Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority

Board Action
7288
Deferred to future meeting
Nov 19, 2020 10:00 AM

2021 Transit Service Plan

Information

Department:Dept - Transportation PlanningSponsors:Director of Planning and Programming Deborah Dagang
Category:Planning DocumentsFunctions:Fiscal Impact

Financial Impact

The plan as recommended represents a potential reduction in total annual operating costs of approximately $27 million, compared to the cost of the pre-COVID baseline network. Following adoption of the final 2021 service plan, staff will incorporate the cost of the network into the forthcoming FY22 & FY23 budgets that will be reviewed and adopted in Spring 2021. Additional reductions in cost may be achieved through reductions in Caltrain and ACE partner contributions as discussed in the Title VI equity section.

Recommendation

Recommend that the VTA Board of Directors adopt the 80% Plan, which is a 6% increase in service, on February 8, 2021. Following the implementation of the 80% Plan, staff will monitor conditions and assess a further service increase to the 90% Plan: June implementation to be discussed at the April 2021 Board of Directors Workshop.

Item Discussion

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:

·              This action establishes VTA’s 2021 Transit Service Plan, to be implemented in February 2021.

·              The plan would increase VTA service to 80% in February, up from 74% today.

·              Following the implementation of the 80% Plan in February, staff will monitor conditions and assess a further service increase to the 90% Plan. The timing and details of the second service increase will be discussed at the April 2021 Board of Directors Workshop.

STRATEGIC PLAN/GOALS:

The recommended 2021 Transit Service Plan aligns with VTA’s business line of providing Fast, Frequent, Reliable Transit.

Body

BACKGROUND:

VTA’s service delivery is structured by annual service plans that are in effect from each February to the following February. The process to develop each year’s plan starts in the spring of the prior year, when staff consider major service changes that could be implemented the following year. Per VTA's Transit Service Guidelines and the Title VI Major Service Change policy, all major service changes must be developed as part of a comprehensive service plan development process. This process includes community engagement, an analysis of ADA paratransit impacts, a CEQA environmental analysis, and a Title VI service equity analysis.

The 2021 Transit Service Plan builds on the successful foundation laid by the 2019 New Transit Service Plan. It also continues VTA's thoughtful and methodical service increases since the pandemic began in late March. Over the summer, VTA staff developed three options for 2021, which consisted of three networks, reflecting a 70%, 80%, and 90% range of service levels as compared to the pre-COVID network.

The VTA Board held a Workshop Meeting in September 2020 to discuss the three illustrative draft plans and the various implications the proposals would have in areas concerning: service viability for VTA riders, future ridership projections, connections to other transit services, and state and local land use projects and programs. Staff also engaged the community throughout September and October to collect feedback and ideas that could be considered for revisions to the draft plans. Concluding these discussions with the Board and the community, staff incorporated feedback and made changes to the 80% and 90% plans, then developed the revised networks into a final recommendation for VTA’s 2021 Transit Service Plan (for reference, VTA’s current service level at this point in the pandemic is approximately 74%).

 

DISCUSSION:

After reviewing public feedback and the discussion of the draft plans, staff recommend implementing the 80% Plan in February, which is an increase from 74% today. Following the implementation of the 80% Plan, staff will monitor conditions in the spring and assess a further service increase to the 90% Plan. The timing and details of the second service increase will be discussed at the April 2021 Board of Directors Workshop. An overview of the major service characteristics of the 80% and 90% Plans, compared to today’s COVID service levels, is presented in Table 1, with distinctions highlighted in bold.


Table 1. Summary of Major Service Characteristics

 

Today

80% Plan

90% Plan

Rail Frequency

Weekday: 20 min. Weekend: 30 min.

Weekday: 20 min. Weekend: 30 min.

Weekday: 15 min. Weekend: 30 min.

Rail End Time

12:30 a.m.

12:30 a.m.

12:30 a.m.

Frequent Network Bus Frequency

20 min. (most)

20 min. (most)

15 min. (all except Rapid 523)

Bus End Time

Varies

Some routes end later

More routes end later

Midday Bus Service

Some routes with reduced midday service

Some routes with reduced midday service

Fewer routes with reduced midday service

Weekend Bus Service

Some routes with suspended or reduced service

Some routes with frequency and/or service span improvements

More routes with frequency and/or service span improvements

Discontinued Bus Routes

n/a

None

None

New Bus Routes

n/a

Rapid 568, VMC Shuttle

Rapid 568, VMC Shuttle

 

 

Community Engagement

 

In September and October, staff engaged the community to gather feedback on the three draft plans. The effort was largely focused on online engagement to comply with social distancing requirements due to the pandemic. Engagement methods included:

 

·              Direct virtual presentations to 16 community business organizations, social service agencies, and other organizations (Attachment A)

