Next Meetings For the “Next Network”

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For transit in Silicon Valley, 2017 is off to a fast start.  In addition to changing its logo, colors, and tagline, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) is holding meetings in January and February to take your input on its “Next Network” bus and light rail service restructuring proposal.  Recall VTA’s prior bus service restructuring in 2008 which has been documented, as a guide.

If approved by the VTA Board of Directors in April, changes will take affect this fall.

Public meetings have already been held in cities like San Jose and Milpitas, with more to follow until the end of February.  More on the VTA’s “Next Network” proposal – and some of our thoughts on it so far – are below.

Our Group’s Initial Thoughts

Remembering VTA’s prior bus restructuring in 2008, we discussed the current “Next Network” proposal on our email list. From what we have seen so far, service will be reduced from the extreme ends of Santa Clara County (northern and southern) and added to bus corridors like El Camino Real, Stevens Creek Boulevard, and Monterey Highway between downtown San Jose and Santa Teresa light rail station.  This will be redirected to increase frequencies on bus lines like the 522 Rapid, while creating some new bus lines like the 500 Rapid between San Jose Diridon Station and the new Berryessa BART station.

Sunnyvale and North County

Some of the affects of VTA’s proposal in the Sunnyvale area were documented in a post on the Greater Sunnyvale blog.  That proposal was based on compromises made between VTA staff and the public in Palo Alto.  The compromised plan was revealed at a “Next Network” public meeting reported by the Palo Alto Weekly on January 6.

On our email list recently, Barbary Doheny commented on the affect of losing the 54 and 55 bus lines on high school students in the Lakewood Village neighborhood in Sunnyvale:

I’m concerned about the #54 and #55 being eliminated in Sunnyvale without providing a link for all the high school kids in Lakewood Village to the vaunted “Mathilda to De Anza College” North Sunnyvale start at Lockheed.  The 55X plus the 55 are both packed in the morning before classroom times, and middle school kids use the 54. 

Also, David Roode pointed out current flaws with the VTA’s bus service in the North County – particularly with the 522 Rapid:

This is a spot on problem with service in the North County. Not only are the distances too long but some points which would really benefit from access to the rapid 522 are skipped. This means that some “local” uses of 522 are impossible. Everything is designed for riders going down clear to San Jose. There is a serious lack of local service on roads like 237/Grant Road but that’s no reason to have 522 skip that huge shopping center area entirely. There is also the case of El Monte which intersects El Camino Real on one side while 1/8 mile North on the other side the intersection is Escuela. There is some rare cross direction bus service at these intersections, but no 522 stop. I think there’s really a good case for 522 stops at both these locations, regardless of the long distance to the adjacent stop.

Mr. Roode also noted that in Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) services nationwide, it’s rare to have these long gaps between stops. He cited a table on page 12 of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Recommended Practices Guide for BRT as a reference.

Some positives in the “Next Network” proposal for the North County: the return of the 20 bus line between downtown Mountain View and the new Milpitas BART station.  Before VTA expanded light rail from Tasman to downtown Mountain View in late 1999, the 20 bus line originally served this corridor.  Also, the introduction of a bus line (the 21) linking the Palo Alto and Santa Clara transit centers.  The proposed 21 would replace the current 32 and 35 bus lines.

Meanwhile, under the “Next Network” proposal, bus lines like the 89 linking Palo Alto VA Medical Center and the California Ave. Caltrain station would be eliminated.  Also, the current 88 bus line would renumbered as the 288 and be made to run only during “school bell times” on weekdays.

San Jose

A January 9 article by Gary Richards in the Mercury News detailed how the VTA’s “Next Network” proposal affects San Jose.  Among the changes detailed and proposed by VTA in that article:

  • increasing bus frequency along corridors like Tully Road in eastern San Jose up to downtown
  • adding two new Rapid Bus lines – the 500 and 523 – to link the Berryessa BART station to downtown San Jose at Diridon Station, and beyond
  • Free bus-to-bus transfers – meaning not having to pay an extra fare to transfer to another VTA bus or light rail

I was quoted in that article on how VTA is one of the few transit agencies in the nation for punishing riders for taking more than one bus to/from their destination.

