Yes Virginia, Transportation is a Challenge
Last November, upon hearing much whining from my fellow East Bay residents, I did a little sleuthing on transportation options to get to a potential new stadium in San Jose. I found out that most of the whining was fairly justified. Getting to an imagined park in San Jose would not be as convenient as getting to the current home of the A’s for large portions of the fan base.
Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about the SEIR in San Jose and its transportation assumptions. I figure it is time to update the transportation discussion.
First, let’s revisit the original findings:
- The East Bay is a big area, so…
- It is probably better to break it down by Inner East Bay and Tri Valley/Diablo Valley
- Inner East Bay (as measured from Berkeley) faces a 1 hr 30 min drive
- Tri Valley (as measured from Pleasanton) faces a 30-45 minute drive
- No actual train service exists on a schedule to serve these folks, realistically
- Transportation plans (BART/HSR) for the region will not make an impact on East Bay travel times before 2020 (and that is an optimistic estimate)
So now that reality has smacked us in the face and yelled “You have to drive!!!!” What are the solutions a team might kick around to get the East Bay folks some transportation? Fear not, fellow citizens of Eastbaylovakia… I have some ideas.
While I won’t throw out specific plans, here are the methods I think are key to solving the transportation challenges.
Subsidized Bus Lines
I am an East Bay resident. I work in Sunnyvale. Many of my coworkers also live in the East Bay. Our company has an interesting solution to the transportation challenges we face: a free shuttle service. In my case, due to strange work hours on occasion, the bus line is not always helpful. But, on the days I can leave my house by 0620 and leave the office at 1600, there is no better way to get to and from the South Bay than the Bauer’s powered shuttle service.
The service picks me up at the Tassajara Park n’ Ride in Dublin. Drops me off at the office and does the reverse in the afternoon. There is another stop, further north on 680 for Diablo Valley residents. A similar service used to operate up and down 880 for Oakland/Berkeley residents.
Imagine the Green and Gold Express running up and down 680 and 880. The shuttle could be to and from Fremont BART or they could go the route my company does and hit a few park and rides on the major highways. Either way, it is a solution I expect to be pursued on some level.
Extended Train Schedules
So, there is this Capitol Corridor thing. And this ACE thing. They are comfortable. Come with Wifi. Possibly a bar cart. Not to mention the potential for some baseball history themed train rides from Sacramento, or Stockton on down. The two lines serve a considerable portion of the A’s current territory. Capitol Corridor has from Auburn to Fairfield to Martinez to Oakland to Fremont, etc. ACE covers Stockton, Tracy, Livermore, Pleasanton and Fremont.
Here are the two routes with all the stations noted:
Only problem? The schedules they keep don’t exactly mesh so well with night games. The last ACE train rumbles toward San Jose at around the time any random rooster might crow. It last departs from San Jose, heading out on a northeasterly tact, sometime around when batting practice starts. The Capitol Corridor doesn’t do much better. The simple solution is to introduce a new time slot for each route on night games (similar to what Caltrain does for Sharks games). I’d love to come in on a train from Pleasanton, on a “Turn Back the Clock Day,” with a bunch of other A’s fans, all of dressed in period garb. I can hear the ticket taker barking, “1929 priced beer in the bar cart boys and girls!”
Maybe this is pure fantasy, but it is fun to think about.
Another potential challenge here is the cost/time. A round trip ticket from Berkeley to San Jose on Capitol Corridor is $16 and requires a 1hr and 30 minute train ride. A round trip ticket from the Tri Valley is $12.25 and requires a 1hr train ride from the the Pleasanton station. Obviously, the further away you go, the higher the cost/time commitment.
Based on these numbers, it is probably safe to say that the train schedules would probably need more frequent weekend service. That will be when most folks from extended distances would come to town for a game and , probably, when most fans in the East Bay would come. I know I could get a lot more excited about a 2 hr round trip train ride on a Saturday then I would on a Wednesday.
Express Light Rail Trains
I have absolutely no idea if this is even possible. I love VTA Light Rail, for the simple fact that I think of King Friday every time I pass a “Trolley Crossing” sign. Also, because I have a free pass and anytime I need to get to Downtown San Jose I just jump on the next train and there I am.
Maybe the train only stops at sites with a parking lot and then at the Convention Center, the station at San Fernando and Delmas and at Diridon. I am not sure if you could have a few express trains running on all routes. I imagine it would cause some congestion in the system.
This would be my preferred method on week nights. I could drive into work, catch an express train out at Moffett Park and be at the game well before the first pitch. The downside being I’d have to catch a train back out to Moffett Park before driving home, but that is doable every once in a while.
All of this conjecture points to the one non MLB controlled challenge at Diridon: Transportation for East Bay fans. Should San Jose get the nod and the park is built, success will depend (in part) on how well the available transportation options are utilized. Perhaps the A’s will bring together VTA, ACE, Capitol Corridor, and Bauer’s and together this group will agree to some unified strategy of people moving. Stranger things have happened, right?