News

For Palo Alto, a public-transit conundrum

As pressures mount for county's bus agency, will city be left without service?

Amid ever-increasing local gridlock, a booming economy and a growing population, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) has floated a concept plan that would cut all bus lines that circulate within Palo Alto, leaving just two that connect the city to San Jose.

VTA officials say they must make changes system-wide to increase ridership and revenues. One way to do that, they say, is to improve service along popular routes and trim bus lines with lower ridership. But the potential cuts have dismayed Palo Alto residents, who say service in town should expand, not contract, if VTA hopes to attract new passengers.

VTA ridership has dropped 20 percent from its 2001 peak, and transit-service quality is 15 percent lower than it was in the early 2000s, according to VTA's fiscal year 2016 Second Quarter Transit Operations Performance Report.

The amount of revenue that VTA takes in from passengers, known as "farebox recovery," hovers at around 13 percent of total revenue.

Traffic congestion throughout the region has added to VTA's sense of urgency, as city and county officials are increasingly eyeing efficient public transportation as a key part of the solution to roadway gridlock. At the same time, VTA is facing new transit innovations, such as the sharing economy, that threaten to eat further into its revenues and disrupt the way it does business.

On May 18, VTA officials unveiled the 2017 Next Network Plan, which outlines concepts for reconfiguring its routes. The plan listed three alternative concepts for Palo Alto. One would generally keep the status quo, maintaining the 35, 88 and 89 bus lines that students, veterans and seniors rely on to get around Palo Alto. The two others would eliminate some or all of those buses, leaving just two lines, the 22 and 522, that travel to San Jose along El Camino Real as well as express buses, which generally run only during the morning and evening commutes and serve specific employment areas.

Hearing that service could be axed was a hard blow for Palo Alto residents who attended the May VTA meeting, especially given that local officials and residents have long held that VTA spends far less on services for north county cities than it takes in from north county residents through taxes. A study conducted by Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian's office found that Palo Alto and other north county residents have paid 16.35 percent of tax revenue stemming from a 2008 voter-approved measure, but they have received services paid by just 5.3 percent of the total funding.

Anger about the proposals stems not just from a sense of unfairness but also from the hard work and compromises that some residents have put into working with VTA to keep the lines running over the past decade. A case in point: Line 88, which Greenmeadow neighborhood resident Penny Ellson and others in Palo Alto worked to retain.

In 2007, VTA proposed to completely eliminate Line 88, but Ellson and former Palo Alto Planning and Transportation Commissioner Arthur Keller labored for months with PTA volunteers, city staff, the City Council and Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education members to get VTA to keep the line, which serves Gunn High School students.

VTA did change its scheduling of the 88 to hourly, but the agency agreed to add the 88L and 88M lines to serve Gunn students better during school commute hours, Ellson said.

Now Ellson is frustrated by VTA's proposal to cut the bus route.

"I worked very hard to make sure they didn't eliminate this important line. I supported the compromise plan that was the only way to save this vital south Palo Alto service. Arthur Keller and I have worked together for many years with Gunn and VTA staff on coordinating bus schedules to align with school schedule adjustments throughout the year," Ellson said after the May meeting.

"After providing so much support and collaboration with VTA staff to grow student VTA bus ridership over many years as a volunteer, I was furious to see concept plans that eliminate a line that is now well used by Gunn students," she said, referencing communications and marketing work that she's also done to boost ridership.

VTA's concept plans for a revamped system countywide would skew resources even more toward San Jose, she said. In a map proposal, Line 22 is colored a bright red, which indicates service that arrives every 15 minutes or less.

No other line in Palo Alto has that kind of frequency, she said.

"In most versions (of the plans) Palo Alto has only one red line. It's one artery that runs straight to the heart (San Jose)," she said. "They don't acknowledge that Palo Altans need to go somewhere else."

Ellson said that residents have "reached a place where we need to disrupt" these agencies.

"As citizens, we've lost control of our money. I've really lost faith in VTA as a provider to our community," she said.

---

VTA officials stressed the concepts are just that -- concepts. They are a starting point to gauge public opinion about the goals VTA must meet to grow and stay in the black fiscally. The concepts as they are now aren't scheduled for review by the VTA board of directors, officials said.

The whole process got started in response to the scheduled 2017 opening of two new BART stations in Milpitas and San Jose. While redesigning that portion of the transportation network, it made sense to redesign the entire network, said Adam Burger, senior transportation planner at VTA Transit Planning. Typically, service plans are done in two-year intervals, but this process involves a complete redesign from scratch.

Stacey Hendler Ross, VTA spokeswoman, said that creating new connections with the added BART stations, however, isn't the sole focus of the system revamp.

"It's an opportunity to ... look at our whole system and see how it can be improved to meet those goals: farebox recovery, decreasing congestion and improving ridership," she said.

"People hear the word 'BART' and they think that's the big gorilla, but we're taking this as an opportunity because we know there is going to be such an influx (of people) into Silicon Valley because of the BART extension."

Burger agreed.

"There are two goals that transit agencies are asked to achieve. One is ridership -- to get as many people as possible -- and the second is to move them as rapidly as possible. It's a very business-oriented mindset," he said.

Burger acknowledged public dissatisfaction with some of the concept plans and said he understands why people feel as they do.

"It's completely fair of Palo Alto to look at public transit through their city lens. At the same time, VTA is looking at transit though a county lens, and those don't always match up," he said.

VTA officials maintain they simply don't have the funding to provide the kind of intracity service that residents want.

VTA's model makes the choice of increasing ridership by increasing the frequency of buses along popular lines but at the cost of reducing coverage of other areas.

In Palo Alto, all three intra-city lines have below-average ridership. Weekday boardings per revenue hour -- the number of passengers who get on a bus during one hour -- show that Line 88, for example, had 12.9 boardings per revenue hour, which is below the agency's standard of 16.3 boardings per revenue hour for community buses, according to the agency's performance report. (To see which VTA buses serve Palo Alto, click here)

But Palo Alto's routes are not the only ones that are under performing. Out of 53 lines countywide identified in an analysis done by VTA, 29 fell below the agency's performance standards.

VTA's most drastic concept plan, which aims for 90 percent ridership and 10 percent coverage area, would remove 35 under-performing buses countywide, 32 of which are local or community lines. Five routes would be created in South Bay cities, such as the Montague line, which would run between Mountain View and the Milpitas BART station when it opens, according to the June 10 "Transit Alternatives Report" by consultants Jarrett Walker & Associates.

