Changing subjects for a day--transit insight | Tim Talk | Tim Hunt | |

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By Tim Hunt

Changing subjects for a day--transit insight

Uploaded: Jun 4, 2020

Let’s turn from protests, riots and COVID-19 to share another bit of information that I’ve been holding since mid-March when the shutdown hit.
Pleasanton Traffic czar Mike Tassano offered an interesting perspective on why the ValleyLink project has slipped in its delivery date—assuming the money can be found—at a Pleasanton Men’s Club meeting in early March.
The project will tie together the East Dublin/Pleasanton BART station and the San Joaquin Valley by utilizing the I-580 median, the Alameda County-owned abandoned railroad right-of-way through the Altamont Pass and the Union Pacific Railroad corridor to Lathrop.
Tassano said that the first round of ridership projections showed such high numbers that ValleyLink riders would fill westbound BART trains leaving no room for BART passengers arriving from Pleasanton, Dublin and surrounding areas. That’s genuinely good news about an expensive public works project that appears to have significant positive impact by taking cars off the Altamont Pass.
The original plan called for 20-minutes between trains so BART officials asked the ValleyLink team to tighten up the headways so each train met a BART car every 12 minutes. That caused some redesign to accommodate the more frequent schedule. That will mean better service for commuters—potentially a win all the way around at the cost of a delay.
Incidentally, the project will require moving lanes of Interstate 580 including the fast-track lanes that were completed just a few years ago. Tassano said that traffic planners went into that project with their eyes wide open and decided it was worthwhile to move ahead so traffic could get moving instead of waiting—perhaps for decades—for the BART project to launch.
It’s a $1.8 billion project, a bargain compared to BART and with a much better payoff for riders. Tassano said there’s about $900 million committed and that doesn’t include any San Joaquin County money. Coming up with those funds likely will require a vote for an increase in the sales tax devoted to transportation—there will be a very challenging question about when to ask after we understand more about the economic shakeout from the virus.
There also is the question about when people will feel comfortable again riding on public transit—will it take a vaccine or effective therapies against the virus?