Purpose and Need. Chapter Introduction. 2.2 Project Purpose and Need Project Purpose Project Need

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1 Chapter 2 Purpose and Need 2.1 Introduction The El Camino Real Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Project (Project) would make transit and other transportation improvements along a 17.6-mile segment of the El Camino Real corridor in Santa Clara County extending from the Arena in San José to the Palo Alto Transit Center in Palo Alto. 2.2 Project Purpose and Need Project Purpose The purpose of the Project is to: Provide a competitive transit alternative to the automobile in the Project corridor. Increase the reliability, frequency, and travel speed of transit along the Project corridor. Improve transit amenities and facilities to provide greater passenger comfort and safety. Enhance the multi-modal character of El Camino Real with street improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists. Provide the transit infrastructure to support the implementation of the transit goals and objectives of the Grand Boulevard Initiative (for El Camino Real). Provide the transit infrastructure to support city general and specific plans that call for a greater role for transit to complement their growth strategies. Improve efficiency and cost-effectiveness of transit services in the Project corridor Project Need Anticipated Population and Employment Growth Santa Clara County is expected to experience substantial growth in the 30-year period from 2010 to As shown in Table 2-1, by 2040, the population of Santa Clara County is expected to increase by 644,006 residents (36 percent) and county employment by 303,540 jobs (33 percent), according to Plan Bay Area, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission s (MTC s) Regional Transportation Plan. These growth factors will place a heavy demand on the existing transportation infrastructure because the capacity of the roadway system within the county is planned to increase by only 5 to 6 percent. (Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority 2009a). San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Alameda counties will account for the majority of housing growth (77 percent) and job growth (76 percent) in the Bay Area through Santa Clara County alone accounts for approximately 27 percent of the total job growth in the Bay 2-1

2 Area and 32 percent of total housing growth (Association of Bay Area Governments and Metropolitan Transportation Commission 2013). Transit service must be improved to provide more efficient ways to move this growing population and work force. Otherwise, growth will cause increased vehicular congestion, a deterioration of transit service reliability, and increased transit travel times. Viable and attractive transit services are needed as part of a multi-modal solution, consistent with local planning objectives, to address transportation needs of corridor residents and workers, including transit-dependent populations. Implementation of Plan Bay Area would concentrate development along the existing transit network, including El Camino Real. This concentration would enhance the connection between homes and jobs, but would also concentrate traffic growth and transit demand in those same corridors. Table 2-1. Employment and Population Growth in Santa Clara County and the San Francisco Bay Area, Employment 2010 Employment 2040 Employment Growth Total Employment Growth % Population 2010 Population 2040 Population Growth Total Population Growth % Santa 926,260 1,229, ,540 33% 1,781,642 2,425, ,006 36% Clara Bay Area 3,385,300 4,505,220 1,119,920 33% 7,150,739 9,299,153 2,148,414 30% Source: Association of Bay Area Governments and Metropolitan Transportation Commission Projected Increase in Transit Demand Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) Route 22 and Rapid 522 on El Camino Real have the highest bus ridership in the VTA system, carrying nearly one-fifth of all bus riders in Santa Clara County. These buses have some of the highest passenger boardings per revenue hour, averaging 37 for Route 22 and 29 for Rapid 522. In addition, these lines have similar ridership during the midday and peak periods, which indicates that they serve a regular ridership with diverse travel needs. The all-day use of Route 22 indicates that the corridor needs more frequent and higher quality service. Table 2-2 shows the weekday ridership by time of day (Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority 2013a). The existing Rapid 522 service will not be adequate to serve transit demand on El Camino Real in the future. Without transit improvements, El Camino Real buses will experience substantial congestion that will encourage commuters to use automobiles in lieu of transit. The existing Rapid 522 provides relatively fast and frequent service on El Camino Real by employing traffic signal priority (TSP) and service enhancements. The faster service of Rapid 522 is primarily a result of reducing the number of transit stops. Weekday ridership on the Rapid 522 in the corridor averaged almost 5,900 passengers for the July December 2012 period (Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority 2013a). Forecasted weekday ridership in 2040 with no transportation improvements would be about 10,000. System improvements 2-2

