2014 at 10:37 am

Buses are a noisy, odiferous, cumbersome, expensive, fuel-guzzling way to transport a very few people between a limited set of destinations. There is no good reason to dedicate valuable road space to them.


6 people like this
Posted by Alex Panelli
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 18, 2014 at 11:19 am

If this is going to be rammed down our collective throats, could we at least turn El Camino Real into a VTA Light Rail Corridor, instead of buses?


5 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 18, 2014 at 11:58 am

Buses will, I think, be a necessary part of improved public transportation so it would be smart if there could be some sort of regional planning around this issue. If El Camino is going to have a dedicated bus lane, that would, I think, impact how housing is oriented, where outdoor dining is situated, bike lanes, hours that truck traffic is allowed, shuttle service, the timing of large construction projects, county plans for various expressways, safe routes to school, etc. I think it is fair to say that COORDINATION has not been a strong suit for a long while now; a change of this magnitude demands a coordinated, well-planned approach.


6 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2014 at 12:30 pm

VTA is trying to compete with CalTrain with this Bus Rapid Transit. Caltrain already moves people north/south. El Camino and the train tracks are within 1/2 - 3/4 mile of each other until Sunnyvale, and then they get closer to each other in Santa Clara.

VTA does not explain how this bring more/better benefits than Caltrain. What if the $121 Million were spent on connecting Caltrain with some east/west shuttles? That would be a bigger bang for the buck.

Or how about creating another transport spine along Highway 280? At least that opens up alot different population base to public transportation.


7 people like this
Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Nov 18, 2014 at 12:51 pm

curmudgeon,

Your description perfectly fits that of the private automobile. It couldn't be further from the truth in describing the VTA 22/522 bus route along El Camino which are are not uncommonly standing room only during commute hours even when running every 15 minutes (and no, those are actual commuters - not homeless people I am talking about).


7 people like this
Posted by Truthseeker
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2014 at 1:06 pm

This is a terrible plan which will NOT reduce the number of cars on our streets. Instead it will only add to congestion and further erode quality of life in Palo Alto. Tell the city council to stop caving into big government and big developer plans to further urbanize our city.


11 people like this
Posted by mvresident
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 18, 2014 at 1:06 pm

100% agree with resident of midtown. There is already a dedicated north-south public transit corridor called Caltrain. Most of the VTA buses I see on El Camino Real are nearly empty while Caltrain is heavily used. The money should be spent on improving Caltrain connections and running more trains. It almost seems like VTA wants to make traffic so bad on El Camino to force people into taking the bus.


5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2014 at 1:36 pm

I am not against dedicated bus lanes, in fact I might say that I am in favor of them in principle, but I don't think ECR is the right place for them.

VTA should not be in competition with Caltrain. Instead they should be complementing each other and VTA should be concentrating on getting passengers to the first and last mile destinations after Caltrain. ECR does not do this.

Instead, a dedicated bus lane may work to get a bus to say University transit center in Palo Alto and Castro transit center in Mountain View.

Buses are not the way to go from here to San Jose, makes little sense. But buses to get to the Caltrain or Light Rail stations could be helpful.

ECR as a transit corridor would only work for commutes for under 5 miles, I should think. Improve Caltrain connections and get people where they need to go with one ticket, one fare, and with buses terminating at the stations so that passengers can get off one mode and straight onto the other without a 20 minute wait is the optimum goal, I would imagine.


6 people like this
Posted by 37 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 18, 2014 at 1:38 pm

@southbayresident.....my office is located right at a bus stop on El Camino north of Page Mill Road. From the time I get in at 7 AM and the time I leave at 6 PM, the buses are nearly always empty. I don't know what time frame you ride (if you do), but they are nearly always empty.


4 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Nov 18, 2014 at 1:43 pm

@37 year resident

Between the 22 and 522, there's a daily ridership of over 20,000, but they probably all get off before Page Mill, or all ride after 6PM but before 7AM.


4 people like this
Posted by m2grs
a resident of another community
on Nov 18, 2014 at 2:22 pm

It's very easy to evaluate the numbers for dedicated bus lane.

Assuming there are 3 lanes in each direction, will the dedicate bus lane carry more than 33% of the total number of people riding along El Camino Real? I think it will only make sense of it carry more than 50% of the total number of people carried by vehicles along the road.

What is the total number of ridership of Bus Route 22 currently? What is the percentage vs. the overall ridership of all types of vehicles along El Camino Real? I suspect the percentage is far below 33%. Probably far below 10%.

Hence dedicated bus lane does not make any sense at all. It is a power grab by VTA.

VTA has this habit of proposing bigger and bigger projects so that it can hide fiscal mismanagement and exorbitant compensations and generous pensions of its staff. This has been done for so many years.

So what is the real solution? One is pedestrian overpass. We should build pedestrian overpasses for most of big cross streets, such as San Antonio, Castro Street, Mathilda, etc. to reduce the duration of stop lights.

Secondly we should tunnel some other streets under El Camino Real and get rid of the stop lights. And thirdly block off some cross streets completely.

If we can do these El Camino Real will be much faster for traffic to pass through.





6 people like this
Posted by m2grs
a resident of another community
on Nov 18, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Once they get dedicate bus lane, the next thing they will do is to propose a half-cent sales tax increase to fund this giant money pit project.

Of course some of the money will be siphoned off to fill the gaps for their pension liabilities and fund 6-figure salaries for bus drivers.


7 people like this
Posted by Janet Lafleur
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 18, 2014 at 2:50 pm

"VTA is trying to compete with CalTrain with this Bus Rapid Transit. Caltrain already moves people north/south. El Camino and the train tracks are within 1/2 - 3/4 mile of each other until Sunnyvale, and then they get closer to each other in Santa Clara."

By that logic, El Camino is competing with Alma/Central Expressway. They both move cars north/south with the same geographic distance as El Camino/Caltrain. Why then, is VTA bus service considered redundant to Caltrain and therefore unnecessary, but our roads are not seen that way?

For drivers, El Camino and Alma/Central are far more interchangeable than VTA bus vs Caltrain, which operate with very different frequencies, available stops and cost structures. I suspect you haven't used Caltrain and the VTA 22/522 much or you'd see there's a big difference.


