Showing posts with label san jose transportation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label san jose transportation. Show all posts

Thursday, March 14, 2024

VTA board green lights Eastridge Light Rail extension

Finally, the Eastridge Light Rail extension is officially approved. The project will extend VTA Light Rail from the Alum Rock Station to the Eastridge Transit Center, which is 2.4 miles further down Capital Expressway.

The total cost will clock in at a whopping $653 million, which is $122 million over the original budget. This amount will be covered by the VTA's debt reduction fund.

There is one nice silver lining. The extension is expected to be completed 350 days faster than originally estimated. Trains should be running to the new station by 2028.

Source: SVBJ

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Estimated BART costs go up again

If you thought $12.2 billion was astronomical for a 6-mile, 4-station extension... I don't have good news. The Federal Transit Administration now thinks the project will cost $12.8 billion and the timeline will be extended to 2037. Reasons behind the cost increase are primarily the volatility of labor and supply costs.

13 years is a long time. We might be living in a post-AGI word (artificial general intelligence) where costs for design and construction could be significantly lower than expected or perhaps new transit options will arise that were not feasible in the past. While I have voted for the BART extension every single time, the consistent increase of cost estimates and timeline adjustments is concerning.

Source: SVBJ

Monday, March 4, 2024

VTA partnering with Beep on autonomous shuttle pilot program

The VTA is leaning into transit innovation by testing out new options for getting people from point A to B. They announced a partnership with a company called Beep that provides a low-speed autonomous shuttle service in a geofenced area.

The first test pilot would be at the Veteran Administration's office in Palo Alto and the autonomous shuttles would replace golf carts that are currently used to move people from building to building. The shuttles will still have a human attendant that can over-ride anything the shuttle is attempting to do.

The pilot was supposed to start several years ago but was delayed by covid. Hopefully it will be one of many as there are several places where a shuttle like this would be useful (Downtown San Jose, Willow Glen, Japantown, perhaps even suburban areas like Evergreen with limited public transit options). I rode a similar shuttle on Treasure Island by a company called Loop and it was great.

Beep also has another pilot in the area. They partnered with the Contra Costa Transportation Authority on a similar shuttle that goes through San Ramon's Bishop Ranch business park.

Source: SVBJ

Sunday, February 25, 2024

The VTA is getting their first batch of new hybrid buses

While metro and rail line extensions are very exciting, they also now cost billions of dollars these days. If you look at the amount of value per dollar in public transit, it is still very tough to beat investing in buses. 

The VTA ordered up 92 "state-of-the-art" hybrid buses that cost $822k each. The buses can operate in all-electric mode for up to 10 miles and improve fuel economy by up to 25% over the old diesel buses they are replacing. Each bus has a 36-passenger seat layout with USB mobile charging ports and wireless stop request buttons.

The first two buses have already arrived and the VTA is now expecting six new buses each week.

Source: San Jose Inside


Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Tunneling in San Jose could be much cheaper in the near future

Most people don't see disruptive technology coming. It's often met with a lot of skepticism. There are plenty of famous quotes about computers or the internet. In 1943 The president of IBM said "I think there is a world market for about five computers." In 1995 Newsweek published an article that said, “The internet is just a fad.” However, even today in markets that have been stagnant for decades or even a century we're seeing disruption.

People laughed when Elon wanted to build electric cars. Tesla is now worth more every other car company combined. They laughed again when he wanted to start a rocket company. Today there are 7,702 active satellites in space--5,000 of them belong to SpaceX. By the end of next year, SpaceX will have launched more satellites than every government entity around the world combined over the past 66 years. So now... of course, there had to be much skepticism in the San Jose development community about the Boring Company. Tunnels have been built almost the same way for 100 years, what could the company possibly do differently?

Apparently a lot. The Boring Company already has a functioning tunnel network in Las Vegas with 4 active stations and capacity for 5,000 people/hour. It took one year to build. That will expand to 69 stations and capacity for over 100,000 people/hour over the next few years (not decades). They have managed to get to a cost of $10 million/mile for 14-ft wide tunnels with 2nd generation tunneling machines using EV motors and batteries. Now it looks like they might be able to triple tunnel construction speed with hexagonal wall tiles.

The big benefit is that all the pieces are exactly the same, cutting costs significantly. Fewer segments are required per mile and it enables continuous mining. There are challenges and disadvantages as well, especially around water, but if they can push through them they will very likely disrupt tunneling. It gets a bit nerdy, but there is a 15min video in the source link below that goes into exactly how this new process would work versus existing methods.

