The El Camino Real Bus Rapid Transit Project would upgrade the 522 Rapid Bus to BRT status between the Palo Alto Transit Center and Downtown San Jose. The project would serve 16 stations along the 17-mile corridor, 14 of which will be new, enhanced BRT stations. The project also proposes to install bus-only lanes in certain portions of the corridor. New vehicles will advertise a higher-quality of transit service and work with the station design to allow for fast, all-door boarding and exiting. Together, these enhancements will improve the transit travel time of the 522 route, which leads to increased ridership, better on-time reliability and lower operating costs.
In 2009, VTA’s Board of Directors adopted the BRT Strategic Plan, which recommended the El Camino Real corridor as appropriate for bus rapid transit on the basis of ridership demand and cost-effectiveness.
In 2010, VTA kicked off conceptual engineering for the project by studying the corridor in detail and analyzing several potential project designs. In January of 2012, VTA staff recommended a proposal for the corridor, called the optimal project, as it created the optimal scenario for transit operations. The optimal project proposed converting two travel lanes into bus-only lanes between Showers Drive in Mountain View and Lafayette Street in Santa Clara with no changes to the street in Palo Alto and San Jose, as the bus was proposed to operate in the right lane with cars.
VTA asked the six cities along the corridor to take council actions on the optimal project in the spring of 2012, with the plan to present the city decisions to VTA’s Board of Directors later that year. San Jose and Santa Clara’s councils unanimously supported the optimal project, but Sunnyvale’s council opposed bus-only lanes and Mountain View and Los Altos had mixed views on bus-only lanes, with majorities leaning toward opposition. After Sunnyvale’s vote and the input received from its northern neighbors, it became clear that the optimal project was not politically feasible at the time.
In September of 2012, VTA’s Board of Directors reviewed the city decisions as well as four politically feasible project alternatives that ranged from a “revised project”—where dedicated lanes would be installed in Santa Clara and curbside bulbout stations elsewhere—to a “no project” option where VTA would not make any investment in transit infrastructure on El Camino Real. The Board of Directors expressed disappointment in the decision and leanings of Sunnyvale, Mountain View and Los Altos and recommended that VTA continue with the project, pursuing the revised project alternative as well as the optimal project alternative in an environmental impact study with the hope that the additional analysis could sway Sunnyvale, Mountain View and Los Altos to support bus-only lanes.
Miles of dedicated lane: 2.97
Projected ridership: 11,198 daily weekday boardings (2020)
Capital cost: $125 million
Federal funding potential: Good ($62.5m)
Local funding: $62.5m
The revised project reflects what cities have currently deemed to be acceptable based on analysis undertaken during conceptual engineering. Bus-only lanes and bicycle lanes would be installed in Santa Clara between Lawrence Expressway and Lafayette Street. The rest of the corridor would not have bus-only lanes or bicycle lanes and would resemble El Camino Real as it is today with the exception of new bulbout stations.
Analysis of federal Small Starts funding statutes suggest that the cost and ridership projections for this project would give it a good chance to receive federal funding. VTA would seek federal funds for 50% of the project cost—leaving just $62.5 million to be covered by VTA.
Miles of dedicated lane: 10.3
Projected ridership: 12,374 daily weekday boardings (2020)
Capital cost: $199m
Federal funding potential: Good ($75m)
Annual operating cost: $7.8m
The optimal project reflects the ideal project scenario for transit improvement and cost-effectiveness. In this scenario, bus-only lanes would be installed between Showers Drive in Mountain View and Lafayette Street in Santa Clara. Bicycle lanes could be installed in place of on-street parking (or by reducing median widths) if cities prefer. The 10.3 mile long stretch of dedicated lanes would allow BRT vehicles to travel much faster through the corridor, requiring fewer vehicles to serve the same frequency of service which would lower operating costs significantly. The speed and on-time reliability of the 522 route would also improve substantially.
The optimal project is estimated to have a good chance to receive federal funding as it is a major investment in a major transit corridor and has a majority dedicated lanes. Earlier project cost estimates for the optimal project placed the cost between $210m and $240m. Those costs were extrapolations of costs for the Santa Clara-Alum Rock BRT Project. New, more detailed analysis suggests that the cost of constructing the optimal project is under $200m with the potential for additional reduction if VTA opts for a wireless (rather than fiber optic) communication system infrastructure.
|Conceptual Engineering||May 2010-May 2012|
|Environmental Studies||October 2011–November 2012|
|Draft Environmental Document||May 2012|
|VTA Board Approves Environmental Document||December 2012|
|FTA Approval for Preliminary Engineering||December 2011|
|Project Agreements with Cities||January 2013–January 2014|
|Preliminary Engineering||June 2012–August 2013|
|Vehicle Procurement (under Santa Clara – Alum Rock project)||July 2011–July 2013|
|Final Design||September 2013–September 2014|
|Construction||January 2015–June 2016|
|First Day Service||July 1, 2016|