Some of the factors that make Palo Alto and other affluent cities attractive places to live or do business actually work against them as locations for transit service.

A VTA-commissioned "Transit Choices Report" also by Jarrett Walker revealed that Palo Alto comes out at or near the bottom compared to the southern end of the county and around San Jose in terms of residential density; employment density; activity density and poverty.

That last indicator is significant because in wealthier communities most residents don't rely on public transit.

"It's tough when you are looking at affluent areas -- say, Los Altos Hills, for example -- to justify service when you know you aren't going to get a big return, although certainly Los Altos Hills' sales taxes fund VTA transit," Burger said.

Ironically, the City of Palo Alto's efforts to boost its mass transit service through the Palo Alto Shuttle and burgeoning transportation-management agencies that encourage workers to use Caltrain may also be contributing to the demise of VTA service in the city, at least from VTA's viewpoint.

"Palo Alto, Stanford and the Shoreline area of Mountain View show low boardings, but this partly reflects the abundance of local transit not directly provided by VTA," the study noted. "Stanford has its own extensive shuttle system. Palo Alto and Shoreline are also served by Caltrain shuttles and by SamTrans, apart from frequent services on El Camino Real."

---

Palo Alto's openness to alternative transit could play in its favor, however. The city rates fairly high for the number of households without vehicles, an indicator of persons who would most likely be looking for alternative modes of transportation, including mass transit, the study noted.

That means the city could be a transit market ripe for growth. About 65 percent of Palo Altans said they drove alone, a rate that is the lowest of any city in the study and certainly lower than San Jose's 77 percent and the county's 76 percent.

Palo Alto also has the highest percentage of public transportation use, tied with Mountain View at 5 percent (San Jose stands at 4 percent), and the lowest percentage of carpooling, at 6 percent.

Palo Alto out-bikes every other municipality -- its rate of bicycle use is 9 percent -- and far more people in Palo Alto walk (6 percent) and work from home (9 percent), according to the study.

A September 2015 survey about the city-run Palo Alto Shuttle revealed that 19 percent of respondents would like to use the shuttle but said they don't know how. Fifty-three percent of those surveyed said they would be motivated to take buses if the vehicles came more often -- as frequently as every five to 15 minutes.

A nearly identical number, 52 percent, said they want "bus routes that drop me closer to my destination." And 47 percent want "routes closer to where I live," according to the survey.

The city concluded, "Opportunities to expand the shuttle's reach into new geographic areas and ridership markets include a focus on service," particularly serving seniors, students, Caltrain commuters, workers at Palo Alto businesses, and residents in the southwest part of Palo Alto.

For the moment, plans for the expansion of the Palo Alto Shuttle system are on hold, pending a firming up of VTA's plans, city officials said. Money, as always, is part of the sticking point.

Some in Palo Alto, including Mayor Pat Burt, are advocating for VTA to hand over millions of dollars in tax revenue -- for example, the 16.35 percent that north county cities' residents pay for services but two-thirds of which they don't receive.

While VTA is pondering service cuts, it's asking all county residents to vote for a 1/2-cent transportation tax that would generate $6.25 billion for VTA projects. The measure would include $1.2 billion allocated for local street and road improvements. Palo Alto, which started heavily investing in road repairs in 2010 and has brought most to above 79 on the Pavement Condition Index, could divert that money to other transportation projects of its choosing, such as light transit and bike systems. That funding could help Palo Alto grow its shuttle network, Burt said.

But there is a caveat.

"These dollars are supposed to be new dollars," he said, but they wouldn't amount to much "if they take away an equal amount" by reducing VTA service.

Sending tax money back to the city that generated it so that local municipalities can build out their own intracity transit networks has been talked about, but so far the idea hasn't been seriously discussed, Burt said.

Burger noted that Los Angeles Metro did take that strategy. LA Metro gave a large portion of funds from two voter-approved tax measures to cities to operate their own transit systems. Many cities developed their own local transit, and they hired non-union contractors, which stretched the money further than LA Metro could, he said.

LA pulled out of many of the local transit markets and increased frequency on their own major lines.

But there were layers of complications.

"You had dozens, maybe a hundred cities, operating their own uniquely branded services. So for the average rider, that was a lot of different systems to have to learn," he said.

If Palo Alto is going to put more into local service, that would allow VTA to focus more on what it does best: running the major cross-county connections and operating the larger buses.

"If a city can step up into an area that we don't do that well, which is that local circulator service, and provide that benefit to everyone, that can augment our service and feed into ours, and we can feed into theirs, and we are talking with the city about that," Burger said.

"One thing that is also good is when a city is filling a local need, it doesn't make sense to VTA to be in the same market competing with them, especially since the Palo Alto Shuttle and the Marguerite Shuttle are both free, and that's difficult for us to compete with because we charge $2 a ride. We don't want to duplicate and repeat in ways that are redundant and not cost effective for us, but we want to find ways that we can make all of our systems work together," he said.

---

One problem for the VTA is how to seem relevant in a world in which tradition is being thrown out the window by the rise of the sharing economy. The agency is acutely aware that it must step up to tech-center expectations.

"In the middle of Silicon Valley, people come to expect to take advantage of things that are new and to make their lives easier. VTA has to keep up with that pace, and we're sort of in a little microcosm here. We're under the microscope, so to speak, because this demanding population is our population. They are the ones developing those newer and faster things, and so we need to keep our development options up with what people expect," Hendler Ross said.

Bus services face increasing competition from transportation-network companies such as Uber and Lyft. These services are seen as efficient alternatives to waiting for the bus or making transfers, some residents said. (Read Taxi businesses struggle to stay afloat in the Uber age)

VTA conceded that these alternatives are taking a bite out of bus ridership. Although the agency does not have specific numbers showing the effects of Uber and Lyft, those options, along with corporate shuttles, "certainly carry a percentage of travelers who might otherwise be on public transportation," VTA Communications Director Bernice Alaniz said.

By some estimates, up to 15 percent of corporate shuttle riders would be on public transportation if companies did not offer shuttle service, she noted.

And other new technology sources, electric and no-emission vehicles, have also become an option for those who use or have used public transportation for environmental reasons, she said.

Some Palo Alto residents see transportation-network companies such as Uber not as competition for ridership, but as partners with city shuttles and buses, such as door-to-door services that could enhance paratransit, according to the Palo Alto Shuttle Community Survey.

