Thursday, October 25, 2007

It's New Urbanism--NOT!

At first blush, this new building in Mountain View

looks like an example of the kind of traditional urbanism praised by Jane Jacobs, and so lacking from modern development--there's a corner store, contributing to the usefulness and liveliness of the street, with living space above.

But on closer inspection--that's not living space for people, it's for cars. On top of that Long's drugs is a 5-level parking garage. I guess you could call it faux-urbanist, or maybe vertical suburbian.

Mountain View has a ton of parking downtown. I don't know why they thought they needed more. I guess we can't really expect all those rich-ass googlers to walk or take transit...

I'm resolving to give my blog posts a more positive vibe, and in fact, there are a few good things to note about this building:

  • All those folks in the dense housing across the street will actually be able to walk to a drugstore.
  • There's finally a place you can use an ATM card in downtown Mountain View, without getting reamed with extra charges, if you need to pay cash for lunch.
  • Biking to the top of a 5 level parking garage is my new workout. It's close to my work, a decent climb, and then you get a view at the top and a fun ride down.

2 comments:

Eric said...

Downtown Mountain View obviously has great Caltrain and light rail access, but VTA bus access seems a little subpar. The 22 at least has reasonable headways, but the time saved by having frequent service is lost because you'd have to walk several blocks down Castro Street from El Camino Real. The 35 provides immediate access, but service is too infrequent to be tantalizing to choice riders. A much better choice here to the parking garage would be to augment VTA bus service so that downtown MV feels more accessible to people who aren't necessarily directly on the Caltrain corridor.

I wonder why the 35 seems to have such low ridership. Is it just a poor alignment? Looking at the list of major destinations (downtowns, shopping centers, Caltrain stations) served by this line, you'd think it would be really popular.

295bus said...

Here's a map of the 35:

http://www.vta.org/schedules/SC_35_MAP.GIF

It meanders a bit; clearly it's routed more to maximize the area covered than for speed or convenience. Still, it's runs reasonably often, and serves some areas reasonably directly. Probably the only reason it doesn't have more riders is just the general antipathy to busses on the part of much of the public.

I think there are two main things that could make Downtown Mountain View more accessible w/o car:

First: More housing in the area--lots of it!

Second: Better transit connections to the large employment areas north of downtown (Google, etc) by the 101 and by Shoreline.

If money were not object, I'd say extend the light rail--make it turn right, and run down Shoreline or Moffett. The Mtn View end of the VTA's light rail actually gets a decent amount of ridership as a CalTrain feeder--a small extension to more employment areas could get it more.

But as a cheaper alternative, just reserve a lane for busses, and build a BRT feeder. Making it stand out with actual stations will make people take it seriously as "real transit" instead of "just a bus".

Every morning I see a ton of shuttles connecting with CalTrain. Why not consolidate them into one BRT line that runs faster, and can be schedule to run all day, making it convenient not just for commuting but for going downtown for lunch, etc, too?