These are exciting times for residents of San Jose, but especially for the people who work, visit, and play in downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. As we all know, transportation improvements are coming to the Diridon Station area in the form of BART, High Speed Rail, the electrification of Caltrain, and expanded services for Amtrak, the ACE train, and the Capital Corridor. These improvements along with a possible ballpark, will bring visitors, workers, and tourists to our area.
Visitors arriving on rail are a new concept for those of us living in the area. When visitors land at the San Jose Airport, in almost all cases it involves someone picking them up on arrival, or renting a car. The new parking garage at Mineta, the one with all of the hands, is predominantly a car rental garage.
Try this Google Maps exercise sometime. Pull up satellite view of areas near train stations in cities such as Zurich, Munich, or Stockholm. Count how many parking garages you see. Chances are you will find at most one. Now compare that with San Jose. In many stations around the world you may find pedestrian malls such as Neuhasser Strasser in Munich or the Radusplasden in Copenhagen.
We often use the term multi-modal when describing transportation at the station. As a multi-modal transportation center, many may transfer from BART to the high-speed rail to catch a train to Los Angeles or take light rail to Caltrain to visit San Francisco. But many will arrive to the station and choose to take the bus, BRT (bus rapid transit), walk, bike, shuttle, taxi, or even a pedicab. The lack of convenience or cost of having to pick up your own car or renting from a company such as Hertz may not be that appealing to you.
But let’s say you decide to walk to your destination. Many destinations are less than 12 minutes on foot. HP Pavilion, the proposed ball park, Guadalupe River Park, and the Alameda (up until Race St.) are all just a short walk from the Diridon Station. If you decide to arrive by bicycle, a 12 minute ride can take you to Willow Glen or to Japantown as well as San Jose City Hall and San Jose State University.
Many existing technologies, or some that will someday be invented will allow us to do some amazing things regarding mobility. Currently on many San Francisco bus stops an LCD sign board will read “Next Bus in 2 minutes and 7 minutes”. You can also choose to receive this information on your smart phone.
ZipCar, the car sharing service has created an iPhone application (app) that allows you to find the location and type of car you want and then reserve it. When you locate the car using your smart phone, you can even press a button within the app to flash the lights so you can locate the car. Register your use for the afternoon, and off you go. The great thing about car sharing systems such as these is that cars can be placed in specially reserved spots throughout the Diridon Station Area.
The same system could work for the proposed bike sharing system. Arriving by high-speed rail from Modesto? You could reserve your bike from your train and on arrival just hop on and pedal to your 1:30 meeting downtown.
Currently you can order Amtrak tickets by phone, but why couldn’t you also use it to reserve a cab, or a pedicab. You could also compare travel options. Let’s say you have a lunch appointment in Campbell having just arrived from Palo Alto. By inputting your destination, you could compare all of the appropriate travel options, by time and cost. Thus you may find that it’s a bit more expensive to arrive by VTA, but it would be faster than travelling by bike.
Instead of always being limited by getting into the car, driving and then having to deal with the hassle of finding and then paying for parking, you would have options. Options based on cost, time, and maybe even what mood you are in. If the weather is nice and you’re feeling up for a stroll, it may just be the best choice to walk to that meeting at the Fairmont Hotel.