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VTA seeks to reassure critics of bus-only lanes

Original post made on Sep 22, 2015

With plans for a greatly expanded bus service on El Camino Real speeding toward a decision, several cities along the prominent corridor remain skeptical about the most dramatic proposal on the table: the creation of "bus-only" lanes between Palo Alto and San Jose.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, September 22, 2015, 4:02 PM

Comments (36)

Posted by VTAlies
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 22, 2015 at 8:43 pm

VTA studies are geared to sell their ideas: they lie shamelessly.

Their assumptions on ridership and car travel time are nothing short of pure fantasy.

VTA light rail was a lie, high speed rail follows the same methodology.

Nothing from VTA is honest until the leaders of VTA are held personally accountable to their numbers via civil law..

We should be able to sue them personally for their mistaken projections.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 22, 2015 at 9:21 pm

One big flaw with this proposal that I haven't seen addressed is how are the passengers going to get on and off the buses since the doors are on the right which will be alongside the next lane of traffic? Will the buses be like school buses and put on red flashing lights to make all the traffic stop while passengers get on and off? Or will the VTA buy new buses from the UK which have doors on the left?

This is a serious consideration to this idea of bus lanes in the middle of the street. Has VTA got any idea of the mess this will make?

I don't think we have the volume for dedicated bus lanes unless of course Google buses and the like will also be using them. But the biggest fly in the ointment is definitely passengers getting on and off.

Posted by casey
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 22, 2015 at 10:16 pm

casey is a registered user.

I'm normally supportive of transportation improvement measures, but I'll vote against all future bills if they push ahead with this proposal. Don't push El Camino traffic onto Alma, Middlefield or our neighborhood streets. We already know what happens when we reduce lanes a/k/a "traffic calming."

Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 23, 2015 at 12:19 am

If I understand this report, it says that El Camino traffic will be minimally impacted because all the cars displaced by the Bus Only lane will use other streets. It's a big "screw you, we're making the bus go fast, and we don't care that it screws up every other street besides El Camino".

VTA should lose all tax payer subsidies if they decide to go forward with this. Measures should be put on the ballot to defund all sales tax money being allocated to VTA.

Posted by Stop the madness
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2015 at 12:50 am

This is folly that will be obsoleted when self driving cars become a reality integrated into transit solutions.

Posted by This is Insanity
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2015 at 8:03 am

This will be of no benefit to anyone, only harm.

VTA ridership is very low, they are already running in the red and have been for decades. Do they think a losing proposition like this will fix it?

All this will do is make the Silicon Valley traffic snarls worse, and push traffic onto residential streets, endangering bicycle riders ( especially kids).

Obviously these fools have done no research!

Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 23, 2015 at 8:44 am

SteveU is a registered user.

There are no through routes parallel to ECR north of Sunnyvale that are not already at or above capacity most of the day.

How many TONS of daily emissions from the resulting slower moving traffic are being conveniently ignored by the EIR?

Come to Los Robles if you want to see what reducing lanes on a major route has accomplished. (I bet the Maybel folk will report similar experiences)

Posted by Christine
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 23, 2015 at 11:08 am

How can anyone that uses El Camino or Alma during rush hours say That removing a lane will help? We will have more angry people on the roads than we have now. Just look at the disaster that "traffic calming" on Charleston and Arastradero has caused.

Posted by Jay Ess
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Sep 23, 2015 at 11:33 am

It might work for commuters. But why have it all day. do it like the car pool lanes-- only in commute hours and
allow bikes to use the lane. Maybe widen the area by taking parking out of the right lane.

If the parking goes away during commute lane time It could come back for shoppers during the mid day.

Basically, I wonder if the ridership is actually going to increase. I see a lot of empty busses. Huge ones. Why don't they use mini busses in the off hours? Save fuel

Posted by Commuter
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 23, 2015 at 12:15 pm

"The analysis showed that the travel time for cars would only go up from 40 minutes to 43.7 minutes as some drivers switch to other modes of transportation or find new routes to take."

In other words: get off our new bus avenue! At best, this will increase car time travel by 20 minutes (1/3 of the time), and at worst make it much longer.