Mass transit also still has a few aces it can use to capture riders if it plays them right. Residents don't necessarily see Uber and Lyft as safe alternatives. Some women at the May 18 community meeting said they would choose a bus or shuttle over Uber for perceived safety reasons. Parents such as Candice Yang said that there are also safety considerations for children, who would not use Uber and other such companies for their transportation needs. One woman said her elderly parents "were not going to whip out their phone and dial Uber."

But others said that VTA will have to reconsider its mission as a service rather than an enterprise.

"Their mission is their ridership," transportation watchdog and Palo Alto resident Elizabeth Alexis said. "But it's the wrong mission. Your mission should be that people can get around the valley. If your product is choosing the option of a dwindling system, then Uber really is eating your lunch."

Burger said that VTA is mindful that it will need to partner with such companies to help build a network of connections to meet riders' needs. And it cannot be all things to all people on its own, officials said. VTA is in the middle of studying how to better connect with Caltrain. It is also studying what is being done in Dallas, Texas, and Pinellas County, Florida, where transit is partnering with ride-hailing services for the shorter "first-mile, last-mile connections."

But even those services might not get enough cars off the road to make a dent in the gridlock that is to come. One thing is clear: Santa Clara County has grown 12 percent in the past 15 years, according to Association of Bay Area Governments.

"If that keeps up, we have the potential of reaching a horrible situation like Los Angeles. Something has to be done," Hendler Ross said.

Related content:

VTA considers complete bus route overhaul

---

Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Comments

27 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 15, 2016 at 8:40 am

This is an atrocious situation. If we lose the ability of Gunn students getting to school by bus, an already difficult school commute route will become the biggest nightmare imaginable.

As it is, there is no bus/shuttle service from south Palo Alto to serve Paly. Getting children to school has to be the most obvious way to serve our community and at present there is nothing on the cards to make it easier for our ever increasing school population to get a bus to school.

The problem is that we are at the cusp of VTA and also with SamTrans. Both look on us as of negligible importance.

Public transportation is a service, not a business enterprise.


Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto

on Jul 15, 2016 at 9:08 am


Remember me?
Forgot Password?
Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.


43 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 15, 2016 at 9:33 am

And they want us to vote in November to pay even more money to them so they can eliminate the already pathetic service locally???


51 people like this
Posted by Sound your voice, Vote NO VTA tax
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 15, 2016 at 9:45 am

I'm sick of these people. We're already paying 3 running taxes to them from previous years elections. That's damn well enough. No more. Vote NO to VTAs new tax proposal.


6 people like this
Posted by Steve Raney
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 15, 2016 at 10:06 am

Palo Alto has been a pioneer in creating a bike-friendly city, however, biking accounts for only 3.8% of commuting, not 9%. By that measure, PA is exactly at the Santa Clara County average and does not out-bike other cities.

PA has the nation's highest jobs/housing imbalance and this is the cause of mediocre bike use. There are 90,000 workers that commute to PA and they bike 2.3%. There are only 30,000 PA residents who commute, and they bike 8.4% - so kudos to them, but the weighted average of in- and out- commuting is 3.8%.

(The data source is American Community Survey: Web Link. This weighted calculation isn’t mathematically exact. The true number is likely a bit lower than 3.8%.)

Kudos to PA's S/CAP (sustainability and climate action plan) for taking into account in-commuting in calculating PA’s GHG footprint. It’s a mistake to ignore PA’s jobs/housing imbalance, and anyone who tells you 9% is spinning.


37 people like this
Posted by Sonja
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 15, 2016 at 10:21 am

The City Council of Palo Alto should vote to oppose the VTA November tax measure! it expands road infrastructure, and evidently - reduces service to our city


12 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Jul 15, 2016 at 11:20 am

The role of moving people around Palo Alto should belong to the city. VTA does not have the resources to do that well.
VTA should focus on moving people between cities in North and West County. Getting between Palo Alto and Cupertino is a major need VTA should fill.

It is past time for Palo Alto to up its game in transportation. They have a great model right next door in Stanford.


9 people like this
Posted by CK
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jul 15, 2016 at 11:23 am

Why not route and schedule buses on a time table, for instance time to and from school, time to and from work? During the day it is usually pretty certain you encounter buses that have only one passenger if any. It is good to have routes for buses but this should not mean having buses run every 15/30 minutes all day long. Gear the bus schedules to the practical times they are needed or for special events. And who are the customers?


2 people like this
Posted by Adam Burger
a resident of another community
on Jul 15, 2016 at 11:33 am

To clarify a point in the article, the two goals a transit agency is asked to achieve are ridership and coverage, not "ridership and moving people rapidly" as the article states. The ridership goal would lead VTA to prioritize frequency in transit-supportive corridors and maximize the number of rides provided per dollar spent. The coverage goal is to provide transit service to as many places as possible. Both are good goals, but they are inherently contradictory. VTA is asking the community how they value those two goals and what the balance between them should be.

I encourage readers to visit the project website at nextnetwork.vta.org and take the transit choices survey and vote for their ridership preference.

The recently released Transit Alternatives Report, which is available at the project website, provides a more detailed discussion of VTA's current situation and how access, mobility and the usefulness of transit are interrelated.

Adam Burger, VTA


33 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 15, 2016 at 11:33 am

The problem with bus commuting is that it doesn't take most people where they want to go.

Regular commuters are school kids and they don't do a good job of that.

A good bus service would be timed to get people to and from Caltrain, arriving just before a train and waiting until the train leaves to do first and last mile. It doesn't do that.

An efficient service to and from local airports from somewhere near 101 would be an asset that would be useful for so many people and aid traffic on highway. VTA doesn't do that.

An efficient service would ignore county borders and get people from where they live to where they work. VTA doesn't do that.

An efficient service would get students to local colleges such as Foothill, De Anza and Canada, from Palo Alto. VTA doesn't do that. (neither does SamTrans)

An efficient service would get people into the Google, LinkedIn, Facebook campuses. VTA doesn't do that.

In fact, VTA doesn't do very much at all to help commuters for the simple reason it considers itself as being an option for poor people who are willing to snake around neighborhoods as their only means of getting where they want to go.

Until VTA sees itself as a service that offers an efficient alternative method of commuting in a clean, user friendly, wifi enabled bus service, they will continue to be a second class transportation non-entity.


25 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 15, 2016 at 11:39 am

Adam Burger, VTA

Thank you for your input. I have done the survey and it doesn't ask me anything about what I want.

I want to be able to put my kids on a bus to get them to school. I want to be able to get to airports. I want to be able to use the bus as an alternative to driving where I need to go.

