Caltrain Ridership Sets Yet Another Record

Jun 2nd, 2014 | Posted by

Caltrain ridership has set another record, driven by younger and wealthier riders who are choosing the comfort and convenience of the train over the uselessness of 101 or 280:

Caltrain ridership is booming, its riders are younger and wealthier, and they’re ditching their cars in favor of using bicycles and their feet to make it from the station to their destination. That’s according to a duo of new reports documenting ridership and demographic trends on the roughly 50-mile system….

More than a third of Caltrain riders have been riding the system for less than one year. That suggests a lot of converts as more tech companies locate near the stops. A lot of leases have been signed at places like Sunnyvale Business Park, so you’d expect new riders to be coming into the system as companies expand.

This is great news for Caltrain, though it also shows the importance of the region and the state providing a stable source of operating funds.

It also shows the value of having stations located close to jobs. Caltrain’s stations are all located in city centers, since the cities along the route (except for SF and San José) grew up around those stations. While Peninsula NIMBYs have tried to keep people and jobs out of the region, Caltrain shows that the system can help handle the needs of a growing region.

Caltrain’s success will be replicated by high speed rail. Even though commuters will make up a smaller proportion of its riders, there’s every reason to believe that younger riders and those who make good money will choose it over driving or flying. Similarly, HSR done right – i.e. with low fares designed to maximize ridership rather than profit – will attract riders of all incomes and ages.

Ultimately, this shows that two tracks won’t be sufficient for travel needs on the Peninsula. The NIMBYs won’t like it, but the corridor needs four tracks, and can easily accommodate them.

  1. Jerry
    Jun 2nd, 2014 at 13:50
    #1

    A recent City of Palo Alto study/report shows that a majority of workers in Palo Alto use public transportation to get to their jobs.

  2. Jerry
    Jun 2nd, 2014 at 14:05
    #2

    All real estate reports show an increase in real estate values near the CalTrain ROW. NIMBYs are wrong in saying that HSR will decrease real estate values.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    We love living near the RoW in Palo Alto. Electrified will be even better, and a PA HSR stop would be outstanding.

    I don’t commute via Caltrain but I do use it regularly. Now if we could just get rid of garbage trucks and the occasional band of drunken students, and reduce car congestion in town then we’d be getting somewhere…

    synonymouse Reply:

    Not with PB’s Embarcadero Freeway on rails that “Nimbys” stopped dead in its tracks.

    Clem Reply:

    Proximity to the ROW is only desirable in that it usually implies proximity to a station. Proximity to tracks themselves is generally a negative, unless the trains get quieter and less polluting?

    Chad Brick Reply:

    It’s a negative, but a small one unless you are right next to it. Street noise from traffic dominates the noise from trains in almost all cases. I currently live about 75 meters from an HSR train, and the sound is negligible with the windows open and non-existent with them closed. Strangely, I can feel the non-stop trains though, as we live on the top floor of a high rise and the trains cause a very slight sway. The local trains are actually a bit worse than the HSR in terms of noise (more squeeking) but still it remains a non-factor. In my last apartment, I was located between two lines, both about 50 meters away. Again, it was a non-factor. Alas, the stoplight outside of our apartment entrance was a major annoyance.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Aerials are a different matter. They are visually and audially impacting, unavoidably, and they have to be secured much better and more than at grade to keep out crime.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Yes electrifying and grade separating Caltrain is going turn it into Scarsdale. A seething pit of crime and poverty.

  3. Ted Judah
    Jun 2nd, 2014 at 17:40
    #3

    I think I hear champagne corks popping at Kaiser Center….

  4. Reality Check
    Jun 2nd, 2014 at 22:01
    #4

    Published Monday, April 28, 2014, by the Palo Alto Daily Post

    San Jose wants to rob us again
    Another sales tax increase — more money for San Jose BART and crumbs for Palo Alto

    By Dave Price
    Editor

    Here we go again! The Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group, headed by Carl Guardino, is planning to put another sales tax increase proposal on the November ballot for transportation.

