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VTA's new bus schedule leaves Gunn High in a quandary

Original post made on Dec 23, 2019

With the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority poised to shake up its bus routes this weekend, Gunn High students who participate in after-school activities may need to look for new ways to get home.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, December 23, 2019, 3:55 PM

Comments (35)

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 23, 2019 at 4:31 pm

This will put more traffic on our streets, particularly Arastradero and Charleston, just when we don't need it.

Gunn will be like Paly with fewer options for students in the south part of Palo Alto.

It is about time we stopped being part of VTA because they are not serving the needs of anyone in the north anymore. Trying to get to Foothill college is equally difficult.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 23, 2019 at 4:46 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Guess all our fine transportation committees, commissions, consultants, council members, city fact-finding missions etc. will have to work over-time recruiting more of the same to devise some clever slogans and new sales tax proposals.

Posted by Midtown Renter
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 23, 2019 at 4:49 pm

Midtown Renter is a registered user.

Saying that VTA fell short in terms of notifying the public is wildly misleading. VTA has been discussing these plans for years with numerous public meetings. I went to a meeting regarding the new bus system in early 2017. VTA has also been planning on opening the new transit system by the end of this year for many months (the news in November was that South Bay BART was delayed but the new VTA system would open anyways).

VTA has been open to feedback. They were gonna cut a bus route in South San Jose and cut overnight 22 trips, but they decided to keep both due to public feedback. Yes, the cuts are hard - VTA has a limited budget - but they have had a very open process over the past few years.

Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 24, 2019 at 3:36 am

@ Midtown Resident

Look at the ads in the Palo Alto Weekly by the VTA. Tell me where in those advertisements it focuses on the services in Palo Alto being cancelled by VTA. A whole page is mostly devoted to light rail changes. One sentence addresses the 88 bus, and doesn’t even say what changes are being made. Even the signs posted at VTA 88 bus stops don’t specify essentially the cancellation of the hourly 88 bus pointed to VTA website that is still somewhat inaccurate. I’ve been working to notify Gunn High School students.

Those of us who were long aware of the changes were given about a month notice of its timing.

It was because of our protests in 2017 that the 4:10 pm run was added to the 288 route plans.

Note that the VTA didn’t announce their bus changes until a few months after the election to raise our sales taxes mostly to pay for BART to San Jose.

The fact is that the City of Palo Alto did not have enough notice of the timing of the change to budget for the backfill service of the South Palo Alto Shuttle.

The news in October was that the BART extension the Berryessa would be delayed again.

Finally, the Gunn school trippers exist now because of efforts I led in 2007, the previous time they tried to cut service in Palo Alto.

Posted by John Q Public
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 24, 2019 at 10:53 am

How many rich kids from palo alto are taking the bus?
They _have_ other options. Ppl not owning vehicles and waiting for hours on end to come to Palo Alto to clean your houses don't have a choice.
Stop whining ppl.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 24, 2019 at 11:18 am

Not to worry. There is plenty of extra traffic capacity on Arastradero for more cars, and lots of extra space in the Gunn parking lot for more cars. They should encourage all 16-year-old+ Gunn students to drive separate cars to school. Especially on rainy days. No problem.

Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 24, 2019 at 11:57 am

Samuel L. is a registered user.

Why isn't the district providing transportation for students to get to/from school? Why is this VTAs problem, or even the city's problem?

PAUSD brings kids to school fom outside the city, so why can't they transport the ones that live in the district boundaries?

I understand there are many excuses, from a lack of money, to drivers, prop 13, etc... The district will never do anything that they are not forced to do, especially when someone else is paying.

Arthur, have you gone to the people who are responsible for educating the students to get them to provide transportation so their students can be educated?

Posted by Bikes-Not-The-Answer?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 24, 2019 at 12:03 pm

The 88-line buses are generally empty--so dropping, or modifying the route would seem to be a "no brainer". What would have been more helpful in understanding this matter would have been ridership data from VTA, which would include the number of students using this bus to get to school. Without that data .. all of this hand waving isn't very helpful.

Given how much time and effort has been put into downsizing the Charleston/Arastradero Corridor for bicycle use-- why isn't the solution to have students start riding their bicycles to school, rather than using the polluting, fossil-fuel buses?

Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 24, 2019 at 1:01 pm

@ John Q. Public

Years ago, high school students unrelated to each other could carpool to school. That is no longer legal.

