News

City approves 2nd study for automated transit

$850,000 study to review potential routes for future system

A far-off goal to build an automated transit line in Mountain View squeaked through the City Council to win funding for its next study phase. In a 4-3 vote, council members approved $850,000 to fund a second study for an automated guideway transit system, but several of them expressed skepticism that the project would ever get built.

"This is a lot of city resources and I'm concerned that it might not ever end up addressing anything related to transportation issues," said Mayor Lisa Matichak. "You have to be realistic of what's possible. It feels like we're looking at it, but it's not possible."

For more than five years, Mountain View leaders have been interested in studying some kind of speedy transit line to link the city's downtown to the growing, jobs-heavy North Bayshore area. City officials favored an approach that leaned on new technology such as podcars or self-driving vehicles to move about 8,500 people per day.

Last year, the city completed a $300,000 study on potential technologies, leading council members to throw their support behind so-called "autonomous transit," basically self-driving shuttles that usually have their own dedicated travel lanes but can also operate on city streets.

But there were still plenty of questions left unanswered about how this technology could be adapted for Mountain View. City staff suggested a second, $850,000 study to determine how this transit system could be planned out according to Mountain View's geography and land use. This step would map out routes and determine what kind of infrastructure and right-of-way would be needed to build it.

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At best, the system would be built on an elevated guideway, meaning the city would only need small slivers of land to build the track foundation, said Dawn Cameron, assistant public works director. But in certain areas, it may make more sense to build the transit system at grade along city streets, or along the city's future reversible bus lanes on Shoreline Boulevard. If the project is canceled, then the city could repurpose the land to build something else, such as bike lanes, she suggested.

The biggest stumbling block for the city is the project's potential cost, which remains unclear. Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga said she had the sense the project cost could range from $500 million to $1 billion to build. As a cautionary tale, she pointed to the prolonged $2 billion effort to extend BART to San Jose, and she suggested the automated guideway project should be tabled for a year at least.

"I'm questioning the feasibility of being able to fund this," she said. "Honestly, I didn't get the sense that we're going to get $500 million on this."

Cameron agreed that the funding remained an open question, but she said that was one point that this new phase of study hoped to answer. The study would also track the development of newer technologies, and how they could be adapted for Mountain View, she said.

"We don't have any firm answers on how to raise $500 million to $1 billion," she said. "But when you define a project, then you create the opportunity to find that funding."

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In fact, the project price depends largely on the scope specified in the second study, said project manager Jim Lightbody. He estimated the cost of an elevated track would be somewhere in the area of $70 million to $80 million per mile. He pointed out that a route between downtown and North Bayshore, where Google has its headquarters, would be only be 2 or 3 miles long.

The transit line idea was emphatically supported by Councilman John McAlister, who made the motion to approve the second study.

"If you say no, then we'll never have the answers," he said. "Next to housing, transportation is constantly brought up as the concern that we're constantly hearing."

Less enthusiastic but still supportive were council members Chris Clark, Alison Hicks and Ellen Kamei. Clark noted that federal funding was extremely unlikely under the current administration, but that could change in the years ahead so it would be useful to have the city's transit project ready to go.

Margaret Abe-Koga, Matichak and Lucas Ramirez voted against the study.

Mountain View is getting some significant help to pay for the $850,000 study. In a letter sent to the city, Google offered $250,000 to help pay the cost. In addition, the North Bayshore Transportation Management Association, a consortium of tech employers in the area north of Highway 101, agreed to kick in $100,000.

"We remain optimistic that an AGT system within Mountain View is both viable and logical," Google transportation director Brendon Harrington wrote. "Future transit solutions are coming our way, and this work is key to making a true determination of the viability of the project, either with AGT or a future alternative system."

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City approves 2nd study for automated transit

$850,000 study to review potential routes for future system

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Fri, Jun 14, 2019, 12:39 pm

A far-off goal to build an automated transit line in Mountain View squeaked through the City Council to win funding for its next study phase. In a 4-3 vote, council members approved $850,000 to fund a second study for an automated guideway transit system, but several of them expressed skepticism that the project would ever get built.

"This is a lot of city resources and I'm concerned that it might not ever end up addressing anything related to transportation issues," said Mayor Lisa Matichak. "You have to be realistic of what's possible. It feels like we're looking at it, but it's not possible."

