Soft open becomes hard lesson for many fans at 1st Levi’s Stadium event

I didn’t attend tonight’s Sounders-Earthquakes game at Levi’s Stadium, so I can’t comment on any aspects of the experience there. I won’t get into the architecture either, even though I have seen the stadium in every stage of construction multiple times per week over the last two years. I’ll reserve those thoughts for after August 29, the date of the Friday Night Lights high school football event. That event will not only be the cheapest to get into at the stadium ($20 general admission, less than a tour ticket), it will feature a doubleheader, meaning fans can roam around the venue for six hours if they wanted to. That’s exactly what I’m going to do. Anyway, I’ll let this tweet sum up the experience inside for now:

The big mystery leading up to the game was whether or not the venue and the City of Santa Clara could handle the influx of fans. Tonight’s game was positioned as a sort of soft open, with a crowd no larger than 50,000 expected. The upper deck was closed off to cap the capacity. If the open house for season ticket holders was a dry run, Saturday night was to be the first real test. Despite advisories to come more than 2 hours early, many fans faced gridlock on the surface streets leading to the stadium. Fans who arrived in the area 60-90 minutes before the match start were often turned away as their designated parking lots filled up. As part of the TPMP (Transporation and Parking Management Plan), the lots were roughly divided into quadrants based on which direction/highway you were coming from. Arriving from the east on 237/880? The red lots are for you. From the south/southeast on 101/87? Try the green or purple lots. As Tasman Drive and Great America Parkway backed up, those going to the more remote lots eventually had an easier time getting and out. Sure, that meant an extra 15-20 minute walk, but it was probably worth it. It sure beat some fans being stuck for an hour in the parking garage across the street from the stadium. Parking inventory isn’t going to improve over the next couple of weeks, so it will be absolutely paramount for the team/City to more efficiently route fans along those surface streets. Even so, it highlights a problem with the street grid in north Santa Clara – there are no side streets. Everything’s set up in a superblock fashion, and the commercial “neighborhoods” within have no outlets besides the heavily impacted major intersections that service them. I’m sure that the TPMP will be revised to improve this performance, but there’s no fixing the street layout. That said, Great America Parkway has four lanes north and south. It should be capable of getting cars in and out of the stadium vicinity. My advice?

For some people, getting out was worse than getting in. For others it was the exact opposite. The above tweet is half-joking, but parking closer to either 101 or 237 can’t be a bad idea if you want to get in and out quickly.

Transit was another story. Caltrain and VTA have been pitching the idea of transferring people coming from SF/Peninsula at the Mountain View station, then trekking the 25 minutes on light rail to Levi’s Stadium. The circuitous route (with a small section of single track) is far from efficient. VTA wants to boost light rail ridership, so this seems like a good way to do it. It’s not the fastest way to get fans to the stadium. If they want to get fans to the stadium fast, they’d have fans disembark at the Lawrence station 3.5 miles southwest of the stadium. From there express buses would be lined up to take fans 15 minutes the rest of the way. Riders arriving via the main spine of the light rail system (from Downtown, East & South San Jose, plus Campbell/Los Gatos) had to deal with overstuffed trains and mechanical breakdowns. One train shut down at the River Oaks station and its air conditioning system went out, motivating many riders to pop out emergency windows to get fresh air.

LevisStadiumBusService

VTA’s route map showing light rail and bus service

VTA is working on an additional track siding to store more trains, which should improve capacity. That’s still not enough. A 3-car trainset holds around 500 people including standees. That should improve service frequency from the every 10 minutes service VTA was advertising but not delivering. However the problem is infrastructure. There needs to be an alternative in place to better facilitate all of the fans overflowing at the Great America Station platform. Some fans told me that they walked to other LRT stations to avoid the crowds. The agency should follow a practice it already follows when there are breakdowns or other high-impact delays: employ bus bridges. By providing an overflow option for light rail riders, VTA can ensure that more fans can make the regular or special northbound Caltrain trains. Set up bus bridges to Mountain View, Great Mall, Alum Rock, Tamien, Winchester, and Ohlone-Chynoweth. That should relieve pressure on the light rail system and allow fans going to Downtown San Jose to utilize freed up trains. Otherwise you get stories like the one from Merc sports editor Bud Geracie, who lined up for light rail once the game ended before 10 and didn’t arrive at the Tamien station until nearly midnight.

