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Advanced Transit Feeder from Sunnyhills to BART

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Connect Sunnyhills to the BART/LRT/transit center

The Problem: The Sunnyhills neighborhood of Milpitas is over 3 miles from the Milpitas BART station, so most folks will drive their cars to use BART and LRT.

The Solution: Sunnyhills Neighborhood Association (SNA) supports a Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) feeder between Sunnyhills and the BART/LRT/transit center that serves the larger community.

Background: The distance between the Milpitas and Warm Springs BART stations, nearly three times the average, makes access more difficult for Sunnyhills residents and others living near the County line. SNA calls upon the City of Milpitas to study the costs and benefits of a PRT feeder in comparison to current transportation solutions (e.g. structured parking garages, bus service, extra Calaveras Blvd. overpass lanes, and needed bicycle/pedestrian crossings).

Some of the facts that bring us to this position:

  • 7 miles between Montague and Warm Springs BART stations - triple the average distance between stations.
  • The planned Milpitas BART station will be a regional transit hub connecting with LRT and buses.
  • An Automated Transit Network (ATN) or PRT feeder/distributor system would include stations within 1/2 mile of an estimated 70% of Milpitas residents, and provide needed transportation options to many transit-dependent groups (roughly 1/3 of residents).
  • As of 2014, PRT technology has been in public use for three years at Heathrow Airport and Masdar City (Abu Dhabi), and was demonstrated in the prototypes and test tracks of two other leading PRT companies.
  • A "ferry" crossing as proposed is well within the technical capability of PRT.
  • A citywide PRT network could reduce by 10% the amount of driving in Milpitas, and reduce our CO2 emissions by approximately 30,000 MTCO2e annually.

Click here for a 30-second introduction to Skyweb Express. What is PRT?
  • Cabs (right) are small, light-weight, and electric powered. Each cab accomodates 1 to 4 people and travels 20-40 mph. Computer-controlled operation provides 24/7 service and safety. Click here for a 30-second video of Skyweb Express (pictured).
  • Guideways (left), with a diameter of only 3 feet, can be routed through small spaces and even into buildings. Support posts rise every 60-90 feet from a 2 ft2 footprint.
  • Click here for a 3-minute video introduction to PRT technology.
  • Stations (right) are 1) small, 2) spaced about 1/2 mile apart, and 3) off the main line so cabs can proceed non-stop to their destinations. Stations may be elevated, at ground level, or even inside buildings; elevated stations include elevators that cost about $60,000 each). Stations include cameras for security and storage for idle cabs.

Click here for a 3-minute video introduction to PRT technology.


The potential stations and routing below are simply offered to start the discussion of routing and stops for an PRT feeder loop in Milpitas:

Station Locations

  • Milpitas BART/LRT/bus station
  • Yosemite/Curtis overcrossing of the railroad/BART tracks
  • Yosemite Drive and S. Park Victoria Drive
  • Sports Center, Cardoza Park, Calaveras Hills High School
  • Jacklin Road and N. Park Victoria Drive
  • Pomeroy School/Russel School/MHS
  • corner of Dixon Landing Road and Hetch-Hetchy linear park (near Conway Street)
  • corner of Dixon Landing Road and Milpitas Boulevard
  • corner of Dixon Landing Road and Milmont Drive
  • Hall Memorial Park (to serve Curtner School and the creekside trail users)
  • Library/Medical Center
  • two Midtown Area stations to support development that's less auto-centric
  • City Hall/Community Center/Senior Center/Town Center
  • Escuela Parkway and Tramway Drive
  • and 5 other stations (total = 20 stations and 10 miles of guideway)

Possible Routing of Citywide PRT Network

Routing

  • from the Milpitas BART station, go north along the BART right-of-way to Yosemite Drive
  • east along Yosemite to S. Park Victoria Drive
  • north along Park Victoria Drive to Jacklin Road
  • east along Jacklin Road to Escuela Parkway
  • north along Escuela Parkway and the Hetch-Hetchy right-of-way to Dixon Landing Road
  • west along Dixon to California Circle
  • south along California Circle and Penitencia Creek to Weller and Main
  • south along Main to the Great Mall LRT Station
  • southeast along Great Mall Parkway/Capital Avenue to the Milpitas BART station
  • inner loop connector running south from Jacklin Road along Escuela Parkway and Milpitas Boulevard to Calaveras Boulevard, and then west to Park Victoria
  • bi-directional connector on Calaveras Boulevard between Main Street and Milpitas Boulevard

Citywide Transit Feeder = Outstanding Return On Investment

A cost-conscious and effective government considers financial benefits (revenue and savings) that accrue to City coffers and to the Milpitas economy. The following assumes a 10-mile long, community-owned, citywide PRT system would capture 5% of automobile trips. Potential savings of such a $150M PRT feeder linking the Sunnyhills neighborhood to the Montague BART station include:

