Friday, April 30, 2010

Bike Sharing *IS* Coming to San Jose

On Earth Day I posted about an innovative bike-share program taking shape in Denver. The quick summary is that citizens can pick up one of 400 bikes at solar-powered stations throughout the city, use it for their daily commute or maybe just for a joyride (bike party anyone?), and then return it to any station they want. I thought this was a killer idea and one we should implement right here in Silicon Valley. Great news, it looks like that is EXACTLY what we're going to do. Thanks to an astute reader, below is VTA's press release for a half million dollar bike share program for Santa Clara County!


VTA Awarded $500,000 for Valley Bike Share Pilot Project

Agency to Begin Distinctive Program

Release Number:  nr 09 12 14
Release Date:  Dec 21, 2009
San Jose, Calif. –The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) recently secured a $500,000 Safe Routes to Transit (SR2T) grant to fund a Bike Share Pilot Project. With the approval of the grant by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) last week, VTA can now jump start bike sharing in Santa Clara County.
Bike sharing provides users 24/7 access to public bicycles to commute to work, run errands or even ride for fun, without the worry of bicycle theft or lack of bicycle parking. With self-service stations that allow users to access a fleet of bicycles anytime, bike sharing offers a convenient option for making short trips when walking is too far and transit options are not available.

The concept of Bike Sharing, while not new, was championed locally on several fronts including the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC), elected officials, and VTA.  VTA’s bike sharing pilot project is expected to begin in Spring 2010. 

“I’m thrilled to see the many months of hard work by VTA staff and our bicycling advocates come to fruition with this MTC grant,“ said Sam Liccardo, VTA Board of Directors interim chair and San Jose City Councilmember, who publicly launched an initiative for a bike share pilot project in San José in 2008. “This effort combines an innovative way to enable people to use an old-fashioned, low-tech solution: the bicycle.  It boosts transit by helping eliminate the chronic “bumping” of riders trying to board bicycle-laden Caltrain cars, and it provides a much needed bridge for transit riders seeking to reach their office or ultimate destination.”

Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) Chair Joe Walton is excited about the opportunity to explore bike sharing locally. “Bike sharing will reduce the use of 
private automobiles while also promote active transportation,” said Walton.

The transit-based bike sharing program is centered on VTA’s transit centers in San Jose, Palo Alto and Mountain View, and the surrounding 3-mile radius for potential bike sharing stations or pods. The three transit centers were chosen because they have the highest ridership and experience serious bike overcrowding and bumping problems. Bike sharing presents an opportunity to address these obstacles and expand the existing transportation system without additional infrastructure or new transit service.

VTA is currently conducting a study to assess feasibility of a bike sharing program in Santa Clara County. VTA is working with a consultant team and a working group comprised of representatives from the three cities, Caltrain, private businesses, SVBC, and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG) to conduct the necessary market research, technology review and develop a business and finance model. Based on promising initial results, over half of the people surveyed indicated they would use the bike sharing program if it were available. The study is slated for completion by March 2010, and based on its findings, VTA staff will develop the pilot project and use the SR2T grant to purchase the initial set of bicycles and bike share pods.

The SR2T grant program funds projects that facilitate safe walking and biking to regional transit. The program is funded by Regional Measure 2, the $1 bridge toll increase for transit. The SR2T Committee’s recommendation that the VTA Pilot Bike Sharing project receive the requested $500,000 in funding was approved by MTC at its December 16, 2009 meeting.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

From SJ/21: Tunnel Visions

Please check out SJ/21 for the original post!

Californians For High Speed Rail are planning what they call an"Informal SF-SJ Local Advocacy Team Meeting" on May 6th in Palo Alto:

This will be our kick-off meeting of CA4HSR's Local Advocacy Team for the San Francisco<-->San Jose section of the planned high speed rail route. We'll discuss HSR developments in the region and ways we can help bring high speed rail to California. Choo choo, see you there! 

Doubtless there will be a vocal contingent of peninsula NIMBYs, so it's important to support events, such as these. To be fair, residents of some of the wealthier communities in the valley and peninsula are fine with HSR in their neighborhoods—they just insist on tunnels and not to have to pay for them. We've seen popular projects tanked by loud interest groups before, and high speed rail is just too important to let that happen again. 