And it does NOT make sense: most cars do not drive from Palo Alto to San Jose on ECR. I use 15 blocks of ECR to get from my house to a 237. At night, this takes 5 minutes. Commute times, this is gridlocked and can take 15-20 minutes. So, I'm supposed to sit in traffic for an extra 10-15 minutes watching an empty bus lane? Or worse, watching empty buses go by to places that I don't need to go?

Public transit is useless for my commute which involves 2 counties and at least 3 methods of transit. (Bus, Smart Rail, Bart, Bus). I know someone who tried, and it cost $250 PER WEEK. Until there is a useful, connected and easy method of public transit, NO ONE WILL USE IT. Especially if it is more expensive than driving.

The reason people don't use public transit is that it is expensive and difficult. Adding a bus lane WILL NOT FIX THAT!

And, what will it do to the non-existent bicycle "lanes"?

I do NOT want to pay for transit lanes for useless public transit, especially if it completely messes up everyone else's life.

Posted by Questions and an idea
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2015 at 12:20 pm

In addition to taking a dedicated lane, BRT proposes preempting traffic signals for the buses (giving VTA buses automatic green signals when they approach intersections.

Question: How much time do the buses save with signal preemption? How much additional time do they save with the dedicated lanes? How does this affect cross street operations? VTA already tested signal preemption technology, so that's already paid for though not operating presently (as I understand it). Why not implement the signal preemption change for a while and PUBLICIZE the faster bus runs and see if that is an adequate improvement?

This is an enormously expensive project that doesn't really serve the east-west and transit NETWORK connectivity problems. However, solving the network connectivity problems that transit customers have to contend with would require collaboration with other transit agencies, and VTA doesn't play well with others.

I won't be voting for VTA's transportation tax--though I have in the past. I don't trust their data, and I don't feel they are listening to the expressed needs of north county AT ALL.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 23, 2015 at 12:42 pm

I'd like to see some hard numbers of bus ridership. Every bus I see is empty or practically empty.

As we've been hearing lately, these traffic "diets" eliminating lanes and forcing cars to find alternate routes and creating gridlock with no place for cars to move over for emergency vehicles. These "traffic diets" are very very dangerous with backed up cars spewing emissions.

Posted by Mountain View Resident
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 23, 2015 at 1:28 pm

Where is democracy in this high impact decision on the citizens' daily lives? Can this be put to vote in the next election? I do not believe that the 'assumptions' made in the subject studies are valid. Regardless, if the VTA wants a bus-only lane, they should build two car-only lanes in each direction in over passes for El Camino Real to enable drivers to reduce emission and improve efficiency. This project will take a vote on the ballot.

Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 23, 2015 at 1:36 pm

I don't see why this should reassure us.

Look at the photos: they show a loss of lanes in both directions.

Given how often the buses run, this basically means that lanes will be sitting empty while cars try to jam into the other lanes.

This fits what we see in Palo Alto: inconvenience the drivers as a strategy to get them to give up their cars.

Posted by GetaClue
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 23, 2015 at 2:05 pm

Beware of VTA shills who show up at City Council meetings when this is discussed. This topic has been discussed at the Mountain Voice Town Square (online) where you can see much discussion and debate about this ridiculous proposal.

Posted by Vote NO on VTA taxes/bonds
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 23, 2015 at 2:09 pm

Send a loud and clear message

Posted by Say goodbye to your trees
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 23, 2015 at 2:18 pm

VTA plans to remove all those pesky trees that are in the way of their private bus lane. You're not allowed to use it.

Posted by No way to the VTA
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 23, 2015 at 2:39 pm

I have stated this previously on other threads discussing this topic....

It's clear that the push back on this is going to need to be finessed, firm & relentless, because the VTA is going to try to leverage every tool at it's disposal - local, state & federal (if possible) - in order to foist this dedicated lane BRT scheme down the El Camino Real corridor cities throats, regardless of those cities wishes.