Some of the “Next Network” effects will be most felt in southern San Jose.  There, the 13, 63, 65 and 328 limited stop bus lines (running into New Almaden) would be eliminated.  At the January 5 VTA Board Of Directors’ meeting, Johnny Khamis – San Jose City Council Member and VTA Board Member – voted for the draft plan you are seeing that proposes to eliminate these bus routes.

South County

A January 6 article in the Morgan Hill Times documents VTA’s “Next Network” proposal for the South County – that is, Morgan Hill, San Martin and Gilroy.  Among the proposed changes: having the 68 bus line run every 15 minutes during morning and evening rush hours, and every 30 minutes during off-peak and weekend hours.  Also proposed: having the 16 bus line run only during school hours weekday mornings and evenings, with no mid-day service.

Morgan Hill CIty Council Member (and VTA Board Member) Larry Carr pointed out the overall need for paratransit service, and service for seniors living far from a VTA fixed bus line:

“Those paratransit services are very important,” said Carr, who explained that paratransit is funded through the federal government and based on where the fixed bus lines are located. “As we cut service, it means we also cut the ability to have paratransit in that area.”

[…]

“We need to find ways to still have paratransit outside of those restrictions based on federal funding,” Carr said. “It may mean the difference between going to the doctor and not going to the doctor.”

Below is a YouTube “webinar” from January 17 VTA had highlighting proposed bus service changes in South County:

What’s Going On and Where?

VTA proposes to restructure is bus and light rail service throughout Santa Clara County.  Meetings have already been held in San Jose, Cupertino, Palo Alto and Milpitas.  From now until the end of February, here are where the rest of the meetings will be held live and in-person:

VTA “Next Network” Public Meeting Locations

Unless otherwise indicated, all in-person meetings start at 6pm and last two (2) hours.

  • Campbell – Monday, Jan. 23, Campbell Library (Community Room), 77 Harrison Ave. (off Civic Center Drive), Campbell.  Take VTA’s 26 bus line or light rail (Campbell station).  Also, a 5-10 minute walk from the 60 bus line on the other side of downtown Campbell on Winchester Ave. and W. Campbell Ave.
  • Mountain View – Monday, February 6 at the Adobe Building, 157 Moffett Blvd. (corner of Central Expressway), Mountain View.  The Adobe Building is across the street from the Mountain View Transit Center.  Take Caltrain, VTA Light Rail or the 35, 52, or 81 bus lines to the Mountain View Transit Center.
  • East San Jose – Monday, February 13 at the Dr. Roberto Cruz Alum Rock Branch Library, 3090 Alum Rock Ave. (corner of S. White Rd), San Jose.  The Library is a short walk from the 25, 45 and 71 bus lines.
  • Gilroy – Wednesday, February 15 at the Gilroy Library, 350 W. 6th Street, Gilroy.  Take VTA’s 19 bus line, which stops near the Library.
  • South San Jose – Thursday, February 16 at the Southside Community & Senior Center, 5585 Cottle Rd. (corner of Poughkeepsie Rd.), San Jose.  VTA’s 27 bus line is a short walk from the Senior Center.

Who’s Responsible At VTA?

The VTA’s Board of Directors will approve the final revisions at their April 6, 2017 meeting.  Here is the current roster of the VTA Board members, in addition to VTA’s General Manager, Nuria L. Fernandez.  Ms. Fernandez reports to the VTA Board of Directors, who ultimately report to YOU.

For helping to develop the “Next Network”, VTA has hired consultant Jarrett Walker from Jarrett Walker + Associates.  The basis for the “Next Network” was the Walker Report, published in February 2016.  As of 2015, VTA has spent over $63,000 of your money from its Operating Budget to Walker + Associates for the work done so far.

Follow up

Look for a report and other information on what our group thinks VTA should do in the “Next Network” proposal before the February 20 deadline.

What are your thoughts on VTA should do as part of the “Next Network” proposal?  What are YOU willing to do to help implement your thoughts?

Eugene Bradley
Founder, Silicon Valley Transit Users