I don't understand or care about the questions you ask as it doesn't matter a bit to me what you call it. I care about how I can use it and as far as I can see the service doesn't serve me. I don't have a clue how it serves people who live or work in San Jose because I don't live or work there. I spend my days in Palo Alto, Mountain View, Menlo Park, Sunnyvale and Redwood City. I can't get to a typical commute in Sunnyvale without 3 transfers and that is with or without use of Caltrain.

You don't serve me or my family. I appreciate you coming on here and joining in the conversation. But as far as I can see, your question is moot.


35 people like this
Posted by Steve Ly
a resident of Los Altos
on Jul 15, 2016 at 11:39 am

VTA wants to gut North County bus service at the same time that they're asking voters to approve yet another bump in the sales tax. Santa Clara County residents are already paying three sales taxes to VTA, a permanent 1/2 cent that was approved in 1976, plus the more recent Measures A and B, whose revenues are mostly going down the BART sinkhole. Plus, we're paying a Vehicle Registration Fee on top of that. Yet this is not enough, they want more tax money to throw down the BART sinkhole while eliminating local routes.

VTA is asking the voters for a fourth sales tax increase yet they refuse to “value engineer” their expensive projects. There is no reason that the BART extension needs to duplicate existing bus and train service between the San Jose and Santa Clara stations. And the proposed Bus Rapid Transit could be constructed at lower cost by eliminating the dedicated center lanes and converting the curbside lanes to HOV use during peak hours.

Money saved from cutting the “gold plating” from big capital projects could be spent on supporting the bus system, including saving routes 35 and 88 in Palo Alto. Until VTA learns to use its existing resources more efficiently, vote NO on more taxes.


29 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 15, 2016 at 12:04 pm

Palo Alto needs school buses to get predictable traffic off our streets and to cut the ever-worsening gridlock.

Palo Alto's vaunted city officials should look into the school buses and fixing the shuttle times instead of painting sharrows and putting in expensive roundabouts on little-used streets.


17 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Southgate
on Jul 15, 2016 at 12:55 pm

Why can't we have school busses if that's the worst part of VTA? School busses an work for all the schools like they used to. The drivers would be vetted by the schools and kids ride the same route and are known by the drivers. Why is this so difficult to comprehend? I grew up in Palo Alto taking the bus, why can't that return????


6 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Jul 15, 2016 at 1:14 pm

It sounds like many think the benefit from buses (or other forms of public transportation) comes from taking cars off the road to reduce congestion for their own commute. When people measure success of transit from this incorrect metric, they see it as a failure because it doesn't work like that (reducing congestion) anywhere in California, the United States, or the world.


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 15, 2016 at 4:25 pm

Robert

The benefit of buses is to give each of us a choice. If I could choose a bus even once over driving, it is a benefit. If my kids can choose a bus to get to school every day, it is a benefit. If the majority of school kids can choose a bus to get to school, it has to be a benefit to us all.

Likewise, if I can choose an efficient bus service to an airport it keeps a car from making two pointless trips to take me there and to pick me up.

These are indeed benefits of buses.


2 people like this
Posted by Sharon
a resident of another community
on Jul 15, 2016 at 4:25 pm

I am hoping that this will not affect the 104 express or other commute buses that bring the working class from San Jose to Palo Alto companies like Varian, HP, Stanford, Palo Alto VA. We've been down this road with VTA before. It just creates so much stress. Not to mention more traffic coming into Palo Alto everyday.


2 people like this
Posted by guest
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 15, 2016 at 5:15 pm

I hope to see more of a focus on improving the overall transportation experience for everyone by combining the strengths of each system and making it as easy, fast, and pleasant as possible to get from point A to point B.

Trip planning services could certainly be improved to make public transit easier to use and navigate. Google maps seems to do a better job than the transit agencies themselves, but it's still really painful: you can't get an end-to-end ticket, you end up waiting a long time at transfer points, and it's usually much slower than driving, even with traffic. Transfer point schedules don't seem to be well coordinated across transit agencies, and having to deal with multiple tickets/fares, apps, and web sites complicate the whole process.

Buses (with some exceptions) don't seem to be nearly as useful as they were just a few years ago, due to reduced routes and increased delays; they still aren't particularly pleasant to ride (part of this is due to road and traffic conditions) though they sometimes have Wi-Fi and the fares are low.


5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 15, 2016 at 5:38 pm

I agree with Robert 100 percent.

We have powerful government entities that make huge, expensive decisions based on the myth that building public transportation & bike infrastructure will take cars off the road.

But cars are vital for an individual's efficiency and value to the community. Public transit is generally used by those who lack cars -- a minority in Palo Alto -- so who are we to demand services when it's a bad investment for the VTA.


22 people like this
Posted by Stan
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 15, 2016 at 7:00 pm

This news is sad in so many ways. VTA has never seemed to be able to get their act together in the world of mass transit. Their current push-pull survey Adam Burger refers to is really biased, no, very biased. Basically, VTA wants access to another $4B to $6B in tax revenues to continue doing what they have not been doing well, at all, for decades. The insult to north county residents is that no matter what the VTA pr machine says, the first $4B to $6B will be thrown into the BART tunnel connecting Alum Rock to downtown San Jose. All the other amenities alluded to in the VTA survey will, in a very generous scenario, receive such minimal funding to be pointless, though just enough so VTA can say, see, we didn’t thrown everything into the BART hole. I will be voting NO to what ever tax measure VTA floats. I’m tired of funding botched public works projects.

Further, according to a brochure from BART, The “Farebox Recovery Ratio is a common industry standard for evaluating the cost effectiveness of a transit system and is calculated by dividing fare revenue by operating and maintenance costs. Farebox Recovery Ratio is an indication of how effective a transit provider is covering their costs through fare revenue.”

This article indicates that VTA has a firebox recovery ratio of 13%. That number places it among the worst mass transit performers anywhere in the world according to Web Link and almost certainly the worst performing mass transit agency in the bay area. Caltrain has a farebox recovery rate of about 50%, BART, surprisingly, was about 75%. The various bus organizations were lower, but not as low as VTA. To be clear, the firebox return says VTA has been doing a bad job at mass transit for a long time. I do not know how else to spin that.

