Valley Link………Not Ready for Prime Time

On September 24, 2020 the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC) diverted $400,000,000 in Alameda County sales tax funds to the hasty, politically-inspired, Valley Link Project (VLP.)

During and before the meeting BATWG strongly urged that the proposed Valley Link Line which mostly duplicates the existing ACE line be treated with caution. For the following reasons it is much too early to be allocating $400 million in Alameda County funds to a commuter rail line benefitting primarily San Joaquin County:

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VTA’s Santa Clara Street Subway Goes Off the Rails

The estimated price of building the 4.8 mile BART extension through San Jose has increased again. It’s now up to $6.86 billion and rising. This all started because of downtown demands that the entire subway be built with no construction impact on Santa Clara Street. This short-sighted demand apparently stemmed from the misguided belief that constructing the two downtown stations using the standard cut-and-cover methods used all over the world for station construction would bring Santa Clara Street to a halt for the entire 4 to 6 year construction period. This is not true. As shown in the section below, at no time would the street be entirely closed. Here’s how it’s normally done.  First, one half the street is excavated and decked over, after which the traffic is shifted to the decked half while the other half of the street is similarly excavated and decked. This phase of the project can be completed in a relatively short amount of time. Once the wooden decking is in place and traffic again flowing, the major below-grade construction work begins. At the end of the job the permanent new roadway is reconstructed, again in a relatively short amount of time and again while keeping at least half the street operating at all times.

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BART in Distress

BART’s Board of Directors faces major financial and administrative challenges.

According to the 2018-19 Alameda County Civil Grand Jury Report:  “Violent crime on BART, including robberies and aggravated assaults, increased by 115% over the last five years…. Rider satisfaction with BART fell from a high of 84% in 2012 to a low of 56% in 2018…. Since at least 2012, cleanliness has been a top concern for riders who responded to the survey.

The Grand Jury report continued: “Respondents  cite ‘personal security in BART system’ as the second largest service rating decline…, just after fare evasion. Lack of visible police presence on trains and in stations has long been a concern of riders … News reports of the three homicides in July 2018 and a video in October 2018 of a man swinging two chain saws while riding BART reinforced worries among Bay Area residents about their safety on BART.

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Caltrain Success Story

Every now and then BATWG singles out a transit operation that we regard as particularly successful.

Caltrain definitely fits into that category. Between 2000 and 2019, Caltrain’s ridership soared from 29,728 riders a day to 63,597 riders a day, an increase of an extraordinary 114%. (Since last March, the pandemic has radically reduced these numbers as it has for transit operations around the world, but this does not detract from the past success of the Caltrain operation or for its potential for even greater success in the future.

In large part, this increase in Caltrain popularity and usability was because of the Caltrain Peninsula Joint Powers Board’s popular Baby Bullet program which was introduced in 2004. By skipping some stops, the Baby Bullet trains provide both faster service for longer distance travelers, and good local service for shorter distance travelers. By 2019 Caltrain was operating 92 weekday trains with 22 of those being Baby Bullet trains.

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