    If it’s anything like the previous transportation sales taxes Guardino has pushed (in 1996, 2000 and 2008), the money will go mainly to San Jose’s transportation projects, like extending BART to that city.

    And the North County will just get crumbs.

    To get North County politicos to support the tax, the measure will include a bike path for Palo Alto or maybe some improvements for Caltrain.

    So how do you sell this rip-off to taxpayers?

    In each of the previous elections, proponents paid for TV commercials suggesting that if people voted for the tax, they would be fighting traffic congestion.

    The commercials showed cars sitting in traffic and frustrated drivers. The commercials worked because who doesn’t want traffic relief?

    What did we get?

    But after these sales taxes were approved by voters in 1996, 2000 and 2008, have things gotten better on the roads?

    Last year, traffic went up 13% in Silicon Valley, according to a report by the research company Inrix. Over a year, commuters spent an average of 31 hours sitting in traffic.

    Palo Alto has the worst inbound commute delays in Silicon Valley, according to Census Bureau data.

    But I’ll bet Palo Alto gets very little from this new tax — no major improvements to highways that will make your commutes shorter.

    Take BART to the flea market

    San Jose wants the money from this tax, though, to help pay for the BART extension from Warm Springs to San Jose, which includes a 4-mile tunnel from downtown San Jose to the Berryessa Flea Market.

    I don’t know why they need to build this tunnel when the land above the tunnel’s route is inexpensive (by local standards). The route is occupied by used car lots, bail bonds offices, tattoo shops, seedy strip shopping centers and the like. Why is that land so precious that BART can’t be placed above ground there?

    Palo Alto, and the rest of the Peninsula, needs a tunnel much more for Caltrain and high-speed rail. But San Jose controls the transportation dollars in Santa Clara County, so we’re not getting our tunnel. And we’ll never get a commuter rail line next to the Dumbarton Bridge because San Jose grabbed those dollars too.

    Money-sucking tube

    Santa Clara County government is like a long pneumatic tube. Money gets sucked into the tube from Palo Alto, Los Altos and Mountain View. The money comes out the other end in San Jose, where it is spent by bureaucrats on their pet projects. The North County pays but seldom sees the benefits of its tax dollars
    .
    The proposal Guardino is floating would raise the sales tax rate from 8.75% to 9% for 30 years, giving Santa Clara County one of the highest sales taxes in the country. This extra .25% is on top of the previous 1.125% in transportation sales taxes we already pay. The sales tax proposed for this November could raise as much as $3.7 billion over three decades.

    Toll lanes on 101 and 85

    This tax increase proposal comes at a time when VTA is planning to convert the carpool lanes on highways 101 and 85 to toll lanes. The lanes would still be free to carpoolers, but solo drivers would have to pay a toll, an amount based on congestion and time of day. It’s a real insult to taxpayers to make them pay twice for a road — once with their taxes and again with a toll. It looks like these toll lanes would get final approval in November, about the time Guardino’s sales tax would go to voters.

    People might turn down the sales tax increase as a protest over the VTA toll lanes.

    I think people should also be skeptical about the proponents of this sales tax increase — the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. It was a trade group started by Valley icon David Packard to improve the relationship between government and local tech firms. Packard was very ethical and made sure his company always contributed to causes that would benefit the community.

    But in the years after Packard’s death, the leadership group morphed into an organization whose goal, it seems to me, is to foist regressive taxes on the public so that the group’s members, big tech companies, don’t have to pony up. In 2006, when Guardino was campaigning for a sales tax increase, the Mercury News reported that his lobbyists in Sacramento were pushing for tax exemptions for companies when they purchase equipment and do R&D. I can imagine Mr. Packard up in heaven, looking down on his leadership group and shaking his head.

    It would help Guardino’s credibility if those big companies voluntarily wrote checks for transit projects to match the dollars this tax will bring in. If not, it just looks like big business is trying to squeeze the little guy.

    This tax proposal isn’t on the November ballot yet. It would need to be placed there by either the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors or the VTA board.

