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Comments submitted for the VTA’s El Camino BRT EIR

written by andy on

I wish to submit a few comments for the EIR:

Having dedicated lanes for buses is a significant investment, not only in dollar terms, but so is the amount of space on the roadway. On the other hand, the proposal for dedicated lanes would maintain local bus service operating in mixed traffic.

Under the dedicated lanes scenarios, an option that should be evaluated is to add additional stops and eliminate local curbside 22 route. A single tier service scenario would result in service similar to the corridors served by light rail along 1st Street and Capitol Avenue. Stations should be about 1/2 mile apart. For this project, it may mean double the number of the stops as currently proposed.

AC Transit is currently building a single tier dedicated lanes on International Blvd/East 14th. Muni is planning to build single tier dedicated lanes on Van Ness and Geary.

Under the mixed traffic alternatives. A limited stop route is justified and works well because the same bus stop serves limited stop and local service. If the local route experiences overcrowding, a limited stop route opens up a new market, draws more choice riders, and is a less costly way to increase service. Limited stop buses can pass local buses anywhere along the route. For some bus riders, they have a choice of boarding local or limited stop bus whichever shows up first.

With dedicated lanes and a two tier service, riders will have to make a decision to ride either a rapid or local service (even though they could take any bus that shows up first). There may be safety implication as some riders may attempt to jaywalk between the local and the rapid stop to try to board a bus they see first. There also may be certain periods of the day, or days in the week, where the rapid stops and dedicated lanes go completely unused as ridership demand does not warrant limited stop service.

By adding bus stops on dedicated lanes to about every 1/2 miles and consolidate local/rapid service, the travel time may still be better than the current mixed traffic travel time for the limited stop route (and much better for those who are not near a rapid stop as currently proposed). The operating cost may be further decreased by essentially not having any duplicate service. It may also help mitigate local traffic and parking impact since there will not be any transit buses operating in mixed traffic in dedicated lane segments.

With the single tier scenario, two tier service can still continue in mixed traffic segments (e.g. 522 serves rapid stops east of Santa Clara, 22 serves all local stops east of Santa Clara, but both run on the dedicated lanes and serve on the same stops in dedicated lanes.) If the single-tier service scenario results in a significant operational savings, those savings can be reinvested for service that operate partly on dedicated lanes but serve destinations outside the El Camino corridor. (e.g. Palo Alto to Milpitas BART via El Camino and De la Cruz or San Tomas/Montague). Under such scenario, El Camino service would run about every 7 minutes and 1/2 hourly service for routes to Milpitas. Operational savings can also be reinvested in more north-south bus service as well as circulator shuttles for those who may have difficulty in accessing stops on the dedicated lanes.

This alternative is worthy of further evaluation and discussion as this project moves forward.

Andy Chow