·              Two VTA-hosted virtual meetings, subsequently available as a recorded webinar on YouTube

·              Spanish and Vietnamese language interpreters translating the VTA-hosted virtual meetings in real time

·              A recording of the virtual meeting staff presentation, transcribed and recited in Spanish

·              A VTA-hosted virtual forum to discuss land use implications with municipal and regional Planning staff members

·              Multilingual bus stop notices posted at all bus stops and stations

·              vta.org blog posts to engage discussion on the draft plans

·              Email blasts to transit subscribers

·              Social media engagements on Twitter, Nextdoor, and Facebook

·              A robust multilingual dedicated project page for details on all draft plans and for feedback submission, translated in six languages

·              Interactive online system maps for all draft plans

·              Direct line to VTA Customer Service to address questions and record feedback via email and over the phone

 

While in-person interaction with the community was limited, staff engaged thousands of riders and residents to hear their concerns and ideas to improve each plan. Staff was able to interact live with nearly 500 attendees across all virtual meetings held or attended, received around 400 comments and suggestions via email, the website, and from direct in-person conversations, 30,300 impressions on Twitter, 11,200 impressions on Facebook, 154,900 impressions on Nextdoor, 1,500 impressions on Instagram, and nearly 32,000 views of vta.org features on the plan. The recorded presentations were also viewed nearly 500 times on YouTube. VTA also received official letters from the cities of Gilroy and Morgan Hill, the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, SPUR, Stanford University, Stanford Health Care, and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. The feedback was instrumental for staff to better understand the community’s priorities and preferences as staff revised the plans.

 

The feedback covered a range of topics related to the proposed changes in each plan. As expected, the feedback also indicated strong advocacy for the 90% Plan and dislike of the 70% Plan. The following topics represented a large share of the comments:
 

·              Route 83 in Almaden Valley

·              Connections to Berryessa BART Station

·              Route 22 overnight service

·              Rapid 523 weekend service

·              20-minute frequency on Frequent Routes

·              Early morning and late-night trips on Frequent routes

·              VTA Access paratransit service impacts due to changes in the fixed-route network

 

Revisions to the Draft Plans in Response to Community Feedback

Following the public comment period, staff took a comprehensive look at every suggestion. As a result of the quality feedback received from the community on all three plans, staff made the following revisions to the draft 80% and 90% Plans:

·              Restore weekday 15-minute frequency on overlapping segments of Route 64A/64B between McKee & White and Downtown San Jose (80% Plan)

·              Restore weekend 30-minute frequency on Route 64A (80% Plan)

·              Shorten Rapid 523 to Downtown San Jose instead of Berryessa BART Station
(80 and 90% Plans)

·              Restore Rapid 523 weekend service (80% and 90% Plans)

·              Restore evening service on Route 86 to Gavilan College (80% and 90% Plans)

·              Restore weekday 15-minute frequency on Route 60 (90% Plan)

·              Restore some early morning and/or late-night trips on select Frequent Routes (90% Plan): 25, 61, 64A, 66, 68, 70, 72, 73, 77

 

A detailed listing of these revisions and how they compare to the draft plan proposals can be found in Attachment B. A map of the revised network can be found in Attachment C. A comprehensive list of the revised 80% and 90% Plan details by route can be found in Attachment D.

 

Service Levels

The staff recommendation would continue VTA’s gradual and methodical service increases from the pandemic lows of mid-2020. Applying the staff recommendation to gradually transition from today’s 74% to 80% in February and potentially 90% in June, as Table 2 shows, the plan would provide approximately 1.34 million annual hours of bus service and 145,000 annual hours of rail service.

Table 2. Summary of Recommended 2021 Service Hours*

 

Feb - Jun 2021 (80% Plan)

Jun 2021 - Feb 2022 (90% Plan)

Feb 2021 - Feb 2022 (12-mo period)

Total Hours (Bus)

429,900

909,500

1,339,400

Total Hours (Rail)

42,600

101,900

144,500

Total Hours (System)

472,500

1,011,400

1,483,900

* Assumes the 90% Plan is implemented in June 2021

 

Considering all of the uncertainty related to the course of the pandemic, the staff recommendation also includes a monitoring process following implementation of the 80% service increase in February, where staff will monitor conditions related to the pandemic, such as tax revenues, ridership demand, economic activity, and other factors. Accordingly, staff will bring an assessment to the Board of Directors Workshop in April 2021, where the Board can consider the details and timing of the next phase increase to 90%.

 

Ridership

 

The pandemic had a swift and dramatic impact on ridership demand, with VTA ridership falling nearly 80% in March. While ridership has slowly increased since March, the pandemic’s impact on ridership demand is likely to continue into 2021.

