Council to Review Regional Transportation Tax Priorities

San Jose has released its wish list of projects for a 30-year half-cent sales tax measure slated for the fall ballot. On Tuesday, the City Council will discuss the proposal, which includes suggested allocations for $6 billion in expected revenue.

Under the plan up for review, $1.8 billion would pay for local street repairs for all of the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) member agencies. That would pull in about $29 million a year for San Jose alone, addressing one-third of the city’s street maintenance shortfall.

Another $1.5 billion could close bring BART to San Jose’s Diridon Station, closing the final gap in the railway’s Silicon Valley extension.

The city has also proposed spending $650 million countywide—but about half for San Jose—on highway expansion to ease traffic congestion. Another $400 million could help bridge gaps in pedestrian, bicycle and trail networks.

Conspicuously absent from San Jose’s set of priorities: improvements to Caltrain and VTA bus service. Green Caltrain, a transportation advocacy group, pointed that out in a blog this morning, noting that San Jose could do more to reach its goal of reducing single-occupant car trips.

“The staff report advises the City Council to wait until the next stage of evaluation of transportation projects through the [VTA's planning] process before making specific recommendations on amounts for additional project categories,” according to the blog. “And the staff report leaves some funding unallocated for other priorities. But City Council shouldn’t wait to express its priorities and should speak up for Caltrain and a complete transit network now.”

The VTA and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group began planning for a new sales tax measure in spring of 2014. The measure slated for the November 2016 ballot would disburse revenue among 15 cities and raise Santa Clara County’s sales tax to 9.25 percent.

The measure needs a two-thirds majority to pass. County voters have approved every transportation tax since the 1970s, including two since 2000 to fund the South Bay BART connection.

A decades-long lack of investment in transportation has led to a statewide $58 billion shortfall for local road repairs. State and federal gas taxes haven’t changed in more than two decades, which has pushed the responsibility of raising money down to counties.

Meanwhile, congestion continues to worsen, especially in the South Bay where commuters spend hours on the road each day. According to a December report by the Metropolitan Commission on Transportation, three of the 10 most congested commutes in the Bay Area lie in the South Bay.

The VTA has invited the public to weigh in on how to spend the potential sales tax. Here's a link to the outreach page. And here's a look at the agency's timeline for collecting feedback.

More from the San Jose City Council agenda for February 9, 2016:

  • Bob Schmelzer, the owner of Circle-A skate shop, wants to add a café to his Paseo de San Antonio storefront.

WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260

Jennifer Wadsworth is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. Over the last several elections, voters in Santa Clara County have passed multiple tax and fee increases including VTA’s 2000 Measure A ½-cent and 2008 measure B ¼-cent sales taxes, Santa Clara County’s Measure A 1/8 cent sales tax, the state prop 30 ¼ cent sales tax and the 2010 Measure B Vehicle Registration Fee of $10. Additionally, we’re on the hook to pay back numerous state bond issues including high speed rail, last year’s Proposition 1 water bond and the infrastructure bonds of 2006.

    All of this nickel and diming has contributed into making the Bay Area a horribly expensive place to live; especially for people of modest means, who must pay the greatest percentage of their income in these regressive taxes and fees. Each increase by itself does not amount to much, say a quarter cent, but the cumulative effect is to add to the unaffordability of the region.

    Before increasing taxes YET AGAIN, waste needs to be removed from transportation projects. For example, VTA needs to eliminate waste and “gold plating” of the BART extension’s cost by reducing the scope to eliminate duplicate facilities. Specifically, a revised “build alternative” needs to be added to the study that eliminates the duplicative and wasteful section between the San Jose and Santa Clara Caltrain stations. The BART segment from the San Jose to Santa Clara Caltrain stations would duplicate both the existing Caltrain line and VTA’s 22 and 522 buses to a station that has approximately 1000 riders each weekday. This is extremely wasteful.

    Why don’t the wealthy high-rollers in the “Leadership Group” suggest taxing their rich companies and leave the little guy alone for a change?

  2. > noting that San Jose could do more to reach its goal of reducing single-occupant car trips.