    • • •

    Editor Dave Price’s column appears every Monday in the post. His email address is price@padailypost.com.

    Reality Check Reply:

    Published Thursday, May 29, 2014, by the Palo Alto Daily Post

    Where did our tax money go?
    Tax proponent can’t answer question about use of earlier sales tax increase

    By Breena Kerr
    Daily Post Staff Writer

    It was a simple question.

    With concerns that northern Santa Clara County has been shortchanged when it comes to transportation funds raised by previous sales tax increases, Palo Alto City Councilman Pat Burt wanted to know just how much Caltrain had received from a 2000 tax measure.

    Burt asked the proponent of the tax, Carl Guardino of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, that question at a May 19 council meeting.

    Guardino, who was at the meeting to lobby council for another sales tax increase for the November ballot, didn’t have an answer. “It wasn’t much, right?” Burt said.

    “Oh my goodness, I’ll have to go back and check,” Guardino said. “… It wasn’t as much as I’d like it to be,” he added.

    More than a week later, Burt said he hasn’t received an answer from the leadership group.

    The Post asked the group for the same information. Guardino himself didn’t return the Post’s calls. His staff, after receiving almost a dozen phone calls and emails from the Post in the past week, demurred, saying they just didn’t know.

    “We don’t receive the money or spend it … we don’t have that figure on hand at the moment,” Steve Wright, a spokesman for the leadership group, told the Post in an email.

    Wright suggested that the Post call Caltrain. But the spokesman there didn’t know either.

    Initial calls to authorities at the Santa Clara County Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), the agency that doles out the tax money, also yielded no information about the money spent on BART or Caltrain. Some employees said they weren’t even sure if the in-formation was public. Then, yesterday, a VTA spokesman said he would get the Post the numbers by today. If that happens, the Post will report the numbers in tomorrow’s paper.

    Money for BART to San Jose

    Burt raised the question because of concerns that previous sales tax increases pushed by Guardino’s group have primarily funded the $6.2 billion extension of BART to San Jose and little had gone to the transportation needs in the North County, such as Caltrain.

    “I think, in Palo Alto, the perception is that we have not gotten our share of the money,” Councilman Larry Klein told Guardino at the May 19 meeting. “The number of people who ride BART in Palo Alto is relatively small.”

    Guardino, whose group represents the largest businesses in Silicon Valley, has succeeded in getting voters to pass sales tax increases in 1996, 2000 and 2008. The leadership group now wants voters to approve another increase — which would raise the sales tax from 8.75% to 9%.

    The new tax would raise about $3.5 billion over 30 years, and the leadership group has proposed that $1.3 billion of that go toward BART while $500 million would be earmarked for Caltrain.

    Reality Check Reply:

    Published Saturday, May 31, 2014, by the Palo Alto Daily Post

    Tax shorts Caltrain

    By Breena Kerr
    Daily Post Staff Writer

    Less than 4% of the $1.4 billion raised from a 2000 Santa Clara County sales tax increase went to fund Caltrain, which Palo Alto City Councilman Pat Burt called the backbone of the north county’s transit system, transit officials said yesterday.

    The half-cent sales tax passed by voters in 2000 to fund transportation projects raised $53 million for Caltrain, $642 million for the BART to San Jose extension and $745 million for other projects and debt payments, according to VTA officials.

    Questions about those numbers came up at a council meeting on May 19. With concerns that northern Santa Clara County has been shortchanged when it comes to transportation funds raised by previous sales tax increases, Councilman Pat Burt wanted to know how much Caltrain had received from a previous tax measure.

    Burt asked the proponent of the tax increase, Carl Guardino of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, about the matter.

    Not prepared to answer

    Guardino, who was at the meeting to lobby council members to support a half-cent sales tax increase proposed for the November ballot, didn’t have an answer.

    But after days of searching, the Post finally got some of those numbers from VTA yesterday.

    Aside from the $53 million that went to Caltrain and the $642 million that went to BART, $29 million from the 2000 tax measure went to the county’s bus program, according to VTA spokeswoman Brandi Childress.

