Endorsement: ‘Yes’ on Measure B

Autonomous vehicles, high-speed rail and perhaps even Elon Musk’s vaunted Hyperloop reside on the transportation horizon. But we aren’t there yet, and anyone who wants to sit in traffic for the next 20 years can take a hike.

The best way to bridge the gap between the promise of tomorrow’s innovation and today’s commuter crunch is to vote “yes” on Measure B.

The 30-year, $6.5 billion countywide ballot measure, spearheaded by the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) and Silicon Valley Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino, would benefit the region’s 15 cities and 1.9 million residents in the immediate—one in every $5 goes to fixing potholes—while also laying down a track for the near future. BART plays a significant role in Measure B’s plans, as it will extend tracks from Berryessa in North San Jose through the core of downtown to Diridon Station. In just several years, the estimated time to get from San Jose to San Francisco on a BART train will take all of 61 minutes.

BART currently provides 440,000 weekday passenger trips, and Measure B would add a projected 90,000 trips to this number. More than two out of three of these riders will reportedly eschew driving their cars, significantly reducing the number of cars on the road (and, by extension, potholes). Electrification of Caltrain would also start in 2020, taking a weekday ridership of roughly 65,000 to an estimated 110,000. Combined, these efforts could transform Diridon into the region’s premier transportation hub, greatly benefitting residents and South Bay businesses.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo argues that there is “no more certain way of getting cranes in the air and getting feet on the sidewalk than getting BART here.” He adds, “When people know BART is funded and under construction, they’re going to see a second boom of development in downtown, and it will be much larger than what we see today.”

San Jose certainly has much to gain, but areas like South County, Santa Clara and corridors up and down the peninsula are likely to see the most benefits from Measure B’s passage. The measure intends to fix 24 key interchanges on all seven highways running through the county.

Best of all, and consequently the greatest challenge for Measure B, is that it is a specific-use tax, so the threshold for passage requires more than two-thirds approval. Guardino says this was done intentionally. “We would rather have the harder threshold,” he says, “because it’s the only way you have accountability and assuredness on how tax dollars are spent.”

Opponents will cite shortcomings but lack alternatives. Voters should take comfort in the fact that VTA would oversee the appointment of a citizen watchdog committee.

18 Comments

  1. > Opponents will cite shortcomings but lack alternatives.

    Shortcomings: mammoth waste of money on nineteenth century technologies.

    Alternatives: buses, Uber, autonomous vehicles on dedicated carriageways, Hyperloop, Flyboards.

    • Measure B: throwing more money away. $170.5 Million per mile (more recent estimates are $200M/ mile) to connect BART to the SJ Airport is too expensive. Contrast this with electrifying Caltrain at $4 to $5 Million per mile, while providing roomier and faster world-class service at 1/40th the cost that is less disruptive to existing roads, less dangerous, more reliable and less expensive to maintain (using a catenary and pantograph rather than a third rail).

      A better plan for San Jose and neighboring communities: Electrify Caltrain and fix VTA Light Rail. Caltrain already connects to San Jose’s VTA Light Rail system (at Diridon Station) and to Bart (near SF International airport). What is lacking is a fast direct VTA Light Rail connection to San Jose International Airport to tie the whole system together.

      The original plan for VTA Light Rail was to do just that: go down the middle of Guadalupe/87 to SJ International Airport and beyond, turning down 1st street past the airport. Unfortunately, conflicting interests derailed that plan and we ended up with a system that is diverted into downtown San Jose crawling down 1st and 2nd streets and missing SJI Airport (you must take the #10 bus from the Metro station to go to the airport). The slow pace through San Jose is necessary to avoid accidents but it renders the system so painfully slow that many commuters avoid using it.

      We can fix this by completing the original plan down 87 which would enable express service to and through the airport and would join with existing tracks down 1st Street on the east site of 101. Non-express service would continue to use the existing tracks through San Jose. This would also enable airline passengers with a lay-over at SJI Airport to take a convenient excursion into San Jose to enjoy its restaurants, shops and hotels. It would be both a boon to local business while providing a more practical alternative to the commuter. Note also that good Light Rail access to the airport will reduce the amount of land needed to provide parking at the airport.

      Let’s fix the VTA Light rail system, electrify Caltrain and abandon the BART to San Jose folly. If the citizens of San Jose are expected to pay for the system, the system should benefit the citizens of San Jose. We can do better than Measure B

  2. Didn’t we just increase our sales tax to fix potholes? Who cares about BART to San Jose. Remember how far they were off on the estimates for light rail usage and how much that is costing the city ever year to keep it running.

