On MTS letterhead

Dec 8, 2000

Carolyn Gonot
Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority
3331 N. First St.
San Jose, CA 95134

Subject: our comments on VTP 2020 draft

Dear Ms. Gonot,

Our comments on VTP 2020 draft are in this letter.


In general, the Modern Transit Society (MTS) supports the transit projects in the VTP 2020. The major points are:

• (p.77): The BART alignment to San Jose should not be assumed to be decided. There has been no MIS. Consideration needs to given the “SP” or “UP” corridors for cost, travel time, and patronage. Specifically, the “SP” can reach downtown San Jose without any tunneling (reducing cost by half or more), is more direct, and avoids stations that will be serviced by LRT anyway (on Santa Clara St.) or should be (WP, Great Mall to Kelly Park). For more info see

• A demonstration project for new transit technology should occur in conjunction with the San Jose Airport guideway link. MTS believes that Personal Rapid Transit, or at least Automated Guideway Transit, holds the key to future mobility.

• (p. 8): “... transit travel times need to be competitive to automobiles travel times.” We completely agree. VTA should place an effort to truly implement signal preemption for LRT (also for buses). There are a number of intersections that are notoriously time consuming for LRT because automobiles are given a higher priority.

• (p. 71): The term “Bus Rapid Transit” is unfortunate. Historically, “Rapid Transit” has always meant rail transit that is fast, as opposed to streetcars or buses. It is suggested that “fast bus” or other term be used, despite the fact the federal program uses this term.

• For new LRT lines, changing timing order on signal lights to enable a left-turn-arrow green after the through (main) green would prevent left-turning drivers becoming in the habit of looking at the wrong signal light (the through green signal). An approaching LRV changes the default signal pattern, and their bad habit results in a turn left at the wrong time, thus colliding with an LRV.


MTS opposes further subsidies to the automobile. It is well known that automobiles are greatly subsidized by both government and involuntary private subsidies (e.g., parking lots, developer fees for roads). In its role as Congestion Management, VTA should recognize that automobile subsidies increase auto use and congestion. VTA should conduct an audit of automobile subsidies using full-cost accounting. Most of the public, and most politicians, are not even aware of these subsidies. The first step to their elimination is identification. See Free Market for Transportation Plan at

Highway construction always has the result of encouraging greater auto use, with no net reduction in congestion (except possibly when direct users are charged for it). This phenomena, only recognized in recent years, is called induced traffic. Ignoring induced traffic results in money being wasted and increasing pollution. Automobiles are the competitor to transit in the urban transportation market so building roads will also harm transit ridership.

• (p.24) “Road Pricing” is only mentioned as a method of financing more automobile capacity. MTS supports road pricing for another purpose: reducing, even eliminating, traffic congestion. A fact that is not commonly known except by highway engineers is that freeway capacity would double by keeping traffic moving at around 40 mph. This feature should be exploited. A political way to achieve this is by implementing this feature, called “demand pricing,” on carpool lanes. Change to HOT lanes and define HOV as 3 or more. Use proceeds to finance transit in the corridor.

• There are a number of other methods to reduce congestion. The easiest to accomplish is “employee parking cashout.” Unfortunately, VTA staff has had no interest in this despite several overtures on our part. Employee parking cashout has been shown to reduce car commuting by 26%. Details at:

• A one page summary of 9 low-cost or no-cost ways to reduce congestion is at:

• Last year, MTS wrote a letter the VTA stating that the project priorities on expressways would endanger pedestrians. For the same expressway, highway funding was given higher priority than pedestrian funding in most cases, and never a lower priority. This could result in repeat of past actions of the County highway engineers: They destroyed pedestrian and bicycle facilities while adding more lanes for automobiles, forcing pedestrians to walk in the traffic lane. The priorities need to put pedestrians and bicyclists projects at least on the same priority level as automobile projects for the same section of roadway. While priorities were not stated in this year’s draft copy, they were stated in last year’s version.

• (p. 65) MTS agrees that widening Montague Expy. “would not eliminate congestion.” Nor would it reduce it, as widening would just encourage more car commuters through the East Bay gateway. VTA should consider alternatives. An important point regarding Montague is that pedestrians are allowed on the roadway. If highway construction to add lanes destroys pedestrian facilities, including existing shoulders, this will cause danger to pedestrians and potentially result in a fatality. Because lighting does not exist for many portions of this road, the danger would be more acute at night. The County highway engineers destroyed the sidewalk on Montague crossing Coyote river when they added more lanes (the “HOV lanes”) and also reduced shoulder width to a narrow 4 feet in many places. In some locations, shoulders were eliminated completely. Before any lanes are added, the problems caused by adding the last set of lanes needs to be first rectified. Note: Pedestrians are allowed on Montague, as well as on most expressways, despite claims of some highway engineers to the contrary (actually, a pretense to avoid the issue).

• (p. 65) The proposed widening of Central Expy. for “HOV lanes” is totally unnecessary because the paralleling Hwy. 101 already has them. Data on HOV lanes on Montague Expy., San Tomas, and elsewhere show that the real beneficiaries of HOV lanes are solo-drivers. The existing carpoolers move over to the newly constructed lane, leaving a vacancy in the “regular” lanes. This vacancy is soon filled by solodrivers. MTS has shown that when carpool lanes were added, the market share of HOVs actually dropped.

A further note on Central Expy. is that pedestrians are allowed on Central in Santa Clara as a result of the City Council repelling the prohibition at our request. Yet, there are no plans for pedestrian facilities after adding lanes. In some locations, the shoulder that was used by pedestrians was turned into a right-turn only lane, meaning people must walk in the 50 mph traffic lane. As a result of MTS action, sidewalks were construction on Lawrence Expy. Capitol Expy. when lanes were added, but only after years of fighting the highway engineering establishment. It must be assured that sidewalks would also be built here and other expressways if any lane additions are to occur. If not, pedestrians would be forced to walk in the traffic lane.

It should also be noted that despite County policy supporting sidewalks where development occurs by having the developer pay for it, this policy is routinely ignored. The most recent example is on San Tomas north of Walsh. Pedestrians are allowed here because the City Council allowed them at our request (in 1988), yet people must still walk in the traffic lane because shrubbery was planted along the roadway this month instead of using some of that space for a sidewalk or even a “dirt” pedestrian path.

• (p 147): VTA has recommended additional expressway studies. It is hoped that pedestrians and bicyclists would be included. All expressways allow bicycles and most allow pedestrians. The reason for prohibiting bicycles and pedestrians for 20 years was entirely political on the part of the County highway engineers: they did not want to use any of their roadway budget on other than moving motor vehicles. Their solution was to post “bicycles and pedestrians prohibited” signs on the road, despite the fact most violated State law. Most pedestrians on Montague and Central Expy. are actually transit patrons going to/from work. With the increasing companies that are on or near an expressway, and unavailability of alternative routes due to the hierarchical street pattern, it is even important to consider them.

For a history of the fight for pedestrians, bicyclists, streetcars and electric trains in Santa Clara and Alameda Counties (opposed were traffic engineers, highway engineers and General Motors Corp.), see


Akos Szoboszlay

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