News

Mountain View hits the brakes on Automated Guideway Transit

Dreams of a high-tech transit network into North Bayshore are being put on hold

A proposed transit network into Mountain View's job-heavy North Bayshore area is getting shelved. Image courtesy city of Mountain View.

Mountain View's vision of a futuristic transit system to ferry tech employees to and from work is getting canned, at least for now, after City Council members voted Tuesday to defer the item indefinitely.

The city has studied building an Automated Guideway Transit (AGT) system for more than a decade as a solution to its traffic woes, the most likely candidate being some kind of elevated track connected to the downtown transit station. But the idea has been criticized for being outrageously expensive and unrealistic, and in recent years has been put on the backburner.

Another $850,000 study of AGT got delayed twice in 2020, and is now officially mothballed. In voting on the city's priorities through June 2022, council members largely agreed at the April 27 council meeting to nix AGT entirely from the city's work plan.

AGT was one of several items on the chopping block at the meeting, as council members sought to pare back an increasingly long list of priorities for the upcoming year. Also getting deferred is the city's soft story seismic retrofit program, which cost more than expected, and a citywide program to reduce the use of gas-powered leaf blowers and other landscaping equipment.

Previously described as a "pod car" system or personal rapid transit, AGT had been championed by former council members Mike Kasperzak and, more recently, John McAlister. But with McAlister now termed out of council, the project didn't have any vocal fans ready to defend the pricey endeavor. Studies have found the project could cost over $70 million per mile to construct, and the city has yet to find a way to pay for it.

What's local journalism worth to you?

Support Mountain View Online for as little as $5/month.

Join

Though AGT won strong support from the largest employer in the area, Google, no one came up to bat for it at the Tuesday meeting. Resident Albert Jeans encouraged council members to give up on AGT entirely because of how infeasible it is — even a single straight shot from the Mountain View Caltrain station to Google's headquarters would cost $300 million. It might make sense for a large city like San Francisco or San Jose, he said, but it's not clear how Mountain View benefits from such a huge project.

"This is too big and too expensive for a city of our size," he said.

Councilwoman Alison Hicks said there are plenty of transit alternatives that the city can support in the interim, and recommended taking a cautious approach to a large undertaking like AGT until the city better understands traffic patterns after the COVID-19 pandemic and work-from-home restrictions.

Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga said she was fine discontinuing work on AGT for a couple of years, and that there are new regional projects on the horizon -- including a reimagining of light rail -- that might make a bigger difference.

"I'd like to see where those go and how we might be able to connect to those types of projects rather than spending $1 million of our own money on the next phase of this study," Abe-Koga said.

Stay informed

Get the latest local news and information sent straight to your inbox.

Stay informed

Get the latest local news and information sent straight to your inbox.

Skepticism has been a major hurdle for AGT for years. In 2019, the proposal to pursue a second study on the project narrowly squeaked by on a 4-3 vote. Two of those votes in support, former councilmen McAlister and Chris Clark, have since termed out of office.

Though the City Council was quick to dump AGT on Tuesday night, council members did make a push for new priorities in its place. The city will be testing the waters on a ballot measure for a hotel tax hike, along with new zoning plans for properties along the Moffett Boulevard corridor. The laundry list of new priorities will be approved at the upcoming June 22 council meeting.

Follow Mountain View Voice Online on Twitter @mvvoice, Facebook and on Instagram @mvvoice for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Stay informed on important city government news. Sign up for our FREE daily Express newsletter.

Mountain View hits the brakes on Automated Guideway Transit

Dreams of a high-tech transit network into North Bayshore are being put on hold

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Wed, Apr 28, 2021, 1:22 pm

Mountain View's vision of a futuristic transit system to ferry tech employees to and from work is getting canned, at least for now, after City Council members voted Tuesday to defer the item indefinitely.

The city has studied building an Automated Guideway Transit (AGT) system for more than a decade as a solution to its traffic woes, the most likely candidate being some kind of elevated track connected to the downtown transit station. But the idea has been criticized for being outrageously expensive and unrealistic, and in recent years has been put on the backburner.

Another $850,000 study of AGT got delayed twice in 2020, and is now officially mothballed. In voting on the city's priorities through June 2022, council members largely agreed at the April 27 council meeting to nix AGT entirely from the city's work plan.

AGT was one of several items on the chopping block at the meeting, as council members sought to pare back an increasingly long list of priorities for the upcoming year. Also getting deferred is the city's soft story seismic retrofit program, which cost more than expected, and a citywide program to reduce the use of gas-powered leaf blowers and other landscaping equipment.

