Author: Jorge Martinez
Over 110 people attended the BART Phase II meeting on February 19th, hosted by the Valley Transit Authority (VTA) and held at the Mexican Heritage Plaza in East San Jose. The primary purpose of the meeting was to narrow the focus of the environmental review process, and to receive public input on the plans for Bay Area Rapid Transit’s (BART) expansion into San Jose. The BART system currently serves the City of San Francisco, San Mateo County, and several cities along the Easy Bay, with its southernmost station located in Fremont.
VTA officials answered questions and engaged in discussions alongside the visual tools they had set up on one side of the room. From the young to the older population, the community not only engaged with the VTA officials but also with each other.
Many of the attendees were community members of different backgrounds and different concerns. There was a strong sense of support for the proposed Alum Rock BART station behind the Five Wounds Church, but concerns were raised on a variety of topics such as: safety, gentrification, funding, pedestrian safety, crime, connectivity, attraction, signage, and much more.
“We support BART at 28th but we want the right kind of security and safety. Cameras don’t do anything, we need BART security, police surveillance, and more security in order to have a safe area” said the first community member to speak at the microphone. The speakers were allowed a maximum of two minutes to voice their comments, all of which will be examined as part of the environmental review for the proposed stations.
I myself had a great conversation with a gentleman who has been living in the downtown San Jose area since 1962, when the city’s population was much smaller than it is today. “We are way behind in the public transportation spectrum. You look at countries in Asia and they have great public transportation. They do not use cars so much as we do here. It is ridiculous how much traffic there is all over the state.” It is a great to think that the general public is starting to understand that public transportation and other modes of transportation are needed, in order to combat traffic and environmental erosion. BART has potential to set an excellent example, but much work is still required. This meeting was the first step to effective and adequate implementation.