My advice to fans? If VTA doesn’t introduce redundancy, take Caltrain to Lawrence (from SF/Peninsula or San Jose) and Uber/Lyft/Sidecar/Taxi the rest of the way. Fair should be around $20 or less each way, quite reasonable if you’re in a group.

Coincidentally, there was one aspect of VTA that was working well: the express buses. The five routes, which served Cupertino, Eastridge, Gilroy, Los Gatos, and the Fremont BART station, got in and out swiftly. Fans on those buses didn’t face the overcrowding experienced on light rail. They got to the BART station as early as 10:30. Another alternative I heard a lot about was bicycle. Whether biking straight to the stadium (if based nearby) or transferring from Caltrain, the trip proved fast and trouble-free. Bike racks at the stadium were packed, indicating that some fans had been planning those routes for weeks if not months.

Capitol Corridor was running on a normal weekend schedule. Fans who rode Capitol Corridor had to leave the game early to catch a 9:30 northbound (eastbound) train, the last one of the night. For 1 PM Sunday 49er games, the schedule has been changed slightly to better accommodate fans leaving Levi’s around 4:30-5. ACE, which doesn’t normally run on weekends, will have a special train running in each direction on Sundays.

The first 49ers preseason game is scheduled two Sundays from now. That game is expected to be a sellout plus standing room. Santa Clara and the Niners have a lot of work to do to reduce the frustration and confusion experienced with this first event. I’m pulling for them, but it’s gonna be tough.

P.S. – Quick restaurant recommendation fairly close to the stadium: Gobi Mongolian BBQ at Lawrence Expwy & Tasman Drive about 1.5 miles west of the stadium. Huge weekday lunchtime crowds, fairly small weekend crowds.

Walking distances to ballparks

Before I head out to Maryvale today to catch some combo major league and A’s minor league action, I wanted to post a table showing the approximate walking distances from various rail transit stations to ballpark entrances. In most cases these are door-to-door, measured with Google Earth’s ruler (path) tool. I’ve only included ballparks which have adjacent or nearby (within 1 mile) subway, light rail, or commuter rail stations. Bus stops do not count. The one exception I’ve included is Dodger Stadium just to illustrate the distance.

walkingdistances

Distances shown in feet except when approximately 1/4 mile or longer

I measured the Howard Terminal distance using the approximate location of the ballpark in the Manica Architecture drawings. An infill BART station built at Market/Brush Streets between 4th and 5th would be around 1/4 mile away from Howard Terminal.

In case you’re curious, the distance from Lew Wolff’s Coliseum North ballpark concept to the Coliseum BART station would’ve been around 2/3 mile. Fremont Pacific Commons would’ve been 1.5-2 miles from the Warm Springs BART station depending on infrastructure. A ballpark at Warm Springs is unknown because there was no specific location unveiled. The San Jose Diridon ballpark site sits 500 feet from the Diridon Caltrain station and 800 feet from the San Fernando light rail station. The under-construction Berryessa BART station is nearly 4 miles away from Diridon.

Getting there: Levi’s Stadium early thoughts

Let’s be clear about one thing can be agreed on when it comes to Levi’s Stadium: it will be much easier to get in and out of there than the painfully difficult Candlestick Park.

Beyond the obvious technological improvements and swankier facilities, Levi’s Stadium has much better built-in infrastructure than the ‘Stick. There is light rail service directly in front of the stadium, with links to Caltrain in Mountain View and San Jose. There’s also a Capitol Corridor and ACE stop even closer, which will bring in fans from the East Bay and Central Valley. Highways 237 and 101, which define the Golden Triangle region of Silicon Valley, feed the area surrounding the stadium, which is where the majority of the parking spaces will be found.

VTA, Santa Clara County’s transit authority, announced a plan to bring fans to Levi’s Stadium from various parts of the Bay Area. Existing partnerships with other transit agencies will have to be leveraged, whether it means transfers to light rail from Caltrain or to express buses from Fremont (by 2017, BART-to-light rail in Milpitas). Still more options will be available from some of those other agencies running their own buses straight to the stadium, along with private bus operators providing a more upscale trip from San Francisco and the North Bay.