    No new taxes, figure out how to use the money you already have. Higher taxes does not invite more business to town.

  3. The sales tax rate in Santa Clara county is too high as things stand. No new taxes. None of the billions already spent on so-called transportation improvements have done any thing to improve our lives. Tell Guardino to get out of his limousine and take a hike.

  4. Vote No on Measure B.
    Measure B: throwing more money away. $170.5 Million per mile (more recent estimates are $200M/ mile) to connect BART to the SJ Airport is too expensive. Contrast this with electrifying Caltrain at $4 to $5 Million per mile, while providing roomier and faster world-class service at 1/40th the cost that is less disruptive to existing roads, less dangerous, more reliable and less expensive to maintain (using a catenary and pantograph rather than a third rail).

    A better plan for San Jose and neighboring communities: Electrify Caltrain and fix VTA Light Rail. Caltrain already connects to San Jose’s VTA Light Rail system (at Diridon Station) and to Bart (near SF International airport). What is lacking is a fast direct VTA Light Rail connection to San Jose International Airport to tie the whole system together.

    The original plan for VTA Light Rail was to do just that: go down the middle of Guadalupe/87 to SJ International Airport and beyond, turning down 1st street past the airport. Unfortunately, conflicting interests derailed that plan and we ended up with a system that is diverted into downtown San Jose crawling down 1st and 2nd streets and missing SJI Airport (you must take the #10 bus from the Metro station to go to the airport). The slow pace through San Jose is necessary to avoid accidents but it renders the system so painfully slow that many commuters avoid using it.

    We can fix this by completing the original plan down 87 which would enable express service to and through the airport and would join with existing tracks down 1st Street on the east site of 101. Non-express service would continue to use the existing tracks through San Jose. This would also enable airline passengers with a lay-over at SJI Airport to take a convenient excursion into San Jose to enjoy its restaurants, shops and hotels. It would be both a boon to local business while providing a more practical alternative to the commuter. Note also that good Light Rail access to the airport will reduce the amount of land needed to provide parking at the airport.

    Let’s fix the VTA Light rail system, electrify Caltrain and abandon the BART to San Jose folly. If the citizens of San Jose are expected to pay for the system, the system should benefit the citizens of San Jose. We can do better than Measure B.

    • “Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth!”

      — Ronald Reagan

      … and government transportation bureaucracies are probably among the most eternal. It wouldn’t surprise me to discover that there is still a Santa Clara County Stage Coach Authority still sucking off of the tax payers.

  5. Reasons to Vote NO on Measure B

    Expensive Failure: VTA Transportation planning has failed Santa Clara County:
    Freeways at gridlock,
    Few bus routes that go where people want to go,
    A private bus system restricted to the lucky instead,
    Light rail that is so slow through downtown San Jose that use is severely discouraged,
    A system that ignores local housing to jobs routes and instead provides more and more for Alameda commuters,
    Failure to coordinate with cities planning for housing or jobs, thus creating built-in excessive transportation demands,
    Obsessive focus on downtown San Jose which has few jobs and just diverts commuters,
    TOLL Roads coming to Highways 85 and 101,
    Excessive noise and air pollution but fully denied.

    VTA wants your money for more of the same.

    Gridlock with no transit options: No matter how many lanes continue to be added to Rts. 101, 85 and 237 the slightest accident, or just rush hour crowding brings it all to a stop. Yet for most travelers there are no transit options. In the west valley we have NOTHING but car routes.

    TOLL Lane conversion of carpool lanes still planned: VTA rushed to take the TOLL lanes off the sales tax funded project list when it was clear people would reject Measure B if voters knew the measure would convert our carpool lanes into TOLL Lanes on freeways 101 and 85. But even the state recently removed TOLL Lane funding in the STIP when they recognized how unproductive, unpopular and unfair TOLL Lanes are.

    VTA response to loss of TOLL Lane funding sources was not to give up. Instead: VTA plans to collect TOLLs from 5AM to 8PM instead of at currently posted rush hours, as we were first told, effectively restricting the use of the full highway width for the whole day for most drivers, on Route 85 restricting the width each way to 2 lanes rather than 3. Every car to use the TOLL Lane will require a new type transponder every use, even carpools. I have heard them in meetings –nudge, nudge, wink, wink: they plan to redefine carpools as 3 persons per car to make more room for paying cars.

    With this plan comes more noise, air pollution and crowding as there is less incentive to carpool or use clean vehicles.