4 people like this
Posted by Truthseeker
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2014 at 2:53 pm

What is the end game of all this? Creating public transportation that is not self supporting means subsidies has to come from somewhere. This is the same flawed thinking that is behind a Hugh's speed rail. The numbers do not add up.

Here is one perceptive. Regardless of your politics it is a point of view worth considering. People can halt agency/government attempts at force majeure. Even in Los Angeles there are community pockets that have successfully kept freeways from cutting through their neighborhoods.

Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 18, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Look at the illustrations accompanying the article -- there are only a handful of cars. And the "Mixed Flow" illustration has a massive green belt and large setbacks for buildings, so much so that they aren't in the picture (the buildings' parking lots are visible on the right).

Don't dismiss this as "just an illustration" because "illustration" is an important word: it indicates the mind set of the planners while the illustrations were being created, and the presence of those illustrations shape the perceptions of the planners about what the problems are and how they can be addressed.


1 person likes this
Posted by Tommy Carrig
a resident of another community
on Nov 18, 2014 at 4:16 pm

Our City ( Sunnyvale)and its neighborhood Associations have been having discussion about the BRT EL Camino
It would be great if you could help us understand the operation and history and reasoning behind what many of us feel is a plan being pushed upon us
by an inept governing body.
< Web Link;
<Web Link;

What is the Budget for the El Camino BRT?
How is the PR Public Relations for the VTA BRT funded?

How many people are working on this project? Are there contractors?

Who created this plan and who is in charge of its operation?
Is there a City that used this plan before?

Didn't many of the City Councils along the El Camino reject the BRT passing through their cities?
Why is it still being pushed upon them?

The Env. Impact Report<Web Link;
! In part 2.2 in the EIR; how does taking lanes out reduce congestion?

Who wrote the EIR and how much did it cost?

from Andy:
1. Dedicated bus lanes along El Camino Real may hurt the ECR businesses, and therefore cut into the city's sales tax revenues (what are already stagnant and projected to decline in the future).

2. Sunnyvale really needs north-south transit improvements, not east-west transit improvements. (El Camino runs East-West in Sunnyvale)

Are there plans for buses to travel on roads perpendicular to El Camino Real? Is there a plan for 101 or 280 Bus travel? Central Expwy?

In the Project Alternatives EIR CH 3, how does Mixed Flow work? Is that pretty much the way it is now?

from Thomas:
What is the current fare box recovery rate for the 22 and the 522 bus routes?

What is the expected farebox recovery rate for the new El Camino BRT?

What is the current passenger miles per gallon for the 22 and the 522 bus routes?

What is the expected passenger miles per gallon for the new El Camino BRT?

What are the typical bus speeds during the commute for the 22 and the 522 bus routes?

What are the expected typical BRT speeds during the commute for the segments with dedicated bus lanes?

How many passengers per hour, at peak usage, do you expect in the dedicated bus lanes; what do you expect in the number two lane with just cars and trucks; what do you expect in the number three lane with cars, trucks, and the 22 bus?

What are the expected lane usage and speeds in 2025? What about speeds and usage if we don't build dedicated bus lanes.


Like this comment
Posted by Truthseeker
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2014 at 4:28 pm

Mr. Moran makes a good point about the illustrations and property owners should be concerned about eminent domain.


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 18, 2014 at 5:39 pm

@Doug, yes pictures worth 1000 words. I'm tempted to generate some illustrations of my own.

@m2grs, on evaluating people moved per lane, shall we extend that criterion to the dedicated bike lanes and dedicated pedestrian sidewalks?

Q: How do express buses pass locals? A: They use another lane. So I assume nobody else will be allowed in bus lanes, but buses will still be allowed in all lanes.

Where will our famous car-campers move if parking on El Camino is eliminated for bike lanes?

On getting pedestrians across El Camino without interrupting traffic flow, we have a tunnel at the old Mayfield School site, from the soccer field side to the business district side. Is this tunnel closed because of the disabilities act or because we totally lack the fortitude to police it? How many traffic signals will be added on this stretch with the imminent multi-story redevelopment on both sides?

Plenty to chew on here.


2 people like this
Posted by Jim Holsworth
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 18, 2014 at 6:47 pm

VTA is a bloated bureaucracy. I too have noticed these large VTA buses running along El Camino nearly empty. Now I notice they put emblems on the windows so you can't really see inside.
I personally experience heavy traffic on El Camino with ALL current lanes. The congestion will really go up with this plan and I don't know anyone that will leave their car to take the bus. Why? Not only is the time between SJ and PA double or more the car travel time, but you have to schedule extra time waiting for the bus and then how do you get to your final destination and back to the El Camino bus top?

I definitely agree with the others on this thread that note a better approach would be to improve Caltrain and run loop busses to industrial parks and shopping centers.

VTA project info at
Web Link
Next meeting Mountain VIew
Web Link
Thursday, November 20, 2014
8:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m. (Presentation begins at 8:45 a.m.)
5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. (Presentation begins at 5:45 p.m.)
Mountain View City Council Chambers
500 Castro Street, 2nd Floor, Mountain View, CA 94041



1 person likes this
Posted by Divide and conquer
a resident of another community
on Nov 18, 2014 at 6:51 pm

The bus only lanes will not extend into Palo Alto just yet. But once the lanes are being installed through Mountain View and El Camino in Menlo Park is widened to three lanes ( in each direction), Palo Alto will be next. Don't worry, be happy.


Like this comment
Posted by resident1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 18, 2014 at 7:38 pm

On the news they reported that Van Ness in SF will get three lanes reduced to 2 with a bus corridor in the middle. Same idea being transacted throughout the region. What the net effect will be at this point is removal of parking places. Parking in SF, as everywhere is a major problem.
We should be asking the same question here concerning the residual effects on parking.


Like this comment
Posted by MVResident67
a resident of another community
on Nov 18, 2014 at 7:59 pm

Woah, there is a plan to reduce Van Ness from 3 vehicle lanes each direction to two vehicle lanes and one bus only lane each direction? Wow, Van Ness is already a traffic nightmare, so much so that I usually head over to Gough to avoid the traffic on Van Ness, and Gough is no picnic.