 

Analyses Conducted on the Staff Recommendation

 

ADA Paratransit Analysis

VTA Access paratransit service provides curb-to-curb and door-to-door service for eligible individuals for trips made within ¾-mile of VTA’s fixed route transit network at the standard fare of $4. VTA also offers service for trips within a premium zone extending an additional mile beyond the ¾-mile standard zone, at a premium fare of $16. Paratransit service is offered on the same days and at the same times as the corresponding fixed route service. As such, both zones follow the transit network, and changes to the fixed route transit network can impact the geographical footprint of paratransit service. For example, the elimination of transit service would result in a contraction of the area eligible for paratransit service.

 

VTA staff conducted geographic and time-of-day analyses on the staff recommendation and determined that it would incur (1) no impact on the geographic footprint wherein VTA would be mandated to provide paratransit service, and (2) minor impacts on late night hours in selected areas of service wherein VTA would be mandated to provide paratransit service (due to ending some routes’ service earlier at night). Although the recommended 2021 Transit Service Plan would lessen VTA’s obligation to provide paratransit service late at night along selected routes, the staff recommendation would maintain the geographic and temporal availability of VTA Access paratransit service as it was in the pre-COVID network.

 

Title VI Service Equity Analysis

Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act states that agencies that receive federal funding may not discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin. Federal guidance encourages transit agencies to uphold Title VI in two ways: by involving Title VI communities in the planning process so that their input may inform decisions as early as possible, and a metric-based analysis that evaluates the impact to minority and low-income communities compared to the overall population of the service area. VTA’s Board-adopted Title VI Service Standards and Public Participation Plan outlines the process by which staff engage Title VI communities throughout the planning process to develop all major service changes, including a full Title VI Service Equity Analysis.

Staff engaged Title VI communities in the community engagement process by working with VTA’s Office of Civil Rights office and following VTA’s Public Participation Plan. Staff also formed an internal Equity Task Force specifically dedicated to the 2021 Transit Service Plan development process. This task force consisted of staff from Service Planning, Community Outreach, Customer Service, the Office of Civil Rights, and Government Affairs that collectively prioritized that the service plan reached as many Title VI communities as possible. Attendance at virtual meetings and presenting tailored presentations to organizations representing minority, low-income, and immigrant communities was central to this community engagement process. Additionally, a multilingual project website, translated materials and presentations, and live interpretive services readily available at VTA-hosted virtual public meetings spread awareness and increased accessibility of the plan.

A metric-based Title VI Service Equity Analysis for the staff recommendation was conducted and found there would be no disparate impacts on minority residents or disproportionate burden on low-income residents as a result of the plan. The analysis evaluates the impact of the service changes in two ways: 1) Disproportionate Impact, which measures the impact to minority residents, and 2) Disproportionate Burden, which measures the impact to low-income residents. The complete Service Equity Analysis is included as Attachment E.

To ensure additional accountability is held on route-by-route service planning decisions, staff also honed in on ridership impacts specifically borne by Title VI routes - routes that serve a high proportion of minority communities. A closer look at ridership impacts through this equity lens shows that Title VI routes would face fewer ridership losses compared to the system average.

 

Lastly, as mentioned in the prior memo discussing the three draft plans, there are greater equity implications the proposed service changes to VTA’s transit network pose when considering the entire range of services funded through the VTA Transit budget. While the service changes in the staff recommendation would not result in Title VI equity issues, there may be inequities if VTA were to reduce transit service and not reduce partner contributions to Caltrain and ACE. Therefore, the adopted plan will inform the staff recommendation of Caltrain and ACE partner contributions in VTA’s forthcoming FY22 & FY23 budgets. This potential equity issue is discussed in more detail in Section 7 of the Title VI Service Equity Analysis in Attachment E.

 

California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)

Environmental Planning staff analyzed the plan, and it was determined to be Categorically Exempt from CEQA under Section 15301(c) of the CEQA Guidelines.

Related Efforts

 

Fast Transit Program. Staff continues to ramp up efforts to speed up VTA buses and trains, which have suffered from a long-term gradual decline in average speeds due to a variety of factors, most beyond VTA’s control. Staff will continue to advance policies within VTA’s control that speed up transit and will continue to advocate that our municipal partners implement policies and actions that put transit first.

 

Continual Monitoring of Impacts on Land Use Programs and Plans. Staff continue to monitor the near-term impacts the reduced service levels in the 2021 Transit Service Plan could have on local land use, affordable housing, and other development programs and regional plans. Staff hosted a virtual open house forum in October for municipal staff, state and local agencies, and other stakeholders to discuss the implications of the service plan, as well as offer ongoing resources to help navigate any changes to regional and state initiatives.

