There’s always been a discussion in San Jose around connecting Santana Row/Valley Fair to the VTA Light Rail network, creating a rail backbone down the San Carlos/Stevens Creek-corridor, eventually extending to De Anza College, becoming the east/west version of the North First Street transit corridor, linking greater San Jose to downtown, and the Eastside. And now as Nate Donato-Weinstein reported last week in the SVBJ, Santana Row is expanding, literally, from retail and housing(new 25 story residential tower proposal via Nate Donato-Weinstein SVBJ), into a major new jobs cluster, with nearly 1 million square feet of new new class A office space proposed for the extension across Winchester Boulevard.
But Santana Row is a place where San Joseans drive, so that they can walk. Traffic is typically horrendous throughout the week, even with the new $63 million dollar 880-280 interchange. Add to that an expansion of 1 million sqft of office, with a typical 150-225sqft per office worker, using the higher of those two numbers, that comes out to an additional 4,444 people coming to the Santana Row area every week day to work.
So what are the options? Bus Rapid Transit(BRT)- This is a dedicated lane for buses and typically a lower cost to Light Rail, with some people arguing the that it moves the same amount of people as Light Rail. Light Rail(LR)- electric rail that could possibly run down the middle of the street in both directions, slow and limited by traffic signals. Bay Area Rapid Transit(BART)- Regional rapid transit, that could be elevated over the street, buried underground, or follow along 280, extremely expensive and planning takes decades.
So why is BART the best alternative? Because the BART momentum has hit San Jose. Despite the gap in funding for Phase 2 in San Jose from Berryessa to downtown, there’s a feeling that Transit Oriented Development(TOD), a proven and successful development model in many other cities nationally and internationally, could be the catalyst that helps San Joseans leave the car behind. Instead of redundant transit route already serviced by Caltrain from Diridon Station to Santa Clara, and because BART to Santa Clara completely misses an obvious station at San Jose Mineta International Airport(which is does), BART should continue west past Diridon Station to Santana Row/Valley Fair. This is a logical and sensible transit connection to an area becoming a vibrant mixed-use hub of housing, retail, and office in an isolated car dependent island. In return, it also gives West San Jose a key transit connection back to Diridon Station and Caltrain. Not only that, this western option leaves the opportunity to continue to De Anza College in Cupertino. Here is a map that shows the options.
All of this comes at a price of course but it also takes a shift in mindsets. Are San Joseans willing to look to the future of development and transportation, and ditch the beloved car, or hold fast to an unsustainable model in a burgeoning urban region? Millennials are leaving their cars en masse across the nation, but in order for San Joseans to join, there needs to be other transportation options. Companies and individuals are becoming self selective, and will look towards TOD offices and residences. But in order for them to make transit a priority, there needs to be well designed transit options available.
Maybe BART is the wrong answer for Santana Row, but adding more cars is definitely not the answer. There needs to be alternative options that allow office workers, shoppers, and revelers reliable ways to move to and from Santana Row that aren’t exclusively individual cars.
Updated on 11/30/15