El Camino Real (ECR) through Santa Clara County is a six lane divided arterial for much of its length. With 40,000 to 60,000 vehicles per day travelling across most intersections from Sunnyvale to Palo Alto, this road operates at a traffic Level of Service (LOS) D or E.
LOS D describes a road where traffic doesn’t flow freely, but isn’t completely stop and go either. LOS E is a road operating at capacity. Traffic still moves, but everybody is constrained by the surrounding traffic. The next and final step is LOS F, which is permanent gridlock, and where ECR is headed if capacity is not improved.
The knee jerk reaction is to add more lanes, either on ECR itself or on parallel freeways and expressways such as Highway 101 or Central Expressway. Plans for Highway 101 along the Bay included proposals for a double decker freeway back in the 1960s. Plans are afoot to add lanes to Central Expressway in Santa Clara and Sunnyvale, although VTA lacks the required $35 million for these projects. VTA also plans an additional lane on southbound Highway 101 from Mountain View to San Jose though, again, they lack funding.
ECR itself is physically constrained, and local planners realize traffic can only get worse as the local economy and population grow. Our transportation planning agency for the South Bay — the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) — realizes this fact of life and are working for Bus Rapid Transit in order to improve traffic flow and capacity.
Some people like the status quo of stressful stop-and-go traffic, choking smog, and a transportation infrastructure that limits job creation in the Bay Area, however. Konrad Sosnow, who practices law in Mountain View, for example, writes to Mr Roadshow in the Mercury News to explain his belief that adding capacity for more people on ECR will be a “smog creator and economy killer.” He further opines that the people who benefit from the BRT proposal are only “retired people” and “those who live and work in Mountain View” I guess because they don’t matter as much as he does, or something. Mr Sosnow could be nearing retirement age himself, and he might appreciate decent bus service after he’s no longer able to drive. And he should thank and encourage those people who actually live near their work instead of taking up even more precious space on El Camino Real.
In addition to to the 40,000 to 60,000 vehicles per day on ECR, 20,000 people ride buses on ECR on a daily basis. The reader comments following the Merc News Roadshow column includes the usual ridiculous “empty buses” claim, but this is not so for VTA routes 22 and 522 during the week.
Mr Roadshow reminds us that the VTA are accepting public comment on the Bus Rapid Transit project until March 8, 2013. You can learn about the El Camino Real BRT project here. VTA has a few public meetings planned — two in San Jose on Thursday, February 21, and two more in Mountain View on Thursday, February 28. You can expect the opposition to show up so please attend and give your comments if you can.
Submit your comments about Bus Rapid Transit by sending email to email@example.com. You can also send snail mail to VTA Environmental Programs and Resources Management, Attn: Christina Jaworski, 3331 N. First St., Building B-2, San Jose, CA 95134.