News

El Camino bus-lane trial wins committee's backing

Test phase is being proposed for 17-mile stretch running from Palo Alto to San Jose

A controversial proposal to create dedicated bus lanes along El Camino Real gained a major boost Wednesday when a committee of city representatives along the route signaled a willingness to try out the idea as a pilot program.

If approved by the full Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) board in the coming weeks, the test phase of the program known as bus-rapid transit (BRT) would reserve the right lanes of El Camino exclusively for buses, shuttles and high-occupancy vehicles. The trial is being proposed for the full 17-mile stretch running from Palo Alto to San Jose.

The proposal to test the idea was brought Wednesday before the transit agency's BRT Policy Advisory Committee, a group of elected leaders from the six cities along the route as well as Santa Clara County. For months, cities along the route had signaled hesitation over the BRT program and particularly the traffic impacts of shutting down one-third of a major roadway to solo motorists.

But on Wednesday, the committee members agreed they were amenable to trying out the BRT program in a pilot phase that would be cheaper and more flexible than VTA's original $223 million proposal.

Presenting the pilot program, VTA transportation planner Adam Burger explained that the trial would provide the best information to date on how bus ridership and drivers respond to streamlined bus routes. He recommended at least a 3-mile section to test the program, but anything longer would provide better data, he said.

Several committee members asked whether it made more sense for the test to include the entire El Camino stretch. Going that route would provide the best indication of how the program works, and it would keep pressure on all cities to participate.

"Not only should we recommend this entirely, we should commit to go back to our councils (and recommend) that we take part in this pilot," Mountain View Councilman Lenny Siegel said. "This way, cities will have heard that everyone's moving in the same direction."

The pilot program agreed on by the committee would involve repainting portions of El Camino and installing signs to alert drivers of the new rules for dedicated bus lanes. The dedicated lanes would be those farthest right; however, sections of the street could still have bike lanes or parking along the shoulder. Making those modifications would cost about $6 million, VTA staff estimated.

Some safety matters still need to be considered for the plan, Burger said. Drivers trying to make right turns onto or off of El Camino would need to cross the dedicated lanes, and traffic engineers would need to study whether this poses any dangers.

The pilot proposal will now go to the full VTA board of directors for a final decision as soon as February. VTA staff indicated each city along the route would be asked to participate in the pilot program, although the agency doesn't have to get the cities' support. However, Burger explained, local backing would be important as the project goes to Caltrans for approval.

"Caltrans wants concurrence -- they don't want to step in the middle of a disagreement," Burger said. "It's just good government to make sure you have local buy-in from cities."

No matter what happens, implementing the BRT pilot is a long way off. The program would still need to be studied, and VTA staff indicated it could take two years to fully prepare.

More information on the proposed pilot plan can be found on the VTA website.

Related content:

Peninsula cities call for new Bus Rapid Transit options

Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority seeks to reassure critics of bus-only lanes

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

Comments

83 people like this
Posted by Joseph
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 18, 2015 at 8:08 am

This is one of the worst ideas I have ever heard. Traffic will be at a standstill on El Camino, adding thousands of hours of commuter time on the roads every day.

We have to stop this


62 people like this
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 18, 2015 at 8:09 am

SteveU is a registered user.

Right lane BRT is Insane.
There are many-many stretches of ECR with no parking lane.
What happens when someone tries to make a right into a driveway, only to find it blocked by pedestrians? All (buses) are blocked.

And what about those attempting a Right turn (anywhere) from the car lane? <Think about all those GPS accidents: Turn Right. BAM >


65 people like this
Posted by bad idea
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 18, 2015 at 8:42 am

very bad idea. and stop trying to turn Palo Alto into San Francisco. And I agree with SteveU, right turns are already a mess....


15 people like this
Posted by Downtown Worker
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 18, 2015 at 8:46 am

Read the article - this is much more sensible than the original proposal. Actually, it's not BRT at all, it's an HOV Lane that will help speed up families with kids that buses can use as well.

The original proposal that reserved a lane for buses that Coke once every seven minutes made a very poor use of the lane. This proposal will likely give us a lane that is pretty fully used by families and carpoolers but also free-flowing. And that will let the buses go faster the people driving alone, making it a reasonable option for people to take the buses and reduce traffic. It's win-win.


68 people like this
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2015 at 8:48 am

This will be a version of the Middlefield experiment several years ago in Midtown. One lane was reserved for the busses and one for cars. The result was cars backed up to San Antonio. The "experiment" lasted a week before the " traffic engineers" decided their theories were all wrong. They better not use permanent paint on El Camino or it will cost another 6 million to fix it after it turns to gridlock.


85 people like this
Posted by Reedonculous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2015 at 8:59 am

Stupid, counterproductive, stress-inducing, aggravating, counter-intuitive, moronic, pollution -increasing, and any other negative adjectives you car to add to this idea.


40 people like this
Posted by AllYouCanEat
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 18, 2015 at 9:34 am

Not a problem for me. I will simply blast through the local neighborhood streets to avoid this mess.