  1. $33M - resident fuel savings of $6.6M/year for 5 years if 5% of VMT (vehicle miles travelled) by Milpitas residents were captured by ATN.
    According to Table A-3: BAU Forecast Indicators (page A-5 in Appendix A) of the 2013 Climate Action Plan, annual VMT by Milpitas residents in 2005 was 697,265,000. Using a fleet average mileage for passenger vehicles of 21 miles per gallon (Page 3 of Climate Change Draft Scoping Plan: Measure Documentation Supplement) yields an annual consumption of 33,203,095 gallons of gasoline. 5% of that at $4/gallon = $6,640,619.
  2. $1M - 5% reduction in street maintenance costs due to reduced traffic ($200K/year for 5 years) (137 miles of street)
  3. $1M - due to improved transit, property values increase 1% and generate increased annual property tax revenues to the City (for 5 years) (2014/2015 Milpitas property tax revenue = $21.8M = 16% of $136M collected for all agencies including MUSD)
  4. $1M - increased tourism revenue at PRT "attraction" ($200K/year for 5 years)
  5. $10M - eliminate a bike/ped crossing of Montague Expressway (BART/new school)
  6. $6M - eliminate a bike/ped crossing of railroad tracks at Yosemite/Curtis
  7. $6M - eliminate a bike/ped crossing of railroad tracks from Piper housing developments to the Great Mall
  8. $3M - delay for 10 years expansion of Calaveras Blvd. crossing of the railroad tracks (5% of project cost)
  9. $2M - delay for 10 years the Montague/Great Mall urban interchange (5% of project cost)
  10. $xM - reduce the amount of VTA Outreach service in the area (for 5 years)
  11. $xM - rental for utility space within guideways (e.g. telecommunications and electric power)
  12. $xM - value of advertising potential from "wraps" on cabs and guideway
  13. $xM - value of temporary and permanent jobs created
  14. $xM - value of public health/safety benefits (see below)
  15. $xM - reduce amount of structured parking required in Midtown and Transit Areas ($30,000/space x 100 = $3M)
  16. up to $51M - reduce bus service in Milpitas for 5 years (Milpitas Pop. / Santa Clara County Pop. = 3.8% times annual $270M VTA budget times 5 years)

Total of 5-year expected community savings = $33M to $113+M           City's 20% cost of $150M ATN = $30M
      [If a minimal system with small stations and few cabs is built, the overall cost could be only $60M.]

Savings will be slightly offset by Operations and Maintenance (O&M) of the system, which in the transit industry typically costs 3% to 5% of total building costs. O&M for PRT should be lower than normal because typical transit systems spend 70% on labor - which is vastly reduced when using automated transit. [The report "Viability of Personal Rapid Transit in New Jersey" estimated that O&M costs will be approximately half of bus and LRT costs; see Figure 22 - Operations and Maintenance Costs per Passenger Mile on page 58 (63 of the PDF).] Actual O&M costs of the Morgantown PRT system is $5M, or 4% of the original cost of the system when built in the 1970's ($120M). Vandalism, which is included in O&M, can be reduced by the inclusion of 1) video cameras at each station and 2) communications between each cab and security personnel (so problems can be promptly reported).

Another mass transit cost that may be reduced is insurance. A recent paper by J. Lutin et al reported that in 2011 alone, the US Bus Transit systems spent almost $500M settling liability claims resulting from accidents. When divided by the total US Bus Fleet size (not the number of buses involved in accidents) that translates into an annual liability exposure of $8,069 per bus! An entirely grade-separated PRT guideway would dramatically reduce the number of accidents and the attendant insurance costs.


Additional benefits of a citywide PRT network that are difficult to quantify and/or monetize include:

  1. more climate security by reducing CO2 emissions
  2. more economic and energy security due to less dependence on foreign oil imports;
  3. better public health due to cleaner air and fewer pedestrian/cyclist injuries;
  4. better individual well being and time efficiency by avoiding the stress of traffic congestion while gaining personal time to rest, cell-phone, text, read, think, etc. (The Texas Transportation Institute uses $12.00 per hour as the cost of time wasted in traffic.);
  5. more effective use of public transit dollars by conveniently delivering more riders to the transit hub;
  6. calmer, quieter neighborhoods due to less automobile traffic;
  7. less fuel consumption and time wasted due to less traffic congestion;
  8. more efficient use of highly valuable weekday lunch-time travel. (For a $60K/year worker, lunchtime is valued at $60/hr.)* ;
  9. potential for efficient transfer of non-human cargo like packages, water or garbage;
  10. improved integration of Starlite Pines neighborhood with the Transit Area;
  11. prestige value to the City for building the first PRT in the country;
  12. helps accomplish goals of the Milpitas Climate Action Plan;
  13. strong transportation infrastructure attracts businesses.
* This lunch-time figure follows from the transportation literature:
- Value of time while at work is gross hourly salary.
- Value of time while commuting to work is 1/2 to 1/3 of hourly salary.
- Lunchtime is a special, short chunk of free time, so is considered highly valuable, double hourly salary.
- Time appears to pass 3 times more slowly than real-time time when waiting under conditions of uncertainty, such as waiting for a bus without a tracking display. This is one of the reasons why people complain about transit transfers.
Thus, for a $60K/year worker who works 2000 hours/yr, gross hourly salary is $30/hr. Commuting time is valued at $15 to $10/hr. Lunchtime is valued at $60/hr. This is one of the reasons why shuttle bus systems from workplaces to retail locations have not been popular; perceived time penalty versus driving is too high. With a population and congestion that doubles during the day, PRT offers Milpitas employers and employees a prime opportunity to capture time savings during the lunch hour.