    Another $99 million went to fund the San Jose light rail, $2 million went to the Mineta San Jose International Airport tram, and $235 million went to VTA for operating costs. Another $6 million was labeled for miscellaneous operating expenses, $293 million went to pay off bonds, and $81 million went to fund “exchange payments.” The VTA did not respond to the Post’s question about what fund exchange payments were.

    The Silicon Valley Leadership Group also advocated for the 2008 Measure B, another transportation tax that passed. But the money from that tax measure only raises money for BART and can’t be given to Caltrain, Childress said.

    More money for Caltrain

    Although the Post contacted the Silicon Valley Leadership Group multiple times over the past two weeks looking for numbers to show how the 2000 tax measure money was spent, representatives there said they didn’t know and Guardino did not return the Post’s request for an interview.

    One seventh of the proposed sales tax could go to Caltrain, Guardino said.

    But council members on the Policy and Services Committee last week said they wanted to see a larger 0.375% sales tax increase so that more money could be dedicated to Caltrain. Council members, such as Greg Scharff and Larry Klein said they were looking for guarantees that some of the tax money would benefit North County residents.

    joe Reply:

    This complaint is progress. There was a time when fewer trains was a good thing. Maybe if Caltrain died the ROW could be turned in a walking path or park.

    Now the richest zip codes are upset their towns are NOT getting public transit money.

    Good!! I bet they fight to keep the Dumbarton Bridge money MTC loaned to BART and wants to forgive the debt.
    http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_25618510/palo-alto-council-opposes-proposal-forgive-91m-loan
    The Palo Alto City Council is challenging a proposal by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to forgive a $91 million loan to a project that would extend BART to the South Bay.

    The proposal from the MTC seeks to reallocate funds for projects that are not moving forward as planned. The Dumbarton Rail project has been in limbo since 2012, when voters in Alameda County narrowly rejected a sales tax measure that would have provided up to $120 million for the project, which according to some estimates could top $700 million.

    synonymouse Reply:

    The Peninsula towns are complaining BART is getting everything. What else is new.

    Reality Check Reply:

    Palo Alto city staff report: Approval of Letter Regarding Santa Clara County Transportation Project Sales Tax Increase

    Guiding Principles

    The City Council adopts the following Principles to guide its decision making framework and the
    actions of the Committee:

    The City of Palo Alto believes that the HSR project should be terminated for the following reasons:

    1. The current project fundamentally contradicts the measure presented to the voters under Prop. 1A in 2008. The voters approved the measure based on grossly underestimated construction costs, overstated ridership numbers and underestimated fares. The voters also required that HSR could operate without a subsidy and that funding sources would be identified and environmental review would be complete prior to construction of an Initial Operating Segment.

    2. Given that the revised HSR Business and Funding Plans do not meet the projected ridership, fare, job creation, and other significant requirements, the City believes that the voters were not given the accurate information during the 2008 election necessary to make an informed decision on a HSR project for the State of California.

    The City realizes, however, that there is momentum at the Federal and State level to make HSR a reality, despite the conflicts with Prop 1A. There are many evolving aspects of HSR, however, that have not yet been studied or decided.

    Therefore, if the State should move forward with the HSR project, the following Guiding Principles shall apply to the City’s positions on HSR:

    1. The City supports a non-elevated alignment of HSR/Caltrain in Palo Alto.

    2. The City’s preferred vertical alignment of fixed rail in Palo Alto is below grade.

    3. When examining the potential impacts of vertical rail alignments equal attention shall be given to all Palo Alto neighborhoods. Adopted mitigation measures should be proportionate to the impacts identified in the studies.

    4. The City believes that the Program Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Central Valley to San Francisco portion of HSR is fatally flawed and that the CHSRA should reopen and reconsider its decision to use the Pacheco Pass route.

    5. The City supports the findings of the Legislative Analyst’s Office, State Auditor, and the HSR Peer Review Committee regarding the viability and accuracy of the CHSRA’s Business Plan on such matters as the ridership projections, the identification of sufficient and reliable funding sources, project management, and operation of HSR.

