News

Plan for dedicated El Camino bus lanes fizzles out

Unpopular BRT project called off after $10.5M in preliminary work

After years of spinning its wheels, the controversial proposal to build dedicated bus lanes along El Camino Real appears to be dead.

Originally proposed more than a decade ago, the $223 million project known as Bus Rapid Transit has languished in recent years amid pushback from residents and many elected leaders. Valley Transportation Authority officials say they are now pulling the plug on the idea after gaining insufficient support from cities along the El Camino corridor, even for a scaled-down version to test out the idea.

"It just wasn't being well-received," said Brandi Childress, VTA spokeswoman. "We were having a really difficult time getting consensus on this corridor for taking a lane of traffic."

In the end, studies and engineering for the Bus Rapid Transit project have cost a total of $10.5 million, Childress said. Even though the project is now shelved, that money wasn't wasted, she said. The studies and analysis of traffic patterns could still be useful for future improvements along El Camino, she said.

The original idea for Bus Rapid Transit called for an elaborate series of new bus stops and infrastructure that would dedicate two of El Camino's six traffic lanes primarily for bus traffic. Once completed, the project would have streamlined bus service, potentially making it a viable transit option for more commuters.

Overall travel time for a ride from Palo Alto down to San Jose would have been reduced by about 40 minutes, according to VTA studies.

The same VTA studies predicted that regular traffic along El Camino would experience no significant disruption despite losing two traffic lanes. Many observers found that claim hard to believe.

As the dedicated bus lane project moved forward in 2015, it drew fierce resistance. Many residents warned the project would divert traffic into their neighborhoods. Those opponents cried betrayal after a thin majority of the Mountain View City Council came out in support of the idea. In the days following, critics launched an effort to recall the council's supporters, but that backlash eventually lost steam.

While Mountain View was officially on board with the plan, most other cities along the route were not. VTA officials decided to drastically scale back the plan. They presented plans for a cheaper pilot program that would create dedicated bus lanes only during peak commute hours on El Camino.

But by that point, the project's limited political support had evaporated. No city government along the route endorsed the proposal, and even Mountain View's council came out in opposition.

The final blow for Bus Rapid Transit came last week. Los Altos Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins, who chairs the project's advisory committee, wrote to VTA officials that the project was infeasible and should be brought to an end.

The project's demise probably won't be mourned by anyone, said Mountain View Mayor Lenny Siegel, who also sat on the advisory committee.

"The whole idea was weak in the first place, and we couldn't salvage it," he said. "Now we have to look for more imaginative solutions for getting people to work or school."

For Siegel, the challenge now is to convince VTA officials to consider other North County transit improvements, even though Bus Rapid Transit failed. He is now working to build support for an elevated transit system along the Highway 85 corridor. Mountain View city staff is also studying a new automated transit system to connect the North Bayshore area with the city's downtown.

Comments

37 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Jan 28, 2018 at 7:21 pm

There is a Rapid bus service along El Camino Real. It's the 522 line. They put better vehicles on this route about a year ago. VTA could improve this service by requiring clipper cards for its use, and permitted all door boarding. All door boarding would reduce the time at each stop and speed up the travel. In Mountain View at least one additional stop should be added. 522 now stops at the Whole Foods Market on El Camino Real and at Castro Street. It should also stop at El Monte one one side of El Camino and Escuela on the other. it's pretty ridiculous not to stop at this cross roads. More people would ride 522 if it did stop here.

The problem is that small improvements like this don't really take any funds at all. Nothing to spend. So VTA just ignores improvements.


79 people like this
Posted by Nick
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 28, 2018 at 10:08 pm

Great to see it dead... but don't forget our turncoat Ken Rosenberg, who campaigned saying he was against it, but sold us out and made Mountain View one of the few cities to support it. Thankfully everyone else had the sense to reject it.

VOTE AGAINST KEN ROSENBERG. Unless you like an idiot for a leader.


61 people like this
Posted by B
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2018 at 10:34 pm

It was a horrible idea and thank goodness it met its demise. Too bad not earlier and before money was wasted on it. There are better way to improve traffic that doesn't inconvenience most everyone.


43 people like this
Posted by Yay
a resident of another community
on Jan 29, 2018 at 12:46 am

There is a God! Amen!


52 people like this
Posted by AllYouCanEat
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jan 29, 2018 at 12:55 am

Good!

And get that bum KEN ROSENBERG out of there!


25 people like this
Posted by Martha
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jan 29, 2018 at 5:12 am

Martha is a registered user.

Do not believe "VTA officials." They lie. They can change course at any moment.


25 people like this
Posted by VICTORY!!!
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jan 29, 2018 at 6:29 am

Thank goodness logical brains began to get involved. VTA?....yah, no.