Please, send in your comments & concerns in to Joe Simitian's office directly at Web Link

Attention: Kris Zanardi, Policy Aide - Environment & Transportation

Mr. Simitian and his staff are very responsive.

Your voice DOES in fact matter, so don't let anyone try and convince you differently.

Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 23, 2015 at 2:43 pm

VTA full employment plan.

Posted by pacsailor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2015 at 3:05 pm

This is a failing proposition, VTA is very San Jose centric and pay no attention to other cities in this county. They got themselves a boondoggle they call BART extension and have us pay for it although we will get no benefit from it. Now they want to clog one of our main traffic arteries with a useless I'll thought of idea called BRT, I wonder if the VTA board really know what they are proposing in the first place. We need to send a message loud and clear to VTA by voting NO on the proposed sales tax increase on next year's ballot.

Posted by K
a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2015 at 3:06 pm

I support the Bus Rapid Plan, would use it, and I wish San Mateo County would do the same.

Also, re. 'commuter', I am curious where your start and end points are for your commute as the $250/week sounds like more than 'normal'. There are often discounts for transfers: for instance, if you ride Caltrain with a monthly pass of two or more zones you can ride Samtrans and VTA free, which cuts down on expenses.

Posted by VTA
a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2015 at 4:06 pm

"One big flaw with this proposal that I haven't seen addressed is how are the passengers going to get on and off the buses since the doors are on the right which will be alongside the next lane of traffic?"

You are correct. We were not aware of that particular vehicle configuration when we prepared our plans. We thank you for pointing it out.

Obviously we must now dedicate the two innermost lanes in each direction for our buses. No perceptible impact on automobile traffic is anticipated as a result of this modification.

Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 23, 2015 at 4:15 pm

SteveU is a registered user.

Next we will Import British buses with the exit on the other side.

The alternate is to Buy buses with a Unique configuration: with the Driver position in the middle so doors can be on either side. It is only Taxpayers money

Posted by Hoo Boy
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 23, 2015 at 4:16 pm

"In addition to taking a dedicated lane, BRT proposes preempting traffic signals for the buses (giving VTA buses automatic green signals when they approach intersections."

Signal preemption systems are easily hacked by anybody with inexpensive hardware and some simple tech moxie.

Heh, heh, heh, heh, heh

Posted by stanhutchings
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 23, 2015 at 5:16 pm

stanhutchings is a registered user.

The VTA should FIRST get the traffic lights synchronized on ECR so traffic can flow at 40 MPH. Once you make the first light, if you maintain the set speed, you don't get any more red lights until you need to turn left. Buses stop for red lights, too, and get stuck behind gridlocked traffic. If everybody goes faster, the buses will too. They don't need an extra dedicated lane, just good traffic synchronization.
The pipe dream of traffic finding other routes is a fantasy. Alma? Middlefield? Even 101 barely crawls during rush hour.
When I commuted from Old Palo Alto to Moffett Field, I could use a free VTA pass, my personal car, or my bike. It's about 10 miles. By VTA it took an hour and a half minimum, mainly because of required transfer light rail to bus schedule mis-match, infrequent buses, and circuitous bus route. Car took about 30 minutes in NORMAL traffic, but some days took an hour plus. Bike was a reliable 50 minutes door to door.
I agree that in a few years the autonomous vehicles will make buses and trains obsolete for commuting. Ride sharing will be MUCH easier, and door-to-door service will be convenient.
Stop the VTA plan by voting against the transportation-tax measure in November 2016, and all future plans that do not support and implement autonomous vehicle (cars, trucks and buses) adoption.

Posted by Sal
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 23, 2015 at 7:55 pm

VTA reassures critics that their proposed bus lanes are not going to create traffic nightmares, that's laughable. Any half wit can see that their renderings of El Camino with, and without a bus lane, are pure fantasy. The only time El Camino EVER has so few cars and/or buses may be an hour or two after bars close in the middle of the night. Their 'conceptual drawings, like the rest of their plan is a pile of **** with no ridership to warrant extra buses, let alone dedicated bus lanes.

