The VTA board is scheduled to consider the next phase of the project bringing BART to Silicon Valley on Thursday November 6 – just four weeks after VTA staff first presented an updated recommendation about the next phase of the project. (The BART-Silicon Valley project is being managed by VTA).
As reported earlier, VTA staff proposed that the next phase to be implemented should include the Downtown and Diridon stations (connecting to Caltrain at Diridon), but should defer the stations planned for Alum Rock and City of Santa Clara.
Update: according to a clarification from VTA staff, the board will not be taking a vote on November 6. So, is it the case that VTA staff can move forward with a 2-station project preferred for federal funding an environmental clearance without board approval? We’ll check further and post as we learn more.
In response to the announcement, community members in the Alum Rock area have been expressing concern (see the comments to this blog post). The community had engaged in a planning process for nearly a decade for the area around proposed BART station and BRT line, resulting in a urban village plans with broad community support.
Five Wounds Church – the central landmark in the neighborhood near the proposed Alum Rock Station
VTA scheduled a community meeting meeting where staff will present and be available to answer questions about the proposal, the day before the VTA board meeting where the decision is scheduled to be made. The meeting will be held on Wednesday, November 5th at 6:30pm, at Martin Luther King Library 150 E. San Fernando second floor. This close scheduling will make it difficult for community members to communicate to the board.
To prepare for the public meetings, there is a neighborhood association meeting tomorrow night – Thursday, October 30th at 6:30pm, at McKinley Center, 651 Macredes Ave in San Jose, organized by community members seeking to keep the Alum Rock BART station.
Why these decisions, and why so fast?
The reason given by VTA staff for the proposal to defer the stations at Alum Rock and City of Santa Clara is that the two-station version would have the highest likelihood in qualifying for federal funding. VTA has published their high level analysis, but not the breakdown of the scoring criteria they estimated.
However, at a BART Environmental Justice Committee meeting after the announcement, the deferring of the Alum Rock station was raised as a potential issue with regard to federal Title VI legislation, which discouraged transit decisions that have “disparate impact” on lower income and/or minority populations. Title VI concerns could increase the risk to federal funding.
To explain the speed of the decision, the VTA staff made a case that being further along toward receiving federal funding would help pass a November 2016 ballot measure. This argument is difficult to understand – voters have approved the various phases of BART to San Jose because the project is popular. There will be a minuscule number of voters who will vote based on their understanding of exactly where the project stands in a multi-step process to fully qualify for federal funding.
The decision to defer the Santa Clara station seems logical, since that station already has Caltrain service connected to Diridon, and the station only has about 800 daily riders. It seems redundant to offer those riders an extra $800 Million station. Another reason originally provided for that station a decade ago was an airport connection, however since the evolution of plans for High Speed Rail and the Diridon Station Area, there are more recent proposals to connect to the airport from the major Diridon multi-modal station.
Are you interested in the next phase of the project that will connect Caltrain to BART at Diridon, and in the overall benefits and impacts of the project decisions – here’s where to learn more and weigh in:
Thursday October 30, 6:30pm
Neighborhood Association Meeting
McKinley Center, 651 Macredes Ave, San Jose
Wednesday, November 5th at 6:30pm
VTA community meeting
Martin Luther King Library, second floor
150 E. San Fernando, San Jose
Thursday November 6, 5:30pm
VTA Board Meeting
Santa Clara County Supervisors Chamber
70 West Hedding, San Jose