VTA Fare Review: Public Input

As part of the VTA’s Next Network project to change the transit system’s design to provide greater service frequency, VTA is reviewing fare policy. VTA invite you to contribute to a Public Input Survey. Surveys are due by February 20.

The survey is accessible here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VTAFareReviewPublicInput

Also, Silicon Valley Transit Users have a nice summary of upcoming meetings for those who wish to learn more about and provide feedback to VTA about the Next Network.

VTA Publishes Draft for “Next Network”

The VTA Board has received a draft of the “Next Network” which is VTA’s plan to gear the transit network towards serving more riders. The overall strategy is to provide fewer, more direct routes with greater service frequency to make transit more useful to transit riders. Let’s start with route legend:

vta_next_network_draft_201701-legendI read this as:

  • Red means convenient transit service (every 15 minutes)
  • Orange means convenient and fast (15 minutes, limited stops)
  • Blue means there is a bus, but check the schedule …

Here’s the current system map (left) and the draft (right) for the Sunnyvale area:

Some of the changes slated for Sunnyvale:

El Camino Real

Decrease weekday frequency on Route 22; increase frequency on Route 522.

New Rapid Service

  • Route 523: North-South from Lockheed Martin via Mathilda / Sunnyvale-Saratoga to De Anza College, then East-West via Steven’s Creek to San Jose: Vallco, Valley Fair, Santana Row, BART.
  • Route 23: (Stevens Creek to De Anza) Decrease frequency from 12 to 15 minutes on Route 23; increase frequency on Route 523.

New “Neighborhood Connections”

  • Route 20: (Evelyn / Arques to BART) Create new Route 20 that would connect Milpitas BART Station, Mission College, Santa Clara Square, Downtown Sunnyvale and Downtown Mountain View. New Route 20 would provide service to areas currently served during commute periods by parts of Routes 58, 321 and 304.
  • Route 21: (Middlefield) Create new Route 21 that would connect Downtown Palo Alto with San Antonio Transit Center, Downtown Mountain View, Downtown Sunnyvale and Santa Clara Caltrain Station. New Route 21 would replace current Routes 32 and 35.
  • Route 56: (Wolfe / Fair Oaks) Create new Route 56, which would connect Lockheed Martin Transit Center to Downtown Sunnyvale, Vallco Mall, Downtown Campbell and Winchester Transit Center.

Modify/Remove “Neighborhood Connections”

  • Route 26: Split into two separate routes; replaced by Route 56 in Sunnyvale.
  • Route 32: Discontinue; replace with new Route 21.
  • Route 53: Change routing to serve Vallco Mall and Santa Clara Caltrain Station instead of West Valley College; this change replaces part of current Route 81. Increase frequency on weekdays.
  • Route 54: Discontinue Route 54; add more frequent new Rapid 523 service on Mathilda Avenue/De Anza Boulevard corridor.
  • Route 55: Change routing between Downtown Sunnyvale and Remington Avenue from Fair Oaks Avenue to Sunnyvale Avenue; decrease weekday peak period frequency and increase Sunday frequency.
  • Route 81: Discontinue; replace Moffet Field to De Anza College segment with new Route 51. Replace De Anza College to Santa Clara Caltrain Station segment with revised Route 53.

BART Connections

bart-201701

When the Milpitas BART Station opens and we get our new bus system, Sunnyvale will have some connection to BART:

  • The light rail system will be re-aligned so that Mountain View routes to Alum Rock / BART
  • Every 30 minutes, route 20 will meander from BART over to Mission College, Sunnyvale Caltrain, then continue down Evelyn to Mountain View Caltrain
  • Every 15 minutes, route 60 will connect to San Jose Airport and Santa Clara Caltrain before heading south to Campbell

Initial Reaction

These changes are a step in the right direction.

I like the frequent light rail connection to BART, and the 523 rapid service.

I would prefer more frequent service in Sunnyvale. (Change some of the blue to red.) Maybe prioritize frequency on lines that can extend the frequent light rail service to BART:

  • Route 21 West on Middlefield to Palo Alto
  • Route 56 South down Fair Oaks / Wolfe

With the addition of route 523, route 55 south of Sunnyvale Caltrain looks like duplicate service which might be better applied elsewhere.

I’m not sure if Route 20 is such a great BART connection. It might be that despite the transfer, light rail to route 523 would be more convenient to downtown Sunnyvale.

Sunnyvale and Santa Clara are working on a plan to bring in a lot of housing around Lawrence Caltrain station. This new transit-oriented community should have local transit service. It may be that the timeline for this development is such that it would be accommodated in a future round of VTA service adjustments.