VTA has proven themselves to be incapable of managing what they have. VTA light rail was supposed to be a game changer for SV commuters. It's a barely used financial Albatross on SC tax payers. Boost light rail fare revenues from from the single digits to closer to 50% to prove you can do something right before creating more problems for Santa Clara residents.

Posted by Jane
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 24, 2015 at 12:22 am

Some time ago, when the plan to dedicate the two center lanes for buses surfaced, I read that VTA were going to eliminate most of the left turn lanes on El Camino so as not to block the buses.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 24, 2015 at 11:42 am

How is it possible for VTA to take away a lane on a State Highway? State taxpayers pay for this road. When Caltrans added freeway HOV lanes, they didn't take away existing lanes, they added on.

Is this a legal taking of public/state-owned property?

Posted by Anony Mouse
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 24, 2015 at 12:20 pm

Ha! I love it. "Don't improve public transit, we have too much traffic", "The busses are running empty, so let's make sure NOT to improve service". Glad you all are not transit planners.

Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 24, 2015 at 1:28 pm

"Don't improve public transit, we have too much traffic", "The busses are running empty, so let's make sure NOT to improve service"."

Sorry, but the rationale for dedicating substantial road resources to empty buses escapes me. Pray elucidate.

"Glad you all are not transit planners."

Actually, nobody in this Valley seems to be.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 24, 2015 at 7:44 pm

Advantage: Curmudgeon!


Posted by Lousy VTA Service
a resident of Los Altos
on Sep 25, 2015 at 12:03 am

Well, the problem with the "Rapid" service even with BRT is that there are only stops every 2 miles or so. This is worthless for local transportation, which is the reason the buses are empty most of the time. You won't get more riders even if you run more frequently during the non-peak times of the day. It just won't have any effect other than to burn diesel fuel. It's akin to a product where you lose $1 for each unit you sell, but you try to "Make it up on volume." No Go.

On the other hand, at peak times during the day, then there are some riders, but oddly, they are 2 to 1 riding the 22 service which makes all the stops versus the "faster" 522 service which doesn't stop where people want to depart and go mostly. They ride 22. It won't help them a bit if 522 goes faster.

So there you go. It's a very bad plan, and just serves to rack up the deficit in VTA's funding, without encouraging more riders.

Posted by Vote against VTA measure
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 18, 2015 at 9:59 am

The VTA wants even more money to pocket, squander and misuse. A tax increase measure is planned for 2016. It would collect billions more. Yhe bus lane plan will likely be postponed until after that election.

Posted by Vote Against VTA Measure
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jul 23, 2016 at 12:09 pm

On the November ballot.

Posted by Resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 25, 2016 at 12:22 pm

Actually, I don't have a huge problem with bus-dedicated lanes.
It makes sense!
As it stands, we always have to swerve around buses whenever they pull over and they cause a lot of havoc in the right lane.

El Camino is not an efficient route anyways.

Cars should use other roads. Residential streets, even, if it helps alleviate congestion.

What we need is for PA City Council to stop worshiping bikes and adding speed bumps, sharrows, stop sigs and green bike lanes everywhere -- deliberately discouraging cars from driving on streets that are perfectly fine to drive on.

For decades, cyclists have been perfectly fine. They want MORE cyclists so that our streets look like Beijing.

PA City Council is not coordinated with the VTA - one wants bus business, the other has a bizarre pagan-like devotion to bikes and cars are left nowhere to go, so they idle in congested intersections *polluting the air* while the drivers blast the A/C in their faces and are content to sit in traffic playing around on their phones.

Allow cars to use more roads instead of cyclists and leave ECR to the buses.

Posted by Steve Ly
a resident of Los Altos
on Jul 26, 2016 at 8:53 am

The dedicated lane screws bus passengers by splitting stops. If you're going from Palo Alto to Mountain View, you don't care if it's a 22 or 522, you just take whatever comes first to minimize the wait time. With dedicated lanes, there will be safety issues as passengers run between local and express stops.

VTA wants to ram the dedicated lane through 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 flush down the BART toilet 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, saving routes threatened by "Network 90." Until VTA learns to use its existing resources more efficiently, vote NO on more taxes.

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