The city will never be able to force its citizens out of their cars. If they're not riding the bus now, they're not going to in the future. In case you haven't figured it out, Californians love their cars.


57 people like this
Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 18, 2015 at 10:06 am

Really? Who are these [portion removed] city representatives who agreed to sign up for this test? El Camino is already full of traffic and is one of the few ways to get around the Bay Area in addition to the freeways and Central. They're going to take out 1 lane on this? How do they come up with these ideas? Do they have any grounding in reality? Is there a performance review where they can be fired if this causes massive traffic gridlocks and pain?


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2015 at 10:38 am

This is a much better idea than the previous proposal. Making the right hand lane a carpool lane is the way to go. This means that any car without a solo driver can use it and since a great deal of the traffic on ECR is family traffic as opposed to long distance commuting it will probably make very little difference to the overall traffic flow and may actually help families as well as those on buses.

As for the right turn issue, it will be similar to what we have at present when we need to cross a bike lane to turn right. As long as those in the right lane do understand that they need to allow right turns to enter just before intersections, it will probably be a lot of noise generated that when the trial begins will make very little difference.

At least now bus passengers can use the sidewalk to enter and leave the buses.


54 people like this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 18, 2015 at 10:44 am

Do any of the people making our policies actually live like normal Palo Altans?

Do any of them actually drive on El Camino? Because I do drive on El Camino
and I really cannot see how taking out a significant portion of the roadway for
use exclusively by buses is going to help anything?


45 people like this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 18, 2015 at 10:47 am

Doing anything with the right lane is confusing and inefficient.

Down in Sunnyvale when you get off 101 and want to go towards El Camino
there is a bus lane in the right. When I first drove on that I had no idea what
I was supposed to do.

At times when there was a lot of traffic to make a right turn was almost
impossible, and one would have to get into the right lane far ahead of your
turn because you would slow everything down or miss your turn if you did
not.

El Camino is not a highway/freeway and trying to put a carpool lane there is
pure folly in my opinion.


49 people like this
Posted by JS
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2015 at 10:48 am

According to VTA records, the 522 route from Palo Alto to Eastridge averages 28 boardings per hour. This is a relatively small amount of bus ridership. Does it make any sense to gobble up 1/3 of the available traffic lanes to speed up the transportation time for this small group of people??? How about at the cost of $230 MILLION DOLLARS??? There are far more people in vehicles using this thoroughfare that should be the focus of improvements.

Frankly, bus ridership is not going to increase (it has been flat for the past 7 years and is only 75% of its peak back 15 years ago) as a result of this ridiculous idea.

The VTA decision need to come to their senses!!!


29 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Dec 18, 2015 at 10:55 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is the membership of the El Camino Real Rapid Transit Policy Advisory Board:

Jeannie Bruins Chairperson City of Los Altos

Mary Prochnow Alternate Member City of Los Altos

Jamie Matthews Member City of Santa Clara

Theresa O’Neill Alternate Member City of Santa Clara

Pierluigi Oliverio Member City of San José

Chappie Jones Alternate Member City of San José

Leonard Siegel Member City of Mountain View

John Inks Alternate Member City of Mountain View

Joe Simitian Member County of Santa Clara

David Whittum Member City of Sunnyvale

Jim Davis Alternate Member City of Sunnyvale

Cory Wolbach Member City of Palo Alto

Liz Kniss Alternate Member City of Palo Alto

Ken Yeager Vice Chairperson County of Santa Clara


43 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 18, 2015 at 10:58 am

Let's give the empty buses a designated lane while people driving cars (many with passengers) will have to line up bumper to bumper. Makes a lot of sense .......said NO ONE.


45 people like this
Posted by KP
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2015 at 11:05 am

@38 year resident - EXACTLY!

This is the dumbest thing I've ever heard (in my Bill Cosby voice)!

What a waste of time and money even THINKING about this...they are NOT city planners, they are city money wasters!


29 people like this
Posted by obviously
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 18, 2015 at 11:09 am

OBVIOUSLY if you are in government of any sort, you don't listen to the public outcry. you bury your head in the sand, and do whatever the hell you want to do. we imagine you are now out on the golf course having a wonderful time and not anywhere near El Camino Real--at any time of the day.

one reader was right--take Menlo Park scenario and apply it to Palo Alto--it is a NIGHTMARE--just trying to get through the city. Maybe we need a special lane for all the buses that go between her and LA--that will solve everyone's issue. let's spend billions of dollars on making this happen.


10 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Dec 18, 2015 at 11:23 am

And yet, when age forces many to re-consider their ability to drive, these nay-sayers will be the first to complain about the lack of adequate public transportation.


