A crowd gathered at the downtown transit center last Friday to celebrate the launch of two new shuttles services that will be free to the public, one to serve residents and one aimed at commuters.
The effort "clearly communicates the message that there's a new day in Mountain View where people are really encouraged to live the life of a car-free existence, which we hope to get to," said Denise Pinkston of TMG Partners, the developer that pledged to create the MVgo commuter shuttle a year and half ago. The shuttle was a condition of the City Council's approval of a new Samsung campus at 625 Clyde Avenue.
The MVgo shuttle began serving commuters on Monday, Jan. 12. The city's new community shuttle began running on a loop around the city on Jan. 5.
Pinkston is now chair of the Mountain View Transit Management Association, a group of companies that collectively run the commuter shuttle and includes Intuit, Google, LinkedIn, and developers Sares Regis, the Sobrato Organization, Broadreach Capital and TMG Partners.
MVgo is the result of an extraordinary and unique collaboration of companies, employers and private landowners who came together "to do something that hasn't been done yet in the Bay Area collectively run, on a non-profit board shuttles that are there to give free rides to employees and residents of the city of Mountain View, so people can get to work," Pinkston said.
The new commuter shuttle runs between the downtown train station and corporate campuses in North Bayshore and the Whisman area. Consolidating shuttles that companies were operating separately will mean both reducing the number of shuttles on the road while increasing the number of pickup times for commuters.
"By doubling the shuttle frequency to these employment campuses we're really making riding the bus a more viable option," Pinkston said. "You don't come to Mountain View and find out you have to wait half an hour to take the bus after you've already been on Caltrain for 40 minutes."
City Manager Dan Rich joked that both the MVgo shuttle and the Mountain View Community shuttle were being celebrated on the same day because that is the efficient way the city goes about things.
"It's about shopping here, dining here, running errands, enjoying our great parks, meeting new people," Mayor John McAlister said of the community shuttle. He added that it is a pilot program, "a work in progress."
McAlister called the community shuttle a tremendous collaboration. Valley Transit Authority allowed use of its bus stops, the California Energy Commission supported the development of the electric shuttle, Mountain View Public Works staff managed the project, residents gave input on how to design the route and schedule, San Jose-based Altrans is running the service and Google donated the electric shuttles and funds to run them.
The Voice learned that the powertrain technology on the electric community shuttle is unique for an American transit service (the MVgo shuttles aren't electric). An engineer with the company that developed it, Foster City-based Motiv Power Systems, said the community shuttle runs on an unusual 580-volt sodium-nickel battery used on European transit vehicles. The 14,500-pound shuttles have a range of about 90 miles before they need to recharge.
"Electric vehicles are an integral part of (the state's plan for) reducing emissions," said Jennifer Allen of the California Energy Commission, adding that the shuttles were part of Gov. Jerry Brown's goal of 1.5 million electric vehicles on the road in California. Motiv approached the commission four and a half years ago seeking support for the project and the shuttle that the residents can now enjoy is "the fruits of that early work," Allen said.
The 16-seat electric community shuttle, which is noticeably quiet, has a rack for two bikes, WiFi, a wheelchair lift and space for two wheelchairs.
The MVgo shuttle will run during peak commute hours and the community shuttle will run every 30 minutes from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and between noon and 8 p.m. every hour on weekends and holidays.