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San Jose Mayor and colleagues seek to improve BART San Jose for riders and for urban design

This afternoon, San Jose City Council will discuss the project bringing BART to San Jose.  Mayor Sam Liccardo authored a memo joined by colleagues Jones, Peralez and Davis urging VTA to take steps to improve the projects from the perspective of urban design and transit connections. 

The memo elevates a number of needs that have been raised over time by SPUR, the downtown business association, and other advocates.

The need for station entrances on the south side of the stations, at a lower cost than the $200 million proposed. The need for streamlined rider connections at Diridon stationThe need for robust transit oriented development downtownThe need for good passenger access from the street at SAP Center and the new Google developmentsThe need for a business interruption funds to support downtown businesses impacted by construction

To address the issues, the colleagues’ memo urges VTA to pursue more flexible construction and contracting methods.  

However, the issues and needs identified by the Mayor and colleagues will be fundamentally difficult to address because of the deep tunnel design approved in 2018.  

In 2018 when the decision was made, downtown businesses strongly supported the deep, single-bore tunnel with the goal of reducing the construction impacts of digging up the streets.  With the single design, the station platforms are installed inside the tunnel, rather than digging up the streets (“cut and cover”) to build the stations.

However, since the decision was made, the weaknesses of the deep tunnel design have become more clear.

It is costly and expensive to add multiple station entrances on both sides of the streetThe deep stations four stories underground and distant entrances result in long and convoluted transit transfersIt is more difficult and costly to build downtown over the stationsThe deep stations and distant entrances raise the risk of crowding and even safety problems at the SAP event center

And, in October, the FTA provided an updated cost estimate increasing the anticipated cost of the project with the single bore deep tunnel design to $9 billion, up from $6 billion previously, and up from $4.5 billion in 2018 when the decision was made.

Last week Thursday the BART board called for a design review of the BART-Silicon Valley project that would compare the costs, rider access, safety, and urban design outcomes of the deep single bore tunnel to the less deep, dual bore design that was fully studied in the project’s Environmental Impact Report.

The San Jose City Council discussion will likely be in the afternoon between 3 and 5pm. The Zoom link is here.

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