Traffic delays increase exponentially when the road approaches saturation, so reducing traffic and smoothing out traffic can help. So getting Gunn High School students out of cars and onto bikes, into buses, and walking to school helps reduce congestion.

@ Samuel L.

It is my understanding that PAUSD reduced their school bus service in response to Proposition 13. They do run bus service by subscription for Gunn High School students from the Stanford campus housing and from Los Altos Hills.

@ Bikes-Not-The-Answer?

About half of Gunn HS students bicycle or walk to school and that percentage has more than doubled in the last two decades. There are also students bicycling to other schools along the Charleston-Arastradero Corridor.

Over 5% of Gunn HS students take the 88 bus to school. That number is higher in the winter and especially when it rains.

Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 24, 2019 at 1:39 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

PAUSD buses many students from EPA every day to all of the schools in PAUSD.

Property tax revenue increases every year for the district. We can't use a 30 year old law as the reason why we can't fund 2-3 more busses to get students to school. Teachers still get raises, Administrators tag along, and money is free flowing. Over the past 6 years property tax revenue has grown approximately 9%/year. It was 112M in 2011-12 and 177M in 2017-18.

PAUSD can afford to run a couple buses before and after school. That's why there's a bus yard full of busses. If they're not used to transport students, than why have them?

It's time for PAUSD to stop claiming to be indigent.

What is the actual cost to add a few busses for the students at Gunn? I would assume it's less than $1M. The highest paid bus driver in PAUSD makes $130K including benefits. You could hire 2 drivers where their sole job is to drive to Gunn in the morning and then from Gunn in the afternoon and it would cost approximately $250K plus bus depreciation.

Posted by VTA driver
a resident of Gunn High School
on Dec 24, 2019 at 4:24 pm

people here complaing should contact their very own VTA board of director member, mr adrian fine Web Link

VTA did do public community meetings regarding changing the bus routes, but held them during the week at an hour people were commuting home from work. they offered no public meetings on the weekends so people could actually go.

then there's "letting the public know" about these public meetings by which they did so by posting on VTA's website. to top it off, VTA's board of directors are city and/or county officials whom most likely did nothing to notify their constituents about changes in public transit that they WILL approve.

it's like VTA and the board of directors want this public transit system to fail.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 24, 2019 at 5:58 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Interesting that Mr. Fine is on the VTA board of directors. I wonder if he was on it a few years ago when PA lost some VTA bus service because the PA shuttle routes were found to duplicate the VTA routes AFTER we approved some transit-oriented sales tax for which our city "leaders" lobbied hard.

PA dropped its "outreach ball" so VTA only learned of the duplication AFTER the tax hike was approved and we ended up paying more for less service.

Posted by Taken For Granted
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 24, 2019 at 8:37 pm

Palo Alto has a lot of things going for it, but transit within the city is not one. It is not just Gunn students that are hamstrung by the VTA's desertion of our area; from South Palo Alto the North we feel the sting of abject failure by the city and county to invest in our infrastructure. In a city that prides itself on our ability to achieve great things, and on our desire for livability, this is unconscionable.

Where is the revitalization of the El Camino Real corridor, where business slowly crumbles while drivers speed by?

How about Middlefield Road, Charleston/Arastradero, and Embarcadero, beset by congestion as people travel across town for basic services?

We are left bereft of civic vision, at a time where slowly creeping density stretches our roads to capacity.

One cannot be content with the state of affairs from decades past; nor can collective ennui on the part of our leaders continue to hurt businesses and residents alike. I know development is somewhat of a tarred word in Palo Alto politics, and I agree. We do not need high-rise apartment buildings in Palo Alto; that only contributes to the problem. What we need is a permanent revolution in the way we regard growth in this city. We must prioritize a civic environment that harnesses development for good, supporting high quality local business and creating the vibrant focal points of community and economic engagement.

Everyone in Palo Alto should be able to walk to shops, restaurants, and other local conveniences; they should also be able to take reliable, frequent public transit up and down the major arteries that link us together as a city. Our public spaces, both green space and in our business districts, should be accessible to all without the use of a car, and subsidized as a public service.

In a time when the rest of the Bay Area is engaging in rapid urbanization, our sleepy, leafy neighborhoods are something special, and we hold them dear, as well we should. Yet we also expect more from Palo Alto, and we must expect more. We should want our city to be better than it is for all its residents, supporting a rising standard of living by increasing our quality of life.