The transit debacle at the Super Bowl highlighted the difficulty associated with trying to forecast transit ridership for special events. The New York/New Jersey and San Francisco/Santa Clara dynamics are similar. For the Super Bowl, most of the hotel rooms and peripheral events will be in San Francisco. That makes it doubly important that the link between SF and SC are solid. New Jersey transit severely underestimated the number of fans that would take the commuter train option from Penn Station to the Meadowlands through Secaucus, which led to hours-long delays for many frustrated fans. Since the NFL and local officials were encouraging transit use instead of driving or busing, designated public parking lots near MetLife Stadium were relatively empty, including certain bus lots. Meanwhile, buses that were scheduled to pick up fans from various hotels in Manhattan were underutilized.

When I took NJ Transit to a mere Jets preseason game at MetLife Stadium in August, the trains were quite packed and total ride took 45 minutes despite going less than 9 miles, was an ordeal. The biggest problem was the required transfer at Secaucus Junction. Because the train to the Meadowlands complex is a separate rail spur, all NJ trains forced the Secaucus transfer. Then fans had to go inside the station, change levels, and move to different platform where the Meadowlands train could be boarded. Secaucus Junction works fine for daily commute levels of ridership, but it is terrible for a big event such as the Super Bowl. If there is a next time, NJ Transit has to figure out a way to allow trains to go directly from Manhattan to the Meadowlands. While Secaucus can’t handle the crush, Penn Station can (though not without discomfort).

Like the NY-NJ transfer issue at Secaucus, there is a huge potential bottleneck at the Mountain View Caltrain station, where most fans coming from SF and the Peninsula will transfer. Trains from the Peninsula will stop along the station’s southern platform, which will mean that fans will have to cross at least 3 sets of tracks (2 Caltrain, 1 VTA) in order to make the switch. While the southbound platform has a decent-sized queuing area, the northbound platform, where fans would wait for train going home, is notoriously small and narrow. Each Caltrain train set (5 cars + engine) is designed to hold up to 1,000 riders. Compare that to a 3-car light rail train, which holds about 500 riders including standees. That means that two light rail trains would have to pick up a single full Caltrain’s worth of riders.

There’s also a bottleneck just east of the station, where trains run on a single track to cross Central Expressway. VTA plans to construct a second track and pocket track for train storage, which should get rid of the bottleneck. That project is expected to be completed in two phases, the whole thing done by 2016.

Even with those changes, it’s hard to say just how many people will take Caltrain to Mountain View and then transfer to light rail. 6-8 Caltrain trains worth? That’s about 10% of the total crowd. There could also be single trains from Capitol Corridor and ACE covering another 2-3000 fans.

Since the single-tracking bottleneck will take a couple years to resolve, there’s a good chance that fans going to Levi’s Stadium will instead use one of many express buses parked at the Mountain View station to get to the game. The route would be more direct, and much of it would be on a freeway or expressway.

I suspect that buses may be an even more popular mode of transport than they were at the ‘Stick. Rides from the North Bay will be especially long, requiring serious lead time. It’s not hard to see a fairly new institution already in place being used extensively for 49er games: the private Silicon Valley tech bus. Sure, there are already private coaches that take fans to games, especially groups that can charter. In this case I wouldn’t be surprised to see the same buses that shuttle workers to Google and Apple used on Sundays to take fans directly to Santa Clara from North Beach or Marin. Tickets are already much more expensive and cater to a move affluent crowd than before, why not provide luxury transit? The controversial private busing highlights a problem that has been generally ignored by the national media who have attempted to cover the issue: the disjointed Bay Area transit system. Caltrain runs through the downtowns of numerous cities on the Peninsula, which is mostly good and convenient. But if Caltrain or BART ran down 101 to near Google or 280 to Apple, there would be less of a need for such solutions. Levi’s Stadium, which is across the river from Cisco and a mile away from Intel’s headquarters, is in a similar situation: one or more transfers, inelegant design, faster alternatives. For the Super Bowl, these buses will be in even greater demand, especially as certain operators are contracted directly by the NFL for official use (teams, personnel, media).

Fortunately, the vast majority of games will be at 1 PM on a Sunday afternoon, not during commute hours. For the first season there will be no Thursday or Monday night games, with a Cal Friday home game snuck in as an exception. The 49ers’ 2014 promises to be a year of settling in, on the field for the team and in the stands by the fans. Getting there will literally be a process of trial and error for all involved.

Coliseum/Airport BART Station to be renamed

The Merc’s Mike Rosenberg reported today that BART station we all know and love (and some outsiders fear) servicing the Oakland Coliseum will be renamed.

