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September 16, 2009 > Transportation needs in the community

Transportation needs in the community

By Dustin Findley

Milpitas and Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), the major public transportation service provider in Santa Clara County, have been working with the Milpitas community and various agencies to create the Community Based Transportation Plan (CBTP) to meet transportation needs that have been identified by the community.

City Council approved the plan, available for public viewing at the September 1, 2009 meeting, and directed staff to file the plan with the regional transportation authority, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), to pursue funding to implement the proposed improvements to public transportation.

The following is abridged information from the Milpitas Community Based Transportation Plan for August 2009.

History of Community Based Transportation Planning

In 2001, the MTC, the regional transportation planning agency for the San Francisco Bay Area, completed the Lifeline Transportation Network Report and the Environmental Justice Report. Both reports identified the importance of a focused, community-based planning effort to address transportation needs of low-income communities throughout the Bay Area.

Building upon the findings of these reports, MTC initiated its Community-Based Transportation Planning Program in 2002. Through this effort, local public transit operators, transportation providers, community based organizations, and county congestion management agencies (CMAs) identify transportation needs and generate detailed action plans at the local level.

The result of each planning process is CBTP that identifies transportation needs and potential solutions.

Each CBTP contains a demographic analysis of the study area; documented public outreach strategies and results; a list of community-prioritized transportation barriers; potential strategies to address identified barriers; potential funding sources; and identified stakeholders committed to implementing elements of the plan, where applicable.

Milpitas Community Based Transportation Plan

In January, 2009 VTA, the CMA for Santa Clara County, initiated a CBTP focused on transportation needs of low-income communities in Milpitas, one of the areas selected in MTC's Lifeline Transportation Report.

Building on the MTC assessment, the Milpitas CBTP documents the efforts and results of the planning process. It describes the public outreach process used to compile community input, a listing of potential solutions, and a concerted action plan with possible funding sources for implementing transportation solutions.

Cooperation among local partners, both public and private, was crucial to the development of the Milpitas CBTP. Stakeholder agencies involved in the Milpitas CBTP process were VTA, as lead agency; MTC, as funding partner; Santa Clara County; the City of Milpitas; the Barbara Lee Senior Center; Milpitas Teen and Youth Center; and OUTREACH, Inc.

CBTP Process

Representatives from the stakeholder agencies formed a project working group to provide input throughout the CBTP process. The Project Working Group provided extensive input on public outreach efforts, the development of informational materials, and transportation challenges faced by Milpitas residents.

The group also developed a fact sheet/comment card to be distributed during the public outreach period.

The development of this plan included a collaborative planning process that worked with the Milpitas community to identify key stakeholders to allow for a focused, efficient, and effective community outreach program.

Community participation was crucial to correctly identify transportation needs in the Milpitas community and work to develop solutions to those needs.

The outreach program sought to create many options for community members to participate in the planning process and provide input on their transportation needs.

These included participating in the Project Working Group, attending neighborhood meetings where VTA staff presented the project, attending a community event where the project was presented, participating in focus group meetings, and responding to the comment cards about transportation.

The transportation issues that were of primary concern to community members were the following: public transit frequency, public transit service hours, amenities at bus stop waiting areas. affordability of transit, safety (personal safety while walking or biking), and more information for public transit passengers.

Milpitas Community Based Transportation Proposals

Following the public outreach period, the Project Working Group developed a list of proposed solutions to address the transportation needs identified through the Milpitas CBTP outreach process.

The project development approach built on existing transportation plans and studies relevant to Milpitas as well as developed new ones in collaboration with the Project Working Group.

Proposed solutions

Transit services include Milpitas Community Bus Service, Light Rail transit improvements, early morning and late night transit needs assessment, and BART extension to Santa Clara County.

Transportation amenities proposals include Milpitas bus stop improvements, schedule information at bus stops, enhanced multi-lingual passenger information on printed materials, transit education program for schools, and coordination with Alameda County (AC) Transit Passes.

Bicycle and pedestrian project proposal includes bicycle and pedestrian overcrossings, and new bicycle facilities

Pedestrian improvements include street crossing improvements at Great Mall Parkway at Main Street and at Montague Expressway, sidewalks on Montague Expressway, and Main Street streetscape.

