In November of 2016, Santa Clara County voters approved Measure B, which will provide funding for nine categories of transportation improvements. $500 million is projected to be available for transit operations over the next 30 years ($16.7 million per year) and is eligible to be used in the following ways:
- Expand mobility services and affordable fare programs for seniors, those with disabilities, students and low-income riders.
- Enhance frequent core bus network.
- Improve amenities at bus stops to increase safety, security and access.
- Support new, innovative transit service models to address first/last mile connections.
VTA’s Board of Directors will decide how much to spend on each of these uses in early 2017. If the Board approves funding for enhancing the core bus network and/or supporting new and innovative transit service models, those additional funds will be included in the Final Next Network Plan.
VTA will consider changes to its fare policy alongside the Next Network Plan in order to ensure that both are in harmony. The study will analyze the potential ridership and revenue impacts of allowing free transfers, adjusting youth pass and EcoPass and the proposed simplification of service classes. The fare study will be complete in early 2017 and its recommendations will be considered by VTA’s Board of Directors.
Areas where decreases or discontinuances of transit service are proposed are typically areas with low-density, automobile-oriented development patterns. These areas are difficult to serve with fixed route transit as potential riders are widely dispersed, and buses can only serve those who are within walking distance of a bus stop. Fixed-route is simply a poor fit for this development pattern.
VTA is exploring service models that are more compatible with these types of places. These include contributing to city shuttle programs and subsidizing trips made via on-demand services. Both options can provide mobility at a lower cost to VTA than operating a fixed-route service in some cases. The latter option allows travelers to make direct, door-to-door trips at their convenience which may be preferable to traveling by fixed-route transit.
The recommendations of the Core Connectivity Study will be considered by VTA’s Board of Directors in early 2017.
Paratransit Policy Update
VTA is required by the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide paratransit service within ¾ of a mile of a transit route while that route is in operation. VTA exceeds this requirement by providing paratransit service to locations within 1 ¾ miles of a transit route, though at a premium fare. Under current VTA paratransit policy, changing the shape of the transit network would affect access to paratransit service or change the price of paratransit service for some users.
VTA staff have recommended updating the paratransit policy to ensure that no current users in Santa Clara County are negatively impacted. The specifics of this policy will be developed in coordination with VTA’s Committee for Transit Accessibility in early 2017.
The proposed changes in the Draft Next Network Plan may improve paratransit service as increases in hours of service and weekend service means paratransit service will be available for more hours and/or more days of the week for some locations.
With the extension of BART to Santa Clara County in the fall of 2017, VTA will no longer operate express bus routes 120, 140, 180 and 181 to the Fremont BART Station. Accordingly, VTA will not provide paratransit service in Alameda County after the BART extension opens. Those who travel between Alameda County and Santa Clara County will transfer near the county line between East Bay Paratransit and Access Paratransit.