A robust Caltrain package amid $50Billion in proposed Santa Clara County transpo projects.

Good news for the chances for Caltrain improvements getting funding from Santa Clara County’s transportation ballot measure.

Caltrain capacity improvements (longer platforms for longer trains), and grade separation investments to improve safety and frequency – were requested by Palo Alto, Mountain View – the cities with the second and third highest ridership on the corridor after San Francisco, in addition to VTA proposing the improvements forwarded on from Caltrain.

The Caltrain capacity improvements were also requested by Cupertino and Saratoga, as part of a broad North/West Santa Clara County alliance supporting study and investments in transit network improvements.    The broad and consistent support improves the likelihood that the request for Caltrain funding will survive political horse-trading to pick the projects that will ultimately go on the ballot.


A group of cities, lead by Cupertino, and including Campbell, Los Gatos, Saratoga, Mountain View, and Palo Alto, all supported a comprehensive study for transit network investments focusing on Highway 85/U.S. Route 101/State Route 237/Interstate 280 corridors, including connections to Caltrain and first/last mile investments. These areas are currently poorly served by transit. (The draft letter can be found here)

The requests from these cities were all over the place in terms of the amount of funding requested – some requested a few million for a study, while Cupertino requested over $800 million to implement as yet unspecified transit improvements.  

Better commuter rail service to South County, East Bay, Central Valley  

Meanwhile, the City of Gilroy put in a request for increased service frequency and double-tracking to Gilroy.   And VTA submitted projects for increased ACE service frequency, a major overhaul of the Great America station, and diesel multiple unit service from Alviso to Blossom Hill (see this project description)

Bus, shuttle, and vehicle trip reduction programs

VTA proposed nearly $3 Billion for bus network improvements, including increased speed and frequency.   This is a big and welcome difference from the rapid planning for a proposed and never-implemented 2014 ballot measure, where there was $0 proposed for bus service improvements.  There is $60 million proposed for low-income fares, presumably for extensions of VTA’s programs for very low income residents.    In addition, several cities proposed improvements to local shuttles and first/last mile connections, providing transit connections to local destinations.

Hopefully, the Jarrett Walker-led project to analyze and improve Santa Clara County’s transit network – looking at bus and rail together, and looking as fare structure as part of creating an effective system, will result in investments that improve bus performance as a component of an integrated transit network.

VTA has also proposed a new program to reduce vehicle trips and improve transit mode share in dense and densifying areas.   There is a trend for cities, including Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, and San Jose, to set up transportation management associations as public private partnerships.  While small ($50 Million), this program could help jumpstart TMAs, and align VTA services with city land use, traffic and parking goals.


Winnowing down the $50 Billion list

Over $50 Billion in projects were submitted, including duplication.  The de-duplicated total will still be ~$40 Billion, according to VTA staff.

The full list of projects will be winnowed down to craft the MTC’s regional list of projects eligible for federal, state, and regional funding,  as well as a shorter list that will be included in the ballot measure.   and the sales tax will bring in about $7 billion at the .5 cent level.    (In other words, some projects might not make it onto the ballot, but still be on a longer list to qualify for other funding)

Next steps include evaluating projects against a set of criteria set by the board, and another round of prioritization feedback.   So far, some cities have had public city council meetings to weigh in on the project submissions, and others haven’t.  The VTA board will be encouraging more cities to host public meetings.

Thanks to everyone who’s participated so far in providing input for the transit funding decisions.  if you care what projects will get taxpayer funding, there will be more opportunities to participate.

Here is the full list shown to VTA advisory committees - any more thoughts, for folk who

Santa Clara County Transit Network - illustrated by SPUR

Santa Clara County Transit Network – illustrated by SPUR

through it?