Automobile based programs and projects include car share program, Calaveras Blvd. widening project, Montague Expressway and Great Mall Parkway-Capitol Avenue interchange project, Dixon Landing Road widening and Milpitas Blvd. intersection improvements, Milpitas Blvd. extension, widening Montague Expressway, Carlo Street ramp conversion, I-680 Express Lane Project, I-880 carpool (HOV) Project.

Projects for future consideration

Other identified issues which did not have a developed project or were not addressed in an existing plan are documented in the CBTP report. These proposals serve as projects for future consideration subject to funding availability.

Proposals for future consideration include converting VTA bus Express 180 to Limited Stop Route; earlier/later service hours on key routes; commuter shuttle programs; bus service to California Circle and Dixon Landing; Abbott and Calaveras pedestrian crossing; library bus stops; restroom facilities at Great Mall Transit Center; direct route from San Jose to Milpitas.
May 28

The following is not in the CBTP, but reports findings and information from the last public meeting in Milpitas.

VTA held a public meeting in Milpitas on August 28 to gather information and input about how to improve public transportation in Milpitas.

Aiko Cuenco, VTA transportation planner and Milpitas CBTP Project Manager, presented to the public VTA's findings and proposed solutions.

A lot of people have been saying that VTA has giant 40-foot buses that are empty during midday, but are full at "bell times" according to Cuenco.

Bell times are when school starts in the morning, and ends in the afternoon. During these times as students travel to Milpitas High School and Russell Middle School the buses are packed.

People in the community also requested a reduced fare.

VTA proposed utilizing community buses to address the aforementioned issues.

Cuenco explained that a community bus is a smaller bus, visually more appealing for people who are weary of taking the bus. Some even describe it as a "cuter" bus. "The good thing about the community buses (is that) it costs less" she continued.

The smaller bus will be able to accommodate people midday, and not be a big empty bus. VTA will run the larger buses during bell times to accommodate the kids in school.

With the smaller community buses there will be a reduced fare: Adults will ride for a $1.25, kids will ride for $0.75.

Even during bell times when they switch to the large buses to go up to the schools, the community bus fare will still be in place, since the bus patrons will be paying for the route, not the bus.

VTA is looking to convert some of the lines to community buses, with no final designs as of yet. This would involve changing routes, adding and removing locations that the bus goes to.

Currently, community buses are not being used in Milpitas. They appear in Palo Alto and Gilroy.

"The community buses will kind of serve two purposes, you get reduced fare and... you (VTA) get to kind of bring down your costs a little bit (from) running those large buses" Cuenco said.

VTA will evaluate the bus service in Santa Clara County in July, 2010, and consider modifications as deemed necessary.

While the community bus proposal will be in "our service plan for July 2010 next year we could have... the large buses run these (proposed routes) already if we move forward with the proposal. But as far as getting the actual small buses to do those routes, that won't happen until 2011" when VTA will be able to fuel them with gasoline at the bus yard, Cuenco explained.

The heart of the CBTP is public outreach. "The special thing about these plans is that the community is really involved" Cuenco said.

The community guided the direction of the plan.

Plans have been implemented in Gilroy and East San Jose. Different communities have different needs, so each plan will reflect its particular community.

VTA targets its outreach efforts to organizations that serve people that are more likely to utilize bus service, like transit dependent youth, elderly, and job seekers. VTA reaches out to find out what VTA can do for the community.

The top concerns identified through outreach efforts were expensive fares, bus/light rail frequency, personal safety, walking and biking.

Cuenco said that Milpitas has done a lot of great planning work that will help VTA get started on its own projects to address the issues that the Milpitas community has identified, so VTA would not have to come up with new solutions.

The extension of BART to Milpitas and San Jose will necessitate VTA revisiting their light rail and bus service near the planned BART stations.

There are proposed solutions for the top concerns, that will be incorporated into the plan, and other concerns that have no proposed solutions, but will still be noted, to be considered at a later date.

Cuenco said that VTA will have to look at certain needs as they arise, such as the need for transportation in the transit area development.

All of the things that people commented on at the May 28 meeting, VTA had already heard and began addressing.

Another item that made it into the plan was VTA giving a public transportation orientation to youth at the beginning of the school year. The specifics of implementation have yet to be worked out, but could also be given to adults who want to learn how to take the bus.

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