VTA is now bringing in over $50 million per year for highways from Measure B. These highway expansions would fill up with even bigger traffic jams while also increasing air pollution and automobile dependence exactly when greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut rapidly to avoid catastrophic climate change.
The VTA Board of Directors can and should re-allocate funds from its Measure B highway programs, and to cover this year's $15 million budget deficit that is driving the “need” for extensive and damaging cuts to critical bus service in Santa Clara County.
Bus 22, which runs from Palo Alto to East San Jose, is the county’s only public transit service now operating 24 hours per day and is heavily used even from 1 to 4am by workers, students, people visiting bars and restaurants, and our unhoused neighbors.
Eliminating Bus 22 overnight would shut down the entire transit system and make thousands of potential transit trips both within Santa Clara County and to other parts of the Bay Area simply impossible.
While there are many enhancements to the frequent bus routes that will help transit riders; the severe cuts in service & route eliminations would be devastating to many riders of local bus routes. Those eliminations and cuts can keep usual transit riders from getting to shopping and other places in their communities; and even from even being able to access the frequent bus routes.
We can’t forget that transit rides begin close to home and involve a walk to a bus stop. The proposed severe cuts can mean that some current riders will seldom make it to a frequent bus route; due to the lack of ability to get out of their neighborhood due to discontinued or protracted services.
Additionally, cuts and reductions also affect the ability of ACCESS users to get rides; due to the minimum distance they must be from a bus stop that is in service.
The solution is simple.
VTA's 2016 Measure B sales tax was written to ensure that funds could be flexibly spent to address changing conditions allows for funds to be reallocated between project categories. As written, Measure B allocates a total of $1.85 billion (in three separate categories) to projects on county expressways and state highways, while dedicating only $500 million to bus service over 30 years.
Here's the video of my public comment from the @VTA Board meeting.
I took @dlanceblack’s advice and told my story. I hope I was able to change the hearts and minds of at least six board members!
We should be adding routes that serve Cambrian and Almaden not taking them away! pic.twitter.com/orNKL8kYU1
— Monica Mallon (@monicamallon) April 5, 2019
Most of these highway projects would increase the rush-hour traffic capacity of local highways by building new interchanges or widening highways with new lanes, projects that have failed to reduce traffic congestion for decades because they induce demand for even more driving.
We urge the VTA board to do the right thing by shifting Measure B funds from highway expansions to save the bus service that people need most.
Judy Purrington, Andrew Boone and Monica Mallon are members of the Silicon Valley Transit Users Leadership Team. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Send op-ed pitches to [email protected].