Service to the VA Palo Alto Health Care System's Palo Alto campus — which is near Gunn High School — would be cut back and only run at the start and end of Gunn's school day. (Palo Alto's service to Gunn High School would remain.)
Veterans who awaited buses outside the VA on Tuesday said that limiting service will add hardship. Many of the veterans come from San Jose to Palo Alto and then use the VTA Line 88 bus within the city to take them to the VA.
"It would affect me a lot. Sometimes my appointments are not during school times," Wesley Stanley said.
Stanley and Joseph Bernal, another veteran who visits Palo Alto VA, said the VA does operate a shuttle to and from San Jose, but it runs infrequently — just once a day round trip. Veterans often wait for hours for a return ride, Bernal added. In comparison, the current VTA Line 88 has 12 arrival and departure times in each direction, roughly between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m., on weekdays, according to the schedule.
Additional changes to the bus system could significantly affect commuters who use the VTA Express routes — which would either be eliminated or see reduced service — and late-night riders who use Line 22, which runs along El Camino Real.
VTA operates 13 bus lines in Palo Alto, including to and from the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs hospital, Gunn and the Stanford Research Park. The proposals in the New Transit Plan modify a previous route redesign, the Next Network Plan, which was refined after public input in 2016-17 but not rolled out. A changing financial outlook made it clear that Next Network, which was to be implemented when BART service enters Santa Clara County, is not financially sustainable, the agency stated on its web site. The New Transit Plan would cost about 4 percent less to operate than Next Network and would place a greater emphasis on increasing ridership, according to VTA.
The transit agency is basing its proposed schedule and cuts on a number of factors, including the number of boardings per hour and the costs to run the route, including labor for drivers, dispatch staff, and sheriff's deputies and security personnel at the Palo Alto Transit Center and at end-point transit centers.
Some lines, while meeting or exceeding the minimum thresholds for ridership, still don't make the cut due to the labor costs, according to VTA.
Weekday lines 88L and 88M, which serve Gunn students, would continue the current schedule with one stop at Gunn before school starts and four pickups after school on each line. These lines would be renamed as 288M and 288L.
But Line 88 (Palo Alto Veteran's Hospital to Middlefield Road and Colorado Avenue) would cease to operate as a regular route due to low ridership, VTA spokeswoman Holly Perez confirmed. The line would be renamed 288 and would operate only at the start and end of the school day.
Local employees who work late night and graveyard shifts could also be affected by the proposed changes.
Line 22 (Palo Alto Transit Center to Eastridge Transit Center via El Camino Real) would lose four hourly runs from 1-4 a.m., despite the fact that ridership currently exceeds the transit agency's minimum thresholds for those hours. About 120 passengers, spread across three westbound and eastbound trips, ride the route, according to the VTA.
In addition to workers, roughly 40 to 45 homeless people are on the 22 during these hours, using it as shelter, VTA noted. The agency is looking at ways to work with community organizations who serve homeless populations to minimize the impact of the service cut, it said.
Under the new plan, commuters who rely on Express buses to get to Palo Alto from the south bay (or to get to work in the south bay from Palo Alto) would need to adjust their schedules or find new ways to commute. Proposed changes include:
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