Community Notebook: VTA to hold discussion on bus system redesign in Palo Alto Wednesday


Palo Alto's public transit options could change as Santa Clara County Transportation Authority redesigns its transit network. To gather public input, the VTA will hold a community meeting in Palo Alto on Wednesday, May 18, 6-8 p.m., at Rinconada Library, Embarcadero Room, 1213 Newell Road.

Dubbed the "Next Network," the changes would go into effect with the next two-year transit service plan in July 2017. Among three conceptual alternatives for Palo Alto, two would retain Line 35 services along Middlefield Road to Fabian Way en route to the San Antonio Transit Center in Mountain View, and Lines 88 or 89 to Stanford Research Park; a third would eliminate all routes except for the 22 and 522 lines from the Palo Alto Transit Center to Eastridge Mall in San Jose. The third alternative would make the 522 an express bus with limited stops every 10 minutes; the 22 would run every 15 minutes during midday.

In the first alternative, Line 89 would be limited to every 60 minutes and to 30 minutes during peak hours to Stanford Research Park. Line 88 to the research park would run every 60 minutes. Line 35 would run every 30 minutes while Line 22 would run every 15 minutes, and Line 522 would run every 15 minutes with limited stops.

The second alternative would eliminate Line 89 and would limit Line 88 to every 60 minutes during peak hours only. Line 35 would stop every 30 minutes, and Line 22 would run every 15 minutes. Line 522 would run every 12 minutes with limited stops.

VTA is overhauling its system to try to regain profitability while improving the quality of its services and retaining services for riders who don't have cars, according to the transit agency.

VTA's ridership dropped 23 percent in 2015 from its highest point in 2001, although ridership has grown since its lowest point in 2006, according to the transit agency. Its farebox recovery rates (the percentage of costs recovered through fares paid by passengers) have dropped from 14 to 15 percent to about 13 percent since 2013. VTA's farebox rate is the lowest of all of the nine western agencies, according to a study by VTA consultants Jarrett Walker & Associates.

In the past 15 years VTA's amount of service has declined from a high of 1.65 million revenue hours (the measure of how much service a transit agency provides) in 2001 from combined bus and light rail to a low of 1.32 million in 2012 -- a 20 percent overall decline.

Revenue hours have climbed since 2012, but they remain 13 percent below the 2001 level. VTA is the only transit agency out of eight agencies studied in western and west coast areas that has not increased service since 2011, the consultants noted.

The transit assessment can be found here. Concept network design maps can be found here.


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7 people like this
Posted by Merry
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on May 17, 2016 at 7:39 pm

That is why we have cars.

20 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on May 17, 2016 at 8:33 pm

The problem with VTA in Palo Alto is that we are on the edge of their service area and thus service is sparse. VTA should team up with Samtrans, San Francisco Muni, Caltrain, and BART to create a seamless unified public transit service for the whole peninsula. Sell one monthly pass that works on all transit systems instead of forcing passengers to buy duplicate passes for each agency they use. The disjointed service that we have now really benefits no one.

4 people like this
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on May 17, 2016 at 8:51 pm

SteveU is a registered user.

Merry is right
We MUST have cars because what service (other than the 22) is not acceptable.

Who has a spare 45 minutes to get to Caltrain? take your car: 5 minutes. Bike: 15

Ridership is off. Well, if the bus can not get you there in a reasonable time, are you going to use the bus? <headslap>

What buses that run MUST 'connect' to the other transit. Approaching the stop only to see the other (1 hr cycle) transit departing has happened so many times, it must be the plan. Time for a new one. One that works well enough, that people CAN do without a car trip for everything.

2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 17, 2016 at 9:45 pm

The problem is VTA doesn't accept that it is providing a service that people will choose to use. They act as if they are benevolently attempting to give poor people who have all the time in the world a means of getting somewhere in a round about fashion.