Why? It has to do with the Oakland Airport Connector, the 3.2-mile, $484 million people mover which is scheduled to open in fall 2014. You’ve probably seen construction of the OAC’s metal guideway along Hegenberger, or the terminal just across the street from the BART platform.

Route from Oakland International Airport to the Coliseum

In order to avoid confusion among air travelers, the BART station will simply be named “Coliseum” while the OAC station at the Airport end will be named “Airport“. BART Train operators have long had the practice of announcing the transfer method to the airport when approaching the stop. Expect that practice to continue with a longer explanation (no, the airport didn’t disappear!).

On the other hand, the OAC will not have train operators at all. It uses automated people mover technology, similar to SFO’s AirTrain or driverless shuttles at other airports (Denver, Atlanta, Tampa, New York JFK). The technology comes from Austrian firm Dopplmayr. In Australia I rode the Katoomba Scenic Railway, a cable car funicular that’s one of the steepest in the world. It’s also a Dopplmayr installation.

Like the recently opened Airtrain JFK, the OAC (a brand has not been announced yet) will require a fee, just like its AirBART bus predecessor. BART estimates that the fare could be up to $6 each way, twice as much as the old bus. By comparison, AirTrain JFK costs $5 and runs a longer route, 8 miles to the Jamaica transit hub in Queens.

OAC-1-Airport

Airport Terminal Station of the Oakland Airport Connector

OAC was highly controversial at its inception because of its high cost and limited usage, but the argument that it was better to have a more efficient route not tied to surface traffic won out. Hopefully the fares will be able to cover operating costs.

Besides the Coliseum and Airport terminals, a third station is under construction at Doolittle. A fourth station at Hegenberger and Coliseum Way was considered at one point, but was slashed due to cost. Given the high fare that’s probably a smart move, though it’s also something of a lost opportunity should Coliseum City come to fruition.

News for 7/3/13

There’s a lot of news during this holiday week. I figured it would be best to drop it all in here. First up, A’s news.

MLB announced today that it has retained John Keker of SF firm Keker & Van Nest to represent baseball in the San Jose antitrust lawsuit. Keker has a long and colorful history as one of the country’s top trial lawyers, and would be a formidable opponent for Joe Cotchett if the suit ever went to trial. Or, as a former partner at KVN, Wendy Thurm (@hangingsliders), put it:

Keker’s first statement about the case description of himself as a frequent defense lawyer is also colorful:

Keker also has his hands full defending Standard & Poor’s in the federal government’s lawsuit over allegedly fraudulent practices. Let the games begin, I say.

Besides MLB announcement, if you were worried that the lawsuit would leave the news cycle, there are new articles from the LA Times and Forbes covering the matter. In other news:

  • Members of the ILWU (Longeshoremen’s Union) are opposing the SSA settlement, which would close Howard Terminal and potentially convert it to a ballpark site. The union’s complaint is that the net effect of the settlement and consolidation is the loss of union jobs. This contention has evidently forced the Port of Oakland to again delay voting on the settlement to July 11.
  • BART’s still on strike. Last night’s announced attendance was 17,273, the smallest crowd since the end of May. Tonight’s a fireworks game with the 4th tomorrow, so crowds should be hefty despite the lack of BART.

—–

Away from the A’s…

  • The City of Glendale, Arizona, approved a 15-year lease deal to further subsidize the Coyotes NHL club, keeping them in town until at least 2018. The team has an out clause after only five years if they demonstrate they’ve lost $50 million over those first five years. In return, the team will be renamed the Arizona Coyotes. While the NHL continues to own the team in the interim until a purchase is finalized by Renaissance Sports & Entertainment, a new arena operator has been found in titan Global Spectrum.
  • Folks in Seattle were following the happenings in Glendale closely and were ready to pounce if no agreement could be made. Now the Emerald City and Chris Hansen are officially 0-for-2 in attempts to lure franchises to Puget Sound.
  • The City of Anaheim and the Angels are jointly funding a study to determine the cost to keep Angel Stadium up-to-date. Initial estimates have the cost to renovate Angel Stadium at $120-150 million. After the Dodgers spent $100 million to renovate clubhouses and scoreboards, I’d be surprised if the Angel Stadium tab was only $150 million.
  • As the cost to build a AAA ballpark in El Paso rises, the new owners of the franchise backed away from giving $12 million in personal guarantees towards the project.
  • Curbed has a neat pictorial retrospective on the various ballparks that have called New York home over the decades.

