Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) can provide a world-class transportation option for Santa Clara County. Public transportation is often slow and unreliable in Silicon Valley, with bus service moving along at a snail’s pace during rush hour. Bus stops and the vehicles themselves are spartan-like with few amenities; hardly a symbol of innovation that Silicon Valley is known for. Clearly we can do better!
BRT is a proven transportation option that is fast, reliable, and convenient. The Valley Transportation Authority’s (VTA) BRT stations will be equipped with real-time bus arrival displays eliminating the anxiety associated with waiting for the next bus. Stations will also feature amenities such as ticket vending machines, ample shelter and seating, and even station area art! Buses will be equipped with free Wi-Fi for internet access on the go and more space for bikes on board than a standard bus, reducing the likelihood of getting left behind because of lack of space for bicycles. Level-boarding station platforms will also offer fast and easy access for all users including people with strollers and wheelchairs. BRT vehicles will run every five to ten minutes, 18 hours per day reducing the need for schedules.
BRT will help manage the Valley’s projected population growth and maintain our quality of life. With significant population growth along El Camino Real and Santa Clara County over the coming decades, we can’t afford not to invest in greatly enhanced transportation options. Imagine the stress of driving in traffic in twenty years if we don’t enhance our public transit network and provide future residents with excellent public transit so they can have a choice to leave the car keys at home. Because BRT is expected to cut bus travel times by at least 30%, it will attract many more transit riders and improve the commute for existing transit users, many of whom do not have access to a car.
BRT will foster healthy and sustainable communities. El Camino Real, Alum Rock Ave, and Stevens Creek Blvd are not the safest nor the most convenient streets to walk and bike on, but BRT can change that. Where bus-only lanes are adopted, pedestrian improvements and bike lanes can be incorporated into the project at each city’s request. Creating a safer and more comfortable street for walking and biking will encourage more people to walk and bike, curbing obesity rates as well as heart disease, which along with strokes are the leading causes of death in Santa Clara County. As more people take advantage of public transportation, we’ll improve air quality for people with asthma and respiratory diseases, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and help tackle climate change. Finally, providing speedy, reliable transportation to popular nightlife destinations such as downtown Palo Alto could even reduce alcohol related traffic fatalities.
BRT can provide economic benefits for households. The cost of living is a growing concern in the Bay Area, with housing and transportation costs increasingly eating up the majority of a household’s income. BRT will provide a competitive alternative to private vehicles, thereby reducing household transportation costs and freeing up a family’s budget for other needs such as education and healthcare. According to an analysis conducted by TransForm, Silicon Valley households living in communities with the best access to public transportation spend thousands of dollars less per year on transportation than the most auto-oriented parts of the Valley.
BRT can strengthen the local green economy. BRT will create hundreds of green jobs, including permanent transit operating jobs while supporting plans for new pedestrian oriented development as called for in local land use plans. For example, VTA estimates that the El Camino BRT project will generate 4,780 jobs due to direct and indirect economic benefits while eliminating 4,555 metric tons of greenhouse gases annually, thus helping meet California’s climate change laws (AB 32; SB375).
BRT will invest in needed public improvements for cities. Many cities today are working towards making their streets safer and more comfortable for all users, which can be difficult with such an extensive roadway network and limited resources. BRT provides an exciting opportunity to fund needed local transportation, safety, and quality of life improvements without impacting a city’s budget. As part of the BRT project, VTA can fund pedestrian and bicycle safety and access improvements through the 2000 Measure A countywide sales tax as well as state and federal funds. Furthermore, cities will be more competitive for federal and state bicycle and pedestrian improvement grants such as the One Bay Area Grant (OBAG) program, compounding the financial benefits for localities.