 

Alternative Service Models and Mobility Solutions. VTA is exploring alternative service models and mobility options to meet the various mobility challenges in the County. Staff has recently initiated discussion with standing committees at their October meetings to receive their feedback on these efforts. In keeping with the business line of “fast, frequent and reliable transit” in VTA’s Strategic Plan, staff is developing a framework to integrate alternative transportation strategies into our countywide transportation system. Demand responsive services, commuter solutions, and micromobility are three areas staff are pursuing to diversify VTA’s mobility services. The goal is to create a complete transportation system that offers more choices and is affordable, accessible, sustainable, and healthy.

 

 


ALTERNATIVES:

 

Alternatively, the Board of Directors could:

·              Direct staff to implement the 80% Plan in February and the 90% Plan in October, the last signup in 2021, instead of June.

·              Direct staff to implement the 80% Plan in February and remain at 80% through the end of 2021.

CLIMATE IMPACT:

Ridership demand has plummeted as low as 78% below pre-COVID demand and continues to be significantly below pre-COVID ridership averages. It is unlikely that pre-COVID travel demand would immediately return when service is implemented in February 2021. Any potential increase in emissions would result from some riders choosing to drive alone in the interim until social distancing mandates are lifted by the County.

ADVISORY COMMITTEES DISCUSSION:

The Technical Advisory Committee considered this item at its November 10, 2020 meeting and voted unanimously to recommend approval. Committee members accepted the staff recommendation with no comment.

The Citizens Advisory Committee considered this item at its November 10, 2020 meeting. The motion to approve the item failed with a tied vote. Committee members held significant discussion over implementing the 90% Plan in February 2021 rather than follow the staff recommendation to gradually ramp up service to the 90% Plan in June 2021. Committee members expressed interest in understanding the potential financial impact of implementing the 90% Plan starting in February. Members also discussed that any financial risk associated with starting the 90% Plan sooner should be taken by VTA to ensure riders will continue to rely on transit service in the early months of 2021 and beyond. Additionally, the committee encouraged staff to continue working with municipalities to encourage land use decisions and policies that support transit.

The Committee for Transportation, Mobility and Accessibility considered this item at its November 12, 2020 meeting. The motion to approve the item failed after the committee asked staff to review clarify the staff recommendation and called the item to a re-vote. The committee expressed a desire to have greater transparency around VTA’s sales tax revenue outlook in order to make a more affirmative decision on the item. The committee also asked staff whether information on the draft plans was provided in Braille or through other medium to individuals with visual impairments. Staff responded that materials provided on the project webpage incorporate ADA-accessible features that enable individuals to receive the information.
 

The Policy Advisory Committee considered this item at its November 12, 2020 meeting and voted unanimously to recommend approval. The committee inquired about information on COVID-19 safety precautions and COVID-19 transmission rates on public transportation; staff offered to follow up with this as well as with information on VTA’s compliance with County and CDC requirements around safety, cleaning and sanitation practices on its facilities.

 

 

Meeting History

Nov 10, 2020 4:00 PM Media Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) Regular Meeting
draft Draft

Janice Soriano, Senior Transportation Planner, provided the staff report and a presentation entitled “2021 Transit Service Plan.”

Public Comment

The following Interested Citizens commented on the importance of sustainable, robust transit and urged the Committee to find funding solutions to prevent transit service cuts. They recommended the 90% Plan begin in February and increase to 100% as soon as possible.

· Kevin Ma

· Tiffany Chen

· Daniel Huynh

· Hoai-An

· Charlotte Quinn

· Adam Buchbinder

· Alexis

· Hayden Miller

· Sonya Patil

· Bob Barrett

· Monica Mallon

· Annebelle Law

· Jeremy

· Salim

Mr. Lebrun commented on the following: 1) expressed support for maintaining the availability of VTA Access paratransit service; 2) connection headways; 3) suggest a delay in the implementation of the Rapid 568 and prioritize a return to 15-minute headways on the major bus lines and light rail; and 4) VTA’s financial outlook is good.

Members of the Committee and staff discussed the following: 1) increasing service to the 90% Plan in June 2021; 2) potential financial impact of implementing the 90% Plan starting in February 2021; 3) ensure riders will continue to rely on transit service in the early months of 2021 and beyond; and 4) encouraged staff to continue working with municipalities to encourage land use decisions and policies that support transit.

M/S/F (Cacciotti/Swaminathan) on a vote of 4 ayes to 4 noes to recommend that the VTA Board of Directors adopt the phased “90% Plan” as VTA's 2021 Transit Service Plan. The Plan includes an opportunity for the Board to "course correct" in the first half of 2021 if financial, ridership, or other conditions warrant. Members Gunjan, Quevedo, Roemer and Wadler opposed.

RESULT:REVIEWED
Nov 19, 2020 10:00 AM Media Congestion Management Program & Planning Committee (CMPP) Regular Meeting
draft Draft

On order of Chairperson Rennie and there being no objection, the Committee deferred the 2021 Transit Service Plan.

RESULT:DEFERRED TO FUTURE MEETING