Oh well, I can take Cal Train up to the city catch muni to get me across town then uber for the last mile or so. Sweet.


4 people like this
Posted by stan
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 18, 2014 at 8:08 pm

VTA's John Ristow's assertion that removing one lane each direction on El Camino to be reserved exclusively for bus service would have a minimal impact on auto traffic on El Camino is simply ridiculous. The rational that of course, cars would be diverted to other routes, modes and times and would other wise magically disappear to make way for the buses is even more ridiculous. Consequences of even more traffic on Alma and even Middlefield are not their concern and local problems.

Documents about this plan can be found here: Web Link

Note that the engineering firm Parsons has a role in this grand plan. Parsons is the engineering firm essentially running the CA High Speed Rail Authority in Sacramento, and was the face of HSR after the ballot initiative that desperately tryied to first convince residents up and down the Peninsula that HSR was GREAT, and in Palo Alto and Menlo Park that an elevated berm with trains on top was better than sliced bread, and when that PR fiasco flopped, then made it clear that they were going to do what ever they wanted. Think they have any one's interest in mind here besides their bottom line? Granted, they are but one of many players behind the scenes here, but they left an indelible mark around here.


1 person likes this
Posted by theabsurdity
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 18, 2014 at 9:38 pm

this is a dumb idea. Will not improve traffic at all. I agree with truthseeker.


1 person likes this
Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 18, 2014 at 9:40 pm

Now that we've got VTA focusing on El Camino and Embarcadero, how about convincing them to do something about that intersection?? At the very least, Mr. Rodriguez could continue his efforts to "gather input from stakeholders" or whatever jargon's used to justify the time spent stalling on fixing the Embarcadero gridlock.


1 person likes this
Posted by m2grs
a resident of another community
on Nov 18, 2014 at 9:46 pm

Here are some VTA employee's total pay + benefits of 2012:

R.R., Bus Operator, $246,778.64,
F.S., Transit Mechanic, $215,563.83,
C.P., Bus Operator, $228,889.33,

You get the idea.

Tax payer dollars are well spent on some bus drivers who routinely carry just a couple of passengers on expensive buses...

Now they want more power and screw up other hard-working ordinary drivers who have to put up with worse traffic everyday...




1 person likes this
Posted by Pay, benefits, pensions
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 18, 2014 at 10:07 pm

If only buses can travel (quickly) on El Camino, the VTA has a future and its exorbitant pay, benefits and pensions will be assured for decades to come. And if bus-only lanes net federal assistance, Palo Alto politicians can pound salt. Bus lanes are coming to Palo Alto sooner or (not much) later. Welcome to the world of entrenched, self-serving government bureaucracy.


3 people like this
Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Nov 19, 2014 at 1:23 am

@37 year resident,
(since you asked) Yes, I ride the 22/522 on a pretty frequent basis. I ride it to the Santa Clara Caltrain station between 8-9 AM and between 8-9 PM take one of the same routes home. That would be about 4 to 5 days a week. Ridership varies along the line but I rarely see buses as empty as you describe except maybe for off-peak times during the weekend. I use the 22/522 to connect to and from Caltrain which is the majority of my commute mileage. I couldn't get to Caltrain without the 22/522 so of course I find other people's claims the 22/522 "competes" with Caltrain utterly ridiculous.

@Janet Lafleur,
You make an excellent point! I expect the same people to ask why "the 101 was built in competition with El Camino Real?" And "why do we need two highways through town when just one will do?" It's not too far removed from the question people in Palo Alto always like to ask: "why would Caltrain ever need 4 tracks when it already has 2?"

@stan,
Does it make you feel any better to know the primary opponents of Bus Rapid Transit are no friends of High Speed Rail either? Take a look at what they did to kill Nashville's BRT project:

Web Link

and

Web Link

The Koch Brother's Nashville campaign against BRT was fronted by a bunch of innocuous sounding "community organizations" that were basically astroturf. I wouldn't be surprised if we may see a bit of that here. If so would you really trust the Koch Brother's to take the best interests of Palo Alto and Santa Clara County to heart?



Like this comment
Posted by Old government trick
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Nov 19, 2014 at 6:51 am

The last comment suggests the "Koch Brothers" could be involved in opposing the VTA's ludicrous, self-serving plan to seize lanes for buses on El Camino. Maybe foreign regimes are involved. How about the mob? Those climate change denyers. It is an old government trick. When you see the letters VTA, think of the tactics used by the CIA.


Like this comment
Posted by 37 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2014 at 7:54 am

@southbayresident..thanks for your response. Perhaps you are boarding south of Page Mill. I based my comments on what I see in front of my office, a few stops north of Page Mill on the east side of the street. the buses are mostly always occupied by just a few riders.


Like this comment
Posted by 37 yr. resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2014 at 7:56 am

@southbayresident...those buses would be heading north from in front of my office.


2 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 19, 2014 at 8:25 am

Article in SF Chronicle today "BART to San Jose lurching into view" describes history of funding and taxes for BART extensions, VTA involvement in attempts to reduce number of stops for trains due to lack of funds, and Silicon Valley Leadership Group's attempts to add more stops. More stops increase ridership and efficiency of system. This article provides a comprehensive view of the decision making based on funds both from local taxation as well as federal government funds that affect VTA decision making going back to the 60's forward.

While the VTA is suffering from lack of funds on the one hand it is now busy devoting funds to changing up El Camino, adding new buses that have limited ridership. Is this an excuse for not properly executing BART back in the 60's when everyone was paying in taxes to extend the system around the bay? It is a needless expense and further erosion of available funding.

The VTA organization is out of control with conflicting agendas within it's organization. Who is the head of the VTA and can they be replaced by someone who can see the whole picture? Who voted for the heads of the VTA? No One.

I am betting on Carl Guardino and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group to apply enough pressure to reign in the abuse of government taxes that have been voted on by the taxpayers. The taxpayers want the added stops that increase the viability of their neighborhoods. Meanwhile a bus on El Camino does not add to the viability of the neighborhoods. The neighborhoods appear to be doing just fine as is.