VTA needs to provide an alternative to driving that is fast, efficient, reliable and clean, and until it does this nobody is going to choose it unless they have no other option. The reason ridership is going down is because they are not serving the community. They are instead snaking around neighborhoods on what they hope will suit as many people as possible. Instead of efficient short routes to get people to Caltrain or to schools they take a long time to go around in circles.

I did one route I use which takes about 20 minutes in good traffic on their route finder. It took 3 changes with several minutes walk between changes. I don't mind the few minutes walk at beginning and end, but the several minutes walk between 3 different buses is not acceptable. The 20 minutes it takes me to drive is shown by them as taking 2 hours and costs around $5. To do this twice a day for $10 round trip is not providing an alternative service for me to use my car.

Unless they try to serve the public in a responsible manner, the public is not going to use it.

2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 17, 2016 at 9:49 pm

And if they stop the route to Gunn, traffic in Palo Alto will be an almighty gridlock mess. We also need a bus to Paly from south of Oregon.

This would be providing a service that is needed.

4 people like this
Posted by Kids on bikes
a resident of Barron Park
on May 18, 2016 at 10:08 am

I wish more kids rode their bikes to school instead of being driven.
THAT would make a huge difference in the amount of morning and afternoon traffic.

6 people like this
Posted by VTA rider
a resident of Mountain View
on May 18, 2016 at 10:36 am

Just an FYI to a commenter above in case it helps, because I only recently found out about this. If you get a Caltrain monthly pass of 2 zones or higher, then you also get free rides on the VTA and SamTrans. I believe you also get all Caltrain zones on the weekend and a 50 cent discount on Muni. I used to think the same thing as far as not wanting to get monthly passes on all the different systems. I use the VTA a lot more now with a 2 zone Caltrain pass!
I mostly use the 35, 22, and 522 (and 40, but that's not in PA). So hopefully those all stay intact.

And yes, driving would be "quicker", but I can read and play with my kid on the bus instead of him being strapped in a rear-facing car seat by himself and it is safer. So, since it is bonding time the whole time instead of some non-productive time while driving, I would say taking the bus actually saves time overall. And if not with a kid, you can read, use your phone/laptop (there is wifi on the buses), etc.. We have a car, but we mostly keep it in the garage except for the occasional trips to the beach or hiking for these reasons. This said, I do wish they had service that was faster and ran more regularly, but I realize that would cost more. That's the tough thing about transit funding, it has to be very good for everyone to use it, but it's hard to get that funding to get it to that point when there is low ridership (because the service isn't great yet).

I do wish there was an easier way to connect SamTrans and VTA. It always seems like a lot of trouble to get to Menlo Park and north, because I'm relying on a Caltrain that typically runs only every hour besides peek times. Between Palo Alto, Mountain View, and further south, having more options such as 22/522 and train (and 35 for MV/PA) makes it so I typically travel south for mini-excursions. Also, I wish the light rail extended to PA.

2 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 18, 2016 at 3:09 pm

"The problem is VTA doesn't accept that it is providing a service that people will choose to use. "

Chick and egg problem? Not really.

You want better transit, you better densify.

We don't have enough of a population to support a transit system with deep coverage. Not enough people per square mile to serve.

Given our the power of "residentialists" (i.e. N-word) Palo Alto, will never have good (much less "great") VTA coverage. Won't happen.

Like this comment
Posted by Save the VTA88
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 18, 2016 at 3:19 pm

This looks like another VTA attempt to eliminate the VTA88 bus to me. I hope bus riders who use the VTA88 will come to tonight's meeting at Rinconada Library, 6:00pm and let VTA know that this bus is well-used.

6 people like this
Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 18, 2016 at 3:31 pm

These potential cuts would also affect users of Outreach paratransit service, because rides must be within 3/4 mile of a VTA transit route. See page 12 (H4) of Web Link

Cuts to the VTA 88 bus would mean more peak hour cars on Arastradero Road. Over 100 students use the bus each way daily.

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

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