39 people like this
Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 18, 2015 at 11:27 am

Palo Alto City Council is known for coming up with bad ideas, however, this is the worst ever. It must have been approved by people who never need to drive along El Camino.
I drive this route in Palo Alto at least twice a day--during afternoon rush and later in the evening. My husband lives at Channing House and I live in Barron Park. I join him for dinner each evening. I traverse El Camino during evening rush every day. When I return home later in the evening it is always dark and not safe for me to ride a bus at that time of day. Therefore it is necessary for me to drive each way. I also use El Camino when I go to the doctor's office. In addition the busses are too unreliable and do not go where I need to.
I can avoid El Camino for some other trips, but there is no better way to get downtown from my home.
The traffic is terrible most hours of the day and evening. Jamming all the cars into two lanes with no right turn lane available will exacerbate an already difficult trip.
Do not close any lanes on El Camino. To make traffic move more easily north-south, separate all grade crossings along the route. Until PACC and the other cities along the route decide to separate all crossings with Caltrain, traffic will only get worse. Only grade separations will help improve traffic flow on El Camino.


19 people like this
Posted by KP
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2015 at 11:31 am

@ Robert - We have the Outreach buses and other FREE sources! UBER is also another option, which, right now, is a rather inexpensive door-to-door service. So, sorry, but that is no reason for a dedicated lane for empty buses!

@obviously - That's exactly what I think. They don't listen to the people who actually use the areas they always want to change.


4 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 18, 2015 at 11:39 am

I think buses are going to have to be part of the traffic solution but there's much to be done to make bus transit a reasonable alternative to driving. BRT may be a step in the right direction, but it strikes me as a step out of sequence. How about first tackling the schedules, the buses themselves, and shelter at the bus stops?

How is BRT lane use going to be enforced? If the answer is that offenders will be ticketed - where exactly will cops direct an offending driver to pull over to - the sidewalk?


13 people like this
Posted by Downtown Worker
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 18, 2015 at 11:54 am

So many of the comments here are about the original proposal - reserving one lane solely for buses. But this proposal is about an HOV lane that buses can also ride in, not a lane reserved for buses. The article's title is really very misleading.

There are a lot of cars on El Camino already that have multiple people in them. For example, anyone trying to get their kids to or from school by driving El Camino! An HOV lane is going to help these people by giving them priority and letting them move a little faster. It's not going to "push all the cars into just two lanes."

So please read the article, not just the headline. This new proposal doesn't reserve a lane for buses, which wasn't a good idea IMHO. This proposal is much better. There are some legitimate critiques of it, but let's at least critique the thing they are proposing!


7 people like this
Posted by stanhutchings
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 18, 2015 at 11:59 am

stanhutchings is a registered user.

If the traffic on El Camino Real is speeded up by coordinating the lights, buses AND autos will get to their destinations much faster. Returning from RWC Kaiser on ECR, from Woodside road to Menlo Park I averaged 39 mph; from Menlo Park to Churchill I averaged 11 mph. I don't usually drive ECR because the signals seem designed be red at every intersection, and traffic only slowly gets going again on green. Alma is better, but the trains mess up the flow during peak times. It seems Middlefield is fastest during peak times, despite a ridiculous 25 mph limit through Palo Alto and poor signal coordination.
It would not be a bad idea to get rid of most left turn signals that are not at a major arterial - people will just have to U-turn to go back.
Personally, I think Google, Ford, Toyota, Nissan and other autonomous vehicle manufacturers should contract with VTA to provide "bus" service all over the Peninsula. Provide 4 or more seats every 5 minutes or less, and the ability to provide portal-to-portal service with ride-sharing. Then trips for us older folk would be much more convenient, especially when it rains. We might start calling the "bus" to pick us up, especially if the cost were reasonable. Not having to pay a driver and expensive big bus maintenance would be a plus, and 24/7 service is feasible. Smart cars could recharge themselves between trips. I could go to a doctor, restaurant, store, concert or lecture without having to worry about parking (just don't forget my phone!).
Autonomous "buses" should not be limited to ECR; they should be called on demand, much like Uber or a taxi. This is the 21st Century, the age of Technology. We should use it to our advantage. Buses and trains are so 20th Century.


1 person likes this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 18, 2015 at 12:23 pm

The right lane. Finally they're making a sensible proposal.


8 people like this
Posted by Follow the Money
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Dec 18, 2015 at 1:06 pm

How much money is on the table, and what are the benefits to those that are supporting this? Common sense and history elsewhere shows this will be a mess.


12 people like this
Posted by BobC
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 18, 2015 at 1:11 pm

Could all of these planners and opinioners take a long vacation? Once they and city officials get their brains on this, El Camino will be worse than ever. Send them on a nice lonnnnnnng paid vacation. it will be cheaper in the long run.


11 people like this
Posted by Vanessa Warheit
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 18, 2015 at 1:11 pm

To those people who are afraid of an illusory 'carmaggedon' caused by prioritizing HOV and buses, I would gently point out that we are living in the 21st century, and the days of wide-open roads for a few cars for a few people on the peninsula are long gone. I'd also gently point out that Palo Alto - with a growth rate lower than the surrounding region - will have 13,000 more residents and 17,000 more jobs in the next twenty years. Clearly, we need a massive improvement in our transit system, and BRT has proven - in many many places around the world - to be one of the most cost-efficient and effective ways of reducing congestion and encouraging transit ridership.