Why is VTA firebox return so low? I assume the busses don’t go where people are going, and/or are not going when they need to. Rather than waste time with a funding survey guaranteed to recommend a tax measure for BART on the next ballot, why not actually put some effort into surveys asking commuters where they commute to/from, when they do it, and perhaps most important, why they do not ride VTA now. Get employers involved, get schools involved, get the community involved, get as much data as you possibly can, and then some more. If you know where people want to go when they need to, and move busses to accommodate, ridership just might rise.

In the meantime, NO to new VTA/BART sales tax measures.

I believe the VTA light rail is the super expensive albatross Rod Diridon championed for VTA some years ago. Claiming it would revolutionize mass transit in the south bay, I think it has an even lower firebox recovery rate than the VTA busses. It’s an unmovable rail line that can not respond to changes in commute patterns. It’s not grade separated at all, and suffers from traffic congestion like a bus. It’s also going to be a burden on tax payers for several decades to come.


2 people like this
Posted by PatrickD
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 16, 2016 at 12:04 am

Stan: I think you meant "farebox" and not "firebox".

I am also pretty disappointed with the new sales tax, however, there was some funding which is supposed to go to Caltrain grade separation ($700 million) and increased Caltrain service and station improvements ($314 million) which would benefit the northern part of the county.

Unfortunately they also lumped $1.5 billion to further extend BART to Santa Clara, effectively partly paralleling the existing Caltrain route. My guess this is to siphon off ridership at the expense of Caltrain? Why not just spend the money on increasing frequency on the existing rail lines?

There is also $1.85 billion being used on freeway and highway expansion, including expanding Highway 85, as well as another $1.2 billion being spent on repaving roads. Unfortunately VTA didn't get the memo on how expanding freeways just causes more congestion, and apparently there is $400 million allocated on making Lawrence Expressway an even more unpleasant road to drive on. Part of this money is also to go to a new "rapid bus" service on Highway 85, which seems somewhat ill conceived and the cynic in me sees it as a way to increase the size of 85 so that there are more lanes when the service inevitably fizzles. I'm not sure how you can build a rapid bus service which anyone would ride if it's not within walking distance of a population base.


3 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2016 at 8:10 am

Some routes make sense to run a big bus because many people come and go along the same route. Some routes a shuttle makes sense. Some routes a roving car makes sense.

Why can't VTA integrate Lyft-style on-demand service into their mix? Would the cost per ride be any higher in North County if VTA cancelled all the buses and paid for a ride share version of Lyft?

Could even have a model that Lyft services are to/from transit hubs and cities pay to offer intracity point-to-point services.

Our problem isn't density. Our problem is transit isn't a better choice than walking, biking or driving for most of our trips.


8 people like this
Posted by OldSchool
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 16, 2016 at 10:49 am

Fixed route buses like VTA or the Palo Alto Shuttle are dinosaurs. We're going to figure it out just when they are totally irrelevant. In a low density town like Palo Alto, we should be investing in point to point transportation solutions that appeal to people who value time.

On demand electric cars taking you want to go efficiently and cheaply - whether Uber, Lyft, Google, or Telsa - on demand, clean transportation is going to win. Palo Alto doesn't have the density to support a bus system - VTA is telling us that. City staff reports tells us that - the City shuttle drives around empty most of the day.

The city and the school district should collaborate on a school transportation system. That's the one area that makes sense. Even in rural areas, school bus systems have been efficient.


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2016 at 12:09 pm

I respectfully disagree about efficient single on demand vehicles becoming efficient public transit.

The problem we have around here is that our roads cannot cope with the amount of traffic we have. Everyone driving solo in personal cars is the same as everyone being driven in a solo on demand vehicle. It does nothing to alleviate traffic concerns.

The biggest problem is that people think that they are not a good candidate for public transportation. The real problem is the idea that we can get in our cars, drive to our jobs, have free parking at our jobsite, then stop to run errands at two or three places on the way home and expect to find parking right outside.

The first fallacy is that parking should be free. Why do we have that mentality? In other countries employers are not expected to provide free parking. Why do we expect that here? The first reason is because most people expect to drive to work. The second reason is because public transportation is not efficient. If we look at a free parking spot at our place of employment is a right as opposed to a perk, then we are living in dreamworld when it comes to the amount of space in and around our town. Each parking spot at a place of employment costs money to somebody. Whether it is the employer or the neighborhood, a space that accommodates one car for several hours is a cost that somebody has to pay.

The next idea is that being able to run several errands after work is the norm. Yes, many people want to do that even if it is just picking the kids up from daycare or running in somewhere quick to pick up dinner to take home. Personally, I think that it takes so long to park and pick up a quick dinner takes a lot longer than cooking a meal at home, but that's just my opinion. If you want to pick up dinner on the way home, then yes it can be hard to find parking and then you have to wait in line - how long, 10 minutes or 40 minutes for that convenience?

The next thing is that we expect public transportation to be right outside our door. Is that realistic? I would say no. But a walk of what 1/4 mile at the beginning and end, is that a realistic idea? I would say that would be acceptable and definitely a healthier option than parking outside a jobsite and getting no exercise all day!

Europeans and Asians, as well as people who work in large US cities, don't expect to park outside their office and are quite prepared for a short walk at each end. We have almost perfect weather and yet we aren't prepared to walk a short distance. That is hard for me to take.

So think of public transportation as an efficient alternative and that parking is a perk (which could be taxable) and see if we can't change the mentality of needing to drive solo to work with free parking available at work. Many people who live around here have lived in a non car culture and with sensible and efficient transportation options would probably adapt easily to doing so again.


12 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 16, 2016 at 12:49 pm

"see if we can't change the mentality of needing to drive solo to work with free parking available at work"

There is nothing wrong with this mentality.

I find it offensive that people who believe this feel such a need to impose their views on others. If you don't want drive a car solo to work, by all means take the train. Congratulations.

Please mind your own transportation business. Activists like Steve Raney who try to influence's peoples private transportation preferences are not being productive members of society.

It is indeed the jobs/housing imbalance and the TRUE reason for this is that we freely absorb immigrants from every corner of the world to come work at Facebook etc. NO ONE likes to talk about this because of the "racist" stigma but herein lies the reason people are so confounded by traffic. Its a massive influx of people that we can't possibly hope to sustain... unless the majority of posters in this thread who continue to support a government that treats us like an anthill and forces a denser environment/lower quality of life down our throats... finally wake up. There's not enough space to absorb everyone.

It doesn't have to be this way. The officials we continue to elect are deliberately making it worse... they are inviting density.


Like this comment
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 16, 2016 at 5:04 pm

@Resident wrote "Everyone driving solo in personal cars is the same as everyone being driven in a solo on demand vehicle. It does nothing to alleviate traffic concerns."

