Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Comparison Between No Paper Day Passes and Fiscal Year Fare Increases on Bay Area Transit

Paper Day Passes are coming to an end at VTA... very soon. To spread the message about major changes involving day passes, VTA will have to let SamTrans and AC Transit know about the changes that are going to affect their customers trying to board VTA and purchasing day passes. Information about the end of day passes at VTA was first mentioned in my blog shortly after I picked one up while riding light rail despite the lack of the VTA announcement on VTA's website. Only in my blog, however, compares the end of day passes at VTA to increases of fares at SamTrans and whether AC Transit has any plans to increase fares or eliminate paper day passes.


The Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), which oversees the Clipper card program, has long been known to provide discounts that cash and paper passes would never reach before. It already has provided a slight discount on AC Transit, Caltrain, and Golden Gate Transit over cash and paper passes. AC Transit provides a 10 cent discount for those with Clipper cards, and 5 cents with RTC/senior cards. Caltrain provides a discount of 50 cents for adult and 25 cents for RTC/senior cards. Golden Gate Transit for adults also provides a discount, but RTC/senior cards remain the same in regards to comparison between cash/paper passes and Clipper cards.

The one transit agency to be watching in the next several years is within Caltrain's service area that spans three counties, including VTA and San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency (SFMTA, or more commonly MUNI). SamTrans is already putting up a plan for fare increases that will likely be slightly higher than AC Transit within the next five years as apartments in San Fransisco has staggering rate hikes. It remains unclear, however, if the current fares getting out of San Francisco will apply. MUNI, though, has already increased fares on selected cash and Clipper card holders since July 1, 2015.

The only thing that SamTrans, MUNI, and maybe AC Transit favors are fare increases instead of what I'm about to describe below.


VTA, meanwhile, has a more creative plan that was never announced by spokespersons Brandi Childress, Cody Kraatz, or - only my previous blog was the first to announce the "extinction of," or no longer selling, paper day passes after I picked up a "Take One" leaflet that addresses VTA-related news. VTA has a huge plan that makes paper day passes a thing of the past in order to be more environmentally friendly - this also applies to adult tokens purchased at VTA offices used to dispense paper day passes when inserted at ticket vending machines (TVM) or boarding the bus. This is something that no other Bay Area transit agency has pursued at all - in fact, to make this happen, VTA will need to inform AC Transit and SamTrans about the major changes that is scheduled to take place on the first day of 2016, which could have a ripple effect on riders who use SamTrans and AC Transit. It still remains unclear whether the transfer program at Fremont BART station will continue to be accepted on VTA buses.

VTA, however, has yet to develop a plan on whether they plan a fare increase for cash users to match those of AC Transit or SamTrans, as the increase in fares are now starting to become more common on transit agencies. The increase of fares on VTA buses several years ago has led to decreased ridership, and instead opted to balance service between having more service on popular routes and lesser service on those with lower ridership, as well as their plans to increase service on light rail routes along the highway 87 corridor.

Such a fare increase on both Clipper and cash customers to the take of many people including my own have raised questions on how that part may affect ridership on VTA, including an increased traffic presence on US-101 between Gilroy and San Jose. The bottleneck on traffic started two decades ago when I was a kid, often having to rely on Monterey Highway. 101 is often unreliable as that only had two lanes in each direction before the completion of a widening project in 2003. However, even with the widening of the freeway from Cochrane Road northward, traffic is often below 20 miles per hour (MPH) between San Martin Avenue and Cochrane Road. If any projects tied to improvements on US-101 is implemented, VTA will have to extend the High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes to near Masten Avenue exit, as traffic is still likely to continue the streak of more residents taking up housing in Gilroy, Hollister, and beyond.

Will more changes to VTA in both projects and fares be likely? I'll see...

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Meaning to the Initial Second Poem, "Whose Traffic is Worse?"

In my initial poem posted on the Blogger site (not counting revisions), here is the reference of what the lines indicate...

LINE 7: "Allen" refers to "Michelle Allen", who is a KSBW traffic anchor that is native of the San Francisco Bay Area.

LINE 9: "Bruce" refers to "Damian Bruce", who is a personality at 95.7 The Game - based in the Bay Area.

LINE 13: "Bunger" and "Taylor" refers to the KCBS Radio morning personalities Stan Bunger and Susan Lee Taylor.

LINE 14: "Wonderley" means "Kim Wonderley", a morning traffic reporter at KCBS Radio.

LINE 19: "Monterey" refers to Monterey Road, not the city of Monterey. This is a road that stretches from Gilroy (as Monterey Street) to Alma Street in San Jose.

LINES 21 TO 24: The five stations described in the line refers to the stations along the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) Santa Teresa-Alum Rock line that run in the median along California State Routes (SR) 85 and 87.