Please skip the hyperbole - it adds nothing to the discussion which needs to be based on facts.


3 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 19, 2014 at 9:33 am

I'll be the first to admit that I think the idea is just horrible. Bad in so many ways.

But there are alternatives...

Why not do what is done on the Lawrence and San Thomas Expressways? Create a diamond lane in the right lanes...buses + multi-passenger cars/trucks during commute hours. Plus that keeps the bus stops on the right side of the road...did anyone think about the potential for pedestrian accidents with a center-road bus stop concept? Or how the streets will get clogged for the additional stoppages due to cross-walk use?


5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2014 at 9:40 am

What the Bay Area needs is to get all public transportation, buses, Caltrain, Muni, VTA light rail, BART, ferries, etc. into one public transportation agency with overall administration. This will get rid of administration costs, make services compatible rather than competitive, improve scheduling, ticketing, pricing, and aid in advertising and marketing. What we have now makes very little sense.


2 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 19, 2014 at 9:41 am

Plus (re: above option): the implementation and constructions costs would be far below the money required to make special lanes, medians, new bus stops, updated center-median pedestrian signals, etc.

Just add some striping and signage instead. No-brainer compared to the current proposal.


2 people like this
Posted by Jim H
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 19, 2014 at 9:44 am

Before spending this outrageous amount of money to setup bus only lanes, why not test the idea by closing 2 lanes for several weeks and measuring the changes to traffic flow. Let's see if bus demand picks up in ridership or if car traffic will be largely unaffected as VTA claims.

By the way, I looked at the alternatives that VTA looked at. Each and every one is some crazy El Camino plan. I don't see any reports of studying real alternative to hep transport in this area. Alternatives that would include using 101, Caltrain and combining with shuttles.

Don't forget the public meetings this Thursday November 20, 2014
8:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m. (Presentation begins at 8:45 a.m.)
5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. (Presentation begins at 5:45 p.m.)
Mountain View City Council Chambers
500 Castro Street, 2nd Floor, Mountain View, CA 94041


4 people like this
Posted by Darwin
a resident of another community
on Nov 19, 2014 at 3:56 pm

Ohhh the arrogance and selfishness in these comments.

Why does a single car carrying a single rider have more priority than a bus carrying 40 people? Do you want to solve the parking issue? Make it better for buses and it will help solve that. Want to help the environment? Buses will solve that. Want less traffic? Buses will solve that. It's about time we started catering less to car drivers and more to public transportation.


4 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2014 at 4:20 pm

I've ridden the 522 8 miles, from Arastradero to Wolfe most workdays since 2006.

The new hybrid buses are faster, quieter and less polluting than the old diesels. They no longer emit the plume of black when they start from a stop. Soon they will all have wifi, too.

Caltrain is great for some trips, but if you are on an uncertain schedule, and not using the main stations like Palo Alto, Mountain View, etc, there is only 1 or 2 trains per hour. I find the 522 cheaper, faster, and more convenient for my commute. They serve a different needs.

In general, ridership is lighter closer to the Palo Alto transit center, because it is the end of the line. The lower ridership was one of the original rationales for not studying dedicated lanes in Palo Alto. The study including dedicated lanes in Palo Alto is one of 5 or 6 different options being considered.

The money is coming from the BART sales tax. What I mean is, when the county tax for BART was passed, BRT for El Camino/Capitol/Stevens Creek was also funded (about $200M!) so that our part of the county would get something from that sales tax.

(I think they should use the money to start to underground VTA light rail through downtown SJ, like a modern transit system should, but this fund is dedicated to bus projects.)

I like the improvements to bus stops and faster boarding in the BRT proposal, but I would not want to see auto traffic diverted off El Camino. Some of that traffic would end up on the streets I use for driving my bike!

A regional BRT proposal that included San Mateo county, too, would make more sense for Palo Alto, but we don't do regional very well.


4 people like this
Posted by The real experiment
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 19, 2014 at 5:45 pm

One bus every 10 minutes. Quiet a waste of a lane. But the aim is to create a parking lot of the other lanes and get the lab mice to hop aboard buses or find some other way through the maze.


5 people like this
Posted by Kerry55
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 19, 2014 at 5:59 pm

Diana Diamond wrote a scathing review of this whole proposal in the Palo Alto Daily or Post today. The whole idea is ridiculous, read her column.


3 people like this
Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Nov 19, 2014 at 6:19 pm

I wouldn't take anything Diana Diamond writes too seriously. All she cares about is hype and exaggeration. Everything I've seen her write is so bloated with bias it's suffocating.


3 people like this
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside
on Nov 19, 2014 at 7:25 pm

Truly a terrible idea - one that only a so-called "public servant" or a progressive busybody who loves telling other people how to live their lives could love.


6 people like this
Posted by Eco-Friendly Buse
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 19, 2014 at 8:21 pm

How about buses that run on natural gas, to stop all of the pollution complaints; look at Los Angeles, believe it or not; buses that run on CNG and Hydrogen. Problem solved.


3 people like this
Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2014 at 7:34 am

BRT is not a new idea, but it is one that is very popular these days. AC Transit is planning to run buses in a dedicated lane from Oakland to San Leandro. They began studying it in 2001 and are planning for completion in 2016:

Web Link


6 people like this
Posted by Build Baby Build!
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 20, 2014 at 10:01 am

I can't wait until this thing is built and I can sit back and read in my bus seat instead of having to sit in stop and go traffic! BRT is cheap compared to the cost of roads and fixed rail transit.


1 person likes this
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 20, 2014 at 11:11 am

SteveU is a registered user.

I take the 22 to PA Transit Depot and transfer (not free) when I want to go North to RWC or SF. Perfect! No parking issues.

The problem for many is Public Transit only goes to a narrow band of locations (near route).
Public transit is not appropriate for those of us that need tools/supplies/equipment or haul home the Family Groceries.

What seems absurd is 2 dedicated lanes in South Palo Alto for 2 Bus Routes (22/522) when traffic crawls because of the density of traffic for many hours of the day (Off peak is a thing of the past for many roads). It might make a bit of sense to have dedicated lanes for the 2 blocks NEAR the various Transit Centers, but that is it.


