San José City Council takes up Transit First policy

On Tuesday, August 9, San José City Council is considering approval of a Transit First Policy. The policy would direct the city to manage city streets to make transit faster and more useful.

In order for buses to be fast, reliable and convenient, streets need to prioritizes buses and people walking to buses. However, in most places in the Bay Area, buses are governed by a transit agency, while streets are managed by the city.

So cities have a key role to play in making transit better. The policy that San Jose is considering would:

  • require the city to plan to make transit faster and more useful whenever it is planning to improve a street
  • require the city to consider transit priority improvements for any street used by large numbers of buses per hour, or where buses are below a speed target

This policy is clear about making tradeoffs in favor of transit, with direction to prioritize space for transit, and people walking to and from transit, and then to other road users. The staff report is up front that this will require tradeoffs: “For example, when signal priority or pre-emption is given to transit, cross streets may experience greater delay than they do today.”

The policy to prioritize transit isn’t just a slogan – it includes a toolkit with 19 tools including dedicated bus lanes, queue jumps, turn restrictions, transit boarding islands, sidewalk extensions, and 14 more.

transit boarding island
Transit Boarding Islands (source: San José Transit Priority Toolkit)

Which streets?

Streets designated to prioritize transit include streets that are identified in the General Plan as Grand Boulevards, and to streets that are included in VTA’s High Quality Transit network with routes scheduled every 15 minutes or less.

In addition, a memo from the Mayor and Council Members Peralez, Davis and Foley call for making sure that the upcoming Downtown Transportation Plan incorporates and implements the Transit First Policy. The memo calls for the policy to prioritize streets that have high transit use and prioritizes equity.

Move San José

The Transit First policy is presented as a complement to Move San José, the Citywide transportation plan, which is a set of transportation policies focusing on achieving the City’s safety, equity, and climate goals.

Share your thoughts

Move San José is item 5.1 and the Transit First policy is item 5.2 on the City Council Agenda.

To watch and make a public comment, the Zoom link is here. The item will be up likely after 4pm in the afternoon. If you would like a text message or email when the item is coming up.