LINE 25: "Inouye" refers to Mike Inouye, who is a traffic anchor at NBC Bay Area.

LINE 31: "Narrowing Curtner" refers to of which Curtner Avenue heading westbound is reduced from three lanes to two before SR-87.

LINE 32: "Tamien", pronounced as "TAH-ME-YEN" refers to "Tamien Station", a light rail and Caltrain station located along Lelong Avenue off of SR-87 (labeled as Alma Ave SB). This is also spelled as "Taymen", one of the eight divisions of the Ohlone people groups of Native Americans that lived in Northern California.

LINES 33 TO 36: This refers to the suggestion that Livermore riders should take either bus or rail modes that will connect them to San Jose during the morning rush hour.

LINE 45: "Mendoza" refers to Vincent Mendoza.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Chak's View - American Sign Language: Learning Experience and "Time is of the Essence"; Connections to Tri-Valley

As my morning starts on a Monday and Wednesday in Fall 2015 at San Jose State University, I typically have morning classes that I must often rush to early in the morning, as classes start in the middle of the morning - at 9AM. American Sign Language is the only non-English class that does not teach English, but instead teaches in silent form. To get the full experience of my class, I must be on time or otherwise I will be locked out.


I personally have lived in San Martin (pronounced SAN-MAR-TEEN) since birth, visible from US-101 of where I can see the "San Martin Ave - 1 MILE" sign, but hearing about various cities that any instructor resides in is completely different. At the first class meeting, I was introduced to the instructor known as Professor Sandra Amausen, who she indicated that she resides in Livermore, as opposed to me residing in San Martin. If she does know the map, San Martin is about 25 miles from SJSU's main campus, between Morgan Hill and Gilroy. She probably does not know that the time it takes for me to make the drive from San Martin to San Jose State University is well over 30 minutes, as there has been an increasing amount of vehicles on US-101 between San Martin Ave and Cochrane Road exits. If you recalled in a San Jose Mercury News article, the commute between Gilroy and San Jose has continued to increase by a whopping 37% due to more people living south of San Jose and shifting most of the traffic from Santa Cruz County to southern Santa Clara and San Benito Counties. It typically takes an hour to go between San Martin and Livermore just by using existing highways and freeways, as my drive times have indicated both by using time and/or technology.

While San Martin is my home nest despite being born in San Jose, I personally do have connections to the Tri-Valley and beyond, but particularly Pleasanton and Livermore, as some of my friends have relocated to those areas. When I attended Gavilan College in Gilroy, the volleyball coach have said to have commuted from his home nest in Dublin. The number of Tri-Valley trips for me did increase as I explored a lot of places thanks in part to my fellow SJSU students and alumni. One of the events that is held in Pleasanton, for instance, that I wish that was held near San Jose or Morgan Hill is the Pleasanton First Wednesdays party during late-Spring and most of the summer, as one of my friends owns a sunglasses shop in downtown Pleasanton. Another one of my friends, who I met at SJSU, works at a solar company that has a Livermore office.

Sacramento is also one of my destinations that I do drive to occasionally for long-distance relative visits. However, I am often subject to driving my parents to Sacramento to get vegetable boxes, then driving back with a stop in Livermore because I find that the van's brakes can fail if I drove continuously between the in-climb of the Altamont Pass on I-580 east of Livermore and the steep hills on both SR-84 and I-680. The most common stop that I would use for any trip involving vegetable boxes is just off Livermore Ave, at In N'Out. Normally, I would then get back on 580 and take the Isabel Avenue exit (which is also SR-84), but at one time, I had to take an alternate route because of the excessively heavy traffic on 84 and on 580, so I found out that the only choice was to go through downtown Pleasanton and getting back to San Martin.


Learning American Sign Language (ASL) can be difficult to my take, just like if I started to learn Spanish and French. While I may be used to getting to speaking and writing the numbers, using sign language for ASL takes a great deal of time. Amausen does expect me to learn well or suffer the fate - something that is required as part of my English major - one full year to be specific. But being on time to learn ASL is very challenging, especially when traffic is in a total gridlock near light rail stations and along US-101 in the morning and evening commutes - therefore, time is of the essence. Every driver like me must have knowledge of traffic and streets along the routes in case of excessive traffic or an accident that may block either a portion or even the entire roadway.

As Cantonese is my mother-tongue language that I still speak, English is widely used for both my written work and spoken language. In fact, all of my other classes have English-related content that puts me on the computer daily using both the Canvas website and the Canvas app (download available on phone or tablet). Unlike my English classes, ASL is more on the hands-on-learning, as I must use my fingers. My parents do think that the use of sign language is more like doing something crazy, but that to me is not true to my learning.