Hope to see you there.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

From SJ/21: All About Kiosks, Pt II

From San Jose / Twenty-One by DHO:

Last week, I wrote about kiosks as a possible component to downtown San Jose's revitalization. I also wrote that I had a few ideas about where these could go.

So, here are three potential sites:

Fountain Alley 

Fountain Alley, between First and Second, is an interesting area. On the plus side, it has historic charm and, due to its proximity between two light rail lines, significant foot traffic. On the down side, it is straddled by a parking lot on one side. In 2006, there were plans to build a 16-story tower in that parking, but those never came to fruition, partially due to neighborhood concerns that it would be incongruent with the area's historical styles.

Regardless of whether that parking lot is developed it or not (and I certainly hope it eventually is), Fountain Alley still serves as an important corridor between First and Second. But as it stands, it's not terribly inviting.

A kiosk or two, maybe on both ends at First and Second, might encourage a more friendly pedestrian environment. A food or coffee kiosk, along with a seating area, could help soften some of the Alley's harder edges. (Curiously, not long ago there was a glass brick kiosk on the Second Street side, but for some reason it was torn down.) With a potential BART stop just around the corner, Fountain Alley could become a significant corridor to and from the station. Why not make it that much nicer of a stroll?

St. James Park

To imagine what St. James Park could be, you must first know what it was...

If you don't recognize St. James Park, it's because what was once a lush urban oasis is now a unpolished jewel in need of some serious attention. To be sure, the residents of The St. James Historical District have done their due diligence in promoting the needs of the park, but as of yet, progress has been slow.

St. James Park is a public space that is missing exactly that, a public. The San Jose Downtown Association's Music in the Other Park series was great, but its no longer being produced. So, the park is largely left to the homeless during the day. It's not that it's a dangerous park, it's just that it is unwelcoming and, despite a beautiful central fountain, lacking a focal point to pull people in.

Despite being cut into two, the park is still ideally situated for kiosks. The western half, between First and Second Streets is anchored by the majestic St. James Park Fountain. The problem here is that the surrounding elements don't beckon citizens to stay and enjoy the beautiful views. Imagine two or three kiosks strategically placed around the fountain, maybe ice cream for kids playing at the nearby playground, or a coffee or danish for mom and dad to enjoy. As in New York City, kiosks could be a way to encourage people to not only visit the park, but more fully engage it. And let's be honest, we have better weather than most cities, so why not?

Fairmont Plaza

This is another interesting area to consider. Across the street from The Plaza de Cesar Chavez, and nestled between The Fairmont Hotel, The San Jose Museum of Art, The Knight Ridder Building, it's difficult to ask for a better location than Fairmont Plaza. And during Christmas in the Park, the plaza comes alive with Downtown Ice.

Downtown Ice is an example of utilizing the best of a location. Of course, many cities have urban skating rinks, but the plaza's Circle of Palms, makes San Jose's unique. Unfortunately, that only happens a couple months out of the year. Most of the time, particularly during the day, the plaza is vastly underutilized.

Some efforts have been made to better utilize this space, namely The San Jose Museum of Art's Cafe Too! and The Knight Ridder Building's Cafe 1850. Both take advantage of the great views and weather. However, both also close at 3:30 PM, so for the better part of the afternoon and all evening, there's little to attract people to this space. A kiosk, perhaps along the hotel side, could entice people to stay longer. A late afternoon coffee or a small snack might entice passers-by to give the plaza a chance. Fairmont Plaza is a nice place to be, we just need to give people a reason to stay.

Final Notes

I would be remiss not to mention that downtown has indeed had two successful kiosks on the Paseo de San Antonio for years.Rosies & Posies Downtown Florist and Circle-A Skateboards are well-situated and offer useful services. Overall, Paseo de San Antonio still needs a lot more work, but theses two kiosks are definitely pluses.

And if you think kiosks are limited to the green, cast iron boxes we are used to seeing in places, like New York City, then their evolution might surprise you. In fact, several cities worldwide have embraced bold designs in their kiosks. Utilitarian or whimsical, contemporary kiosks come in all shapes and sizes, limited only by our imaginations.