And a quick announcement: I plan to be in New York for a few days around August 24-25 Labor Day weekend. I’m still locking down the plans. The Yankees are in town that weekend and the Mets prior to that. I’m working to take in games at both ballparks, and some US Open tennis action if I can fit it in. If you’re there at that time, drop me a line (email, Twitter) and we can have a chat and/or take in a game.

BART, AC Transit strikes to affect A’s fans

By now you’re probably aware of the awful gridlock gripping much of the Bay Area because of the BART employees’ strike, which started this morning of months-long negotiations broke down again over the weekend. The employees, who are members of the ATU and SEIU, have been asking for raises to make for recession-era givebacks. The ATU asked Governor Jerry Brown to force an order to keep the trains running while negotiations continued. Brown refused to act, leading to a complete shutdown of trains. (Disclosure: My dad, who retired 2 years ago, was a shop steward for ATU in the South Bay/VTA chapter.)

Whatever your feelings are about the strike, if it goes on throughout the week there will be no BART service to the three-game series against the Cubs, Tuesday through Thursday. BART has attempted to bridge some of the commuter gap by running charter buses between its terminal stations (Fremont, Dublin/Pleasanton, etc.) to San Francisco, but those buses are limited to commute hours. AC Transit is providing extra Transbay buses, while service along the BART spine remains as-is.

AC Transit’s employee contracts were also up last night, so they’re currently working without a contract. There is talk that AC Transit employees will do a one-day walkout as early as Tuesday, which would compound the the East Bay’s transit crisis.

Ferries are experiencing a huge surge in ridership. Unfortunately, fans still need AC Transit (or Capitol Corridor) to get from Jack London Square to the Coliseum.

And not to be left out, the City of Oakland’s non-emergency public employees started their own one-day strike on Monday.

Capitol Corridor is an option that will provide uninterrupted service, despite the fact that its trains are actually operated by BART. While Capitol Corridor isn’t the quickest or most convenient way to get to the Coliseum, it can do in a pinch if you’re set against driving to what will undoubtedly be a more packed Coliseum parking lot. Amtrak even started a promotion this summer that allows riders to pay only $5 each way for companions, up to 5 companions per trip. Capitol Corridor doesn’t have a very frequent schedule late at night, so if you’re considering taking the unelectric train, first check the schedules to see if they work for you.

Fans along the 680 corridor are pretty much screwed from a public transit standpoint. As for South Bay and Peninsula folks, BART was never a direct option unless you drove to Fremont or Millbrae to take BART in the first place. Same goes for North Bay fans, whose transit options to the Coliseum have historically been limited.

BART usually accounts for 15-20% of fans getting to the Coliseum. Tuesday’s date is not a Free Parking Tuesday game, so don’t be shocked if you have to pay – it was on the schedule from the beginning. The A’s haven’t provided any advisories for the series yet, but you can expect to see something tomorrow. The A’s homestand ends Thursday, which should hopefully limit damage if the strike extends through the weekend. The Giants have a six-game homestand starting on Friday starting with a Dodgers series. The A’s return on the 12th with a Red Sox series.

The last BART strike occurred in September 1997, at the end of a particularly dismal season for the A’s (65-97). The A’s weren’t affected in the first two days of the six-day strike as they were on the road. Come Wednesday, September 10, the A’s were greeted by crowds of 4,764 and 6,135 against Toronto.

Advice: Carpool as much as possible. Allow for an extra 30 minutes to get to the ballpark, or leave late (close to 7) to avoid the nastiest part of the commute. Try Capitol Corridor if it works within your schedule. And hope that the different parties can come to their senses and end this mess.

Dodger Stadium post-renovations

The middle game of a three-night set at Dodger Stadium had thousands of discounted tickets available on StubHub, a reminder that even for teams with $200 million payrolls and season attendance totals surpassing 3 million almost regularly, it’s still possible to find a deal. Or in Tuesday night’s case, an empty house.

I came because I happened to be in town for a week and I wanted to catch a game at either Chavez Ravine or Anaheim. I also wanted to take the Dodger Stadium Express, the bus that runs directly from Union Station to Dodger Stadium. This year there was also the added benefit of a bus-only lane going up Elysian Park Drive to help speed up the trip. I calculated that it took 15 minutes to get from Union Station to the intersection of Sunset and Elysian Park, then less than 5 minutes to get to the final destination behind centerfield. As you can see from the picture below, the buses get packed. It’s a good option for those who want to take Metro or a Metrolink train in. The $1.50 fare is waived if you show a ticket on the way in. The driver doesn’t bother to check for anything on the way back.

