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Measure B to decrease traffic and offer more mass transit6 min read

October 25, 2016

Traffic in the South Bay has grown worse in the last few years, according to a report by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. There is no sign that the situation will improve without the passing of Measure B. The measure is on the ballot for Santa Clara County this year. Voting yes on the measure would mean passing a half-cent general sales tax, which is estimated to bring in over $220 million a year. Carl Guardino, the CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, has spearheaded a committee of private citizens that are gathering support for Measure B. “We aim to bring more traffic relief and transit alternatives to Santa Clara County,” Guardino said in an interview with La Voz News. Measure B has three main goals: relieve traffic, provide more transit options, and fix the crumbling condition of roads and streets within the county. The leadership group has worked with the Valley Transit Authority, CalTrans CalTrain, and the councils and departments of all 15 towns and cities in Santa Clara County for three years to bring Measure B to the ballot.
Measure B has collected $900 million in federal money and $835 million in state money for the improvements.
“If we hadn’t created a local measure,” Guardino said, “that money might have gone to different regions in the state.”
“The first thing we want to do is finish the BART extension that’s being built into Silicon Valley,” Guardino said. “The first ten miles of the BART extension are not only being built right now, but the project is a year ahead of schedule, $75 million under budget, and it opens for passenger service in the fall of 2017.”
The BART extension will have two stations, one in Milpitas and one in the North San Jose neighborhood of Berryessa. The station in Milpitas will have platform-to-platform connections with the Light Rail System. Measure B would add six additional miles to the BART extension, with four more stations at the Five Wounds Church in Alum Rock, San Jose State University, the SAP Center, and Santa Clara University.
The station at SAP Center has platform connections to Diridon Station, which will enable passengers to move from BART to shuttle buses or CalTrain; the station at Santa Clara University is across from the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport, enabling passengers to use the three-terminal transit system so that they can get to their flights.
“BART carries over 440,000 weekday riders,” Guardino said. “They are choice riders, which means they make the choice to take BART instead of driving, which means less cars on our roads every day.” Funding the BART extensions adds 90,000 more weekday riders from the San Jose area, further decreasing road congestion in the county, Guardino said.
CalTrain carries 65,000 weekday riders, a number that has steadily risen every month for four years straight, Guardino said. “Measure B will provide funding for electrifying CalTrain, nearly doubling ridership to 110,000 weekday riders.”
Currently, CalTrain uses diesel-powered trains, which can pull five or six train cars of passengers. “With electrified train cars, CalTrain can pull eight train cars,” Guardino said. “You can also run them more close together because they start and stop faster than diesel trains.”
Two of three riders on CalTrain are choice riders, according to Guardino. The third rider, which adds up to 300,000 people every year, are senior citizens, students, disabled persons, or the working poor.
“They don’t have a choice, they don’t own a car, or they’re no longer able to use a car,” Guardino said. “We can’t leave them stranded at the curb. Half a billion dollars is going into retaining and growing lifeline service and core transit service for those who need it.”
The Measure B report released by the leadership group indicates that Santa Clara County has become the second most congested area in California, behind Los Angeles.
According to the leadership group report, the average car trip in Santa Clara County is five miles; 28 of 100 car trips are only two miles. With 330 days of sunny weather every year, Measure B will infuse $250 million into installing bicycle and pedestrian facilities and safety improvements, especially near schools (with priority on colleges and universities).
“Many trails end at creeks or freeway interchanges,” Guardino said. “We want to make it safer by closing gaps and making a system county-wide for biking.”
Supporters of Measure B also want to improve Highway 85, which has become one of the most congested roads in California. The highway was originally built in 1995 in response to worsening traffic in the county, a project Carl Guardino supported and worked on.
“The center median on Highway 85 is empty,” Guardino said. “It was always planned, but never funded, for a future form of transit.”
If Measure B passes, Guardino explained, then the VTA, with existing funds, will conduct an alternatives analysis, which is a legal process for looking at all the alternatives for that corridor. Once the study is complete, the VTA would select the right transit medium to put in that empty corridor. The plan would not take away existing lanes, but utilize the empty centerline for something like bus transit or light rail.
The Sierra Club is one of the outspoken opponents to Measure B. Gladwyn D’Souza, who represents the Loma Prieta chapter of the Sierra Club in Palo Alto, cited five reasons the Sierra Club stands against the measure: Deception, lack of accountability, impacts of reduced public transportation, climate change and lack of alternatives.
“VTA has a history, of offering one set of projects in a measure, and doing something else with the money,” D’Souza said in an email. “The rail connection from San Jose Airport to BART, light rail and CalTrain were all cancelled. Light rail and CalTrain extensions in past measures were also cancelled.”
According to D’Souza, the VTA has actually given up on their multibillion-dollar light rail system. The VTA wanted the empty center lane on Highway 85 to be used for a new light rail system until a few weeks ago, when they apparently scrapped that idea in favor of turning the center lane into a toll road.
Guardino had indicated the opposite. “The center median had always been set aside for a form of transit … when you do an alternatives analysis, you’re not supposed to bias it with a conclusion that you’re already driving to, but what most people talk about is either bus rapid transit, or light rail,” he said. “The VTA will set their criteria, whether it be traffic congestion relief, or greenhouse gas emission reduction, or getting the most people out of their cars, but the ultimate goal is a future form of transit. There is absolutely no interest in making toll roads out of the center line.”
The Libertarian Party has also been a long-standing opponent to Measure B because they oppose taxation. The leadership group has supported measures for open spaces and affordable housing in the past, which were all strongly opposed by the Libertarian Party.
Mark Hinkle, the president of the Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association, explained that the association does not have a direct link to the Libertarian Party, but several board members in the Taxpayers Association are also members of the Libertarian Party.
“The Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association does not support Measure B because we don’t need taxpayer dollars for these projects,” Hinkle said. “There is no reason to burden taxpayers with extra taxes.”

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