To those people who claim that the buses are empty - I'd like to gently suggest that you get on a bus and ride it. I rode the 522 and the 22 line last summer quite a bit, taking my son to and from camps in Mountain View, and I was surprised by how many people were riding the buses with us. The drivers were courteous, as were the other riders. What the system needs to bring ridership even higher and reduce congestion is dedicated lanes, improved bicycle accommodation on-board, protected bike lanes, improved/expanded bus shelters, and electrified wifi-enabled buses. The original BRT dedicated-lane option would have provided all of these - I'm curious to know what this new 'pilot' program will offer. And I'm discouraged to hear that it's now at least another two years out.


Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Dec 18, 2015 at 1:49 pm

KP, if that's the case, we should tell that to the people complaining today.


3 people like this
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 18, 2015 at 1:53 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: Downtown Worker of Menlo Park: "There are a lot of cars on El Camino already that have multiple people in them. For example, anyone trying to get their kids to or from school by driving El Camino"

Is there data to support this? Or is this just speculation (Since "Downtown Worker" lives in MP, s/he is unlikely to see little/any of El Camino during his/her car commute).

The PAUSD school attendance boundaries are such that few students should be driven along ECR for any distance, although many cross ECR, for example many of those going to Gunn HS. Plus, the bike-to-school program claims to have had substantial success is reducing parents driving their children to Middle and High School.

===

I live near El Camino and while I am waiting to cross as a pedestrian, I see the occupants of the cars. My impression (no formal count) is that the number of multi-occupant cars is a very small fraction of the total.


1 person likes this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 18, 2015 at 4:03 pm

KP.....be careful about invoking the Cosby voice. He's not too popular these days!!!


2 people like this
Posted by KP
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2015 at 4:24 pm

@38 year resident - hahaha...I was a little hesitant!!!


9 people like this
Posted by Egads
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 19, 2015 at 1:19 am

El Camino Real is not a freeway and making commute lanes on the right will make it more of one - and put some businesses out of business. This has got to be the dumbest idea ever. Seriously, do we not have real problems in this area that needs funds that anyone is throwing away two dimes on this idiocy?

Don't just comment here, write the relevant officials.


13 people like this
Posted by Ms. Wells
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 19, 2015 at 10:50 am

I'm holding Wolbach and Kniss responsible for the mess BRT is going to create, and looking forward to voting both of them off of the Palo ALto City Council next time I get a chance. They're trying to urbanize Palo Alto as fast as possible. Measure D showed residents don't want that.


8 people like this
Posted by About Time
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 19, 2015 at 1:00 pm

To Vanessa: Yes, we are living in the 21st century and it's time we stop trying to solve our transportation problems with 20th century thinking. I would gently like to recommend we take a page out of 19th century thinking on the use of trolleys as people movers, and put our time and money behind a 21st century light rail system that would run down the middle of ECR. The carrot is much better than the stick if we truly want to get folks out of polluting, motorized vehicles, whether they be buses, cars or motorcycles. Bandaid approaches such as this restricted lane proposal only furthers our current transportation disfunction and delays what any reasoned mind can see is the only inevitable solution.


2 people like this
Posted by Matt Willard
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 19, 2015 at 1:25 pm

Palo Alto is expanding whether people like it or not. The idea that everyone can continue to enjoy the same quality of life and traffic congestion while 300,000 persons are added to Santa Clara County in the next few years are just delusional. No amount of exclusionary zoning and growth restrictions will keep people out.

The traffic jams will happen one way or another, and there is no way to build out of it. That people would want more highway lanes, parking lots, and El Camino strip malls instead of an urban boulevard oriented around pedestrian and mass transit uses shows how warped the priorities are.

Also, people do realize that the current pattern of development owes almost entirely to government spending on highways and expressways? People are fine with central planning as long as it prefers and subsidizes their own way of life.


1 person likes this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 19, 2015 at 3:47 pm

Let me clarify ... it is not that I am against any specific solution.

If people were or would take the bus now ... this might be reasonable, even
as just an experiment.

The thing that I think the City Council and other planners are missing is that
this is an age of disruption of the status quo and it is better to do nothing and
wait for a obvious solution that will come in the form of driveless cars on demand,
or some other technology, than to spend the money, time, bandwidth and the
resident's goodwill in some scheme that I think the majority of us can already
see intuitively is not going to be a win.

I think it would make more sense to experiment with having a two-tiered bus
system, one that is completely free and one that people pay for to make it
possible for those of us who are gentle and civilized to get on the bus without
running into rude or criminal people. Not that this would guarantee anything,
but the point here is to try to do something that makes people want to take
the bus as they now take the train, with other productive citizens and not feel
like they are wallowing with the riff-raff (sorry to be blunt, no offense intended)
and liable to catch the flu or whatever else. Bear in mind this is a hypothetical
experiment I am talking about not a fully developed idea.

The point is let's get some bang for our buck, not just do something because
some political person or group needs to have something to brand their career
with that doesn't accomplish anything. If it is not going to be a big win, why
do it at all. Not saying there is no reason ... but I'd like to hear it first.