Yes, solo on-demand vehicles are always worse for traffic. Suppose Alice wants to go from A to B, and Chuck wants to go from C to D. If they both drive solo, the vehicle-miles travelled is AB+CD. If an on-demand vehicle serves Alice first, then Chuck, the vehicle-miles travelled is AB+BC+CD -- never less (and sometimes much greater) than solo driving. In effect, solo on-demand vehicles add to traffic in return for reducing parking requirements.

To reduce traffic, you need to eliminate the need for vehicle trips or consolidate trips so that one vehicle serves multiple people. Each approach has its own strengths and weaknesses, so is better-suited for some transportation needs and not others. For example, consolidation can work fairly well when a lot of people need to move from home to work at about the same time of day; Google buses are an example.


Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2016 at 8:46 pm

Allen Akin and resident are right up to a point. If 50 people all want to go the same way, then use a bus. If 12 people want to go the same way, use a shuttle. Otherwise a car is a good choice.

Arguing they shouldn't go if no one else wants to, or they should reconsider whether they need to go is an interesting discussion, but probably not the right one for thinking about transportation dollars.

That said, there's nothing wrong with companies discouraging solo driving so long as they're not just pushing their employees out to park in neighborhoods. That question is settled.


6 people like this
Posted by EllenU85
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 17, 2016 at 10:17 am

VTA 35 is the only mid Palo Alto transit option to City Hall for a Council Meeting Monday night or an evening meeting at the Mitchell Park Community Center and Library.

VTA 35 connects residents and visitors to retail centers from Stanford, downtown Palo Alto, Mid town, Charleston Center. San Antonio and Mountain View. It connects seniors and citizens to Avenidas.

Without a car - I use Uber or Lyft for every meeting I go to beginning after 5:00pm. It works. I'll vote NO on the bond unless the Council negotiates a deal with VTA to save the 35.


11 people like this
Posted by Be Positive
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 17, 2016 at 1:45 pm

Be Positive is a registered user.

@Stan said it best "Rather than waste time with a funding survey guaranteed to recommend a tax measure for BART on the next ballot, why not actually put some effort into surveys asking commuters where they commute to/from, when they do it, and perhaps most important, why they do not ride VTA now"

Public transportation should take people where THEY need to go (which is not San Jose for most Palo Alto residents).

School buses would really help, look at the difference in traffic now (July) vs. when PAUSD is in session.


Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 17, 2016 at 10:20 pm



ANSWER: UBER


Like this comment
Posted by Ron Wolf
a resident of another community
on Jul 18, 2016 at 9:02 am

First off thx to the PA Weekly for this indepth article and analysis. What would we do without you??

Second, thx to (almost) all commenters for the informed & insightful & hopeful (mostly) comments. Esp liked what Steve Raney had to say, thx for that.

Third, the very definition of a downward spiral here..... Ugg.

I'm very motivated to help turn this around. I believe in public transport and human powered transport, including walking - better for the environmental better for community building. The auto infrastructure tears apart community. Yes, the "sharing economy" changes things up. However, I have to believe that there are ways to turn this to our advantage. I know that PA can do better, set a standard, and drag other communities along.


Like this comment
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 18, 2016 at 3:49 pm

If VTA replaced 35 with a Prius it would be much quieter, far more economical, yet provide the same level of service.


2 people like this
Posted by Shuttle Expansion Delays
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 18, 2016 at 6:48 pm

The city of Palo Alto needs to stop delaying improvements to its shuttle system. First it was to form a committee to develop the perfect system. That committee is long complete and disbanded. Now it is waiting for the indeterminate outcome of VTA's concept plan. Likely the city of Palo Alto does not want to extend shuttle service to have VTA use that as an excuse to cut 35 line service.

Let's just do something. We can be fairly certain VTA will not extend the 35 line to areas of proposed shuttle expansion: linking downtown to the JCC area on Fabian Way, crossing El Camino Real to safely serve both sides, and service to LPCH and Stanford Hospitals and to parts of Palo Alto with no bus service at all including some students at Palo Alto High School, and safer bus stops such as around Charleston and Middlefield and the train station (dangerous place). VTA won't do any of this. Palo Alto should just expand the shuttle and meet it's own needs, as it largely does now.
Palo Altons are not all rich. Many residents of Palo Alto are low income, live in subsidized housing, are immobile due to disability or being seniors. If more funds are needed, Palo Alto should vote itself out of VTA sales tax district. Join Samtrans or start your own transit District.


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 18, 2016 at 8:56 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Mass transit only works when there is a "mass".

The population density in Palo Alto simply does not support mass transit.


4 people like this
Posted by @Shuttle Expansion Delays
a resident of University South
on Jul 18, 2016 at 8:58 pm

I find it absolutely disgusting that Palo Alto has to run its own shuttle service when it pays for more VTA service than it receives.


2 people like this
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 18, 2016 at 10:10 pm

@Peter Carpenter: "The population density in Palo Alto simply does not support mass transit."

Precisely what density is required to support each type of mass transit (uberPOOL, shuttle, bus, light rail, subway, etc.)?


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 19, 2016 at 7:11 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here are some sources:

Web Link

" No city with an overall density of less than 4,000 per square mile, and there are many, has broken a 10 percent commuting modal share. "

"...those cities with lower employment densities have difficulty attaining higher mode shares (the cutoff point appears to be around 100,000 jobs per square mi.)."

Web Link

"Our analysis suggests that light rail systems need around 30 people per gross acre around stations and heavy rail systems need 50 percent higher densities than this to place them in the top one quarter of
cost-effective rail investments in the U.S."

Web Link

"The academic literature highlights strong evidence that transit can achieve greater ridership and cost-effectiveness by serving areas with higher densities and other complementary elements, such as mixed uses, pedestrian connectivity, and supportive parking management."


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 19, 2016 at 7:16 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Pal Alto's population density (sq mi) is 2,765


Like this comment
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 19, 2016 at 8:42 am

@Peter Carpenter:

Large parts of the "official" area of Palo Alto consist of open space preserves (the Baylands, Foothills, Los Trancos, Monte Bello, etc.) The part of Palo Alto where people are permitted to live and work is much smaller and therefore denser.

Eyeballing the map, I estimate that part is about 10 sq mi. For a population of about 66K (per Wikipedia), the part of Palo Alto that might benefit from transit currently has a density of roughly 6600 people/sq mi.