    6. The City favors legislation which would enable implementation of the HSR Peer Review Committee authorized by AB 3034.

    7. Palo Alto supports transit and urban design solutions that will be compatible with our economic development strategies, transportation goals, and rail corridor vision. HSR/Caltrain needs to complement the goals and strategies of the City’s Comprehensive Plan.

    8. Palo Alto supports the use of the Context Sensitive Solutions process for HSR and Caltrain that is funded and implemented by the CHSRA.

    9. The CHSRA should provide sufficient funding to affected cities to allow them to hire experts to study reports requiring feedback and sufficient outreach to the community to capture their concerns and suggestions.

    10. Proposed changes to the Caltrain corridor by either the CHSRA or PCJPB should provide both realistic renderings of the various alternatives and simulations that would help provide an understanding of the system’s sound and vibration impacts.

    11. Palo Alto strongly supports Caltrain and the commuter rail service at the present or improved levels of service.

    12. Palo Alto supports the modernization of Caltrain. However, whether the City supports electrification cannot be determined until all potential impacts are identified, studied and suitable mitigation measures are implemented.

    13. Palo Alto supports Caltrain as the lead agency for all system improvements in the Caltrain corridor.

    14. Palo Alto will work cooperatively with neighboring communities with respect to HSR and Caltrain issues of mutual concern through agencies such as the Peninsula Cities Consortium.

    15. Palo Alto expects all current rail crossings to remain open to automobiles, bicycles and pedestrians. In the event that the modernization of Caltrain and/or HSR increases train service from current 2012 levels, Palo Alto will consider grade separation solutions for the Alma, Churchill, East Meadow, and East Charleston crossings. These improvements must be funded by Caltrain, HSR and/or other external funding sources.

    16. A detailed and transparent environmental analysis of all proposed improvements must be completed. Therefore, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) shall not be modified in any way that (1) exempts the HSR or Caltrain Modernization projects, either in whole or in part; or (2) reduces the obligation of the HSR or Caltrain Modernization project sponsors to conduct a full environmental review process that allows for a detailed analysis of all potential impacts and mitigation measures at a level that is not less than the level currently required by law.

    17. The overall environmental review should be comprised of two separate Rnvironmental Impact Reports. The first EIR should be for the Caltrain Modernization Project. The second EIR should address any subsequent improvements proposed or necessary for HSR operation in the corridor.

    18. Palo Alto strongly supports revisions to the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (PCJPB) governance structure that more accurately reflect the distribution of Caltrain ridership. Additionally, such revisions should be made at or prior to a ballot measure seeking a dedicated funding source for Caltrain operations, should one occur.

    19. The Guiding Principles of the Committee incorporates by reference Council adopted written comments to the CHSRA, PCJPB, and other relevant agencies. In case of any conflict in policies the most recent language prevails.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Most excellent

    joe Reply:

    It’s a detailed enumeration of the reasons few dollars from the Santa Clara County Transport sales tax will be spend in Palo Alto or with Palo Alto’s endorsement.

    I’ll ask my City council to write Gilroy’s Principles for spending Palo Alto’s contributions to the County Tax fund.

    It’s like having a vegan crash a BBQ and tell you what foods they will not eat – whatever dude.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They wanna whine that the stuff in the Central Valley costs too much and has deleterious impacts the rest of get to whine that building tunnels in Palo Alto costs too much and has deleterious impacts.

  5. John Burrows
    Jun 2nd, 2014 at 22:30
    #5

    The San Jose Diridon Station Area Plan makes some pretty optimistic projections regarding the number of passengers going through Diridon per day. The projections for the number of boardings per weekday for the 2030-2035 time period—

    ACE————————————–1,800
    Capitol Corridor————————–460
    Coast Starlight—————————100
    BART————————————10,150
    Caltrain——————————–10,125
    High Speed Rail———————-12,300
    VTA—————————————1,150

    Total————————————36,445

    Last year, total weekday boardings at Diridon were around 5,000, including 3,714 from Caltrain.

