Mountain View Voice

Opinion - November 1, 2013

Long overdue deal to share shuttles

If it works as planned, a transportation-sharing partnership between high tech firms and developers, including Google, Intuit and Merlone Geier, would be a major step toward alleviating the traffic nightmare that now grips commuters every workday as they come and go from their jobs.

City officials have struggled for years how to reduce gridlock on North Shoreline Boulevard, which is only getting worse and will become even more unmanageable when the City Council approves a new precise plan for the area that could add 3.5 million more square feet of offices in North Bayshore to the already existing 7.5 million square feet.

The "vehicle" that will make the improvements possible is the Mountain View Transportation Management Association (MTMA), an entity formed during the approval process for a project in the Whisman area.

The process began with a project by TMG Partners, which is developing a project for Samsung on Clyde Avenue in the Whisman neighborhood. TMG was required to form the MTMA, which will operate shuttles for major employers and soon run a new, publicly-accessible shuttle service between corporate campuses and downtown.

The goals of the transportation management system are to reduce the number of solo car trips in the city -- especially to and from North Bayshore offices -- and lower the number of nearly empty employee shuttles running throughout the city. Additional possibilities for the association would be to pay for a new shared parking garage that it is hoped would keep North Bayshore employees from driving on Shoreline Boulevard. Another goal could be to build new bike-share facilities.

Office developers, including Google, are being given "mode share" targets which the city is requiring for new buildings in the North Bayshore and elsewhere. Intuit promised that only 45 percent of its employees would drive alone to work at its new Marine Way campus in the North Bayshore. The MTMA's goal will be to meet those mode share targets however is deemed necessary.

But of most significance to city residents is the hope that the transit association will soon establish a publicly accessible shuttle to link North Bayshore's Shoreline Park and the movie theaters, the VTA, Caltrain and downtown Mountain View. And on Tuesday the City Council discussed adding the Merlone Geier development at the San Antonio shopping mall, which includes substantial office space, to the transit association. And although exact details of how this will happen are still to be worked out, the transportation association will need to make sure there are not empty shuttle buses owned by different firms circulating through downtown and North Bayshore. The idea is to gain maximum efficiency through the use of good management.

TMG, which is developing the Samsung project, created a transportation agency in Emeryville in the 1980s to connect Pixar, a shopping mall and other employers to BART by shuttle. It is called the Emery Go-Round and had a huge impact on the community, said TMG spokeswoman Denise Pinkston, who is chair of the Mountain View agency's board.

As more companies seek approval for new development in the North Bayshore and elsewhere, the transportation agency will grow and be able to offer significant improvements in services to workers and the general public. It will be a great benefit to open particular shuttle routes to the public, which will increase ridership and decrease gridlock.

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