For more than five years, Mountain View leaders have been interested in studying some kind of speedy transit line to link the city's downtown to the growing, jobs-heavy North Bayshore area. City officials favored an approach that leaned on new technology such as podcars or self-driving vehicles to move about 8,500 people per day.

Last year, the city completed a $300,000 study on potential technologies, leading council members to throw their support behind so-called "autonomous transit," basically self-driving shuttles that usually have their own dedicated travel lanes but can also operate on city streets.

But there were still plenty of questions left unanswered about how this technology could be adapted for Mountain View. City staff suggested a second, $850,000 study to determine how this transit system could be planned out according to Mountain View's geography and land use. This step would map out routes and determine what kind of infrastructure and right-of-way would be needed to build it.

At best, the system would be built on an elevated guideway, meaning the city would only need small slivers of land to build the track foundation, said Dawn Cameron, assistant public works director. But in certain areas, it may make more sense to build the transit system at grade along city streets, or along the city's future reversible bus lanes on Shoreline Boulevard. If the project is canceled, then the city could repurpose the land to build something else, such as bike lanes, she suggested.

The biggest stumbling block for the city is the project's potential cost, which remains unclear. Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga said she had the sense the project cost could range from $500 million to $1 billion to build. As a cautionary tale, she pointed to the prolonged $2 billion effort to extend BART to San Jose, and she suggested the automated guideway project should be tabled for a year at least.

"I'm questioning the feasibility of being able to fund this," she said. "Honestly, I didn't get the sense that we're going to get $500 million on this."

Cameron agreed that the funding remained an open question, but she said that was one point that this new phase of study hoped to answer. The study would also track the development of newer technologies, and how they could be adapted for Mountain View, she said.

"We don't have any firm answers on how to raise $500 million to $1 billion," she said. "But when you define a project, then you create the opportunity to find that funding."

In fact, the project price depends largely on the scope specified in the second study, said project manager Jim Lightbody. He estimated the cost of an elevated track would be somewhere in the area of $70 million to $80 million per mile. He pointed out that a route between downtown and North Bayshore, where Google has its headquarters, would be only be 2 or 3 miles long.

The transit line idea was emphatically supported by Councilman John McAlister, who made the motion to approve the second study.

"If you say no, then we'll never have the answers," he said. "Next to housing, transportation is constantly brought up as the concern that we're constantly hearing."

Less enthusiastic but still supportive were council members Chris Clark, Alison Hicks and Ellen Kamei. Clark noted that federal funding was extremely unlikely under the current administration, but that could change in the years ahead so it would be useful to have the city's transit project ready to go.

Margaret Abe-Koga, Matichak and Lucas Ramirez voted against the study.

Mountain View is getting some significant help to pay for the $850,000 study. In a letter sent to the city, Google offered $250,000 to help pay the cost. In addition, the North Bayshore Transportation Management Association, a consortium of tech employers in the area north of Highway 101, agreed to kick in $100,000.

"We remain optimistic that an AGT system within Mountain View is both viable and logical," Google transportation director Brendon Harrington wrote. "Future transit solutions are coming our way, and this work is key to making a true determination of the viability of the project, either with AGT or a future alternative system."

Comments

MV Renter
Shoreline West
on Jun 14, 2019 at 1:47 pm
MV Renter, Shoreline West
on Jun 14, 2019 at 1:47 pm

The routes look both interesting and useful.

Although according to the routes, the idea to close Castro/Moffett at Central wouldn't work anymore. Which gladdens me. I've always thought that the grade should be separated for the train/roadway anyway. It'll be costly and inconvenient with a horribly noisy and dusty construction period, but I still think it's the right thing to do.


Henry fox
another community
on Jun 14, 2019 at 2:20 pm
Henry fox, another community
on Jun 14, 2019 at 2:20 pm

The best, least expensive to build and maintain, quick-to-put up elevated system is the aerial commute gondola--being built all over the world. The consultant hired to consider alternative transportation modes was unfamiliar with and completely misrepresented the gondola.

Time to take another look from someone who understands the system.


Dan Waylonis
Registered user
Jackson Park
on Jun 14, 2019 at 2:35 pm
Dan Waylonis, Jackson Park
Registered user
on Jun 14, 2019 at 2:35 pm

This doesn't seem like an efficient use of city monies. Instead, how about providing incentives or even rewards to private firms to provide transportation alternatives.