4 people like this
Posted by rainbow38
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 20, 2014 at 12:16 pm

Most of the proposed "improvements" or "enhancements" create more problems than they're designed to solve.

Issues regarding dedicated lanes next to the medians:
1. Would require that the medians be widened significantly for the BRT stations and to meet the needs of people using wheelchairs, strollers and shopping carts;
2. May require the removal of greenery and trees which is not desirable;
3. Would probably require there be no parking on El Camino Real which would impact businesses that have little or no parking;
4. Traffic going by on both sides of the median would create a safety issue, especially for someone traveling with several children;
5. Since the doors to enter/exit buses are on the right side of the bus, it seems new buses with doors on the left side would be needed;
6. Making left hand turns may be problematic unless drivers can use the dedicated lane for turns;
7. Some cities will elect not to have dedicated lanes which will increase the number of lane changes needed to navigate El Camino Real and increase the risk of accidents.

More issues to consider:
The current gridlock on El Camino Real, especially at Rengstorff Ave., Castro St. and the Grant Rd./237 intersections, and at the entrances/exits of the 85 freeway,
The lack of streets parallel to El Camino Real, particularly on the west side of Mountain View,
The location of the north and south entries and exits for the 85 freeway,
The new law mandating a 3 foot distance between cars and bicycles,
The number of housing and business projects planned along El Camino Real, and
The location of El Camino Hospital and the Fire Station on Grant Rd.

If the aim is to improve traffic flow by increasing bus use and reducing car use, it's important to recognize that this isn't workable when:
People need to get to multiple locations at specific times or within a given amount of time,
People need to get to or live at locations that are not near the bus line,
People need their cars for use at work, and
The bus doesn't run on a schedule that's compatible with people's schedules.

Conclusion:
Based on all of the above, there should be NO reduction in the number of lanes, narrowing of lanes, bulb-outs for bus stops, or any other change that would increase the number of lane changes needed and further impede the flow of traffic, including emergency vehicles, on Mountain View's approximately four miles of El Camino Real.

El Camino is a main traffic artery that should not become an obstacle course.

BRT, if implemented, should operate only in mixed-flow lanes with enhanced bus stations.

NB: I recently used the bus on a Tuesday at 1 pm to travel 1 1/2 miles. The wait was more than 10 minutes and there were only six people on the bus. The evident lack of use would make implementation of the proposed BRT questionable at best.


Like this comment
Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2014 at 3:38 pm

@Old government trick,
The influence of the Koch Brothers in killing Nashville's proposed 7 mile Bus Rapid Transit project is not a paranoid conspiracy theory. It's a documented fact. Check those links or Google it yourself.

It was widely questioned as to why the Koch Brothers would give a damn about Nashville's BRT project as neither of them have ties to that city or any other reason to care about Nashville's transportation decision.

There is wide speculation that the Koch Brothers motivation is to influence a series of court decisions that will set certain precedents and have negative implications for BRT on a national level. The VTA's BRT project would be directly impacted.


Like this comment
Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2014 at 3:38 pm

@Old government trick,
The influence of the Koch Brothers in killing Nashville's proposed 7 mile Bus Rapid Transit project is not a paranoid conspiracy theory. It's a documented fact. Check those links or Google it yourself.

It was widely questioned as to why the Koch Brothers would give a damn about Nashville's BRT project as neither of them have ties to that city or any other reason to care about Nashville's transportation decision.

There is wide speculation that the Koch Brothers motivation is to influence a series of court decisions that will set certain precedents and have negative implications for BRT on a national level. The VTA's BRT project would be directly impacted.


Like this comment
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 20, 2014 at 4:18 pm

"One bus every 10 minutes. Quite a waste of a lane."

At 60 pax per bus that's one person each 10 seconds. Private automobiles do much, much better than that, and they go to lots more destinations.

Buses are a noisy, odiferous, cumbersome, expensive, fuel-guzzling way to transport a very few people between a limited set of destinations. There is no good reason to dedicate valuable road space to them.


7 people like this
Posted by End-The-VTA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2014 at 4:28 pm

This is the most insane thing that has come out of the VTA since Caltrain Electrification.

This needs to be an election issue for every City Council and Supervisor along the path of this lunacy.

If this is the best these people can do--it's time to terminate the VTA!


5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2014 at 4:32 pm

I think it is worth noting who some of these bus riders might be - and they might be people who really appreciate the buses.

The riders might be students, unemployed, low income or others who cannot afford to run a car or a share a car with a spouse. The riders might be elderly, infirm, blind, disabled in some way that makes car driving impossible. The riders might be people who have lost their licenses (dui) or not have a license in the first place.
The riders might be visitors to the area, or have car trouble, or, or, or.

Don't assume that these people on buses are able to find another form of transport. They just might not be able to.

The more reliable public transport can become, the more likely it will be a transportation choice for many groups of people.


7 people like this
Posted by End-The-VTA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2014 at 5:33 pm

> I think it is worth noting who some of these bus riders might be - and
> they might be people who really appreciate the buses.

Given that the farebox recovery for VTA is only about 45% (without any consideration for costs other than operating costs)--sure, who wouldn't appreciate someone else paying for your transportation.

And those same people would probably appreciate local governments subsidizing their housing, and the food, their vacations and their salaries, too--wouldn't they?

The issue here is fundamentally whether a significant portion of the El Camino roadway should be taken away from the motoring public--that pays significant gasoline taxes, and sales taxes on their vehicles, and property taxes up the ying yang--so that people who don't want to buy their own cars, or even pay the actual cost of using the buses--will have more of the public roadspace than they have now.

It's very hard to get excited about making the Silicon Valley less easy for cars to get about. It's possible, if that were true--that companies would start moving out--like to China and India. Is that what you, and the VTA, are really interested in seeing?


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2014 at 6:52 pm

End, did you read my post more than the first couple of lines?


Hope you are never in a situation where you are unable to drive. Perhaps you lose your sight, or have a car problem, or decide to share a car with your spouse.