Inside a packed Dodger Stadium Express bus

The Tuesday night game had no giveaway and was billed as Taiwan night. Pre-game festivities included a traditional band from Taiwan who played a mournful version of The Star Spangled Banner. Since this is Hollywood, there was also a purely commercial wrinkle as the American band Fall Out Boy was on hand to promote their new record. Pete Wentz threw the ceremonial first pitch. I entered the stadium greeted by this view.

Before sunset with the normally late-arriving crowd

There isn’t much else to say about the experience, other than that the scoreboards by ANC Sports are quite impressive. Circulation between the levels is still impossible, and since I got the $11 ticket near the RF foul pole, I couldn’t go any higher than the club concourse. The final crowd (announced 35,898) was not much better than what you see above. I assume that the events surrounding the Boston Marathon incident may have scared some people off. The Padres dropped a 4-spot on the Dodgers in the first inning off Chris Capuano, so the small crowd that showed up wasn’t tempted to stick around for long. Security didn’t seem heightened to a great degree.

A new display set above the RF Pavilion

The best way to describe the new scoreboards is to think of them as a set of three. The lower part along the outfield fence is an out-of-town board and a State Farm ad. When a Dodger comes up to bat it usually changes to an animated intro. This is mirrored on the small display underneath the diamond/hexagon large display. The strip is a great addition because it’s the perfect spot for a perpetual in-game line score. Unfortunately, the geniuses at Dodger Stadium don’t keep it perpetual at all, instead choosing to include the strip as part of the ongoing multimedia presentation. The big board is very impressive. Even the funky shape works to the team’s advantage, as there are little nooks for the clock, the on-base situation, even logos for the teams above the lineups. When a Dodger comes up to hit, the LF board shows a big picture (in keeping with the old setup) and on the bottom corner is the player’s Twitter handle. Statistical presentation is clean and modern, though it could use more advanced stats.

I was eventually able to sneak down to the field club seat area down the lines. By the 8th inning everyone wanted to go home. An attempt to sing Sweet Caroline in honor of Boston was met with a big SoCal “meh”. WiFi was supposed to be better, but I couldn’t tell. Who knows what would’ve happened if the game were better? We’ll never know. Maybe the next time I go to Dodger Stadium, someone will give a damn.

BART groundbreaking in San Jose

It’s happening.

Bolstered by the release of $250 million in funding, the BART-to-Silicon Valley project got its official groundbreaking earlier Thursday afternoon. Representatives of BART, VTA, plus East and South Bay politicians were on hand for the ceremony. Also there was reader @MarkyJ824 to take pictures. He sent many of them to me and I’ll repost them below.

December’s article looking at the BART project explains how fans would get to Cisco Field/Diridon Station from the East Bay. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s worth a look.

More shovels to come

Poster of Berryessa Station rendering.

A BART car model on site. Hopefully it has the new anti-pathogen seats and floor.

The subway portion of the Warm Springs Extension is still under construction, and the line is expected to open for service in late 2015. The $2.3 billion BART-to-Silicon Valley project will get a total of $900 million from the federal government. Construction to Berryessa is expected to be completed by 2016, but could be done earlier. Testing should take another two years, putting passenger service at 2018, possibly earlier.

New HOV lanes, BART-to-SJ good news for A’s fans

If you’re one of the 80% of A’s fans who drives to games, you just might get a quicker trip to the Coliseum in the future, thanks to a flurry of new road projects that Caltrans is starting this year.

According to Mr. Roadshow, the Bay Area is getting $5 billion to be spread among 19 projects. While none are in San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin Counties, the bulk of the work (12 projects) will be in Alameda and Santa Clara Counties. Key among them are the extensions of carpool lanes along the Nimitz:

  • I-880 from Hegenberger Road in Oakland to Davis Street in San Leandro ($108 million)
  • I-880 from CA-237 in Milpitas to US-101 in San Jose ($31.5 million)

The South Bay project is less expensive than the East Bay project because most of the groundwork was already done for the former as part of a previous 880 widening project a decade ago. Combine these two with ongoing improvements to the Nimitz and improved interchanges at CA-92 and CA-262/Mission Blvd., and it should eventually be much smoother sailing in each direction for carpoolers, who are the usual profile for those who drive to games in Oakland.