3 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 19, 2015 at 6:27 pm

"... put our time and money behind a 21st century light rail system that would run down the middle of ECR."

What on earth for? We already got a much bigger rail thingie called Caltrain only a couple blocks from ECR.

To build actually useful new transit, run lines perpendicular to the tracks out from each Caltrain station.


2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 19, 2015 at 6:33 pm

"No amount of exclusionary zoning and growth restrictions will keep people out."

Sure it will. People can't move to where there ain't no place to move into. Try it yourself sometime. Pick, say, Pebble Beach.


2 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Dec 19, 2015 at 8:56 pm

@Curmudgeon

Of course! That explains why traffic in Palo Alto hasn't gotten any worse than it was in the 70s


5 people like this
Posted by Ned
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 19, 2015 at 9:22 pm

More light rail in Santa Clara County as suggested by 'About Time' is an awful idea. Look no further than the existing VTA light rail system. It cost a fortune, was advertised as a boon to silicon valley commuters, and by any measure, it is a financial albatross. Even discounting the billions in bonds still to be paid off to build light rail, it is so poorly used it earns just 10% of it's operating expenses by selling tickets to ride it. I have little confidence that VTA can make any mass transit project actually come to life without significant, large, and in perpetuity tax payer subsidies.


2 people like this
Posted by About Time
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 20, 2015 at 10:20 am

Ned / Curmudgeon: You may both be right, but effective mass transit systems have to be the way of the future. Too many people with too many cars just aren't going to work much longer, even if we pave over the whole state and drill/frack in everyone's backyards. Caltrain can/should provide a speedy way to move folks long distances, but light rail hop-on-hop-off systems would function effectively to move folks short distances (from home to school, Midtown to Stanford Shopping Center, etc.). I don't know why the system doesn't work in the South Bay, but my hunch is it was misplaced. The system works effectively in San Francisco (both electric trolley/buses and the light rail system) and throughout Europe. Since our city's leaders have chosen to create an urban business center out of PA, the car/traffic cat is out of the bag and we need to look at how it's been tamed in other urban centers. It's time to expand our thinking beyond expensive studies on short term bandaid solutions.


6 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 20, 2015 at 10:38 am

""No amount of exclusionary zoning and growth restrictions will keep people out."

Ever heard of Woodside, Los Altos Hills, Portola Valley, Bolinas?


4 people like this
Posted by Ned
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 20, 2015 at 11:06 am

@ About Time

I too agree that effective mass transit is a self evident necessity in the entire SF Bay Area. Unfortunately, the existing transit fiefdoms (VTA, Sam Trans, SF Muni, AC Transit, BART, etc) are collectively a black hole where billions of tax dollars disappear, much unaccounted for, and the result is a poorly coordinated, poorly used, unaccountable mess, as evidenced by the terrible auto gridlock we see today. I would like VTA to demonstrate the ability to actually properly manage their existing projects before embarking on something new to give them something else to talk about besides their existing portfolio of failed projects.


Like this comment
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 20, 2015 at 3:13 pm

Curmudgeon, I think you misunderstood me, that was an example, the point is that some technological solution will come back and offer an obvious solution, and this bus lane is not it.


4 people like this
Posted by Rose
a resident of Mayfield
on Dec 20, 2015 at 6:36 pm

Why are parents driving kids to school? They should be walking or riding their bike or taking a bus. Why aren't more people getting out of their cars and onto their bikes or feet? Do you drive to the gym? Try dropping your gym membership and riding a bike to work, the grocery store, the post office, or accompany your child on a bike. Help reduce air pollution, get in shape, reduce traffic and guess what! There's never a parking problem. Welcome to the 21st century. We need BRT!!!!! The "California" driving lifestyle has to go the way of the dinosaur. If you don't get it -- you're a dinosaur.


Like this comment
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 20, 2015 at 6:51 pm

"Of course! That explains why traffic in Palo Alto hasn't gotten any worse than it was in the 70s"

Nice irony, Robert. Overpopulation in plain sight.


"Curmudgeon, I think you misunderstood me, that was an example, the point is that some technological solution will come back and offer an obvious solution, and this bus lane is not it."

I wish that was so, but various miracle technological solutions have been touted since the 1950s, and none has gotten beyond a model demonstration.


10 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on Dec 20, 2015 at 7:35 pm

Rose says, "They should e walking or riding their bike..."

Backpacks are too heavy.

Rose says, "... or taking a bus."

Try catching a bus from Middlefield and University to Paly. There isn't one.

Rose says, "...or accompany your child on a bike."

I've got meetings starting at 8am. This doesn't work well when school starts at 8:15am. What am I supposed to do? Leave the house by bike at 6:30am to drop my son off at 7am when school starts at 8:15am?


5 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Dec 20, 2015 at 7:49 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Bay Area is becoming more dense but the Peninsula is not dense enough to support a real mass transit system.