This is not an economic impossibility; indeed, civic investment benefits our property values, our local economy, and stimulates business investment. Investment in infrastructure returns more in value per dollar spent to the taxpayer than any other civic program.

It starts with transit--we must free ourselves from the yolk of the VTA, which takes our tax dollars, and our transit improvement measure funds, and spits in our face. It must not end there, though--across our city we must increase municipal spending, and undertake bold initiatives to make Palo Alto the best place on the Peninsula to live.

Posted by David
a resident of another community
on Dec 25, 2019 at 4:25 am

It has been public knowledge for two years that VTA planned to cut the 88 and replace it with the 288 routes. Where were all these people during that process? If I knew about the change and don't even live in Palo Alto, I'm not sure what to say about how uniformed Palo Alto residents are...

Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 25, 2019 at 2:54 pm

VTA ridership is down, especially over the last several years. Web Link The article also talks about the VTA offering free rides from December 28 to 31.

Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 25, 2019 at 3:02 pm

@ David

We knew about the changes for several years but didn’t know about their timing. The idea was to have the City of Palo Alto backfill the loss with the South Palo Alto Shuttle. But because the VTA timed the change with too little notice of the timing, the City could not coordinate its increase in service to be seamless. The

How many times did VTA delay the opening of BART to Berryessa and the bus changes? They were linked until the VTA decided in November to unlink them.

Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 25, 2019 at 3:38 pm

I run the website Web Link with information about the 288 bus route and a reference to a mailing list for schedule change announcements.

Posted by senior
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 25, 2019 at 4:52 pm

Interesting to hear that P.A. did not have time to develop a city shuttle as an alternative to the 88. What a shame that seniors such as myself will be struggling in winter weather. We will be partly because other seniors at the JCC and Stevenson House so rarely used the 88. Admittedly, the other day, on the first run of the morning, about 7 from Stevenson House took the 88 to El Camino. In general, though, seniors and low-income staff in these places failed to take the 88 in any numbers. WHY? The JCC was located there partly because of the 88.
Another group is also affected. Midtown residents working at the VA will have to drive or face long walks.
I am so upset over the loss of the 88 that I am considering leaving the area. It will be hard for the city to replace the 88; I doubt it ever will.

Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 25, 2019 at 5:51 pm

@ senior

We tried to reach out to the senior communities at Stevenson House and the JCC when VTA was proposing its cuts to the 88 bus back in 2016. We got interest but little support and help.

The South Palo Alto Shuttle is mainly in the late afternoon after the 288 runs. If there is ridership, it could be expanded.

Also, if a business license tax adopted by the City, it could provide funding for additional shuttles, as well as Caltrain grade separations and building affordable housing.

Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 25, 2019 at 6:04 pm

@ Samuel L

If PAUSD ran school buses to serve Gunn, they would likely not run them late enough to support after-school activity. As it is, the VTA does run school tripper bus service to support Gunn students right before school and right after school and at 4:10pm, and will continue to do so. Even the VTA considers this service successful, so it will continue.

There's a natural tendency in a network for usage to be mainly in the center of the network and for it to drop off at the edges. So usage is less in Palo Alto and so is VTA service. SamTrans provides more transit lines into Palo Alto than the VTA does.

It seems suboptimal to me for the 522 bus in Santa Clara County to be separate from the ECR bus in San Mateo County. Why can't they be combined for continuous service from Santa Clara County to the BART station in Daly City? This is but one example of the inefficiencies from having the VTA governance be overweighted from San Jose.

Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 25, 2019 at 6:07 pm

P.S. To be specific, other than express lines running at the beginning and end of the day, SamTrans runs more lines into Palo Alto than VTA does. And VTA is even cutting some of the express lines into Palo Alto with this change.

Why isn't the Research Park providing funding to continue the VTA express lines being cut?

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 25, 2019 at 8:31 pm

The problem with PAUSD running a school bus service is that it would be for students only. Some similar to the Google buses, the problem is that it limits ridership rather than allowing anyone to ride.

A much better service would be to run for the students but allow others such as seniors or those needing to get to the VTA to be able to ride also.

In other words, a city shuttle or private company running a public shuttle that would suit students makes more sense, as far as I can see.

Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 25, 2019 at 10:24 pm

By the way, the 288 series of buses are school trippers designed to serve the needs of Gunn students. But anyone who pays the fare may ride them.