What this means for us, is perhaps there will be a future where we can bring VTA Light Rail underground or perhaps offer Personal Rapid Transit (autonomous pods) or other forms of transportation at a lower cost to San Joseans. After seeing BART costs swell to $2 billion per mile for the Downtown San Jose extension, there has to be a better solution long-term for other projects.

Full disclosure that San Jose did reach out to The Boring Company as an option to connect San Jose International Airport with Diridon in Downtown San Jose. They never responded to a RFI and things fell through. 

That doesn't mean there couldn't be other opportunities in the future to work together. A fun fact is that the original Tesla factory was supposed to be in North San Jose/Alviso. However, an opportunity to take over NUMMI presented itself in 2010 and the rest is history. Hopefully the door is still open for The Boring Company and San Jose to work together in some capacity.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

San Jose's bike-sharing program is expanding with 650 new e-bikes 🚲

By the end of this year, San Jose will increase their number of e-bikes by close to 60%. San Jose has gone to great lengths to make biking safer in San Jose over the past several years: increasing the number of dedicated bike lanes, creating protected bike lanes, and improving trails. This will help more people utilize the new infrastructure without having to haul their bikes with them or worry about them getting stolen.

San Jose will also get 21 new docking stations, which also charge the bikes. The good news doesn't end there. Annual memberships to the bikeshare program will drop from $169 to $150 and per-minute usage charges are dropping from 20 cents to 15 cents. In 2024 there will also be a discounted membership for college students. For low-income San Joseans, the membership cost is only $5 for the first year and $5/mo after that. 

It's the least expensive way to get around the Downtown San Jose area besides walking.

Source: SVBJ

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Robot shuttles coming to San Jose, SJC and beyond

Autonomous transportation is a lot closer than most people think. It's coming in two forms: multi-purpose where autonomous cars are sharing the road with non-autonomous vehicles (Waymo, Cruise, Tesla FSD) and via dedicated pathways (Las Vegas Loop, autonomous trains/pods). 

San Jose has been struggling with how to connect SJC to Downtown San Jose's Diridon transit center just three miles away, which is destined to become the Grand Central of the West Coast. Plans have been brewing for more than 20 years, and tax dollars have already been collected. Finally, a solution has been approved using a local startup specializing in AVs (Autonomous Vehicles) called Glydways.

These autonomous pods can go up to 31 miles per hour, so they would take about 8 minutes to go from Downtown San Jose to SJC via a dedicated and potentially grade-separated path. Today the ride takes about 30 minutes on local buses. The vehicles themselves carry up to four passengers plus their luggage and are wheelchair accessible. 

The initial route would go between Diridon and Terminal B, with plans to potentially include Terminal A, nearby parking, and other future destinations in Midtown/Uptown San Jose like Valley Fair. Phase 1 would have 200 autonomous pods.

This would be a public/private partnership with the city taking on some costs and an investment group (Plenary) taking another portion. The investors would recoup their investment by charging a fee on each ride. 

The model sounds very similar to the Las Vegas Loop, which will actually be almost entirely funded privately except for a fare-less section at the Las Vegas Convention Center. That project will eventually have over 80 stations serviced by autonomous pods larger in size than what Gyldways is planning. Unfortunately, the Boring Company never responded to San Jose's RFI.

Now for the real bad news. The Glydways project is not expected to get underway until 2028 and could take years to complete--a timeline that may render the whole system obsolete by the time it arrives given how quickly transportation solutions are changing. 

We are already pouring billions into systems that are decades old (Light Rail and BART) so it's critical that this next step is something that will be scalable and move the needle on San Jose transportation for the decades to come. Hopefully there is some way to get this project going much sooner and with flexibility to incorporate innovation as the project is in motion.


Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Downtown San Jose BART - SJDA Public Meeting on June 10th

If you would like to find out more about the BART subway system that will run from Berryessa to Downtown San Jose, the SJDA is hosting a public meeting at the Tabard Theater this Friday at 8:15am. 

Topics include the tunneling methods, timeline, partnerships, construction mitigation, the designs of the two Downtown Stations, transit-oriented development, and the process for community engagement.

You can watch online or attend in person (registration and proof of vaccination needed) over here.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

San Jose is the ultimate electric car hotspot

In order to move the needle on climate change, one of the key transitions we have to make is to move towards sustainable transportation. Fortunately electrics cars are also usually fast and fun to drive, providing further motivation to make the switch. 