Mass transit works very well in London, Frankfurt, Tokyo, Singapore, etc but the Peninsula simply does not have enough people per sq mile to support such systems.

Paradoxically building high density housing on the major transit corriders will provide the necessary density to support mass transit.

Yes, we all hate traffic but not enough to change our behavior.


Like this comment
Posted by Polly Wanacracker
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 20, 2015 at 8:12 pm

"The Bay Area is becoming more dense"

Please speak for yourself, sir.


8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 20, 2015 at 9:18 pm

It is wrong to believe that only dense urban areas have successful public transit systems. Even if it were the case, the population of the Bay Area is dense enough even though the square miles might be higher. The geography of the Bay Area is unusual in that the Bay is a large body of water which is almost an inland lake surrounded by narrow flat land with foothills rising quite sharply into mountains. The Bay is continually crossed by the population for recreation as well as employment. The Bay has several bridges, some ferries and one tunneled rail system.

The issue is that there is no coordination of the various systems that administer the too numerous entities that constitute our public transportation and that north/south is better covered than east/west apart from the north and south perimeters of the Bay.

BART was envisioned to encircle the Bay. For historic reasons, it never happened. We are now paying the price of that mistake.

We also have a population that is changing in its outlook. The younger generations are not as wrapped up in their car culture as their previous counterparts. That has to be a good thing. Very few high school students are driving their own cars to Gunn and Paly as well as the other high schools in the region. In fact, teens are taking longer to learn to drive let alone having a car for their sole use. College students are not taking a car to college and are unable for the most part to find parking for a car in student housing. Both of these facts are ensuring that the next generation will not be tied to cars the way previous generations have. Those college students when entering a career job in this area are choosing to live in areas where they are close to their amenities of choice, namely San Francisco in particular as well as places bordering Santana Row and similar. They are happy to ride in luxury buses to their jobs where they have wifi and can start their work day while on the bus, the train.

Yes, for various reasons the VTA light rail is underused. But Caltrain, BART in the east and north bay and the Google buses, are extremely well used. Commuters are able to use these systems for relatively long commutes. Who would have expected a couple of decades ago that people would be living in San Francisco and working in Silicon Valley?

Just because the over 40s seem tied to their expectation of solo driving to work each day doesn't mean that the younger generation will do the same as they enter middle age. Just because everyone over 40 drives their own car, the next generation are well able to share cars as a couple or even do away with personal car ownership altogether depending on ZipCar and Uber as suiting their needs.

Making public transportation efficient, affordable, dependable and attractive, will definitely appeal to the younger workforce who will keep on doing so as they enter the family stage for all their regular transportation. Kid taxi services are becoming more and more abundant and well used.

I suspect that most of the naysayers on this thread and similar, are over 40. Our replacement millenials will not look on transportation as their parents' generation. The family car will still be the family car, but its role will change as to taking on the role of recreational evening and weekend use rather than the mainstay of routine daily travel.

Let's plan for the future. Let's plan for our children's future. Improve the transportation now so that it will be ready when they are. Let's get our children into the mindset now of looking beyond their dependence on car ownership, as many are, by showing them that there are reliable alternatives to solo driving to work each day. They aren't doing it to school and they are likely not going to be able to do so to work when that time comes.


5 people like this
Posted by Informed and Involved Citizen
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 20, 2015 at 9:21 pm

A carpool right lane on El Camino is such a terrible idea I can hardly believe there are officials willing to put their names by it. I am glad the list of names is there for all to see, though. I am sure I will be voting accordingly.


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Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 20, 2015 at 10:19 pm

"The Bay Area is becoming more dense but the Peninsula is not dense enough to support a real mass transit system. Paradoxically building high density housing on the major transit corriders will provide the necessary density to support mass transit."

Yea and verily, our reason for existence is to create mass transit. [Portion removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Greg Bell
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 21, 2015 at 6:43 am

I support implementing this idea soon as we can. We have major transportation pain on the peninsula and need another efficient corridor. Other cities in the world effectively use this BRT system, so the need for two years of study seems excessive. Curitiba Brazil reworked their transportation over 20 years ago, see below:

Web Link


7 people like this
Posted by too old
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 21, 2015 at 9:13 am

so for those of us who are too old to drive, as some one above explained. once we take the bus along el camino real and get dropped off at the bus stop--we are also probably too old to walk to our destination--most likely not the bus stop. how are we then supposed to get to where we want to go? or do we just wait at the bus stop for the return trip--not having accomplished our goal of reaching our destination? there is no connector transportation available at most places.


9 people like this
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 21, 2015 at 9:37 am

SteveU is a registered user.

BART works well if you happen to Live near a Station and want to GO to a place near another Station

Cal Train works well if you happen to Live near a Station and want to GO to a place near another Station

VTA Light rail 'don't come here'

The nearest Cal Train station to South PA is Cal Ave. You can't catch a bus to there.

The problem is transit system DISCONNECT:

If there IS nearby service, the layover time is excessive (or too tight and you see your next bus leave as you arrive).

Inter agency Transfers only apply to Monthly pass riders, discouraging casual usage.