And anyone may sign up for updates on the 288 bus at the list at

Also the South Palo Alto Shuttle has not yet started and is not funded. It might be funded for the next fiscal year (starting in July), particularly if there is a groundswell of support to the Palo Alto City Council. Contact them at

@ Resident I agree with that problem for PAUSD-run buses. I have heard interest from others to get to the VA (Veterans Administration Hospital), not to be confused with VTA (Valley Transportation Authority).

Posted by Reality Check
a resident of University South
on Dec 25, 2019 at 10:46 pm

In 2017, the city staff presented a plan to backfill the VTA Route 88 with a new Palo Alto Free Shuttle route, The council was more interested in talking about subsidizing Lyft/Uber rides and autonomous buses than finding funding for this route. Watch the video. Everyone complaining about this should direct their attention squarely at the incumbent council members.

Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 25, 2019 at 11:13 pm

@ Reality Check

Was that led by Adrian Fine? In 2016 Web Link he said, "And the other side of transportation is, here in Palo Alto, we’re at the center of this transportation revolution in terms of services like Uber and Lyft, autonomous vehicles, and new parking technologies, so we have the opportunity to harness those services and systems to make better use of our existing transportation and parking resources." I understand Vice Mayor Fine now works for Autonomic, a subsidiary of Ford Smart Mobility.

Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 25, 2019 at 11:19 pm

Uber and Lyft have done wonders to increase congestion in SF. Web Link

Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 25, 2019 at 11:26 pm

Autonomous vehicles may also increase congestion. Web Link Web Link Web Link

Posted by localmom46
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 26, 2019 at 7:48 am

localmom46 is a registered user.

Arthur, thank you for all of your work on this issue. My understanding is that you don’t currently have children at Gunn, but you continue to advocate for Gunn students. We appreciate your ongoing dedication to this issue!

It’s unfortunate that we are being left without the earliest bus with such short notice. Many students do zero period PE and need to be at school by 7:15am. Add to that rainy weather, instruments, and occasional posters or other large items they are being asked to bring to school, and suddenly a bike isn’t feasible.

Let’s hope City Council makes finding a solution a priority.

Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Dec 26, 2019 at 11:14 am

City council places a high priority on virtue signaling, like banning gas and talking about limiting development.

They are weak on accomplishing things that benefit the populace: see the inability to get housing developed, the fumbling over Cubberley, the hand wringing over grade separations, and the foot dragging on transportation solutions (shuttles, etc).

The public needs to replace the debaters with action-oriented leaders.,

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 26, 2019 at 4:11 pm

Posted by chris, a resident of University South

>> They are weak on accomplishing things that benefit the populace: see the inability to get housing developed,

Housing is not developed by the city. Private for-profit and non-profit entities develop housing, not the city. For-profit entities are only interested in developing high-end housing.

>> The public needs to replace the debaters with action-oriented leaders.,

Right-action or wrong-action? We don't need "leaders" who are working to do the wrong thing. The city continues to allow office-space development, which makes the jobs/housing imbalance worse. I would prefer it if the city would do nothing, rather than allow continued development of more office space, which we do not need.

Posted by Independent
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Dec 26, 2019 at 8:37 pm

@Samuel L: Pausd won't provide buses for Gunn students b c every dollar possible must go into the salaries and benefits for teachers, administrators, and staff! Don't you know that? That's why there is no funding for any extracurriculars and why parents must finance everything. It's a big money grab.

Posted by BGordon
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 27, 2019 at 7:01 am

BGordon is a registered user.

Seattle is wetter, cooler, and hillier than here; yet bicycle commuting seems more common.

Posted by It's not Prop 13!
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 27, 2019 at 12:42 pm

Palo Alto has about !4,000 owner occupied housing units. There are about 700 home sales every year. So about half of Palo Alto's units have sold in the last ten years. New sales are taxed at current property tax rates, not protected taxes from years ago. Residential tax revenue is rising (even under Prop 13), going through the roof! There's plenty of money. Ask City Hall and city management where it's all going.. Waste all around.

Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 27, 2019 at 2:22 pm

^ You sure it's not the same 700 homes selling every year?

Posted by tmq800
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 29, 2019 at 9:00 pm

This is really bad for me. I have used the 88 bus for nearly 18 of my 22 years to go to work in Mountain View, and now it seems I will have to ride with school kids on the new 288 bus, just as I did 14 years ago. What's even worse is since I have to follow Gunn High School's dismissal schedule, some of the buses that come to Fabian Way and Charleston will be at different times each day. I find that this kind of bus cut isn't necessary, and I am hoping VTA will make some changes by spring of next year.

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