Robocars

Driverless vehicles, or "robocars", are expected to become a growing percentage of cars on the road over the next decade or two. Like ATN/PRT cabs, robocars are controlled by computers to take you from your origin location to a destination. Such service is desired/needed to enable more people to live fulfilled lives without the need to own an automobile. In a similar fashion, we already see cabs, Uber, and Zip Cars increasingly being used for transportation and to share ownership.

However, driverless vehicles don't reduce the number of cars (and attendant congestion) on our roadways for two reasons:

  1. Many who cannot currently drive (due to handicaps, license restrictions, or lack of car ownership) may get back onto the road by using robocars;
  2. More significantly, however, is that robocars will frequently move around to pick up another passengers after dropping one off. The same happens with ATN/PRT. An estimated 30% of all network traffic will travel empty.

In those areas where roads are already congested with no space to add lanes, an overlay of ATN "robocars" can help many more people get around easily without adding to the congestion.


When making choices, it's wise to balance three or more values rather than focus on a single value (e.g. money).
For example, we could consider Economics, Environment, and Service Level:

Economics
Environment
Service Level
PRO:
PRT construction costs = $10-40M/mile (bi-directional)
LRT construction costs = $50-120M/mile
BART construction costs = $200-400M/mile
PRT operating subsidy = 0-10%
BART operating subsidy = 40%
LRT operating subsidy = 85%
PRO:
PRT requires less energy per passenger mile than cars, buses, LRT and BART.
PRT disrupts less land and requires fewer resources to construct than LRT and BART.
PRT vehicles cause less noise than other transportation vehicles.
As the only technology claiming to reduce the amount of SOV driving, PRT offers the best hope for less congestion and CO2 emissions.
PRO:
PRT = automated transit available 24 hours per day, 7 days a week with maximum 3-minute wait time at station
BART = 19 hours per day, wait time varies
LRT = hourly service depends upon funding, wait time varies
PRT = non-stop, private transit elevated above roadways
LRT = many stops en route and subject to delays
BART = stops en route along exclusive right-of-way
Average speeds: PRT = 25-70mph, BART = 43mph, LRT = 16mph
CON:
As a new technology unsupported by current funding sources, we may need new sources to fund construction costs.
CON:
PRT requires more reliance upon advanced technologies like computers, chips, telecomm, reliable power, etc.
CON:
Being a private space, PRT cabs may attract riders interested in sleeping, making out, using drugs, sheltering from the weather, etc.


You Can Help

As the next step toward such an ATN/PRT system to serve Milpitas, SNA is seeking to kick-start the A HREF="http://sunnyhillsneighborhood.org/crossing.html">PRT pilot project by financing the City's portion of the $50,000 Environmental Impact Report (EIR). We only need $10,000 (20%) due to progressive transportation funding rules. When SNA gathers $10,000, we will work with the City to secure the remaining funding and generate an EIR. After the EIR is written and approved, engineering and construction could follow.

Funding is expected from contributions (individuale, businesses, and cities), grants from foundations, and support from U.S. transportation agencies. SNA will act as escrow agent until the EIR is started. Questions can be answered by SNA Secretary, Rob Means (408-262-8975, SNA@electric-bikes.com). Spread the word with this flyer, and make contributions (minimum $20) payable to:

Sunnyhills Neighborhood Association, 1421 Yellowstone Ave, Milpitas, CA 95035-6913
(Please indicate whether you want to remain anonymous or have your name/organization listed online.)




Become a member!

Annual dues are only $10/year. To use PayPal, click the logo below and send your contribution to contribute@SunnyhillsNeighborhood.org

or print our membership form and mail a check to SNA, 1421 Yellowstone Ave, Milpitas, CA 95035-6913


Pursuant to Article 12, section 1 of the corporation's Bylaws, rights of members shall include:
1) Notice of all regular, special, and annual meetings, plus notice of any committee meetings in which they have expressed interest.
2) Copies of any newsletters or other publications of the organization, plus requested copies of any other documents of the organization.
3) The right to vote at all general meetings and the right to vote on any sub-committees that they join.
4) The right to offer motions germane to the group and have those motions given a fair hearing before the assembled membership.

Sunnyhills Neighborhood Association, 1421 Yellowstone Ave, Milpitas, CA 95035-6913, 408-262-0420, info@SunnyhillsNeighborhood.org
(Please indicate whether you want to remain anonymous or have your name/organization listed online.)