It will take me a while to absorb the references you provided (thanks, by the way!).

In the meantime, is your position that we should increase density to the point that major mass transit systems are known to be viable, or that we should not bother to consider major mass transit systems because density is too low?


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 19, 2016 at 9:05 am

Caltrain proves to some extent that commuter transit can be a popular alternative transportation option.

I have read that the Palo Alto station is one of the most used stations (not sure if they can differentiate between departure or arrival use) and Cal Ave is also highly utilized.

Some research as to why Caltrain is growing its passenger base whereas VTA is not growing may be a useful study.

Caltrain is a big ugly train that is there and possibly this makes any advertising a lot less necessary than a VTA route.

But it is worth noting that Caltrain as a service rarely has passengers who ride the full length of the service and that the number of passengers who use it to enter the San Francisco downtown area or the San Jose downtown area is only a fraction of the number of passengers who use it part way.

I suspect that the number of passengers who use it to travel an average of 3 - 6 Peninsula cities is the biggest fraction of passengers.

What this says about density is questionable. The density is the same for bus transportation as it is for Caltrain. The better question in my mind is why do people look to Caltrain for transportation rather than bus transportation. I strongly suggest that the difference is speed. To get from say downtown Palo Alto to say downtown Sunnyvale is much quicker by train than it is by car. To say that a bus can in any way match the speed of a car doing the same commute makes the bus an unattractive option. Both services would require a first and last mile mode of transport, yet the tracks being unmoveable does not pose a hindrance for those who opt for the service.

For these reasons, I can't say that density makes much of a difference to the numbers. Caltrain moves quickly and efficiently while buses do not. Can anything be learned from this? Can a high speed bus route (and I am not thinking along El Camino but perhaps along Central expressway, highways 101 and 280 with fewer stops and shuttles or even bike share programs taking the strain of the first and last mile requirement be something that could work. I should think one that takes in airports would definitely be an attraction. I definitely would like a service to airports with a stop at the Baylands would be used by my family rather than always needing a ride. A ride to get a passenger to the Baylands is a much more doable favor than a ride to an airport!


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 19, 2016 at 9:54 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The densities of the other cities included in these studies all included the park spaces, like Central Park in NYC, in the density calculations. So apples and apples.

"is your position that we should increase density to the point that major mass transit systems are known to be viable, or that we should not bother to consider major mass transit systems because density is too low?"

I support greater densities for three reasons:

1 - To permit the creating of more inclusive communities with less economic and ethnic segregation,

2 - To facilitate better mass transit systems,

3 - To better balance the jobs/housing ratio.


4 people like this
Posted by dependent rider
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 19, 2016 at 10:13 am

VTA 35 is absolutely essential for those of us who use it. Many are seniors and disabled and students, but there are quite a few commuting to jobs. Admittedly, Palo Alto doesn't have population density or many residents struggling financially, and so this city can't help farebox recovery much. But public services always have always had to provide for areas that aren't lucrative for them.
Many of us in Palo Alto are not wealthy and not really able to manage walking all the way to El Camino for a 22 or a 522, and we need what we have now--more of that if anything, not less. We love living in this city--please don't make that impossible for us.
Please do not say that there are alternatives such as the very expensive "sharing" systems.
It's hard to avoid the feeling that we are being urged to move out of Palo Alto into - perhaps - Sunnyvale. I also ride the 22 and 522 and see how the ridership goes up once you hit Sunnyvale. Please don't push segregation.
We are already so split between haves and have nots--can't we do a few things to make that less glaring?
I use the VTA 35 six days out of seven and the 88 nearly every week day (it only runs weekdays), so I am very worried. I don't think that shuttles could ever make up for what we would lose if VTA took away the 35 and the 88. We know that, sadly, when shuttles are added, VTA notices, and cuts back what they provide to us. (There would be no question of joining Sam Trans--Palo Alto is not in that county.)
Let's persuade VTA to keep what we have.
And please do join us - we have great service now and you won't have to park your car somewhere --


Like this comment
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 19, 2016 at 12:13 pm

@Peter Carpenter wrote: "The densities of the other cities included in these studies all included the park spaces, like Central Park in NYC, in the density calculations. So apples and apples."

That's disturbingly wrong, as even a casual glance at a map will show.

In Palo Alto, the populated area is compact and well-defined. The open-space preserves are huge and outside the populated area. This is nothing like the situation in NYC. Central Park is surrounded by Manhattan, and it's small (1.3 sq mi vs. 23 for Manhattan alone). Note that I did include the embedded Palo Alto parks in my estimate.

Nevertheless, to follow through with your suggestion, there are (to the best of my recollection and a quick check online) no subway stops in Central Park itself. As would be the case here, there is no need to provide mass transit service inside park boundaries.

The only service area that's relevant for transportation planning here is the populated area. If we can't agree on that basic principle, it's going to be hard to find more common ground.


2 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 19, 2016 at 12:25 pm

"This is nothing like the situation in NYC."

You're right. Palo Alto is much less dense than NYC even in populated areas. So why even go there? Let's use a more local example - SF. I think we can agree that in general SF is more dense than Palo Alto, and MUNI, for lack of a better term, sucks. Even with an eyeball test, there's no one with a sane mind who could say that Palo Alto is dense enough for public transit.


2 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 19, 2016 at 12:38 pm

... but to continue, measuring Palo Alto as an island doesn't work. We have to recognize that we have not just a diffuse residential population, but also a distributed job situation up and down the peninsula and in the Bay Area in general. It's not just about population density within Palo Alto, because a significant number of people who are still working in Palo Alto (I say that because we have a aging population in Palo Alto thanks to Prop 13 and the corresponding ossification of Palo Alto, but that's for another thread) work outside of Palo Alto - and not in the same place. Some go north to San Francisco, south to Mountain View, Milpitas or San Jose, and some even to the East Bay.

If we really want to think of Palo Alto as an island (and I know a lot of you residentialists think that way), then you should be Trumpifying Palo Alto - Palo Alto for Palo Altans, Only people who live in Palo Alto can work in Palo Alto. Build a wall to keep those pesky Menlo Park folks out of our fair town!


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 19, 2016 at 1:05 pm

The problem is that Palo Alto is just one are within the huge Bay Area. We have a ridiculous number of separate entities that are public transit agencies and they do not interact with each other. People work in VTA area and live in SamTrans. City shuttles don't cross city boundaries and VTA/SamTrans don't cross county boundaries. People do cross boundaries because they are invisible lines drawn on a map. Density in Palo Alto is probably very different from density in Mountain View and Menlo Park but people need to cross those boundaries every day just to go about their daily lives.