I like how the folks at The Pop-Up City put it:

We all know the kiosks on the busy streets of our world cities — those small, neat pop-up booths that sell about everything, from newspapers and magazines to cigarettes and cold drinks. Kiosks mean a lot to me, and to the city itself. At these colourful places, where tourists buy their public transport tickets and commuters grab a fresh newspaper in the morning, is the metropolitan vibe at its best.

They are right. And though kiosks alone are not the answer to downtown's revitalization, they could play an integral part. I've humbly submitted my ideas for kiosk locations, but there are certainly many other possibilities throughout downtown.

Two New Potential Projects!

From the San Jose Development Forum, Posted by xThomasTroublex:

Fourth Street Apartments

First Community Housing will build 100 energy-efficient apartments (one, two and three-bedrooms) on a .79 acre site downtown located two blocks from light rail. This multifamily housing includes two stories of structured parking, with a landscaped courtyard providing open space, a seventh floor terrace and a demonstration green “living” roof.

Fisher Friedman Associates, AIA, an award-winning architectural firm, designed the nine story building.

* On-Site Manager and Maintenance Staff
* Laundry Facility
* Community Room/Lounge
* Computer Lab
* Play structure
* Picnic Tables/BBQ
* Each unit wired for Internet access
* Energy-efficient windows
* Free annual transit pass (Eco Pass)

Housing Choices Coalition (HCC) will provide Resident Services Coordination to Fourth Street residents with developmental disabilities, and facilitate communication between these residents and property management, providing one point of contact for the purposes of continuity and comprehensive communication. This includes a comprehensive marketing and screening process to ensure that appropriate services are in place before a client signs a lease. HCC will work with these special needs residents to create a sense of community and to encourage a support network among their neighbors and friends.

Second Street Studios

First Community Housing is proposing to build 134 energy-efficient studio and one-bedroom apartments at the corner of South Second Street and Keyes Street over ground-level retail. Thirty-five percent of the units will be set aside for the developmentally disabled population and those who require in-home services.

Rob Wellington Quigley, AIA is an award-winning architectural firm that designed the building. The current plan includes 11,211 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, with on-site parking for customers, employees, and residents. The building is registered in the LEED for Homes Mid-rise pilot program incorporates a living roof, and is expected to receive a LEED Gold or Platinum certification.

Second Street Studios will showcase innovative, green building materials and systems developed in Silicon Valley. The US Green Building Councils LEED certification program credits buildings that use regional materials within a 500 mile radius. The Second and Keyes building will focus more specifically on the influence and innovation of the Silicon Valley. LEED defines locally sourced materials as those building materials or products that have extracted, harvested or recovered, as well as manufactured, within proximity to the site.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday Flowers - Part 4

This is the final part in our weekly Spring feature showing off Kathy's work at Santana Row. If you've enjoyed the photos and are in need of a photographer, just let me know and I'll put you in touch with my wife. And of course, if you know anyone that needs a floral architect, Kathy's contact information is below. Time to unwind and enjoy the flowers!

Kathy Finley
Finley Landscape Design
(925) 785-5501

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day Idea: Bike Sharing

A few days ago I stumbled upon an article talking about a bike sharing program in Denver. Starting today, Denver residents will be able to rent a bike Zipcar-syle for $5 a day, $20 a week, $30 a month, or $65 a year. This is the part that's really cool... if a bicyclist can pick up and return a bike within 30min, it's free. Over 400 bikes will be available across multiple stations throughout, giving Denver the largest bike-share program in the US. There's a little Silicon Valley in there too... bikers each get a personal account page which tracks how many miles you've traveled, carbon offset, calories burned, money saved, etc.

Why am I telling you all this about Denver? I think this is simply a phenomenal concept. I wish we thought of it first! We have an amazing bicycling community here and you need to look no further than San Jose Bike Party as a shining example of this. Biking is a great way to reduce traffic and pollution, live healthier, and build a unique culture. They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery, so I say we compliment Denver by shamelessly taking their concept and implementing it here as well. Perhaps we can even do a little to make it our own (electric-assisted hybrid bikes like the ones we may see at the San Pedro Square Market)?