3 could increase future ridership. To serve existing and future ridership, it will be necessary to provide higher quality and more frequent transit alternatives than currently exist. Table 2-2. Weekday Bus Ridership by Time of Day Route Peak Midday Off Peak Total Local 22 5,952 6,334 2,225 14,511 Rapid 522 3,053 2, ,885 Total Local 22 and Rapid 522 Ridership 9,005 9,062 2,329 20,396 Total VTA Core Bus Ridership 35,870 35,654 6,646 78,186 Source: Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority 2013a. Note: This table represents weekday bus ridership by time of day between bus line termini (Eastridge to Palo Alto) Projected Increases in Transit Travel Times and Decreases in Travel Speeds Currently, a transit trip from the Project termini (from the Arena in downtown San José to the Palo Alto Transit Center) takes on average 85 minutes on the Rapid 522 bus compared with 40 minutes by automobile. As population and employment (and thus traffic congestion) in the Project corridor continue to grow, a reliable transit choice to maintain and grow ridership is needed. Without improvements in the Project corridor, a transit trip would increase by 23 minutes (for a total of 108 minutes) in 2040, compared with a 13 minute increase (for a total of 53 minutes) by automobile. Existing and future transit travel speeds are not attractive in comparison with the automobile. In fact, travel demand forecasting indicates that traffic volumes on the El Camino Real corridor are expected to increase substantially through 2040, resulting in decreased travel speeds and increased delay. Table 2-3 shows the existing 2013 average daily traffic (ADT) volumes and the projected 2040 volumes near major intersections in the Project corridor. The ADT increase varies from 11 percent to 38 percent. In addition, there will be a greater number of intersections in the El Camino Real corridor (a dozen in 2040 compared with one in 2013) that will experience a poor level of service (LOS) 1 in the corridor. Traffic demand forecasting makes the following predictions for There would be a dozen El Camino Real intersections at LOS F, compared with only one, at San Tomas Expressway, at LOS F in Ten intersections would deteriorate by two or more letter grades. Sixteen intersections would experience increased average delays of at least 70 percent, with delays at almost half of these intersections at least doubling. 1 Level of service, or LOS, is a way of describing the relative amount of traffic congestion along a roadway segment or intersection. Letters A through F are used to describe the flow of traffic with A being the best ( free-flow ) and F being the worst ( forced or breakdown flow ). Refer to Section 4.12, Transportation and Traffic, for a detailed definition of LOS. 2-3

4 Table 2-3. El Camino Real Average Daily Traffic near Selected Intersections Intersection 2013 Existing (Observed) 2040 (Projected) % Change East of Hedding Street (San José) 29,572 34,954 18% East of Jefferson Street (Santa Clara) 23,680 28,393 19% West of Kiely Boulevard/Bowers Avenue (Santa Clara) 37,636 48,349 28% West of Maria Lane (Sunnyvale) 36,462 43,911 20% East of Bernardo Avenue (Sunnyvale) 38,962 46,505 19% East of Bush Street (Mountain View) 52,551 58,692 11% West of Jordan Avenue (Mountain View) 41,392 52,994 28% East of Matadero Avenue (Palo Alto) 42,613 54,774 28% Source: Traffic Operation Analysis Report in Appendix H. Without improvements in the Project corridor, transit passengers on buses and drivers in idling automobiles will spend more time at lower speeds experiencing greater delays. Traffic congestion in the Project corridor is most clearly illustrated by the changing travel times of Route 22 from downtown San José to the Palo Alto Transit Center. Analysis of the available data reveals that there is a direct correlation among longer travel times, increased traffic congestion, and improving economic conditions. As the economy grows and more people are working and living within and near the Project corridor, traffic congestion increases and it takes longer to travel from downtown San José to Palo Alto. When the regional economy experiences a downturn and fewer people are travelling in the corridor, there is less congestion, and travel time is shorter. Travel times for Local 22 were rising in a healthy economy from 94 minutes in 2004 to 97 minutes in 2005, when the new Rapid 522 service began and travel times decreased. Travel time increased to 103 minutes in 2007 as the regional economy expanded; there were more jobs, and more people were traveling in the corridor. Travel time decreased to 96 minutes in 2009, which coincided with an economic downturn. As the regional economy has improved, travel time has increased to its high point of 107 minutes in 2013 (Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority 2013). Figure 2-1 depicts this change in travel time from the time period Based on regional growth projections, travel times will continue to worsen. Eastbound Rapid 522 evening travel times from Palo Alto to San José have also been climbing recently from a 75-minute trip during the 2009 economic recession low-point to a trip of 88 minutes in July Without transit improvements, forecasted travel times on Rapid 522 on El Camino Real in 2040 would be 108 minutes for the eastbound PM peak. The speed limit on El Camino Real is currently posted at 35 and 40 miles per hour (mph). As congestion increases, travel times for all Project corridor users will increase, affecting trip reliability for all users. Without Project corridor improvements, forecasted automobile travel speeds on El Camino Real in 2018 would be 25.9 mph and in 2040 would be 20.1 mph. 2 2 The forecasted travel speeds on El Camino Real are the average speeds for automobiles in the PM eastbound direction. The speeds account for delays and stops at traffic signals. 2-4

5 Graphics ( ) Minutes Month-Year Source: VTA Travel Time Data Report Figure 2-1 Travel Time, Route 22 Eastbound, Palo Alto to Downtown San José, PM Peak Period