To reach out to get people using an efficient public transport service, these boundaries have got to go.


Like this comment
Posted by Apple
a resident of another community
on Jul 19, 2016 at 1:12 pm

Palo Alto has a lot of free non-VTA public transportation. Stanford runs multiple shuttles. Palo Alto runs multiple shuttles. Major employers run shuttles to SF and Caltrain. Then, there's the local bike share, which does cost money, but can be more convenient to use than waiting for the bus.

All these programs happen to starve VTA of fares. Worst of fall for VTA is that these shuttles steal the highest margin bus customers. These riders all want to go to the same places at around the same time. VTA is left with very few riders that have a myriad of destinations they want to go to.

VTA then loses more money, which is the reason why they are cutting back service. It's a death spiral.

No good deed goes unpunished.


Like this comment
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 19, 2016 at 1:47 pm

@Me:

There are different types of public transit. My line of questioning for Peter was intended to learn which types might be viable in an area about as dense as Palo Alto is today. That's why the measurement of density matters (and it will continue to matter, even though Palo Alto's density will be much lower than NYC's for the foreseeable future).

Your definition of public transit might be restricted to major projects like subways, but mine isn't. I'm interested in what leverage we could get from small and large buses (perhaps autonomous buses, within the timeframe we ought to consider) among many other things.

Your point about commuting between Palo Alto and other places is a good one, and I have spent some time thinking about it. (BTW, Caltrain is a public-transit system that's working today, at the population densities we currently have within range of the rail corridor.) I was trying to learn more about a simpler issue, though.

Both @Me and @Resident: I agree, the transportation-system boundaries we have today no longer make sense. Probably they never did, but we got away with it because we had enough highway capacity to meet demand.


Like this comment
Posted by maguro_01
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 19, 2016 at 2:46 pm

Reading all the posts in this thread shows that H L Mencken's definition of Democracy remains one of the best - "...people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard."

In Palo Alto, especially, there seems no consensus about anything at all except that the price of housing must be maximized as the primary function of government and permitted commercial activity. Those prices are close to signalling that single family houses are no longer economic in much of Palo Alto but the game is being sustained by foreign money and unusual business conditions. There is a natural progression in housing types and density analogous to the forest progression.

One problem with public transit in this area is that so many people consider it beneath themselves to use it. They regard transit as an accommodation for lower income people. This is all public transit, not just bus #22, aka "Hotel 22". They won't get on a bus used by the guy that cuts their grass. That attitude is enabled because their cars are so heavily subsidized. Even car fuel taxes have not been increased for years and inflation has cut their value so much that in some places bridges are falling down.

There is enough money floating around here that we can do signature bridges for bicycles, but there isn't and won't be funding for transit. As one poster pointed out, BART is surprisingly cost efficient. It was supposed to ring the Bay. Now, today's development, costs and litigation would make it simply impossible. Ditto every solution. It seems unlikely that Caltrain will ever be electrified or elevated though many trains are SRO.

For years, most towns in the Valley played the game of building up commercial activity, especially near 101, and restricting housing construction. For years that paid homewowners very well. Now, frankly, the chickens are coming home to roost. Why, the Masters of the Universe may end up cutting their own grass....


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 19, 2016 at 3:27 pm

I disagree vehemently with maguro_01. At a fundamental level, I don't understand why he is concerned over what transportation modes other people choose... and then advocates RAISING GAS TAXES TO DISCOURAGE DRIVING... the most destructive solution imaginable.

Let me tell you; raising taxes is a never a solution. Raising taxes pays for lavish dinners. Isn't this obvious?

A more proactive approach would be to research flying cars so we can start making use of vertical space. Rather than Google's obnoxious self-driving cars, I think flight is the future of transportation.

Also, we need to realize that all these think-tanks who come up with ideas like 4-person carpool lanes are in reality getting nothing done. They take endless surveys to justify their position as "Transportation Reform Planner" or whatnot.


2 people like this
Posted by dependent rider
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 20, 2016 at 5:27 pm

Yes, I forgot to say that the existence of all the Stanford and Palo Alto shuttles did affect VTA's provision of services and does and will continue to.

Stanford has the Marguerite because a] needs to bring its own people there without having them come in cars and b] is obliged to mitigate impact of its growth on neighboring cities.

Here are some examples of where VTA cut back.

VTA 86 used to go to the Medical Center. Now no longer exists.

VTA 35 used to go to Campus Oval and Medical Center. Now no longer goes in to Stanford

VTA 88 used to have a long and very useful line before it was split into little 88 and little commuter-direction only 89. 88 used to go to the VA from California Ave/El Camino every half hour and on Saturdays, too. When VTA saw Stanford provided a similar service, the 88 route was split and changed.

In those cases STANFORD TOOK OVER, MORE OR LESS, SOMETHING VTA WAS DOING.

IF THE 35 IS TAKEN AWAY, STANFORD WILL NOT TAKE OVER THAT ROUTE. This would be the first time VTA eliminated a route without having the excuse that Stanford was backup for the people concerned.

Stanford is supposed to watch its impact on people in the surrounding communities so I hope that it will work to preserve the 35.


Like this comment
Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 20, 2016 at 8:58 pm

Just in case you missed this: Web Link Today's update on Elon Musk's blog.

"In addition to consumer vehicles, there are two other types of electric vehicle needed: heavy-duty trucks and high passenger-density urban transport. Both are in the early stages of development at Tesla and should be ready for unveiling next year...With the advent of autonomy, it will probably make sense to shrink the size of buses and transition the role of bus driver to that of fleet manager. Traffic congestion would improve due to increased passenger areal density by eliminating the center aisle and putting seats where there are currently entryways, and matching acceleration and braking to other vehicles, thus avoiding the inertial impedance to smooth traffic flow of traditional heavy buses. It would also take people all the way to their destination. Fixed summon buttons at existing bus stops would serve those who don't have a phone. Design accommodates wheelchairs, strollers and bikes."


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

He said – she said – who is lying? Justice Brett Kavanaugh or PA resident Christine Ford
By Diana Diamond | 69 comments | 4,808 views

Couples: "Taming Your Gremlin" by Richard Carson
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,330 views

Preparing for kindergarten
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 763 views

Let's Talk Internships
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 0 comments | 621 views

 

Race is tomorrow!

​On Friday, September 21, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run, or—for the first time—half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Learn More