    How about reducing single occupancy ( and zero occupancy) VTA bus and light rail trips?

    • Bubble…We agree on something!

      True story – My family and I play a game called “0” or “1” as we watch the light rail go by near our house. (at night you can see into the light-rail train perfectly). We laugh and laugh because usually it’s ZERO people on the light rail shuttling people to and from the failed “Transit Oriented Development” apartment complex at the end of Coleman Ave. at Almaden Lake. Meanwhile, sometimes between 30 and 40 cars sit idling (emitting the very carbon-emissions that the TOD development was supposed to eliminate) while waiting for the light rail gate to lift while the light rail passes. This goes on all day every day, every 10 minutes! WHAT A JOKE!!! It’s supposed to be the age of “data-driven” decision making. Yeah right. Come look at the data over here. No one from the TOD development is using the light-rail. And, no one from the surrounding 1000’s of condo’s are using it either. And, no one from Almaden seems to want to drive into this park and ride lot to park and then use light rail.

      Seriously….try and get anyone from that TOD community to ride the light rail and for some reason they don’t. Also, why in the world doesn’t anyone from Almaden drive and park their cars in the parking lot and use the light rail. It’s right there!!!! And, why aren’t people from the condo’s walking to this light rail station to use it?

      So no…I’m not paying more taxes for something that I see NOT being properly evaluated by VTA. I spoke to someone at VTA about the problem and she literally said, “oh yeah, that’s one of the lowest used”. So I suggested to “spare the air” and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by stopping the line at Oakridge Mall BEFORE Blossom Hill Road. She honestly said, “oh, we would never do that. It costs too much to have laid down those rails. They are going to be used now that there in.” Huh? If reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing traffic are the goals then pray tell why in the world can we not say the words…”WE MADE A MISTAKE OVER THERE”. They should be making decisions in a way that makes sense. At this point, I have little faith they will get it right with extra money. In fact, it could worsen the situation by allowing them to continue with failed lines and not learning to trim the fat.

      By the way, it’s the Silicon Valley Leadership Group at it again. They are rotten to the core. If they are behind it, chances are it’s rotten to the core too.

      On a side note, we need more buses, more often, going more places. That’s a fact. And I shouldn’t have to pay almost 10% of my income to live in a city that has a bus system that can get you places.

      • Jill:

        Thanks for filling in the details. It’s worse than I thought.

        “Public transit” in the Age of Obama is NOT about transit; it’s about central planning. It’s about concentrating voters in rabbit warrens called “transit villages” so “community organizers” can monitor and direct their voting.

        > On a side note, we need more buses, more often, going more places.

        People made this argument loudly and energetically back when Highway 85 project was being obstructed and held hostage by Rod Diridon and and the transit fascists..

        An efficient, flexible bus system makes enormous sense for public transit since it uses existing streets and roads.

        The future of public transit is “self-driving vehicles’. It will move more people faster and to the places where they really want to go AND with fewer government union employees. Which is why it will be fought to the death by “progressives”.

  3. Any time you see the Silicon Valley Leadership Group supporting anything-VOTE AGAINST THE MEASURE.

    Mayor Liccardo should be a “One-Term Mayor” for his intimate association with this group. (There are other reasons why Mayor Liccardo should be a “One-Term Mayor” but, they are too numerous to write here.)

    The VTA is as close as a government agency can get as being confused as being an organized crime entity.

    David S. Wall

    • yes, I totally agree David. I will NOT be voting for the Mayor if he dare to run again. I’m already racking my brain to figure out how we can get a mayor into office that won’t be already stuck like a barnacle to SPUR and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. Any ideas? We need to start looking now for a suitable candidate now.

  4. Wholeheartedly agree with all the comments posted so far. I am saddened to see how quickly this area has turned into an absolute dump under the Mayor’s brief tutelage. His “behind-closed-doors” approach has been one handout after another to developers getting fat off badly needed taxpayer funds. It seems everywhere I look is another scam in progress and I can’t stand it anymore. I concede defeat, congratulations. You want to turn my hometown into a cesspool? Fine go ahead. I’m out of here. I imagine many more will follow.