Proposal for popular public transit system to reach university
THE SANTA CLARA
October 1, 2015
Future Santa Clara students may have access to the entire Bay Area simply by crossing the street.
The Bay Area Rapid Transit, a public transit system that connects cities in the north and east bay, could be extending its tracks all the way down to Santa Clara by 2025.
If built, the Santa Clara BART station would be northeast of the Santa Clara Caltrain station.
“From the 1970s till now, people have been fighting to get it down to the South Bay,” said Chris Shay, the assistant vice president for university operations.
BART already plans on adding a 10-mile track extension and two new stations — one in Milpitas near the Great Mall and the other in the Berryessa District in northeast San Jose. It is scheduled to open in fall of 2017 and is projected to cost $2.3 billion when completed.
However, a lack of funding has left the second phase of the project up in the air.
The proposed leg of construction would add a six-mile track extension and four new stations at Alum Rock, downtown San Jose, Diridon and Santa Clara.
It would not only connect the university to the greater Bay Area, but would also impact east San Jose residents and travelers from the Mineta San Jose International Airport.
However, there is a $2.43 billion funding gap between anticipated federal funding and the total project cost, which is estimated to be $4.7 billion in total and would include a full maintenance facility in Santa Clara, Shay said.
“When you’re talking about money of that kind of magnitude, the big gap will be filled by a measure of tax increase,” he said, adding that supporters who have been pushing for the project hope to have a tax measure to fund it on the election ballot by next November.
Santa Clara has become a vocal proponent of the proposed plan. To increase support within Santa Clara and specifically on campus, Shay and his office are working on involving students in the BART extension project.
He got involved in April when university president Father Michael Engh, S.J., appointed him to help spearhead the campaign.
Engh has publicly championed bringing BART to the south bay, explaining his support in an op-ed last August for the San Jose Mercury News.
Engh is also a member of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, a task force that is advocating for the extension to be built.
The Valley Transportation Authority and BART have joined forces to complete the two-phase extension plan, which broke ground on its first phase in April 2012.
VTA is responsible for the design and construction of the extension project and BART will operate the tracks and stations once they are complete.
VTA’s media spokesperson Brandi Childress said that VTA is thoroughly analyzing all possible ways to fund the second phase.
“The general public consensus is that all four stations should be delivered,” Childress said in an email. “VTA is committed to finding the resources to build all four stations planned in the second phase of the BART Extension to Silicon Valley.”
The benefits for the university include increased student engagement with the surrounding community, a direct connection to the Jesuit School of Theology campus in Berkeley, Calif., alignment with sustainability goals and improved campus aesthetics by avoiding building more parking lots, Shay said.
There are also risks involved with building the station, the funding gap being at the top of the list.
Other concerns include the length of track needed to reach Santa Clara, whether ridership will be sufficient, and lack of support in ship will be sufficient, and lack of support in Northern Santa Clara County as well as in the Santa Clara community.
To increase support within Santa Clara and specifically on campus, they made a presentation about the plan to the Associated Student Government.
They are also reaching out to other on-campus organizations such as the Multicultural Center, Santa Clara Community Action Program and the School of Engineering to help spread the message around campus.
Senior Alana Hinkston, who serves as the vice president of public relations for ASG, sat in on the presentation that Shay gave to student leaders on Thursday, Sept. 17.
ASG now has the project on their radar and will begin efforts to raise awareness about it, she said.
“We’re thinking that there will be student interest,” Hinkston said. “I think we just realize that there’s a lack of awareness around what’s going on. It’s hard to get awareness on an issue that none of the students here will ever see, and I think that’s where the hard part is.”
There will be community outreach opportunities including on-campus town hall meetings leading up to the release of environmental documents in the spring of 2016 and the election next November, Shay said.
“From our perspective, it’s a huge win,” he said. “We see the value, but what we’re worried about is that if they come back and simply make budget cuts, that BART Santa Clara drops from the radar. That’s why we’re raising the alarm with many different groups on campus.”
Contact Jenni Sigl at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.