With my support, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority held two community meetings in Gilroy to introduce the possibility of and receive feedback on an affordable housing project at the Gilroy Transit Center. However, the project described in their request for approval to authorize the issuance of a Request for Offer (the process of soliciting potential developers) fails to consider the future of an actual transit center in Gilroy prior to the build out of High Speed Rail.
The Gilroy Transit Center has yet to be a viable transit center for most. Only the 68 bus line and its 15-minute intervals qualifies Gilroy as a transit center today. At full build out of VTA’s housing plans for Phase 1 alone (150 units), VTA staff expects to add 87 daily bus trips and 26 daily trips for Caltrain, none of which is enough to add bus lines and trains to Gilroy to improve public transportation service for Gilroy residents.
Instead, housing will consume park-and-ride land that can only be replaced once High Speed Rail is built out. Increasing services and ridership on both Caltrain and VTA busses is dependent on riders’ ability to park and ride and should be viewed with Gilroy’s potential in mind as a key transportation hub serving South County with rail/bus connections in all directions. The Salinas-Gilroy light rail line is already being planned by the Transportation Authority of Monterey County (TAMC) and will terminate at the Gilroy Transit Center. Caltrain’s 2028 electrification plans from Tamien to Gilroy call for 900 park-and-ride spaces as compared to our current 471 spaces, 63 percent of which were used pre-pandemic even with our minimal bus/rail services that we are continually fighting to improve in the short term.
I’ve worked with VTA staff to achieve at a minimum a project goal of 1:1 transit replacement parking, but with only 471 existing spaces, the future of VTA’s not-yet-transit center in Gilroy demands over twice that long before High Speed Rail will be a reality. Absent a simultaneous commitment from VTA to build a parking structure that maintains the parking potential that exists today on VTA-owned land, Gilroy and South County residents will be dependent on High Speed Rail for a transit center that we deserve from VTA as a member of Santa Clara County.
Gilroy needs housing, yes, but we need transportation too. The former should not come at the expense of the latter, and Gilroy deserves no less than the rest of the county from VTA whose primary purpose is transportation, as goes their motto, “Solutions that Move You.”
Marie Blankley, CPA, is the mayor of Gilroy and VTA Board alternate.