It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that San Jose is the top metro driving the EV industry. It seems like every other car on the roads is a Tesla, but several new compelling EVs are also hitting the road these days.

Despite being the 10th largest city in the country, San Jose has the 3rd highest number of EVs of any city in the US irrespective of population. It also has 2.4 charging stations for every 1,000 homes, versus the national average of 0.3 stations.

A common complaint for renters interested in EVs is that there are no charging stations at their apartments. In San Jose 12.3% of all rentals actually have stations, which is by far the most of any city. Not to mention most grocery stores and shopping centers have multiple stations, with some places like Santana Row having hundreds of chargers (have a look at the 4th floor of the parking structure on Winchester Blvd).

San Francisco came in as the 2nd best metro for EVs followed by Seattle and LA. For the full article to see all of the criteria used for the study, click here.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Intersections of San Jose

Peter Gorman has created an interesting mashup of art and transportation. He designs minimalist maps that were inspired by a one-year, 11,000-mile, solo bicycle trip around the United States. As part of that he spent about a month exploring the Bay Area and turned some of our most popular intersections into the contemporary interpretations below. It's a neat project and you can view the high resolution image and accompanying comments over here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

San Jose's new bike plan

San Jose has unveiled Better Bike Plan 2025, which will lead to a major expansion of our bike network. The previous plan gave us 392 miles of on-street bike-ways and 62 miles of trails since 2009.

The 2025 plan is nearly as ambitions. It features 79 miles of new separated bike lines, 101 miles of bike boulevards on slow-speed streets, upgrading 293 miles of existing bike lanes with new safety measures, and 37 miles of new trails.

The overall price tag could range between $250 million to $420 million. It sounds expensive but the cost covers hundreds of miles of improvements for less than the two-stop Light Rail expansion to Eastridge Mall.

Source: San Jose Inside

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Transportation Innovation

San Jose Spotlight has a great article discussing how we can solve for our future transportation issues. Eventually traffic will return, in fact this past week I did hit a few spots on 101 that reminded me of the good old pre-covid days. We have BART now, which is fantastic, but going forward we should be looking at faster and cheaper solutions.

In fact, there is a grade separated, point-to-point solution that exists today. The Boring Company Loop. Tunnels can be built at $10 million per mile versus $1 billion per mile for a traditional subway, and autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles can transport you from a station to any other station in the network at up to 150 miles per hour. It sounds too good to be true, but so did electric cars that are affordable and fun to drive and reusable rockets that can land themselves. Also, the Boring Company already has two projects in the works. There is a functional test track in LA that goes from SpaceX headquarters to a residential backyard (no joke) and a Loop in Las Vegas that will connect the Las Vegas Convention Center, the Strip, and the airport.

It's a killer suggestion that would help bring our transportation into the future (it is 2020 after all) while improving safety, convenience, and cost-per-mile. Check out Norman Kline's article over here.

Source: San Jose Spotlight

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Berryessa BART Station

After many years of effort, BART trains are finally flowing in and out of San Jose! Gillynova from the San Jose Development Forum has captured some nice drone video shots of the new station. Check out the short video below for a sneak peak of Berryessa Station.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

BART is finally coming to San Jose!

June 13th. That's the date when BART will officially open in both San Jose (Berryessa) and Milpitas! It took 14 years since we first voted for the extension, but it is finally happening.

The first train will leave the station at 7:56am from San Jose, stop at Milpitas at 7:59am, and then head to Richmond in the North Bay.

The next phase of the BART extension will be a subway that will add three more stations in the Downtown San Jose area and one in Santa Clara. Currently that is slated for completion in 2028.

Source: SVBJ

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Silicon Valley rush hour in 2020

There is a new drone video floating around showing what rush hour traffic looked like in March. I can only describe it with one word... chilling.

I never thought I'd see the day where I actually miss traffic. It's a very odd time, not at all what I pictured 2020 to be like. Hopefully this will be over soon and we'll have some normalcy again this year.

Source: Gillynova from the San Jose Debelopment Forum

Monday, April 6, 2020

BART Phase 2 Updates

A video was released a few weeks ago that provides an excellent visualization of how BART Phase 2 will extend from San Jose's Berryessa Station to Little Portugal, Downtown San Jose, Diridon, and finally Santa Clara. I was surprised at how detailed the 3D renders were throughout the entire video.

I was also shocked to see how deep the stations actually were in San Jose. The Downtown and Diridon stations will both have high speed elevators to help get passengers in and out of the stations as quickly as possible.

