Memorandum of
Understanding (MOU)

Outline of how to create
this transit project.
PRT Project Poster

SNA is working toward the goal of a PRT feeder from their neighborhood at the North end of Milpitas to the BART/LRT/bus Transit Center at the South end of town 3.5 miles away. PRT is a new technology, so it makes sense to limit our risk by starting with a small system of guideway and cabs. The most obvious location to include in that initial system is around the heavily-congested Transit Area near the Great Mall where the new Milpitas BART station is scheduled to open in 2017, 2018, 2019. Such an advanced transit project will allow us to verify PRT technology before expanding the system to serve other locations.

Initial thinking called for a simple pinched-loop crossing of Montague Expressway, followed by a one-loop circulator could connect nearby areas with the BART/LRT/bus station. Major roadways, railroad tracks and a creek separate BART from high-density housing, the Great Mall, The Pines neighborhood, and a new elementary school and public park being built to serve the area. This is precisely the kind of area that Transit consultants at Kimley-Horne recommend as an application that "Small Car PRT is Typically Good At": "Pedestrian environments which are separated by physical barriers or by onerous traffic arterial streets" (page 12 at Barriers to Entry).

BART Circulator - stations
Below is a possible distribution of stations for the BART Circulator.

BART Circulator - routing
Below is a possible routing between the 9 stations of a loop serving the BART/LRT/bus transit hub.

This example loop is about 17,000 feet, or 3.2 miles long. Using an industry-accepted estimate of $15M/mile, such a loop would cost about $48M. Under existing transportation subsidies, the City might only need to pay $6M (12 percent) of the $48M total. In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, mitigating traffic congestion, and improving public health, a BART Circulator would generate an increase in property values and City revenue.

To put that $48M in perspective, note that the City plans to invest $17M to extend Milpitas Boulevard to the BART station. That is part of current plans to spend $230M for infrastructure improvements in the Transit Area. Those improvements are needed to accommodate an additional 7,000 people expected to be living there within 10 years. Or look at the BART parking subsidy. BART parking lots and structures displace housing - an estimated 916 dwelling units. So, not only do we lose desperately-needed housing, we lose $30M in TASP fees that would go to City coffers. And we lose associated impact fees (which help the schools), annual property taxes (which helps many government agencies), and CFD fees (which help the people living in the area). BART's latest design of the parking structure increased parking spaces by reducing retail space (and the associated sales tax revenue) from 25,000 square feet down to only 4,000.

One big question is where does the money come from to pay the anticipated annual O&M costs of $1.9M ($48M x 4%) for the BART Circulator? As a government-owned transit system, we could expect that VTA would subsidize it at the same level (85%) as other transit systems (bus and light rail). If that happens, whichever entity operates the system (VTA, Miliptas, PPP, etc.) could expect $1,558,000/yr ($1.9M X 82%) O&M from VTA. The remaining $342,000/yr could come from the farebox by charging a $1 fare on just 11.4% of the expected 12,000 daily BART riders (12,000 passengers/day X 250 workdays/year X 11.4% X $1 = $342,000).

Two concerns often heard are visual intrusion and potential for vandalism. Both concerns have been addressed in conventional transit systems. For example, one rarely hears complaints about the visual intrusion of the massive LRT line running over Main Street. Likewise, although vandalism is clearly a problem with VTA vehicles and bus stops, repair costs are a small part of overall O&M costs.

A successful BART Circulator could be followed by another loop that connects BART to City Hall, the Library and County Health Center. Ultimately, we might add further loops to create a city-wide, networked service which connects most residential areas with most popular destinations. Likewise, San Jose has the opportunity to create a 100-station network that serves roughly 50 square miles between the Berryessa BART station, Caltrain, and the airport.

Early in 2019, the overall thrust of the advanced transit proposal shifted from government sponsorship to a cooperative led. On February 19, 2019, the Milpitas City Council was presented with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that outlined the new proposal and somewhat altered the approach to the "pilot project" as shown below. After the 1.5-mile, 5-station Mini-Loop is successful, plans call for adding a second loop that adds another 7 stations and extends the convenience of PRT to residents and businesses west of the railroad tracks.