Sunnyvale City Council nixes Bus Rapid Transit planning for El Camino Real.
The Santa Clara County Valley Transportation Agency (VTA) is the transportation planning agency and transit provider for Silicon Valley in California. 20% of VTA’s bus passengers ride bus routes 22 & 522 along the historic El Camino Real (ECR). TO handle the transportation needs of projected population growth along the ECR corridor, VTA plans a Bus Rapid Transit line (BRT) along the historic El Camino Real between downtown San Jose and Palo Alto, California.
ECR is a state highway (California Route 82), so I’m not certain local approval is required for projects like this, but VTA would like to have buy in from the South Bay cities ECR runs through. The City of Santa Clara council already recently gave their whole-hearted approval for the BRT project. At the city council meeting in Sunnyvale last Tuesday evening, though, the council voted 4-3 against planning for BRT on El Camino Real through the city of Sunnyvale.
Six lanes of traffic across 120 feet of right-of-way on El Camino Real bisect the city of Sunnyvale, with a traffic Level of Service “D” along the entire congested route. With population and job growth and no room to build new highways, traffic congestion through Sunnyvale will only get worse. VTA’s Bus Rapid Transit plan will change those six lane into a pair of BRT down the middle of the road and a pair of auto lanes for each direction of ECR between Lawrence Expressway and Bernardo AVenue.
BRT proponents believe their plan will also create a more livable, walkable and bike friendly transportation corridor. BRT stations at major intersections create pedestrian refuges that break up the huge swaths of concrete and asphalt we have now, and BRT changes include room for bike facilities.
BRT advocates showed up en-masse at Tuesday night’s council meeting to speak on behalf of better transportation on El Camino Real, outnumbering opponents at least two-to-one. Opponents pitted this as a “car versus bus rider” issue, while proponents talked about the benefits BRT will have for all users of El Camino Real, including the people who live and own businesses and pay taxes in Sunnyvale.
The strongest opposition came from the numerous auto dealerships along El Camino Real, saying BRT will destroy their businesses and reduce tax revenues to the city.
Sunnyvale council members Mayor Tony Spitaleri, Vice Mayor David Whittum, Pat Meyering and Jim Davis want none of that, voting instead for more congestion, more pollution, more death, more sickness, more traffic noise, higher gas prices, fewer jobs, less revenue for the city, and, overall, a more slum-like feel to their town by voting against the city resolution to move forward on BRT. In response to concerns that traffic is getting worse in Sunnyvale, the council directed staff to investigate increasing speeds on Mathilda Avenue (which currently has traffic Level of Service “F” for “FAIL”) to help move things along. As if. I can save the city a few thousand dollars of staff time and tell you what the findings will be.