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Open communication on transit important to business

The following appeared on the “Viewpoint” page of the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal on April 7, 2006

By Jim Zuur

Several businesses were reminded a few weeks ago why the San Jose Downtown Association is as important today to the development and well-being of downtown as it was when formed almost 20 year ago. Charged with looking after the interests of downtown business and property owners, it was SJDA that hastily called a meeting between Valley Transportation Agency (VTA) representatives and key stakeholders, including businesses and San Jose State University, just as two downtown light-rail stations were closed for lengthy platform reconstruction work.

At the meeting, we gave SJDA and transportation officials “the business” for the late warning of the obvious disruptions of service the construction will cause. Afterward, I learned that SJDA called for the meeting immediately as it learned about plans for the stations. It truly was a case of déjà vu, because problems with the Transit Mall project in the mid-1980s served as the impetus to start the Downtown Association in the first place.

At the start of this calendar year, SJDA’s Board of Directors attempted to prioritize some difficult and weighty issues that affect business, from providing cleaner streets and assuring adequate parking supplies to negotiating police tactics at closing time and making it easier to work with local government. Meanwhile, the SJDA Board expected the small staff to continue producing free concert series, weekly Farmers’ Markets, free summer concert series and a world-class ice rink that draws tens of thousands of people to the core.

Though identifying and mitigating ramifications of light-rail-station closures wasn’t even on SJDA’s radar at the start of the year, the association has learned over the years how to be adaptable and flexible. From scores of previous and similar experiences, the association staff knew what questions to ask and solutions to offer. As a result, the businesses along First and Second streets in and around Paseo de San Antonio collected the information needed to adapt to the changing environment around us.

This may seem like a small matter to most, but followthrough on public construction projects can mean life or death to small businesses directly impacted by these projects. We hope the next San Jose mayor and City Council members keenly understand this when we prepare to build BART.

Jim Zuur is a SJDA board member and co-owner of Camera Cinemas


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