If the A’s move south, the carpool lanes, along with at least 4 lanes in each direction the entire way between Oakland and San Jose, will help funnel gameday traffic. However, it’s not a complete, direct solution. Once a driver coming south along 880 hits the 101 interchange, the freeway will revert to not having carpool lanes, which could create congestion there and along surface streets as they try to make it the last two miles. A good way to go might be the Gish/10th Street exit on 880 South just before 101, as it’s a quick detour to downtown and SJSU.

The big ticket item is $2.3 billion for the 10-mile BART extension from Warm Springs (its own separate project) to Berryessa in North San Jose. Again, it’s not a direct trip to Cisco Field, but it’s a lot closer than Fremont and the only way to get to downtown San Jose is to first build to Berryessa.

Not related to Caltrans funding is one more big mass transit project, Caltrain electrification. The long-awaited conversion from diesel to electric trains will create an opportunity for more frequent service, which will drive down the operating cost per trip and help keep Caltrain solvent. To achieve this, Caltrain cut a deal with the state’s troubled high speed rail authority to devote $700 million towards the electrification project. To support the more frequent service and greater number of riders, the San Jose, Millbrae, and San Francisco stations will be expanded. The $1.5 billion project is expected to be completed by 2020. HSR is teetering right now politically, so it’s not clear if that project will ever be built. This money shift appears to be an acknowledgement by the authority that it may need to start in the most heavily impact areas first, before it commits to the full intra-state backbone. The move could backfire in the long run, as it may convince stakeholders and citizens that high speed rail would be best if it terminated in San Jose, not San Francisco.

News for 1/17/12

Today I did an TV interview on Get Real with Brian Stuckey, a show produced out of CreaTV San Jose. CreaTV is a non-profit to whom Comcast has farmed out all of their public access programming for much of the South Bay. The segment will air January 30 on Comcast channel 15 with a web stream simulcast, so my ugly mug won’t show up until then. I doubt anything will have fundamentally changed by then, but you never know.

On to the news.

  • Matier and Ross report that nothing official happened on the A’s-to-San Jose front. That’s true at least when it comes to making a decision or coming to a compromise plan. We set those expectations going into the owners meetings. Yet background work did occur, including the presentation to the executive committee and Selig’s statement that the A’s are now on the front burner. Write that off all you want, it’s movement that wasn’t happening six, nine, twelve months ago. Remember that as incalcitrant the Giants are, there’s always the threat of binding arbitration to force the Giants’ hand. Commissioner Selig won’t give San Jose a greenlight for a vote (for either MLB owners or the city referendum) unless the Giants drop their lawsuit, making the legal action the last real weapon in the Giants’ arsenal to block the A’s efforts.
  • While the Giants are doing everything possible to stop A’s ownership, they’re actively encouraging new arena deals. We all know about their overtures towards the Warriors. Yesterday, Larry Baer gave a pep talk to Sacramento civic leaders pushing for a new downtown Kings arena. Baer said that after four defeats at the ballot box, the effort to get a ballpark going was “worth the fight.” I imagine that Lew Wolff feels the exact same way, Larry.

“It can be done, don’t give up,” Baer said. “You must persevere, you must exercise patience, you must have strong leadership in the private and public sector.”

When a man’s right, he’s right.

  • While the Oakland-only crowd was eager to jump on a graf in the M&R report, they buried the lead: Thanks to the death of redevelopment, the City of Oakland will have to cut 200 jobs and hand out 1,500 pink slips. The Mayor and City Council may also have to take huge cuts in pay on top of cuts already taken last year. How does this affect San Jose? Not that much, since as of the end of 2011 there were only about 10-12 people left in SJRA, with budget cuts and changes already enacted. Not that San Jose actually anticipated the change. SJRA’s fiscal issues forced it shut down early.
  • Less than three months from the opening of the Marlins Ballpark in Miami, and there’s no solution for funding transit options that can bring fans from downtown or the nearest Metrorail (BART-like) station.
  • The Cubs are replacing their right field bleacher section with a Green Monster Seats-style party deck, fronted by one of those new-fangled LED scoreboards.
  • Santa Clara’s City Attorney declared a petition effort by 49er stadium opponents illegal. That doesn’t mean the opponents can’t sue. We’ll see if they have the resources to sue for the right. We’ve seen this happen before.

On a lighter note – since Jeffrey and I will both be at FanFest, would any readers like to do a meetup? Not exactly sure of where we could do it, we can talk through the details.