Every time you get in your car and drive, you are being subsidized by the government. It is your taxes, that fund the roads, the bridges, the speed cops and the traffic lights. You pay for this over and above the cost of running your car. Of course public transportation (which keeps those that shouldn't be driving for various reasons and keeps you safer when you drive) should be supported by taxes. After all, you are lucky to be able to drive. If you were blind, perhaps you would like to leave your house independently too.


6 people like this
Posted by End-The-VTA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2014 at 7:10 pm

> Every time you get in your car and drive, you are
> being subsidized by the government.

And you are certain of this? We hear this claim from people with little understanding of the general economy, or government financing, every time we get into these discussion--yet we don't ever seem to get any data to back up the claims.

The reality is that trillions of government dollars have been spent on the roads--and even more trillions of dollars have been collected from people who own cars to pay for these roads (among other things). Sadly, our government has gone out of its way to not document these expenditures/revenues as clearly as possible--so you get to make these silly claims without having to ever prove what you are saying even to yourself.

Try imagininng a country without any roads. Doesn't work, does it? Now, try imaginging a country without any government buses--that does work, doesn't it?

Sorry--but the people who pay the taxes, included the corporations who are generously dinged by the government-have made the roads possible, as well as the buses too. The idea of actually having those roads reduced is so outrageous that we should be considering a recall of all of those elected officials who have approved this plan.


1 person likes this
Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2014 at 9:21 pm

[Post removed.]


7 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2014 at 10:10 pm

It may help some of you with reservations about this plan to consider that improving bus service makes it a more competitive option for people choosing to use transit. When a bus journey is many more times longer than taking a car, who would want to use it?

Even if you are committed to driving your car until the day you die, its clear from comments here that some of your neighbors may be open to switching to a bus, if it were better. If those people choose to take the bus instead of drive, they won't be on the road anymore, and they'll be out of YOUR way. So the proposals here, even if they reduce a lane, will actually benefit you.

If things are left the way they are, as the area grows in population, those people will have no choice but to drive, and traffic will get worse, and worse, and worse. Anyone who has been through rush hour or post-game traffic can attest to the fact that if everyone gets in their car and drives all at once, no one gets anywhere. If people are traveling in a variety of ways then the transportation network can handle more people all at once.

It's not about giving to one form of transportation and taking from another. It's about giving people options when they travel.


2 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 21, 2014 at 8:18 am

Turning major highways and streets into obstacle courses is a bad idea. It does not help people on bikes or cars, especially at night and in the rain.
Last night was a good example of people who plan these obstacle courses during the summer with lots of light then comes the dark part of the year and rain and you have slipping and sliding problems all over, and poor visibility. Add to that the wet pavement and tree branches and leaves that are on the street as an impediment to the bikers - those are the unplanned street problems.

If you plan for the most disadvantaged weather and light then you should re-think the bike lanes that assume all cars can maintain the road, all tires are perfect, and all brakes are working well in the wet environment. And we all know that is not true. Bikers and cars need clear paths to function in.

Add to that the bikers that are out at night in dark clothes and no reflectors - the police should pull them over and give them tickers. The whole scenario is based on assumptions that don't work well in the daily life. If bikers cannot meet a minimum requirement to protect themselves in the dark then they need to be re-educated via tickets and mandatory class time on bike safety.


3 people like this
Posted by Joseph
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 21, 2014 at 8:24 am

When I lived overseas, I took the bus to work everyday in a dedicated bus lane; I was one less car on the road. The buses were packed with happy commuters and ran regularly. It was a win-win for everyone.


8 people like this
Posted by Not true here
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 21, 2014 at 8:51 pm

In most countries, buses are clean, efficient, and filled with people. However, in the US, they are 3/4 empty, and the riders are often poor or home.ess, or lost their driver's license to a DUI. There are also quite afew "unwashed" people.

Several years ago, when my daughter attended middle-college at Foothill but was too young to drive, she rode a VTA bus from PALY to Foothill. After a month of this she caught head lice! Of course, it ended up spreading to all of us, and rather than go through that nightmare again, I started taking time off from work to drive her to Foothill College.


3 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 22, 2014 at 1:36 pm

>> In most countries, buses are clean, efficient, and filled with people. However, in the US, they are 3/4 empty, and the riders are often poor or homeless, or lost their driver's license to a DUI. There are also quite afew "unwashed" people.

Yeah, there are! Somehow, there is some demographic of people who thinks it's great to support bus ANYTHING, or anything to do with PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION, but

I suspect it is one of two groups ...


1. poor or home.ess, or lost their driver's license to a DUI and "unwashed" people who want a place to panhandle and bother other people and get in their faces.

or

2. Very rich people who want to seem "GREEN", but have no intention of every using public transportation, and who want to see the middle class forced to yield their spots on the road to them, and dump them in with group #1.


When I was in Washington D.C. the Metro was very useful, clean and safe. For the most part same in Paris. The US has a long way to go. So far to go and with such conflicting values ( like build public transportation and then let anyone in any state ride it without security ) that it makes it completely unlikely we will ever get a good system, at least in any place where there are middle and upper middle class neighborhoods.

The busses on El Camino are doing fine. Screw this idea.


2 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 22, 2014 at 1:48 pm

Dan said
>> Even if you are committed to driving your car until the day you die, its clear from comments here that some of your neighbors may be open to switching to a bus, if it were better.

Dan, what you seem to be suggesting is that we should "assume" there is a large number of people out there who will use the busses if they are good enough so we should keep spending money until they are good enough.

I think the more pragmatic and sensible approach is, since there really is no large master plan or great ideas that we can all agree on, wait until people are using busses, up to some point ... maybe 2/3 full 2/3 of the time, or SOMETHING? and then look at the hot spots that need improvement and improve them over time on an as-needed basis.

When busses become a useful major way of transportation, then look at what can be done with the whole system that raise it up. I don't think most people want to use busses. Even if I lived on El Camino in one of those high-density places, do I want to go to a shopping center and then lug bags back and forth hoping that someone doesn't hassle me or rob me? What about if I want to take the family. How is Dad going feel when he is embarrassed by a bunch of punks out to yank people's chains. Then he has to do that over and over again. Busses do not work in the US right now compared to other countries. Since we do not really understand why, let's not just ignore the fact. Maybe study what the difference is and see if we can engineer around it.

