Op-Ed: VTA Should Use Measure B Funds to Save Critical Bus Service

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.

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].

11 Comments

  1. “…widening highways with new lanes, projects that have failed to reduce traffic congestion for decades because they induce demand for even more driving.”

    Just where have new lanes and interchanges been built? You are calling for a bait and switch on Measure B funds. Little if any money is being spent in the south county area. How about start mass transit from Gilroy or maybe you think the 3 Caltrans and a couple of buses are enough. Take a look at NB 101 from Gilroy to Cochran Road in the morning. South county has always been short changed on public transportation but we’re expected to pay the bill.

    • Just where have new lanes and interchanges been built?
      are you serious?
      880 / 280 / Steven Crk
      101 / 85 Mnt View
      all of 87
      101 S to Morgan Hill
      101 Capitol
      101 Yerba Buena
      101 Tully
      and on and on …

  2. Here we go again public transportation is broke because no one is using it. So get people to vote for a new tax to fix the roads they do use, then screw the little bastards.

    Well its high time we the tax payer’s need to tar a feather the county fathers and mothers right out of office, and into jail where they belong.

    I’ve had it with TAX RIP OFF’s.

    To the streets people, Its time we gridlock the city’s. Lets start with a horn rally around the county rust building say every Friday afternoon.

  3. Sorry but VTA needs to look at why it operates one of the most costly transit systems in the entire nation on a passenger mile basis. Pouring more money into a broken system, doesn’t fix the broken system. My household would use transit, but it simply doesn’t work to commute. Even if I take the first bus in the morning, I cannot make it back home on the last bus of the day and be at my employer’s office for 8 1/2 hours. I cannot even take a late afternoon course at the local JC and catch the last bus of the day without leaving the classroom 15 minutes before the class is schedule to end. Or try taking light rail from County Civic center to Mt View. 45 minutes then a 15 minute shuttle ride to NASA. Add 15 minute walk to the Civic Center and commute time is 1 hour and 15 minutes. Or 15 minute car ride up 101 and we wonder why are freeways are so congested. Unfortunately, the reality is VTA is not a Solution that moves you

  4. > 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 . . . .our unhoused neighbors.

    https://sjoutsidethebubble.files.wordpress.com/2019/04/vta01.jpg

    Maybe there’s an unrealized opportunity here.

    Since “the homeless” are already embarked, just re-route the bus to Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle or South Dakota.

    It looks like a very nice, modern, and fully equipped bus easily capable of long haul trips.

    • Exactly. I’ve been saying this for years. There is absolutely no reason for redundancy on that route other than $$$ for BART, which let us not forget is still the most expensive mass transit system per mile.

      If VTA wants a big new transit idea, why not a long overdue lightrail spur between the airport and downtown? Or is that simply way too logical?

  5. How about fixing the roads, I’m tired of breaking spokes on my bicycle every time I hit a pot hole. Why not paint all the roads green, and get rid of all those cars and airplanes before the world burst into flames in 12 years?

Leave a Reply to M.T.AOC Cancel reply