Source: aphelion2100 from the San Jose Development Forum

Monday, February 24, 2020

Diridon-SJC People Mover concepts

Last year, Mayor Sam Liccardo started collecting innovative ideas for connecting Diridon to both SJC and Stevens Creek (Santana Row, Valley Fair, Apple HQ, etc.). He received several interesting proposals ranging from autonomous pods, monorails, handing trains, and hyperloops. The goal would be to use a system with significantly lower costs than the current mass transit options and a shorter deployment time.

The only option that I think is truly feasible at a low cost would be a loop (not hyperloop), which the Boring Company is currently building in Las Vegas to connect various parts of their sprawling convention center. It might be possible for a couple hundred million (including stations) and everything would be underground, minimizing conflicts with other modes of transportation and completely taking weather out of the equation. It would also be scaleable to other parts of San Jose with much additional effort.

Our current transit options are failing us, so I have to applaud the city for thinking outside the box to make these two transit hubs together as quickly and cost effectively as possible.

Source: SVBJ

Monday, December 2, 2019

Latest concept plans for Diridon Station

In order to mitigate the traffic nightmare in the Bay Area, we have to locate jobs and homes close to transit. There is no better transit location in the South Bay than Diridon Station. Millions of square feet of office space, residential units, retail, and hotels are destined to be built near or next to the station. Needless to say, there is a lot of pressure to make the station live up to the attention it is getting. The centerpiece of Downtown San Jose's next phase of urbanization needs to be world class.

Below are some of the latest drawings from Dutch planning firms that are working on the next big redesign of the station. These need to incorporate BART and potentially High Speed Rail, as well as easier access from every direction.

Part of the concept is elevating the tracks for all lines except for Light Rail and BART, which will both meet the station underground. There will also be two main concourses beneath the rail lines with multiple entrances on both Santa Clara Street and San Fernando Street.

The drawings are quite impressive compared to the current layout of the station. I'm optimistic the final product will do the Capital of Silicon Valley justice.

Source: SVBJ

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

San Jose is a top city for public transit ridership increase

Between 2010 and 2017, public transit ridership increased by 11% in the US while car use only increased by 6%. What is more interesting--and perhaps shocking--is that San Jose's use of public transit shot up by 46.7%. This was the largest increase in the country during this time period.

Now 46.7% of a small number is still a small number. San Jose didn't rank in the top 10 cities for actual public transportation trips even though we are the 10th largest city in the US. In fact, much smaller cities like Portland, Baltimore, and Boston pushed us to 13th place when it comes to actual usage. That being said, the growth rate is reassuring that things are headed in the right direction and one day we will have more options of getting from Point A to Point B.

BART may finally open in December and that will definitely help our standings. Traffic is getting out of hand, a robust transit system will benefit everyone including those that still want to drive.

For more info and stats, hit the link below.

Source: STORAGECafe

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

SJC's second lounge is now open

San Jose International has an amenity it has never had before--a second travel lounge! The Club SJC has been around for several years and has won a handful of international awards. It's located on the 3rd floor across from the international gates (Gate 15) and has a full bar, food, nice restrooms and showers, and even a great view. It just has one issue... it's doing so well that it is often very full.

The solution was to build a second "The Club SJC" in front of Gate A8. Ironically this is the same space as San Jose's only previous airport lounge, the American Airlines Admirals Club, which was only around when American had a hub in San Jose. Unlike the former Admirals Club, the new lounge is open to anyone for a fee ($39 per person I believe) and provides MUCH better amenities.

The food and snacks at The Club SJC are very good by lounge standards and there is an open bar for visitors with cocktails (bourbon and ginger-ale is default drink there). The new lounge has plenty of comfortable seats, an area with desks and power outlets for work, and a quiet/napping zone. I also found the service to be excellent when I used the lounge a couple weeks ago. There is no better place to hang out in SJC while waiting for your flight.

My only request, would be for them to build another lounge on the other side of the airport in the middle of the B gates. It's an especially long walk between the six temporary gates Southwest is using to either of the lounges. Even then, it's worth it for a snack, drink, and some relaxation before your flight.

If you want to get access to these lounges for free, I highly recommend the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card. Every time you fly, you get access for up to three people into either of the San Jose lounge as well as lounges in just about any major airport in the world (SFO and Oakland included). It has a high annual fee, but you get annual perks easily worth double the fee even if you just travel two or three times a year. If you're interested, here is the link.

Source: SVBJ