The idea of trying to get people to use the busses by making driving harder ... ugh ... whoever thought that was a good idea should never ever get close to a civil engineering planning positive ever. Improve things, don't make a bus appear to be an improvement because your car is made useless.


3 people like this
Posted by Janet Lafleur
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 22, 2014 at 5:11 pm

@Crescent Park Anon
Have you ridden the bus lately? I have, and I have yet to see a thug. Just ordinary people, from very young to very old, on their way to work, school, shop, whatever. Do these look like the shoes of thugs? instagram.com/p/vttFHFn40z/

This was on the El Camino bus in San Mateo this morning, which was full with people standing on a Saturday at about 11am. Five us as got off at Hillsdale and walked to the mall. I don't know why, since as you say no one goes shopping by bus.

I understand you might have concerns about the possible changes, but before you dismiss the value of the bus or disparage the people who ride it, I suggest you try it out.


2 people like this
Posted by Ted
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 23, 2014 at 12:02 pm

Sure, hop on a bus, take a deep breath and see what you come down with. Stop worrying Palo Alto. We will be spared the bus lanes until phase two of the larger regional plan for El Camino. The VTA Board consists mostly of ambitious local politicians from San Jose. What can you do to them? If you have no answer to that question, you have no chance of stopping the plan.


2 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 23, 2014 at 10:25 pm

The car is a nearly perfect transportation system. The car has only two major drawbacks... cars do not serve those without a driver's license (disabled, youth, etc)), and they cause a lot of pollution, but within about a decade, the entire fleet of automobiles (and taxis) will be replaced by electric self-driving cars. The electric self-driving car will be the final nail in the coffin of trains and buses.

State and local governments should not be wasting money on dead-end transportation technologies.

All of the major car companies, and Google are working on self-driving cars: Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 23, 2014 at 11:52 pm

@Ahem, surely you meant to type "century", not "decade".


3 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 24, 2014 at 5:48 pm

Janet - >> @Crescent Park Anon. Have you ridden the bus lately? I have, and I have yet to see a thug.

I appreciate that you want to defend the busses. I am not in favor of ending bus service, and I do wish it was better.

Maybe thug was an exaggeration, but not really by much. It's probably pointless to engage in dueling anecdotes, but I have actually indeed seen thugs on the busses and at the bus stops. One late night at the bus stop near Stanford Shopping Center a passed out bum woke up and tried lamely to attack me. A few months ago as I was going to the downtown Post Office an unkempt thug-looking guy lounging on the bus bench spat in my direction on the sidewalk right in front of me from behind hoodie and dark glasses. Bum or not, however you want to describe people or resent what you think are unfair negative characterizations of people, some people in the bus system are on the edge of society in different ways and can make people uncomfortable.

I am a male in decent shape and these interactions do not fill me with fear, and if I needed to I'd be fine taking the bus temporarily, but my Mother and Grandmother used to use the bus all the time and after a time both stopped because of who they ran into. What is a good metric for safety of the busses ... is "probably nothing will happen" good enough when you are dealing with friends and family?

I think if you use the bus a little or a lot in certain places you will not run up against this or see it as a problem, but if you use the bus enough, you will see it, and if you use the bus enough you will at some point be along and see it, and it may or may not frighten you, but just like graffiti, it is not something I care to fill up my world with.

I don't live in Palo Alto to put up with stuff like that and I don't like it.

I'd also be willing to speculate that you probably have seen bums or thugs on the bus, but since it was not a problem at the time you ignored it, forgot it, or chose not to mention it.

My point is that most people can afford a car, have a car, partially for the safety and isolation from diseases like catching a cold or the flu. If that doesn't enter into your thinking process, maybe think about it.

I used to have to take the bus more often when I was much younger like if my car was out of commission. I never really liked it and I don't like it today. But, if there was a way to improve the bus system I'd be all for it.

What I resent is this ethos that is trying to be foisted on us that we must force people out of there cars by making driving more difficult that it should be - on purpose, to drive them into a not ready and uncomfortable bus system.


2 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 24, 2014 at 6:50 pm

Musical,

No, I don't think it is going to take a century. I was driving up 101 about six months ago, and passed one of Google's self-driving cars. We followed the self-driving car for several miles as the guy in the "driver's seat" sat there with his arms folded across his chest.

The car companies, universities, DARPA, and Google all have large efforts in the self-driving vehicle area. The technology should be perfected within a decade, and then it will take another decade to roll it out.

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation, with any car company, university, DARPA, or Google.

Google self-driving car video: Web Link


4 people like this
Posted by Elaine
a resident of Triple El
on Nov 26, 2014 at 12:36 pm

When my daughter attended SJSU, and we had no car to spare for her, she took VTA to school.

And she ended up with a really creepy stalker. He was a co-passenger who was apparently not of sound mind or body, as well as homeless, and he took to getting off at her stop ( he had previously gotten off several stops before hers). He would follow her all over campus and wait for her outside other classrooms!

The stalker was eventually arrested, but my daughter changed schools to one in Oregon, where the public transportation is greener, cleaner, and peopled with more "middle class type" people. Cheaper and safer than buying her a car here.

And for the record, we DO believe in public transportation--just not the VTA.


2 people like this
Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Nov 28, 2014 at 1:19 am

After all these posts there's clearly a common pattern here among all those opposed to dedicated bus lanes:

1. Complain that no one rides the buses because the service is bad and the "wrong mix of people" ride them.
2. Complain about and oppose any efforts to improve the bus service which would attract a wider cross-section of the population (specifically, faster travel times through dedicated bus lanes).
3. Complain no one will ever ride the buses because the service will always be bad and only the "wrong mix of people" will ever ride the buses because people like them will do all they can to ensure it stays that way.

(Repeat steps 1 thru 3 a couple times then continue on to step 4 below)

4. Proselytize about self driving cars coming to save us all anyways so no need to worry about our inherent contradictions.
5. Denigrate the people that currently choose to ride the buses as unfit free-loaders that aren't contributing to our society because they either can't or don't care to haul around a 4,000 Lb mass of glass and steel wherever they go.