As ground zero for green-tech innovation, we should be on top of this stuff. I would love to one day be able to walk around downtown and hop on a bike for a quick ride with friends, or spontaneously join a bike party. With billions going to BART and HSR, hopefully the city can one day also spare a million or two on a high-impact bike sharing program like our friends in Denver.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The San Jose Blog on Twitter

Just a quick post to remind you that there's a Twitter account for The San Jose Blog! Originally I had no idea what the heck to use Twitter for, but I soon realized the tool could be used for more than letting the world know what Ashton Kutcher had for lunch. Actually, it's really come in handy for pushing news that either doesn't quite merit a blog post or I don't have time to write about (usually the latter). A tweet also goes out automatically every time there is a now blog post here, pretty handy.

Click here to follow us on Twitter!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Usuals Grand Opening!

The Usuals is a brand new San Jose-centric clothing store on the Alameda, and it's everything I could ever want in a clothing store and then some!  Let me start this off by saying I know nothing about fashion... so I'm not even going to try to give an opinion on that topic here. SJFAM (San Jose Fashion Art Music) has a great article describing the product offering at The Usuals, so for that topic I'll direct you guys over there. I will only say that my wife described the clothing here as Diesel style at H&M prices.

Honestly, I wasn't quite sure to expect when I walked in late last Friday during their grand opening. In retrospect I should have brought the big cameras instead of a point and shoot because I really liked what I saw. The first thing I noticed were the I Heart SJ shirts. That scored some major points with me immediately (btw, you can get them online here). Add to that a shirt with an awesome throwback to San Jose's history... you'll actually have to visit to see this, I'm not going to spoil it for you! Unfortunately, the 250+ visitors that came before me cleaned house on all the SJ shirts in my size!

Next, gratuitous amounts of local art. Josh Marcotte's work from Lost San Jose was all over one wall. Another wall was essentially a huge dry-erase board combined with framed art by talented local artist Dion Bello (the dry erase allows for some very dynamic art since it can be changed on the fly). Music from San Jose DJs. More points, lots of them. The Usuals clearly cares about San Jose's burgeoning art scene.

Lastly, I have never been a big fan of mall or chain stores, but I also don't want to break the bank with specialty Santana-Rowish boutiques. The Usuals carries a solid assortment of clothes that look stylish, are comfortable, AND are affordable. Add the information from the previous two paragraphs, and this is absolutely a store I will support with my dollars. Hopefully you guys will swing by and take a look as well--1020 The Alameda, across the street from Sushi Infinity and Chipotle.

Now for photos (sorry in advance for the point & shoot photos, should have brought a DSLR camera)!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Usuals Merc Article

I have a blog post coming up next week about a great new "San Jose-centric" clothing retailer called The Usuals that launched last Friday on the Alameda. Until then, there is a great article about them in the Merc entitled: "The Usuals will carry a line of everyday clothing that appeals to those who consider San Jose 'the city'." One negative thing that caught my eye is that they claimed a retail space downtown would be much more expensive. Also when talking to them last Friday this was confirmed as they mentioned it would have cost thousands of dollars more per month in rent to have the store located Downtown. It's a shame because while they do have a very good location now, this type of store would have been perfect in SoFA, 1st St., or 2nd St.

San Pedro Square Market - SJ21 Blog Post

Great post in SJ21 about the San Pedro Square Market with a few photos of the current space.  Click here to view!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Saturday Stats - San Jose has the Highest Spending on Electronics out of ALL US Cities

I have a great stat for you guys this week. This one comes courtesy of my friends at In 2009, San Jose had the highest per capita spending on electronics for all major cities in the country, and it led by a wide margin. This makes sense given San Jose is Silicon Valley's anchor city. So my question is... when are we going to see a flagship Fry's in Downtown San Jose? Come on Mr. William Fry & family, throw us a bone!

More realistically, what I would love to see are some boutique Tokyo Akihabara-style electronics shops somewhere Downtown or in Japantown. There is obviously a very strong market for electronics in San Jose, so someone should take advantage of this demographic and provide a more innovative and unique experience than your standard big-box retailer like Best Buy.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday Flowers - Part 3

This is the third part (of four) of a weekly Spring feature showing off Kathy's floral work at Santana Row. If you know anyone that needs a floral architect, her contact information is below. Time to kick back and enjoy the flowers.

Kathy Finley
Finley Landscape Design
(925) 785-5501