Overkill
Registered user
Shoreline West
on Jun 14, 2019 at 2:40 pm
Overkill, Shoreline West
Registered user
on Jun 14, 2019 at 2:40 pm

I really don't want to see an elevated system of automated vehicles (on fixed rail or suspended) running through the center of Mountain View. This will create connectivity barriers (physical and psychological) in our community. Think about Central, ECR, 101. The city staff said the model for our project is Jacksonville Florida Skyway (Web Link Yikes! Thats such bulky infrastructure. Let's make better use of the existing streets we have perhaps extending the reversible bus lane that is already in the works. The automated transit seems unrealistically ambitions. 850K could have really gone a long way with improving other infrastructure (paving our streets, creating better crosswalks, sidewalk, bike lanes, funding more frequent shuttle services).


Rossta
Registered user
Waverly Park
on Jun 14, 2019 at 2:48 pm
Rossta, Waverly Park
Registered user
on Jun 14, 2019 at 2:48 pm

Glad to see this moving forward to get more understanding of what it would take to build. We want more housing to balance out the jobs that have already been added (and the traffic). But we shouldn't be adding that housing without even a plan for how to increase our transportation capacity. This is the only option that requires small amounts of land to add significant capacity and allow that transit to operate efficiently - meaning faster than being in a car.
MAK seems to have made up the $500MM-$1B number, so no reason to use that to shy away from doing a proper investigation.
Remember that this idea actually started with a local private company working on the technology, though not offering to implement it with private funds.


Yimby #2
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 15, 2019 at 9:23 am
Yimby #2, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 15, 2019 at 9:23 am

The MV City Council should receive credit for attempting concrete measures to address transport issues. Whether you agree or disagree with the details, it is movement in the right direction.

Better than meaningless platitudes, virtue signaling, emotional communication of how bad people feel about transportation/or housing, or demonization of housing providers or companies that bring jobs to our area.


Mike
Gemello
on Jun 15, 2019 at 9:42 am
Mike, Gemello
on Jun 15, 2019 at 9:42 am

Its like the Springfield Monorail:
Web Link


psr
The Crossings
on Jun 16, 2019 at 2:49 pm
psr, The Crossings
on Jun 16, 2019 at 2:49 pm

Another phenomenal waste of taxpayer dollars for something that will serve few. This money should be spent to serve the people we have here now, not this pie-in-the-sky nonsense that will end up costing 10 times more than they say and serve a small fraction of the people they say it will.

While the council fritters money away on this version of Brown's "Train to Nowhere", we shouldn't worry about if it happens or not. We are all probably going to get swallowed up by potholes on El Camino and the rest of the streets around here.


Mark Thomas
Rex Manor
on Jun 16, 2019 at 9:31 pm
Mark Thomas, Rex Manor
on Jun 16, 2019 at 9:31 pm

The numbers for an "elevated guideway" seem quite high. When I checked out SkyTran (http://www.skytran.com) a few years ago, they estimated the capital cost was $10 million/mile for both directions.


E. Evelyn
Sylvan Park
on Jun 17, 2019 at 8:47 am
E. Evelyn, Sylvan Park
on Jun 17, 2019 at 8:47 am

I would like to see some kind of public transportation along E.Evelyn. There are couple of train stations (Mountain View or Sunnyvale) people living/working along this street could use if there was ‘last mile’ option.


The Business Man
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 17, 2019 at 4:36 pm
The Business Man, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Jun 17, 2019 at 4:36 pm

THe premise of this project is like trying to make Mountain View into EPCOT.

The idea makes for great drawings, pictures, etc.

But we live in the real world. And if the City goes into the kind of debt to build this "Tomorrowland" it is likely to go bankrupt.

Simply put, just redesign the entire area with proer road space and parking structures. Or create a dedicated mas transit route like a light rail.

But putting it up in the air is just unrealistic given that we are in a tectonically unstable zone.

What a waste of money and time.


PA Resident
another community
on Jun 18, 2019 at 3:57 pm
PA Resident, another community
on Jun 18, 2019 at 3:57 pm

It always concerns me when transit routes are planned that do not cross city or county boundaries. People change jobs more often than they move house, and when two people in a couple both work, they most likely do not work close to each other and one will have a longer commute even if one can walk.


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