While ASL is new to my learning experience, ASL is nothing new to my cultural experience. If I remembered my past, I have seen ASL being used in some programs that speak Mandarin Chinese on China Central Television (CCTV) and in Cantonese on a handful of programs produced by Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) and aired on the "free-to-air" channels like TVB (officially Television Broadcasts Limited). One of the most frequent programs that uses ASL is an RTHK program known as "News Review." The program speaks in Cantonese and uses ASL in an insert for deaf viewers with Traditional Chinese subtitles - there are no English subtitles in that program.

Although I am not deaf and learning ASL, I do have a disability - that is mostly related to my neurological disorder, but also have ties to my autism. My diagnosis came in 1998 as I was on vacation in Hong Kong and Macau - both of which I can see programs containing inserts for deaf viewers. At that time, I was thinking that I was going to get another measles shot, but it turned out to be a psychological diagnosis. The report was then was noted in a written statement from the Morgan Hill Unified School District. After I graduated from Live Oak High School, I went on to Gavilan College and eventually SJSU, although I had vacations here and there - most of them are Hong Kong and Macau trips.

Despite some wobbly starts to my semester, I am starting to get exposed to the ASL language, although I will promise to get the assignments done as much as I can. However, ASL to me will be best remembered for my cultural experience, which I hope to take that to my learning with professor Amausen and see more of ASL in my visits to Hong Kong - something that perhaps Amausen may want to see. While I'm still worried of how my disability will affect my grades, I do hope that making lots of inquires to all my instructors and going to Writing Centers more often will steer me in the right direction.

Original Work: Kyle Chak
Twitter: @KyleSChak

Friday, September 4, 2015

EXCLUSIVE: Warning to Riders - VTA to Discontinue Paper Day Pass

This is a September 2015 "Take-One" flyer that feature this notice from VTA.

I heard major changes are coming to the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA). You think that Brandi Childress's announcement on VTA's YouTube page would continue to hear "paper pass" as one of the mode's of transit to "take VTA to the action." But if the "Word to the Wise" for going to Levi's Stadium includes paper day passes purchased from ticket vending machines or the farebox from VTA's buses, you may want to listen up and prepare to shell out more than $6 in cash. Only in my blog discovered an early warning announcement for VTA riders and anyone trying to buy VTA day passes after I obtained the "Take-One" flyer.

If you have picked up the latest flyer for VTA buses (September 2015), there is an announcement that the transit agency will no longer issue paper day passes starting on the first day of 2016 (See visual within this blog). This will also affect any tokens issued by VTA that users put onto buses or ticket vending machines. The plan for VTA is to reduce paper use and move the day passes exclusively to an all-Clipper format, which acts as the user's digital day pass for each tag on a bus or light rail. In comparison, AC Transit, SamTrans, and other Bay Area agencies that utilize day passes will continue to issue paper day passes and has not yet decided on whether they will follow VTA. Meanwhile, VTA will become the first Bay Area transit agency to have day passes move to Clipper a few years after the move of paper monthly passes on VTA and bringing back memories of a VTA announcement on YouTube back in 2012.

So with the paper day passes gone in 2016, this will mean that cash riders will pay for every ride including express routes while Clipper card users will only deduct $6 from the card ($12 for express routes), based on four or more rides on a VTA bus or light rail. Regular riders who transfer from AC Transit and SamTrans will have to get used to life without paper day passes aboard VTA buses as technology advances. Youth, senior, and disabled fares are unaffected as those will continue to enjoy the same discount and day pass features as usual. This also may present major changes to VTA in regards to their farebox and introduce the GFI Fast Fare like AC Transit does on their buses

It remains unclear as to whether VTA and Caltrain will continue to issue a joint pass for Levi's Stadium that is only issued within Caltrain's ticket vending machines. Another thing that remains unknown is the 8-Hour Excursion Pass that is issued within the ticket vending machines. One thing that may not change is that VTA is expected to continue offering mobile day passes, which has the same features as a typical paper day pass for fans trying to get to Levi's Stadium. 

The increase of cash fares (but not Clipper fares) is also a possibility because of the low farebox recovery ratio, which may increase to match those of AC Transit's fare structure and to save a few coins compared to cash fares (current fares on AC Transit is $2.10, $4.20 for transbay). The same fare structure has long been applied to Golden Gate Transit buses, with SamTrans to follow suit as they mapped out a financial plan to increase fares similar to those at Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART). 

Paper day passes may become a thing of the past for many transit agencies as technology advances in the Clipper card system, which is being slowly rolled out to reach places where technology will become more flexible. However, whether paper day passes or transfers will be phased out will be left up to individual transit agencies. But the message to riders from VTA is very clear, including those from AC Transit, BART, and SamTrans. 

VTA has yet to implement the details, but I am aware of the plans to make paper day passes a thing of the past. 

Original Work: Kyle Chak
Twitter: @KyleSChak