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VTA study plugs autonomous vehicles for MV transit

Google-funded study looks to link North Bayshore with transit

Building expressways for autonomous vehicles could be the best option for creating a new transit link to Mountain View's North Bayshore neighborhood, according to a new report produced by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA).

The report released this week is the product of a lengthy partnership between Google and VTA officials that was originally announced back in 2015. At the time, Google paid the transit agency $1 million to study extending the light-rail system out to the heavily congested North Bayshore tech hub.

For the last three years, there have been almost no public updates on the study, and its status has been kept a secret even after it missed completion dates. Officials with VTA and Mountain View have told the Voice they could not disclose details because the study was owned by Google.

Now complete and available online, the final version of the transit report indicates that the study was retooled midway. Originally, traffic engineers focused solely on building a light rail extension (expected to cost up to $500 million), but they were later asked to broaden the study to include other alternatives.

Given that direction, apparently no transportation idea was too far-fetched for consideration. The study's authors examined the merits of electric skateboards, segways and motorcycles (both regular and with attached sidecars). Various types of aircraft were also examined, such as helicopters, blimps and personal jets. They even considered some outlandish prototypes like flying cars, hover bikes and automated drones.

All these aviation ideas were eliminated for being too immature, but the study indicated they could someday be dusted off as feasible transit options.

In the end, the rapidly advancing technology for autonomous vehicles rose to the top as one of the best options in the Google-funded study. No mention was made of the company's own self-driving division -- Waymo -- but the study did reference various other companies developing this technology.

The VTA report graded transit options based on price, the ability to move riders and the level of impact on the environment and surroundings. The study authors also wanted a transit system that could be easily linked to current systems and expanded later in the future.

Autonomous vehicles were seen as one of the most promising options in the study. The VTA report pointed out that this technology could soon be adopted for mass transit: a self-driving bus, for example. Alternatively, self-driving cars could be chained into a "platoon" that could operate more like a train. VTA officials studied the possibility of building dedicated tracks for self-driving cars so they could speedily move past traffic congestion. Another option would be to build an elevated track.

Along with autonomous vehicles, the VTA study also plugged dedicated bus lanes and the agency's own light-rail system as qualified options that could satisfy North Bayshore's transit demands.

Any transit systems would need to start at the Bayshore / NASA light rail station and go about 2.5 miles to the center of Google's campus at Shoreline Boulevard and Charleston Road.

Two potential routes were proposed in the study. A dedicated expressway for autonomous vehicles could run west along Highway 101 from the Bayshore / NASA station to Inigo Way, where it would turn into North Bayshore. Alternatively, a route for self-driving cars, buses or light rail could be brought up R.T. Jones Road along the NASA Ames campus. This option would require a new bridge to be built across Stevens Creek.

Going forward, it will be up to Google officials to decide what to do with the new transit report, according to VTA officials.

The Mountain View City Council is scheduled to discussed the VTA report at their April 17 meeting, according to city staff.

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Comments

18 people like this
Posted by Rossta
a resident of Waverly Park
on Apr 9, 2018 at 4:34 pm

Rossta is a registered user.

Google funded study finds using Google autonomous vehicle technology is best choice? No, that's not suspicious.


20 people like this
Posted by William Hitchens
a resident of Waverly Park
on Apr 9, 2018 at 4:37 pm

William Hitchens is a registered user.

After the VTA's disastrous --- and now temporarily withdrawn --- proposal to ruin El Camino Real with "bus only lanes", I don't trust the VTA as far as I could throw one of their empty El Camino mega-buses. The VTA seems to be staffed by a bunch of highly mediocre, politicized bureaucrats far more interested in protecting their cushy jobs, salaries, and huge pensions rather than promoting realistic policies --- policies they can't possibly think of, let alone comprehend. To wit, self-driving vehicles won't relieve vehicular traffic to & from N Bayshore.

The best solution is the Light Rail solution. And then you face the obvious question. Where will the light rail riders park their cars???? Downtown MV??? Really???


3 people like this
Posted by Robyn
a resident of another community
on Apr 9, 2018 at 7:53 pm

What about an aerial solution? Helicopters could ferry people to and from specific locations owned by Google or some other major employer. They could fly at 500 feet above the train tracks and freeways to minimize the noise impact on nearby homes.
They are safe, fast and efficient.


3 people like this
Posted by Waldo
a resident of Waverly Park
on Apr 10, 2018 at 3:13 pm

Waldo is a registered user.

Chained autonomous vehicles are a great idea, particularly if: (1) They are driverless and available to all through an app, and (2) Run primarily on roadways dedicated solely for their use during commute times.


4 people like this
Posted by BikeShare
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 10, 2018 at 5:18 pm

Did they looks at electric bike shares with dedicated, protected pathways? Would let people get a Tony amount of exercise and fresh air, too!


8 people like this
Posted by James C.
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Apr 10, 2018 at 10:24 pm

James C. is a registered user.

What ever happened to tele-commutting? Work from home. Live in Tracy. Or how about in Montana - far away from North Korean nuclear missles or packages thinning the herd in Silicon Valley?


6 people like this
Posted by Darin
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 11, 2018 at 2:47 pm

Darin is a registered user.

@James C.
I occasionally telecommute. There are still advantages to being in the same office with the people you're collaborating with.


5 people like this
Posted by anthodyd
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Apr 12, 2018 at 2:08 pm

Re telecommuting: this should be given more consideration. It's not a new idea- 'way back when (late 70's and early '80's) at this apt. we had a few tenants who t-c'd for HP for 3 days/wk, requiring that they meet at office 2days/wk. There is at present one tenant who t-c's for his small family's sake. These examples should be more of the norm if we are to deal with our deteriorating traffic problem. Thought: it's easier to lay more optic cable than to add streets.
For that matter, what about satellite offices dedicated to t-c located unobtrusively closer to residential areas?
Also, bike paths and dedicated flyways and bridges could well be integrated with electric/light trans in a bid to forgo the usual auto approachs that generate so much of the current traffic woes. The above study could take the attitude that regards auto dependency as an obsolete technology for future city development.


3 people like this
Posted by anthodyd
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Apr 12, 2018 at 2:10 pm

Re telecommuting: this should be given more consideration. It's not a new idea- ' Thought: it's easier to lay more optic cable than to add streets.
For that matter, what about satellite offices dedicated to t-c located unobtrusively closer to residential areas?
Also, bike paths and dedicated flyways and bridges could well be integrated with electric/light trans in a bid to forgo the usual auto approachs that generate so much of the current traffic woes. The above study could take the attitude that regards auto dependency as an obsolete technology for future city development.


5 people like this
Posted by Wendy
a resident of Slater
on Apr 12, 2018 at 9:54 pm

The key is to find something for the VTA to do. And with retirements and pensions piling up, employing robots only make sense. Taxpapers can only hope that the robots do not form or join a public employees' union.


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

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