6 Declines in Transit Performance and Reliability Improve Transit Performance There is substantial travel demand along the Project corridor that could be served by transit. The existing transit service lacks amenities, travel time competitiveness, and reliability that would make it more attractive to new riders. These factors influence the transit-riding experience and discourage the modal shift to transit. Improve Service Inefficiencies and Reduce Cost per Passenger As Project corridor congestion increases and trip reliability for transit users is negatively affected, the attractiveness of public transit to existing and future users is reduced and continued public transit investment is jeopardized. Expedited boarding and payment systems are amenities that contribute to improved transit trip timelines and, therefore, the attractiveness of transit. Currently, Rapid 522 transit service does not provide level boarding (resulting in reduced access and the need for wheelchair lifts). Boarding and fare payment occur only at the front of the bus and requires the driver s attention (resulting in passenger queuing and delay). Faster service would reduce operating and maintenance costs because fewer buses would be needed to perform the number of roundtrips required to provide scheduled service. Additional passengers would mean a lower cost per passenger. Improve Transit Reliability A University of California, Berkeley, study found that unreliability was given as a reason that 50 percent of former transit users stopped using transit. Delays due to traffic congestion decrease in-street transit vehicles likelihood of maintaining a schedule. A lack of reliable information as to when a bus will arrive contributes to a perception of unreliability and impacts ridership. A consistent travel time and accurate information about schedule are important features to establish reliability and encourage transit use (Carrel et al. 2013). Dedicated lanes would also provide more reliable service, because buses would not be as affected by traffic as they would in mixed flow lanes. Currently, information for Rapid 522 is available from smart-phone applications, but GPS-based, bus-specific information is not available at Rapid 522 stops to let patrons know when the next bus will arrive Lack of Transit Rider Amenities and Poor Streetscape Conditions Transit passenger facilities and streetscape enhancements, including adequate shelter, lighting, and seating at passenger waiting areas, are needed to encourage modal shift of future corridor travelers to transit. Currently, the only amenities available for Rapid 522 passengers in the Project corridor are small signs indicating Rapid 522 service, along with covered or uncovered benches and occasional trash cans. Figure 2-2 shows a typical Rapid 522 transit stop on El Camino Real, near the intersection with Wolfe Road. Amenities characteristic of a full-service transit system, including upgraded shelters, off-board fare collection, real-time service information, lighting, and security features, do not currently 2-5

7 exist in the corridor. Passenger amenities such as these are identified in the VTA Bus Rapid Transit Service Design Guidelines in the VTA Transit Sustainability Policy (Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority 2007). With the provision of these support features and enhancements, transit ridership rises by 30 percent or more along corridors that provide a BRT service, compared with regular transit service (U.S. Government Accountability Office 2012). If Rapid 522 makes the transition to a complete BRT service with all the associated amenities, additional riders would be drawn to this service Insufficient Transit Infrastructure to Support Regional and Local Planning Intensification Policies Regional and local planning documents such as general plans, transportation elements, and specific plans, have consistently identified a desire for multi-modal improvements as a competitive alternative to automobile travel along the El Camino Real corridor and to address anticipated growth. Efforts to better coordinate land use, transportation, and capital improvement decisions along the El Camino Real corridor have made advances in recent years. Most notably, the Grand Boulevard Initiative (GBI) Task Force, a collaboration of cities, counties, and local and regional agencies, has been working to improve the performance, safety, and aesthetics of El Camino Real. The GBI vision is that El Camino Real will achieve its full potential as a place for residents to live work, shop and play, creating links between communities that promote walking and transit and an improved quality of life (Grand Boulevard Initiative Task Force 2010: 3). The GBI encourages dense development and a mix of land uses and multimodal transportation. The GBI specifically recommends creating space within the El Camino Real right-of-way for multiple travel modes, including BRT. The Grand Boulevard Multimodal Transportation Corridor Plan found that BRT combined with land use intensification could play a significant role in reducing potential automobile use and greenhouse gas emissions (Grand Boulevard Initiative Task Force 2010: Chapter 6). In regard to transportation, VTA prepared the BRT Strategic Plan in 2009 to establish a framework for BRT implementation in Santa Clara County. El Camino Real BRT was one of the corridors examined and was identified as the next highest priority after the Santa Clara- Alum Rock BRT project. Regional and local plans and programs for the El Camino Real corridor are discussed in detail in Section 4.10, Land Use and Planning. Transportation investments which are consistent with regional, local, and other corridor plans are needed to provide multi-modal choices for existing and future Project corridor travelers. 2-6

8 Graphics ( ) Image: Google Street View, Figure 2-2 VTA Transit Stop on El Camino Real, near Wolfe Road

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