Previously described as a "pod car" system or personal rapid transit, AGT had been championed by former council members Mike Kasperzak and, more recently, John McAlister. But with McAlister now termed out of council, the project didn't have any vocal fans ready to defend the pricey endeavor. Studies have found the project could cost over $70 million per mile to construct, and the city has yet to find a way to pay for it.

Though AGT won strong support from the largest employer in the area, Google, no one came up to bat for it at the Tuesday meeting. Resident Albert Jeans encouraged council members to give up on AGT entirely because of how infeasible it is — even a single straight shot from the Mountain View Caltrain station to Google's headquarters would cost $300 million. It might make sense for a large city like San Francisco or San Jose, he said, but it's not clear how Mountain View benefits from such a huge project.

"This is too big and too expensive for a city of our size," he said.

Councilwoman Alison Hicks said there are plenty of transit alternatives that the city can support in the interim, and recommended taking a cautious approach to a large undertaking like AGT until the city better understands traffic patterns after the COVID-19 pandemic and work-from-home restrictions.

Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga said she was fine discontinuing work on AGT for a couple of years, and that there are new regional projects on the horizon -- including a reimagining of light rail -- that might make a bigger difference.

"I'd like to see where those go and how we might be able to connect to those types of projects rather than spending $1 million of our own money on the next phase of this study," Abe-Koga said.

Skepticism has been a major hurdle for AGT for years. In 2019, the proposal to pursue a second study on the project narrowly squeaked by on a 4-3 vote. Two of those votes in support, former councilmen McAlister and Chris Clark, have since termed out of office.

Though the City Council was quick to dump AGT on Tuesday night, council members did make a push for new priorities in its place. The city will be testing the waters on a ballot measure for a hotel tax hike, along with new zoning plans for properties along the Moffett Boulevard corridor. The laundry list of new priorities will be approved at the upcoming June 22 council meeting.

Comments

Mike94040
Registered user
Gemello
on Apr 28, 2021 at 2:31 pm
Mike94040, Gemello
Registered user
on Apr 28, 2021 at 2:31 pm

While the Council decision to suspend the AGT study is not surprising, what I find disappointing is the myth about costs. True PRT systems are more in the $10 million per mile and are nothing like the bulky concrete guideways used at SFO, or as depicted on many of the consultants images. Unfortunately the consultants hired know little about emerging PRT technologies, but focus on large People Mover systems.


A Talking Cat
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Apr 28, 2021 at 2:33 pm
A Talking Cat, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Apr 28, 2021 at 2:33 pm

Just spend a fraction of the money on safe bicycle paths. During rush hours they can move WAY more people than cars, or even buses.


DoctorData
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Apr 28, 2021 at 10:23 pm
DoctorData, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Apr 28, 2021 at 10:23 pm

Or how about—and stay with me here—a bus?


Tal Shaya
Registered user
another community
on Apr 29, 2021 at 1:26 am
Tal Shaya, another community
Registered user
on Apr 29, 2021 at 1:26 am

They couldn't limit leaf blowers on Saturday morning? C'mon guys. Do they need some kind of impact report or what? :/


Jeremy Hoffman
Registered user
Rengstorff Park
on Apr 29, 2021 at 8:47 am
Jeremy Hoffman, Rengstorff Park
Registered user
on Apr 29, 2021 at 8:47 am

With many Mountain View residents working from home, loud dirty leaf blowers are a problem every day of the week. I'm disappointed that a gas leaf blower ban has been shelved. The amount of pollution particles that a gas leaf blower emits is disgusting. I know it will cost money to replace them with electric, but that's no excuse to keep polluting our lungs one day longer.


Steven Nelson
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on May 2, 2021 at 12:42 pm
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on May 2, 2021 at 12:42 pm

Time for a small Bus Rapid Transit system WITHIN Mountain View. This type of system is highly cost effective because there is minimal capital investment in fixed structures (guideways of any sort). It is effective because the 'start up' on the moving stock requires no R&D money. Buses + drivers = been there and done that (and the large VTA bus yard is right off Shoreline in the North Shorline area (Eureka!)

Auto-activated "free pass" timing of traffic signals (been there and done that!). Limited number and placement of center median "boarding areas" (been there done that SF, SJ and many cities around here both bus and light rail).

TWO LEGS of the system map - (Alpha Phase). Downtown transit center - one leg to Googleplex (and continue to Shoreline Ampetheater as needed) other leg to NASA Ames (low commute hours startup). Sort of 'limpy' but there is no need for 'balanced legs', or Light Rail connections at two VTA stations. [line operated by VTA under contract by City of Mountain View - WE PAY and We control service and our costs/subsidies]. Keep VTA out of planning and Public Policy prioritization!

BTW - the BRT lanes on Shoreline from Middlefield down into North Bayshore IS ALREADY PLANNED AND SLATED FOR CONSTRUCTION!!!!
Web Link


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

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