(The next suggestion I expect to hear among most people here would be this)

6. Change U.S. voting laws so that in order to vote you need to A.) Have a driver's license and B.) Own a car valued at least half your annual salary (but not less than $40,000) and every car valued at $80,000+ earns you 2 votes.


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 28, 2014 at 9:06 am

I am generally in favor of public transportation, but I do agree that the buses need to be cleaner and safer to use.

How this can be done is a valid talking point.



1 person likes this
Posted by Set Up Underway
a resident of another community
on Nov 28, 2014 at 10:47 am

Palo Alto will not get the bus-only lanes on El Camino just yet. After the bus-only lanes are approved or installed to Showers in Mountain View (Walmart), the VTA will add the lanes in Palo Alto when Palo Alto has no political allies. Palo Alto Council members will declare victory at every turn. El Camino will be lost to private passenger vehicles. Even crossing El Camino will be a challenge. The bus-lanes will be underutilized but the VTA will boast that the lanes provide space for emergency vehicles. For the VTA, the bus-only lanes are needed for salaries, pensions and other benefits in the decades ahead. The VTA Board is always dominated by San Jose councilmemers and county supervisors and self-serving political aspirants in North County such as Margaret Abe-Koga. The VTA Board will just go along.


2 people like this
Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 28, 2014 at 10:56 am

Crossing El Camino has been a challenge for years. Embarcadero's a disaster and Oregon's getting worse. How much gas have I wasted in the 10 years it took our "Transportation" director to generate a 138-page boilerplate RFP on fixing the Embarcadero lights?


2 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 28, 2014 at 7:02 pm

I'll say it again - a faster, simpler, less expensive solution would be to convert the right-hand lanes on ECR to diamond lanes. SCCo already does this on the Lawrence Expressway and the San Thomas Expressway. The diamond lanes are activated during commute hours like on 101. It works.

No expensive dig up of the center lanes of ECR. Bus stops remain on the right-side at the sidewalks. No mid-road pedestrians coming off of buses - very dangerous + creating unnecessary delays to stop traffic to get to one side of the road or the other.


1 person likes this
Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Nov 29, 2014 at 4:41 am

@Crescent Park Dad,

The problem with your suggestion is that the Lawrence and San Tomas Expressways are nothing like El Camino Real in design. How many driveways or sidewalks do you notice on either Lawrence or San Tomas expressway? Very few I bet. The Lawrence and San Tomas expressways were designed more like mini freeways as compared to El Camino Real which has evolved over a much longer period to become more like a boulevard although it is technically a state highway.

I predict quite a few accidents if the right hand lanes on ECR were converted to diamond lanes shared with BRT. Think about all the slow downs that occur when someone is pulling into or leaving a driveway or trying to parallel park. Think about express buses and other cars in the diamond lane plowing into those other drivers just trying to get on or off ECR. Think about the more dangerous environment for bicyclists and pedestrians as the highest speed traffic is now in the right hand lane closest to the sidewalk. Those are situations you don't typically find on Lawrence or San Tomas. What you are proposing would not just create a more dangerous situation it would increase delays for everyone (and defeat the primary objectives).

Express BRT lanes should stay in the middle where they belong. Remember the local 22 bus will still be in the right hand lane crawling along as usual prepared to stop every 1/4 mile if necessary. The BRT stops will be spaced about every 2 miles or so. In Palo Alto other than the transit center terminus there would just be 2 BRT stops along ECR (at California Ave. and Arastradero) where drivers would be "inconvenienced" by the need to pay attention and take care not to run pedestrians over. It's a sad state of affairs if that's too much to ask. If drivers can't deal with that they either need to retake their driver's education courses or have their licenses revoked.


Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 29, 2014 at 10:41 am

Good points. However the diamond lanes seem to work in downtown SF...


2 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 29, 2014 at 2:20 pm

>> the diamond lanes seem to work in downtown SF...

Nothing works in downtown SF! ;-)

In my experience diamond lanes just add confusion to driving just at the time you do not want it, when there is a lot of traffic and everyone trying to go as fast as they can. You have to time your right turns just right which means people are moving in and out of that lane in desperate maneuvers to be where they should be when they should be, and it adds confusion and stress, and makes traffic go slower.

San Francisco is a disaster when it comes to street design and traffic - and worse signage explaining what the heck is going on. I am a pretty good driver, but when I go to SF if all the laws were enforced every second I'd end up with about 60 tickets every trip because it is so confusing and contradictory. SF is a disaster.

What is the specific problem this change will bring to benefit Palo Alto and how will it bring that about? What is the problem with the busses now? They always seem to be moving along fine with people in them when I see a bus on El Camino.

The real problem with traffic are that small number of people who ruin things for everyone because they cannot follow rules and have n respect for other people. Those who do not grok the whole idea of using a shared resource to get somewhere. The people not paying attention, weaving in and out of traffic are the worst.

The way we monitor and enforce traffic rules and allow anyone to drive is the issue, but we don't know how to handle that, so we just try to shotgun whatever approach that will make someone money whatever the results.

If we would video all traffic and then pick out situations that are problematic, keep that information and see if the same drivers keep showing up and then get them off the road ... make them take the bus. BUT WE CAN'T DO THAT. ;-)


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Posted by Bus Wars
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 15, 2015 at 12:06 am

I am reminded of a scene from a Star Wars movie in which Darth Vader says to a space station operator complain about a double- cross: be thankful I don't take it all (paraphrasing). That is what the un-elected executive director of the VTA surely is thinking about the traffic lanes on El Camino.


4 people like this
Posted by Uhhhh
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 19, 2015 at 6:17 pm

"That is what the un-elected executive director of the VTA surely is thinking about the traffic lanes on El Camino."

Well, VTA doesn't have an "executive director". They have a board of directors and a chair-person.

And every single board member is an elected official.

This is a common theme from the anti-BRT crowd. They show absolute ignorance of the project and the VTA organization, but want us to trust their gut that this is a bad project. Hmm.....


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