For too many years, Silicon Valley has focused on planning for automobiles, forcing most of us to depend on driving with few alternatives to sitting in traffic - and leaving everyone else in the dust. Until now.
The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project planned for El Camino Real would introduce incredibly fast and reliable transit service between Palo Alto and San Jose, and make the corridor safer for everyone who walks, bikes, and drives on it.
Last week, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) released the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for El Camino Real BRT. Now we – the public – have until January 14 to read and react to this document. And it’s critical that we do so.
One of the key findings of the DEIR is that bus-only lanes are essential.
If BRT can travel in its own lanes separate from car traffic, transit travel times become competitive with, and can even be faster than, driving a car.
The graph below shows that the amount of time it takes to get from Palo Alto to Santa Clara on transit is significantly reduced as the number of transit-only lane miles increases. In fact, if transit-only lanes are incorporated along the entire route, taking transit will be faster than driving!
VTA needs to make sure BRT works well for all of the people who use El Camino Real, whether they bike, walk, or take the bus.
To truly maximize the potential benefits of BRT for all people who use El Camino Real, VTA must ensure that it incorporates pedestrian and bicyclist safety improvements along the corridor.
Therefore, VTA and city leaders should consider the following measures:
- Add additional signalized left turns and pedestrian crossings and incorporate sidewalk extensions (bulb-outs) wherever practical. El Camino today is unsafe and uninviting for people on foot and the BRT project should be leveraged to make the street safer for everyone.
- Accommodate buffered bike lanes and on-street parking in areas with dedicated transit lanes by narrowing the existing median to 10 feet. Right now, El Camino Real is an uncomfortable place for bicycling, and adding bike lanes will clearly improve safety and encourage more cycling along the corridor. However, the DEIR assumes that including bike lanes will require removal of all on-street parking in most of the cities along El Camino Real. It doesn’t have to be that way. In areas with dedicated transit-only lanes, VTA can maintain vital on-street parking for local businesses and incorporate bicycle improvements by narrowing the median. A win-win solution!
- Quantify the impacts of improving pedestrian and bicycle safety a result of the Project, such as increased bicycle and pedestrian traffic and the resulting environmental and health benefits.
- Implement additional strategies to generate more walking, biking, and transit use such as incorporating bike sharing pods at the BRT stations and nearby popular destinations, offering improved N/S transit connections, allowing private high-occupancy shuttles to use the bus-only lanes, and requiring new development to provide free transit (ECO) passes to residents and workers.
If we act now, we can ensure that BRT serves all of the people who live, work, play, shop, and travel along El Camino Real. Will you help?
There are several ways for you to learn more, share your thoughts, and get involved:
- Please attend one (or more!) of these public hearing meetings near you, and share our comments above and your own thoughts:
- Please comment on the DEIR before January 14 by sending an email to VTA right now.
- Or mail written comments to: VTA Environmental Planning Department, Attn: Christina Jaworski, 3331 North First Street, Bldg. B, San Jose, CA 95134-1927
- For more information or to get involved, sign up to receive updates on this campaign or contact me.
Thank you for helping in whatever way you can to make make El Camino Real – and our community – a safer and better place for everyone to live, work, shop, recreate, and get around!