Staedler: The Downtown San Jose BART Station needs a second entrance

    The Downtown/San Jose State BART Station’s impact on Downtown San Jose cannot be underestimated.

    The current plan for this station only has an entrance on the north of Santa Clara Street and Market Street side of downtown. Being short sighted in limiting the number of locations accessible to this station will be this projects Achilles heel.

    A second station entrance is essential in cementing downtown’s evolution to a fully integrated urban environment. One of BART’s measurements of success will be determined by the seamless integration of the ingress and egress of its station. There will be tens of thousands of daily users of this public transportation system.

    Kudos must be given to Mayor Sam Liccardo and Councilmember Raul Peralez for their vision and leadership in fighting for the future riders of BART at the VTA board meeting last Friday. They both advocated for having two entrances to this BART stop on either side of the Santa Clara Street. VTA staff countered that the city of San Jose recommended this alignment and their hands are tied because of historic assets across the street.

    The VTA staff, in my opinion, attempted to derail the consideration of this addition by throwing out a price tag of $100 million.

    I think this recommendation could be achieved by putting a BART entrance near in the sidewalk at 1st and Santa Clara Street similar to the 12th Street Oakland City Center Station. It doesn’t take much of a leap in logic to estimate that this would be significantly cheaper than VTA staff’s estimates of $100 million and fit within the environmental documents.

    If you took out the automated public toilet at 1st and Santa Clara, it should fit there. The suggestion of putting an unsightly overpass on Santa Clara is a non-starter — the blight, safety and homeless magnet issues of this short-sighted suggestion is horrific.

    From a pragmatic point of view, the lack of a station entrance on this south side of Santa Clara Street will force thousands of transit users to cross the street. An obvious source of BART riders are the tenants of the 3.4 million square foot Jay Paul CityView Plaza office development.

    The naysayers will say the Adobe Tower Four is the only project that we know for sure will happen, but I feel very confident that Jay Paul will complete CityView Plaza before 2030 when BART Phase II is operational. This isn’t taking into account all of the other projects in the development pipeline. VTA officials during in the same meeting estimated that the Downtown/San Jose State BART station will have approximately 23.6 million square feet of development surrounding it. Their development estimate supports the case for a second entrance.

    Another pillar of the viability of the BART Phase II project is San Jose State University. It cannot be ignored that its 35,000 plus students and staff will be the key users of this station. The continuous daily use of the BART system by SJSU will make the second entrance pivotal for safety and provide hope for some relative financial success of this project from a VTA/BART perspective. I’m sure if anyone asked for SJSU’s opinion on how their students and staff should enter the station, the university they would want this.

    On a related note, I’ve been confounded for a quite a while about the lack of a SJSU seat on the VTA board.

    Let’s focus on the long-term viability and success of the BART Phase II project and put in a second entrance to this station. It is a no-brainer and the ridership numbers will prove this. I look forward to ongoing support from Liccardo, Peralez and other board members to make this happen.

    San José Spotlight columnist Bob Staedler is a principal at Silicon Valley Synergy, a San Jose-based land use and development consulting firm. His columns appear every first Monday of the month. Contact Bob at [email protected] or follow @BobStaedler on Twitter.

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