And IMHO the biggest hurdle, Hours of availability.

* my definition of nearby: a 10 minute walk maximum. That is up to 20 minutes added to the Transit solution every trip




3 people like this
Posted by Longtime Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 21, 2015 at 11:42 am

Today's Daily Post (editorial) reports that Uber is planning to compete with our bus system, with a simple, easy to use, cost effective new program.

Considering the same officials that think closing off a lane on El Camino Real have not said a word about this scenario:

A short trip from Los Gatos to Scotts Valley now takes 3 hours (1 way) on a Hwy 17 VTA Express Bus, costing about $13, requires transfers and backtracking.

Driving, it's about 20 minutes, and costs a few dollars. So "The Experts" must be questioned. Many lack common sense. Give us Uber.

No tax money for our existing public 'transport', with it being misused with so little accountability, transparency & effectiveness.


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Posted by KP
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 21, 2015 at 12:07 pm

@ too old - I mentioned Uber as an inexpensive way to get door-to-door service. We use it to go out on the weekends. A ride from Mitchell Park area to Castro St. Mtn View is $7-9! and, unlike a cab, it doesn't matter how many people jump in.

I don't know why the Bay Area cannot figure out a cohesive transit system for multiple counties.
Portland, OR calls theirs Tri-Met. The 3 counties work together and even with Clark County in Vancouver, WA, a 4th county. They have been used as a model for other cities.

I have taken public transit from here to Oakland. It took almost 3 hours with just 1transfer (only because I was dropped off at the CalTrain station and picked up at the Bart station-no buses).


4 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 21, 2015 at 12:28 pm

SteveU nailed it. Too many fiefdoms, too little useful service.

Transit riders are of two types: the ideologically committed, and those with no alternative.


5 people like this
Posted by Johnny
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 21, 2015 at 7:18 pm

Dear God so they are leaning on the excuse that if its an HOV lane more people will get to use it, so its therefore justified.

HOV lanes are the number one most egregiously broken and ineffective concepts allowed to masquerade as "law" in our country. They must all be abolished and replaced with toll lanes, if anything.

They are now incentivized by the massive income they will get from the demonic solo drivers for "violating" the HOV lane. How dare you drive a car by yourself. This will be a revenue machine. There's no stopping them now.


3 people like this
Posted by Johnny
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 21, 2015 at 7:33 pm

Seriously the government has absolutely no business, whatsoever, meddling in trying to influence our choice of transportation.

All these people who advocate using the bus, I want you to go and use shuttles and buses right now every day and abandon driving your own car forever. Because you obviously don't care about privacy.

We can only progress towards a communist utopia "for my children and future generations" so fast... I sure don't want "my children and future generations" to ever experience the pleasure of revving up a nice sedan and turning on the heating and radio on a cold morning before work... they'd much rather haul themselves over to the bus stop... lets keep evolving backwards, hey why don't we just make solo driving against the law, right away?



5 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 21, 2015 at 11:32 pm

This comes after incomplete notice of the associated environmental review (some residents and businesses within a block of ECR did not receive notice) and without acknowledgement of the cumulative impact of project after project in Palo Alto and the personal knowledge of residents and businesses as to the absolutely clogged intersections almost all day long. So don't acknowledge the existing ongoing problem accurately but implement a project that has no relation to getting people out of cars because the buses don't go where people live and work. By the way any assessment of the GHGs associated with the ongoing, stalled delayed traffic?


4 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Dec 22, 2015 at 7:30 am

"Seriously the government has absolutely no business, whatsoever, meddling in trying to influence our choice of transportation."

Sure, if you ignore hundreds of billions of dollars of highway subsidies, 50+ years of government mandated parking minimums, etc...


2 people like this
Posted by rainbow38
a resident of another community
on Dec 22, 2015 at 7:57 am

My questions to David Whittum: "How many persons in a car for HOV use? What are "conventional peak commute periods weekdays"? Does the mean that all cars can use the right lane during other hours and on weekends? What about holidays? If all the cities don't want this, drivers will have to know what rules apply where and when and this may increase the number of accidents."

This weekend I went at least five places in about four hours. This wouldn't have been possible using public transportation. The items I purchased were put in my car - also not possible using public transportation. There's no way I could have carried all the purchases on/off buses and in/out of stores, especially the 30 lb. box of cat litter. This is a reality that I haven't seen addressed.


3 people like this
Posted by Bunyip
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 22, 2015 at 8:43 am

Problem is that these buses don't travel on nieghbourhood streets to be useful.

Are we supposed to drive to an intersection, park, then jump on a bus?

The council has stuffed up urban planning and are now trying to push a green, leftist, bike wheeling plan down everyone's throats. How about you take the taxes we pay and improve the roads, not take them away from people who want to use them. I guarantee Johnny making $300k per year living in a $2M home driving a $100k tesla, ain't taking no bus.

Propose the use of flying cars next, probably more doable.


