San Jose Proves BRT Can Be as Wasteful as Light Rail

antiplanner – excerpt

San Jose’s Valley Transportation Authority–a perennial contender for the title of the nation’s worst-managed transit agency–is building a bus-rapid transit line, and it is proving as much of a disaster as some of its light-rail lines. It was supposed to open two months ago, but now appears that it won’t open until 2017. Torn-up streets are damaging businesses along the route, and VTA is having to pay them compensation, making the project far more expensive than expected.

The problems have gotten so bad that the chair of VTA’s board, Perry Woodward, has written a highly defensive op ed not to apologize to taxpayers but to argue that the damage done by this project to the local neighborhood has been more than made up for by all the good things VTA has done in the last twenty years.

What good things? Santa Clara County taxpayers voted to tax themselves to relieve congestion by building more roads, and they proved that you can, after all, build your way out of congestion: congestion levels declined for several years despite a rapid increase in local jobs. But then the county made the mistake of merging its congestion management authority with its transit agency, and pretty soon the transit agency stole all the congestion relief money to fund its expensive projects. The result has been some of the nation’s emptiest light-rail trains (an average of 18 passengers per car vs. a national average of 24) and rapidly rising congestion… (more)

Rapid bus project in East San Jose becomes an endless big dig



Public Tours Improvements Coming to Van Ness Avenue

by Sean Cronin : sfmta – excerpt

More than 40 people joined us last week for a walking tour of the Van Ness Improvement Project to learn about the transit and safety improvements expected to break ground this spring on Van Ness Avenue between Mission and North Point streets.

Attendees got the chance to discuss details with SFMTA staff and compare existing conditions with renderings showing the vision for Van Ness with improvements for pedestrian safety, Bus Rapid Transit with center-running transit-only lanes, new trees and more.

The one-mile tour began outside SFMTA headquarters at Van Ness and Market Street. At intersections like Mission, McAllister, Grove and Hayes streets, we explained safety improvements like sidewalk extensions, pedestrian countdown signals, better street lighting and more visible traffic signals… (more)

At a time when the transportation budget is being slashed, one wonders why these projects are going through. Who is setting the spending priorites? Certainly not the taxpaying public who keeps voting to fix potholes and keeps getting everything else. Certainly not the Muni riders, complaining loudly over bus stop reductions. Not the merchants screaming about the traffic and parking problems that are killing their businesses.


7 Key Bay Area Transportation Projects Likely to Lose Funding

: mcclatchy – excerpt

Seven Bay Area transportation projects that could untangle congested interchanges, make East Bay BART stations brighter and more comfortable, create better routes for bicyclists and smooth the drive for commuters may be delayed for years, regional transportation officials decided Wednesday.

A committee of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission reluctantly identified a $71.3 million collection of projects to lose financing for at least five years to cope with a massive cut in state funding blamed on plummeting gas tax revenues and a lethargic Legislature that has failed to heed the governor’s call for a transportation funding fix.

The state Transportation Commission in January slashed $754 million from its five-year budget for projects. The Bay Area’s share of the cuts is projected to be $80 million to $96 million, a huge hit that leaves the region unable to keep pace with its growth and go-go economy. More cuts could be coming. Kenneth Kao, an MTC planner, said the agency will work with state officials to make any cuts above the $71 million.

The list of projects tentatively scratched, putting off their funding until at least 2021, includes:

  • A new interchange where Interstate 680 meets Highway 4 in Contra Costa County. The interchange would replace an outdated and overwhelmed cloverleaf design that’s snarled with commuters forced to weave in and out of traffic.
  • Improvements to the Highway 101/Highway 92 interchange, another traditional cloverleaf that routinely backs up traffic in San Mateo.
  • Brighter, more colorful and more spacious BART stations in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. BART plans to upgrade its 1970s-era stations with brighter colors, new lighting, wider concourses and waiting areas and easier access. Station remodeling plans are in progress at the 19th Street Oakland, downtown Berkeley, El Cerrito Del Norte and Concord stations.
  • Enhanced access from Oakland to the bike path on the Bay Bridge’s east span. A series of trails and lanes is planned to make it safer and easier for bicyclists to pedal to the popular bridge trail.
  • A new bicycle and pedestrian bridge over Highway 101 at Adobe Creek in Palo Alto, replacing an underpass that’s flooded as much as half of the year.
  • A plan to create Jepson Parkway, a north-south thoroughfare between Fairfield and Vacaville, by connecting and widening existing narrow roads.
  • Rehabilitation of Airport Boulevard From Highway 29 to the Napa County Airport in southern Napa County. Work would include repairs, repaving and new bike lanes…

Members of the MTC’s programming committee reluctantly approved the list of cuts, which still needs to be ratified by the full commission — but not before expressing their frustration…(more)

Could it be time to listen to the requests from the state’s taxpayers for a change?