Route 21: Middlefield

I really like the idea of a single bus route the length of Middlefield as far as Palo Alto. Running parallel to and more frequently than Caltrain along a well-known corridor, it could reproduce some of the success of the 22. I think it would be better if it continued straight along Middlefield between San Antonio and Moffett:

  • The route already provides Caltrain connections at Sunnyvale and Palo Alto
  • The detour duplicates Caltrain connections provided by route 44 and employer shuttles
  • A straight route would provide service to many apartments, offices, and retail along Middlefield
  • A straighter route provides faster service to passengers
  • A straighter route is more intuitive to customers
  • A simpler route reduces operation costs, making frequent service more feasible
  • Route 22 avoids detours to connect to Caltrain, and it is VTA’s most popular line

One potential vision for route 21 is as a frequent route that can extend the frequent service provided by light rail down through the offices and apartments in the North of Mountain View clear to downtown Palo Alto.

Get Involved!

VTA will be holding a series of meetings to gather community feedback. Here are a few that will be in the Sunnyvale area:

Cupertino
Wednesday, January 18 at 6pm
Quinlan Community Center, Cupertino Room
10185 N Stelling Rd Cupertino, CA 95014

Palo Alto
Thursday, January 19 at 6pm
Palo Alto City Hall, Council Chambers
250 Hamilton Ave Palo Alto, CA 94301

Campbell
Monday, January 23 at 6pm
Campbell Library, Community Room
77 Harrison Ave Campbell, CA 95008

Mountain View
Monday, February 6 at 6pm
Adobe Building
157 Moffett Blvd Mountain View, CA 94043

Public comments on the draft plan will be taken through February 20, 2017 and can be sent to community.outreach@vta.org.

VTA Board Approve Plan to Redesign Transit Network to Improve Ridership

On November 18, the VTA Board of Directors directed staff to begin designing a new transit network which will provide a greater emphasis on ridership over coverage. This is a critical step in the VTA Next Network project which has been in process throughout 2016 and will culminate in a new bus / light rail network in 2017.

Improved Service Frequency

This represents a big step forward for VTA, which has lagged behind comparable transit agencies for more than a decade. The goal is to encourage people to ride transit by making transit services for most people more convenient. This is to be achieved by a network of bus routes which run at least every 15 minutes. Prospective passengers can simply walk to a bus stop with an assurance that they will soon get a ride, without the hassle of planning their trips around timetables. The tradeoff is that in order to provide more frequent service on heavily used lines, overall network coverage in areas with lower ridership will be pared back or removed altogether. In Next Network terms, VTA is moving from a current orientation of 70% service, 30% coverage to a network of 85% service, 15% coverage.

network70

Concept: 70% Ridership, 30% Coverage

network90

Concept: 90% Ridership, 10% Coverage

The above are “concept networks” from the VTA Next Network site. The left is “70% ridership” which means more coverage with infrequent lines, while the right is “90% ridership.” The color key is:

  • Thick Orange — Extra Frequent Rapid: limited stops and 7.5 minute peak frequency
  • Red — Frequent: 15 minutes or better
  • Blue — every half hour
  • Green — hourly service

With the board directing VTA to pursue 85% ridership, one can expect a sparser map with more red lines.

Mobility Concerns

Green Caltrain’s Adina Levin summarized community and board concerns over how to provide mobility to those who might lose transit coverage:

Cutting coverage harms people whose service is cut, especially youth, seniors, disabled, and very low-income people who don’t have other transportation choices.  According to federal law, transit agencies have a legal obligation to provide paratransit service only on routes serviced by fixed-route bus service. If the bus route goes away, so does the paratransit service.

At the meeting, several community members from Palo Alto came and raised concerns about the 88 route. Penny Ellson of Palo Alto commented that the route serves a number of schools, and was a key factor in the decision to locate senior housing.

To alleviate impacts on disabled people, VTA staff recommended potentially keeping paratransit routes even where buses no longer ran. And in response to concerns raised by communities that would lose low-ridership routes, staff recommended options including block grants to cities to run local shuttle service, and experimentation with transportation network services such as Lyft and Uber, which might be able to provide access at a lower per-ride cost than fixed route buses, and using excess paratransit capacity for on-demand service.

The Lyft/Uber option sounded compelling to board members including San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Council Member Johnny Khamis. Board chair Supervisor Cindy Chavez expressed concern about potentially undermining public transit. The future economic viability of services like Lyft and Uber is also questionable.

Improving Connections

A critical factor in the success of a frequent-service network, is the ability to connect between bus routes and between the bus system and other transit services. Green Caltrain noted that this was also a concern of the VTA board:

Board members including Sunnyvale Mayor Hendricks and Santa Clara Vice-Mayor O’Neill strongly supported the recommendation to reduce the cost of transfers, including transfers to BART and Caltrain. A board member suggested that rail agencies with higher farebox recovery provide VTA with financial compensation for providing feeder service.

See Also

VTA Board of Directors Meeting Details

Next Steps

  • December 8, 2016: VTA Board of Directors Meeting–Agenda will be posted to VTA’s website 72-hours prior.
  • January 5, 2017: VTA Board of Directors Meeting–Draft transit plan will be presented to the Board.
  • January – February 2017: Public Outreach Period–Draft transit plan will be released for public review and input.
  • April 2017: VTA Board of Directors will adopt a final plan
  • Fall 2017: BART extension and VTA Next Network begin operations