12 April 2005

BART to Warm Springs - not a ballpark item

I attended the BART public hearing on the Warm Springs extension earlier tonight. The proceedings were mostly civil, except for when David Schonnbrunn of Transdef, who was the only opponent of the plan. Schonnbrunn criticized the plan for being wasteful and not smart-growth oriented. While I agreed with some of his points, I felt that I had to speak up to defend the plan, even though I was only there to observe and had no intention to speak.

My comments had to do with the fact that I live in San Jose and work in Fremont. This makes for a usually stress-free reverse commute, but during afternoons it isn't always pleasant. I would take public transit regularly to work, but public transit takes as many as 3 different transfers to get from door to door. Add to that some thoroughfares that are not bike-friendly, and it makes for a serious deterrent to going green. One of my quotes, which was played on the KTVU's 10 PM newscast, went like this (I'm paraphrasing myself):

I work in the Warm Springs area. The place is woefully underserved, and to make things worse, it's difficult to transfer from Santa Clara County's VTA to AC Transit (Alameda County). I would say that at least 1/4 of the workforce at my employer comes from Santa Clara County, and many of them would seriously consider using transit if it were easier. If I could take a single bus from downtown San Jose to Warm Springs, I could bike the rest of the way and abandon my car at home everyday. In fact, if the extension were already in place, I would already be doing this. The best part is that I would be encouraged to use BART more, but even if I didn't, the indirect benefit would be positive because it would motivate AC and VTA to better synchronize their service offerings. (AC runs many hub-based routes from BART stations, whereas VTA runs more point-to-point routes.)

I didn't stick around to see how much my comments resonated or to get interviewed by KTVU reporter Diane Guerazzi, but they did have enough affect that I caught a few smiles from the BART officials out of the corner of my eye, and there's the newsclip to boot. Even if BART doesn't come to San Jose as soon as Ron Gonzales wants it (or even never), the Warm Springs extension will help Valley travelers much just because it's closer. Having potentially one less transfer to make is a very big deal to public transit users.

My next post will cover the effect the Warm Springs extension could have on a new ballpark. The extension is due for a final decision in June.


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