50 people like this
Posted by Josepd E. Davis
a resident of another community
on Jan 29, 2018 at 9:56 am

It is immediately obvious that dedicating a lane of El Camino to busses is a terrible idea. Naturally, since this is California, we can't get to the obvious result without wasting ten million dollars.


35 people like this
Posted by True
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 29, 2018 at 10:37 am

True is a registered user.

Best local news of 2018 thus far!!!


42 people like this
Posted by True
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 29, 2018 at 10:45 am

True is a registered user.

@Nick


I wouldn't call Ken Rosenberg an idiot. He's quite smart actually.

He is also an exceptionally gifted liar of the bald-faced variety who should be voted out of office at the earliest convenience in return for his perfidiousness.


7 people like this
Posted by Los Altan
a resident of another community
on Jan 29, 2018 at 1:44 pm

Los Altan is a registered user.

VTA can do another transit study where they demolish the businesses along El Camino Real and add another lane. The lane is deeply necessary since it takes me about 20 minutes to get from my garage in Los Altos near San Antonio to the Milk Pail. I doubt that Mountain View politicians have the fresh perspective to approve a bold decision like mine.


54 people like this
Posted by MVWoman
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Jan 29, 2018 at 2:44 pm

MVWoman is a registered user.

Do NOT forget Pat Showalter ALSO favored sacrificing two lanes of auto traffic to the VTA. She stood right at my front door during the election and said she was absolutely opposed to the lane grab - then turned on the voters and said she was for it after she was elected. Her betrayal of the voters should NOT be forgotten if she ever dares to run for re-election.

Oh... and to "Las Altan" - Of course we should demolish businesses along El Camino, just so you can get to the Milk Pail more conveniently. (I'd tell you what you can do with your "bold decision", but this is a family forum.)


29 people like this
Posted by Greg David
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 29, 2018 at 3:22 pm

Greg David is a registered user.

Good. news. Too bad they had to waste $10M on something everybdy knew wouldn't work....

But that's the problem with many civil servants. It's not about actual improvement, it's about maintaining the viability of their jobs until they can retire.


41 people like this
Posted by MtnViewJS
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 29, 2018 at 3:24 pm

MtnViewJS is a registered user.

Yeah, don't forget Madame Showalter was also part of the flip flopping here. She is right up there with Ken. First she was against it, then she was for it. Like her position on rent control...first she was against it, then admits to signing the petition to put that V on the ballot....shameful.


16 people like this
Posted by William Hitchens
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jan 29, 2018 at 3:46 pm

William Hitchens is a registered user.

Great. Common sense prevails --- for the time being.

"The studies and analysis of traffic patterns could still be useful for future improvements along El Camino". In other words, they're not done yet but merely figuring up some other scheme to mess up non-bus vehicular traffic on El Camino Real. After all, these bureaucrats' jobs are at stake. "Gotta do something --- anything!!!"

Maybe they should start with something simple, like wide-outs so buses can stop without impeding traffic in the 1st lane? Also they should consider designating streets parallel to El Camino Real as preferred bike routes to keep bicycles off of El Camino Real, so that riders will be a lot safer?


18 people like this
Posted by Sanity Prevails
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Jan 29, 2018 at 4:47 pm

Sanity Prevails is a registered user.

There are few riders on ECR through Mountain View, but the tinted windows must have been designed to make this less evident from the outside. Sneaky VTA.


28 people like this
Posted by MtnViewJS
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 29, 2018 at 9:29 pm

MtnViewJS is a registered user.

Thank goodness the bus lanes wont happen but it's too bad our elected leaders did not listen to the people they represent. Showalter and Rosenberg are just selling our city to Google. Giving them all the office space, housing, selling out El Camino Real. We need more leaders like Abe-Koga, Matichak, McAlister who will stand up for common sense, good government, and US. This November, lets replace Pat and Ken with people who think for US and not Google.


15 people like this
Posted by Sanity Prevails
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Jan 30, 2018 at 5:25 pm

Sanity Prevails is a registered user.

I see in today's Mercury news that $10.5 million was spent on "traffic studies" before project acceptance by all affected communities. Unbelievable waste of people's money for a "bus to nowhere", but consistent with high speed rail consumption of many more dollars.


3 people like this
Posted by Martha
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Feb 1, 2018 at 7:37 pm

Martha is a registered user.

Rosenburg, Showalter and Michael Kasperzak voted to support bus-only lanes on El Camino. Margaret Abe-Koda (and another woman council member whose name escapes me) supported the project prevously. It is not gone. Just delayed. The GRAND BOULEVARD INITIATIVE involves transforming El Camino from San Jose to San Francisco including mass transit.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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