    VTA wants money, not improved transportation. VTAs stated goal with TOLLs is to make more efficient use of the carpool lane. If that were their real aim, the answer is simple, just allow more electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids to use the carpool lane. But it isn’t improved transportation they want, it is money. VTA not only wants your 30 year sales tax money for projects that will not make your commute any easier, they want to make you pay for use of the roads your taxes already paid for, promised then as freeway. While TOLL Lanes are claimed not part of this tax measure, they are very much still on VTAs project list. Funding can be switched by a supermajority of Board members. Just watch how fast this happens.

    Route failures. The key to a workable transit system is swift routes and frequencies that take people quickly where they need to go. VTA ignores this basic principle. BART coming from the east bay to San Jose will serve few Santa Clara County workers. Using up a major share of our local sales tax funds, VTA plans to route BART from Berryessa, to Alum Rock and a big sweep to San Jose downtown deep underground. But most of the would-be riders aren’t even Santa Clara County residents and don’t go to work in Berryessa, Alum Rock or downtown San Jose. Most of their jobs are in north Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Mountain View and Palo Alto. A similar routing mistake (San Jose downtown light rail delays) caused the light rail system failure. Now they plan a similar mistake. As a result of this deep BART diversion under downtown San Jose, it will take more than 15 more years of heavy construction, fighting an artisian wall, and will be so costly it will use up most of this tax money.

    Instead there should be a Light Rail 87 bypass of downtown San Jose, serving south San Jose residents swiftly to North First street and Tasman Corridor. The defeat of Measure B will signal the need for a revised route for BART, generally along the 237 Corridor.

    Misdirected money. Up to 85 % of all VTA funds have in recent years been spent in San Jose (which has 55% of county residents). Meanwhile the needs of the remainder of the county residents are ignored. Whole communities have no access to any transit whatsoever.

    A huge private bus system has rapidly grown to fill some of the gaping transit gap, but the public cannot access this system. This major transit system grew from VTA failure to even recognize the need, even now planning for major bus route reductions in most cities except San Jose.

    The west valley cities signed contracts when Route 85 was allowed, reserving the median for rail transit as a condition for allowing the freeway to be built. Ignoring these signed contracts, VTA went full speed ahead with TOLL Lane plans including another lane of asphalt each way from 85/101 along Route 85 in the south to Stevens Creek Rd.in the north, with Stevens Creek to become a TOLL Lane choke point as two TOLL Lanes become one.

    The cities of Los Gatos, Saratoga and Cupertino sued VTA to preserve the transit corridor as their signed contracts specify. This is the major corridor that completes the basic framework of the light rail system. VTA has backed off their double TOLL Lane plan, but still intends to convert the existing carpool lanes to TOLL Lanes.

    Funding to plan for transit in the Route 85 median, the primary desperately needed housing-to-jobs transit route, for county residents is promised, but for the 30-year life span of Measure B there no funding to actually build it as all major funds are diverted to serve San Jose and East Bay commuters.

    Noise: Noise reduction was promised by the earlier tax measure. Ignoring those promises, no substantial reductions were made, the bulk of the noise reduction funds having vanished. Fool me twice? Shame on me.

    Rapid busways on established commercial routes: Construction of Rapid Busway, on dedicated lanes from Alum Rock to El Camino Real in Mt. View is underway using existing lanes already at gridlock. Failure to understand the complexity of the project, the impact on businesses and failure to estimate the actual costs has resulted in massive delays, massive project overruns, and massive local business failures beginning with Alum Rock segment. Nevertheless this plan has not been reexamined for impacts and costs, signaling more gridlock and major small business losses the entire distance.

    Lastly, all this excessive transportation demand is for growth. Many of us have paid excessive sales taxes to pay for growth for 40 years even though we had very little say in whether or not we wanted all this growth, or even if we had the water to provide for it. For many of us growth has just made our lives more expensive, polluted, more water restricted, and more congested. It is now time for the real growth generators to start paying for the growth they cause.

    We need real alternatives to gridlock. We need real transit going where people need to go. Until we get real transit I am planning to VOTE NO ON MEASURE B.

  6. Liccardo, over his first 20 months, has proven to be a waster of money, he ruined SJPD, and he refuses to be held accountable for his own words. Anything he supports or endorse, I will vehemently oppose. Rather than fixing roads, he’d probably figure out a way to siphon of the money to add more bike lanes that continue to go unused.

  7. Vote No on B. The VTA cannot be trusted with any money – let alone an extra $6 billion. Save your taxes for a real congestion reluef plan.

  8. Defeat Measure B and let the county Board of Supervisors present the next tax measure and transit plan. Corporations in Silicon Valley should do more tele-commuting and off-hour shifts.

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