4 people like this
Posted by @rainbow38
a resident of another community
on Dec 22, 2015 at 11:14 am

I'm opposed to BRT, but try not to think in such absolute terms. Yes, the trip you described would not be possible by bus. That said, I bet there are other trips that could be possible by bus, or train, or bike, or by just walking.
It's not a world of absolutes. Nobody is saying sell your car and always use other modes, but I bet if we both sat down and looked at your schedule we could easily come up with some trips that could be made w/out a car, and with little or no impact to the overall outcome of your day.
If people made just 5-10% of their local trips w/out their cars we would see a traffic benefit.
That means once or twice per 20 trips in your car, you walk or do on a bike. It also means the trips you do take in your car are easier because others are also doing the 5-10% thing. Unless physically unable everyone should be able to do this. At least around here.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 22, 2015 at 11:34 am

The best people and uses for public transportation are regular commuters who travel the same time, the same route, on a daily basis. The next best would be seniors (active enough to walk to a bus stop) with regular scheduled appointments and enough time to spend either side of the appointment - seniors tend to be less likely to have other commitments very close together on their schedules.

So looking at it this way, the ideal candidates for public transport are workers in jobs that have consistent schedules each week and students for the same reason.

For the rest of the time, driving is obviously going to be the best mode of transport. However, as someone above states, four different destinations on the same errand run makes a lot more sense than four separate trips. Obviously a Costco trip is not a good trip for public transportation, but perhaps a weekly trip to downtown to meet friends for a leisurely lunch and a movie is.

It is up to each of us to look at our personal needs and try to see what we can do to alleviate the traffic mess around here. It may be that we do multi-purpose errand runs, or carpool on occasions, or walk to a PTA meeting, or ride a bike to the dentist, or get a shuttle to downtown, or whatever may work for each one of us. If each of us can think twice before automatically grabbing the keys and getting in the car just a couple of times a week, it could make a big difference.


5 people like this
Posted by Commentator
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 22, 2015 at 12:30 pm

We should all realize that the sole purpose of this boondoggle is to get itself implemented.


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Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 22, 2015 at 1:21 pm

I would personally find a big expansion of the Palo Alto shuttle a LOT more useful than a bus to San Jose! I would love to be able to run errands on the shuttle, but the stops and the hours would need to be expanded! It generally runs 7-10 and then 3-7, which is good for school and work commutes, but doesn't help for regular errands, lunch downtown, etc.


2 people like this
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 22, 2015 at 1:52 pm

Ãœber and services based on self driving cars must be banned immediately! These services have the potential to put thousands of hard working and loyal VTA employees and their extra hard working bosses out of work. Just think of all those empty busses going nowhere near where anyone wants to go.


9 people like this
Posted by Johnny
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 22, 2015 at 5:54 pm

I have no individual obligation to avoid driving a car. I should not (I don't) feel guilty about it all. Resident your "everyone chips in" idea is based in fantasy. If I were to ride my bike, it won't make me feel warm and fuzzy inside like I'm reducing traffic, and one person riding one bike won't make a difference. You have to look at individuals and their unique circumstances. We are not a collective, we're not a hive of ants.

I think folks don't understand the necessity of a smooth commute for those of us who have to drive to work every day. You simply don't drive as much as I do.

We NEED cars so we can SAVE TIME. This is vital for the economy. It's vital for those of us who have long commutes, busy work schedules, and little free time.

Efficiency must be prioritized. For ivory tower legislators to decide they'll "test out" new HOV lanes is so irresponsible. Get ready for severe congestion that throws drivers into road rage, causing more accidents... much like the freeway construction initiated by flood alarmists.

A law must never be an "experiment". [Portion removed.] Or maybe it really is a revenue generation scheme.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on Dec 23, 2015 at 7:01 am

palo alto resident says, "I would personally find a big expansion of the Palo Alto shuttle a LOT more useful than a bus to San Jose! I would love to be able to run errands on the shuttle, but the stops and the hours would need to be expanded! It generally runs 7-10 and then 3-7, which is good for school and work commutes, but doesn't help for regular errands, lunch downtown, etc."

I find it odd that the shuttles don't serve Paly. Try getting from, for example, Channing and Lincoln to Paly by bus or shuttle. It's a 1.3 mile walk.


2 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on Dec 23, 2015 at 7:06 am

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Johnny
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 23, 2015 at 9:23 am

[Post removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by Not a NIMBY
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 2, 2016 at 8:36 pm

Get this implemented ASAP. BRT is hopefully another relatively inexpensive means to expand public transit but unlike most residential bus systems this could be effective. The whole point of BRT is that unlike the rest of VTA it will get people to their destinations quickly ala Bart and Caltrain. I am certain it won't be perfect, but it will hopefully go far more effective than any existing transit already implemented.

Traffic is atrocious, more people are trying to move to the bay creating a horrible housing crisis. We can do nothing which will ultimately move the market and jobs elsewhere which will likely devastate the region, or we can expand transit and make more housing for the folks who want to live here. I hope BRT is going to be a solid part of that solution and look forward to it, in spite of any of its warts.


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

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