    John Burrows Reply:

    That should 1,150 boardings for VTA light rail, not including VTA buses.

    joe Reply:

    Look at the projected job growth in the Bay Area and South County in particular (yes it’s nuts but I got here in ’91 and i thought SV was peaking then).
    For example one of the more progressive cities for housing is failing: http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/place/article/Mountain-View-stuck-in-past-when-it-comes-to-5519893.php

    San Jose professes to want to build up and in-fill (North San Jose for example). If they continue these new projects and if the jobs continue to expand, peninsula housing growth is not keeping up (a given). The Santa Clara and San Jose Area is going to have more residents and be very busy.

    I also think HSR is to San Jose what the old Trans-Continental railroad was to Oakland. SoCal Riders will be 30 minutes closer to San Jose than SF.

  6. bixnix
    Jun 2nd, 2014 at 22:59
    #6

    More info on the LA Union Station redesign. As expected, the main concourse is still under the existing tracks but enlarged. The HSR station is east of Vignes (using underground tracks in the sketch), where a city building is currently standing. The text says HSR might go either above or below Vignes.

    Roger Christensen Reply:

    East of Vignes HSR station. OMG there goes Denny’s.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    I think this Metro’s not so subtle way of saying HSR to LAUS will use existing track unless the State wants to fork over the cash.

    EJ Reply:

    I think it’s more like Metro’s way of saying, look, we’re trying to run a railroad. If your hypothetical train ever gets here, we’ll stick it out of the way where it can’t do any harm.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    That’s entirely possible.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Then comes the fight with the “restore the river” crowd, mayor Garcetti at the head.

    Joey Reply:

    Ugh

    – Why force all through-running buses to divert into a “bus terminal” rather than provide direct access between the rail platforms and bus stations on Cesar Chavez and the El Monte Busway?

    – Why build an expensive elevated or underground HSR station physically far from the rest of the station when the existing track area has enough room? Conservatively you could fit 12 platform tracks on wide (30’+) platforms into the existing footprint. That’s more than enough to accommodate all of the trains running in and out of the station, given that trains don’t need to sit in the station for half an hour before turning around.

    – Given that they’re digging everything up anyway, why not provide some direct connections from the passenger concourse to the red line station box, rather than forcing everyone to detour around the sides?

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Joey, for those “planners” who never ride a bus (i.e. just about all of them) they seem to think that it’s a great thing to divert buses into “transit centers” rather than keep them moving along the streets and get the poor bastards who have to ride them home a few minutes earlier. I had the same problem here with the new building at Burbank Airport. Initially they wanted to take buses up ramps to the third floor! Fortunately Metro has put their foot down and most of the stops will be made on the street next to the building. Thanks for keeping us informed about this.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    There doesn’t seem to be any enclosed crossing of the 101. Since downtown’s peak employment density is south of 101, not far west of the station, an enclosed crossing would do a lot to make it easier to walk from the station to downtown jobs.

  7. synonymouse
    Jun 3rd, 2014 at 11:57
    #7

    no-shows:

    http://www.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/muni-fleet-cut-by-two-thirds-during-sickout-worker-action/Content?oid=2813083

    This is what to expect with a government owned and run PBHSR. And precisely what Prop 1a called for not doing.

    Don’t worry Pelosi and the 2 Browns will step in and give TWU 250A everything they demand. Gotta take care of your soldiers.

  8. Evans
    Jun 3rd, 2014 at 14:34
    #8

    ” Ultimately, this shows that two tracks won’t be sufficient for travel needs on the Peninsula. The NIMBYs won’t like it, but the corridor needs four tracks, and can easily accommodate them.”

    With modern signal system, trainser with higher accerelation and station with 4~6 tracks, 10~15 train per hours but mixing of local/express can be handled by 2 main tracks.

    How many train do we want for Caltrain? How about 8 train/h Caltrain + 4 train/h HSR? This means local, express and HSR runs each 15 min frequency.

