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.