    All station need 4 track to provide flexibility of local train by-passed by express or HSR.
    Some key station need 6 tracks for platform transfer between local to express. At the sametime providing local-express transfer, both train are by-passed by HSR. Maximum HSR speed may be fast as planned, but start running HSR much faster than schedule.

    Please note that this is temporary soluition, untill we convinced ourself for 4-track requirement, or another capacity issues coming. Once electrified Caltrain and HSR start business and demonstarte its convenience, we can get more support from PAMPA.

    Eric Reply:

    Tell that to Metrolink.

  9. Reality Check
    Jun 3rd, 2014 at 17:47
    #9

    Highway 101: After $1.2 billion in road work, it’s as jammed as ever

    No one can say Highway 101 has been neglected.

    Over the past two decades, more than $1.2 billion has been spent to improve the vital freeway link between Silicon Valley and San Francisco.

    [...]

    And what do we have to show for that massive pouring of concrete? One of the most congested highways in the Bay Area.

    [...]

    “We know that no matter what we do with 101, we’ll never serve all the demand there,” said Sandy Wong, executive director of the City/County Association of Governments of San Mateo County. “We agree that we cannot pave our way out of traffic delays. And that it would have been much worse if we hadn’t made the improvements.”

    The express lanes program comes at a crucial time as Santa Clara County braces for a 38 percent growth in population and a 62 percent increase in jobs (668,000 new residents and 540,000 new jobs) by 2035, according to a VTA forecast.

    But the jobs — and number of commuters on 101 — are filling every inch of every lane on this freeway. Santa Clara County’s job market expanded at an annual rate of 4.3 percent over the 12 months that ended in April, according to the state’s most recent jobs report.

    That’s expected to make the South Bay the fastest-growing job market in the nation.

    “Historically we have only addressed one side of the equation by adding capacity and not dealing with the demand side,” said John Ristow, who oversees highway planning for the VTA. “As long as freeways are free they will always be full.”

    If you want a more reliable commute with options to get out of lanes crowded with solo drivers, be prepared to pay. The Valley Transportation Authority will focus on converting existing carpool lanes to toll lanes for drivers willing to pay to drive solo in those lanes. And a second express lane may be added on 101 over the next decade.

    [...]

    A decade ago, the 85-101 interchange at Shoreline Boulevard was rebuilt at a cost of $123.5 million, making it the most expensive interchange in Silicon Valley.

    Today, gridlock.

    “The PR message was that it would greatly reduce traffic congestion on northbound 101,” said Diane Farrar of San Jose. “The congestion became, however, worse than ever and remains so years later. Is anyone accountable for this mess?”

    Other bumps in the road ahead remain. Meters will be added for nearly the entire 70 miles from Gilroy to San Francisco, but some of the technology is based on equipment designed in the 1980s.

    And efforts to extend the carpool lanes from Whipple Avenue in Redwood City to San Francisco will draw a firestorm, especially if it means converting the existing fast lane into a diamond lane, as could happen. Ditto for adding a second carpool lane in each direction on 101.

    “Just throwing more money at our transportation problems is not what we need,” said Jeff Hobson, deputy director of the advocacy group TransForm. “We need innovation. Without innovation, we’ll keep throwing billions more into 20th-century infrastructure projects and we’ll get 20th-century results. Ever-increasing traffic, worsening pollution, and people separated further and further from each other.”

    [...]

    And new sales tax proposal in Santa Clara County would provide funds for Caltrain and the BART extension at Berryessa Road and 101.

    [...]

    joe Reply:

    Caltrans add a conventional lane when it put in the car pool lane from 85/101 in San Jose to Morgan Hill. (That lane is not mentioned in the article but that freeway expansion along with the recession destroyed Caltrain ridership).

    It also mentions future plans to add a HW 101 Express Lane from the HW 129/101 (S of Gilroy) all the way to Redwood City among other highway work along the South County Caltrain corridor.

    aw Reply:

    If they really want to add capacity to the highway, they shouldn’t be converting HOV lanes to HOT lanes. They should toll the GP lanes and make the HOV lanes free. That should be a lot cheaper than adding lanes to build themselves out of congestion.

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