Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Future of VTA Light Rail

Last week there was a "Future of VTA Light Rail" presentation to SPUR San Jose. Below are the slides. Here are some interesting notes:

  • Light Rail has 35,000 average daily riders, 62 stations, 79.6 miles of track, and 100 trains
  • The most used stations are San Antonio, Santa Clara (both in Downtown San Jose), and Tasman
  • Compared to other systems of similar size, boardings per mile are quite low and farebox recovery is the second lowest in the country (only DART in Dallas is lower)
  • The current goals of VTA Light Rail are to increase ridership, speed up the system, spend money wisely, and be more relevant to the needs of the Valley
  • Recommended Capital Improvements
    • Grade separation on North First and Montague Expressway
    • Fencing North First to increase top speed from 35 MPH to 45 MPH
    • Pocket track at Ohlone/Chynoweth
    • New Great America Station
    • SJSU Extension to 11th Street (???)
    • Almaden Branch, Mountain View, and Vasono Double Track
    • Use bollards to separate tracks in Downtown San Jose and speed up trains
  • Mountain View Double track to be completed by the end of 2015
  • Levi's Stadium events are attracting 8,000-9,000 boardings on game days

Source: I Heart SJ


  1. Nimby'ism, poor planning and a lack of investment in VTA have made it irrelevant. If I could, I would ride it all the time but there is just no way because it really doesn't go to to many places. How about a stop at airport? Diridon/SAP? Valley Fair? I am sure you could come up with a 100 more stops but until we have regional commitment, I foresee VTA remaining what it is today, a shell of what it could be.

    1. Umm...there is a stop at Diridon.

    2. Two, really--San Fernando's just a block from the tank.

  2. There is already a stop at Diridon.

    For the airport, you can jump off at Metro Station on 1st street, and take the FREE shuttle bus to the terminal, about 10 minutes.

  3. Meanwhile in Japan:

  4. I currently take the light rail from Diridon to Tasman for work, which is a single line (Mountain View <--> Winchester). The "Recommended Operating Plan" for 2017 on slide 17 makes it appear that in the future, this commute will require me to change between the purple line and the green or blue line. I really, really hope that this is not the case. Needing to change lines would make this VTA commute no longer favorable. I would most likely stop taking VTA as a result. I hope I am misunderstanding the drawing.

    1. You are not misunderstanding. That is exactly what is planned.

    2. By that time, service will be significantly improved both Downtown and down 1st Street, so it may take a similar amount of time as today. It would be nice if the purple line went all the way up to Tasman.

  5. VTA remains among the most expensive transit agencies to operate in the nation, with taxpayers
    subsidizing 85 percent of the service. That's the second‐worst rate in the U.S. in an area known for sprawling suburbs and lacking a high‐employment downtown like San Francisco's, which is what light-rail is designed to serve. Furthermore the LR routes were designed to benefit the politicos who served on then Board of Directors and their parts of the valley, not the transportation needs of actual riders. Below is why expanding bus service is a much better and effective solution

    Bus routes are far more flexible, since they can be altered with a turn of a steering wheel, light rail routes can only be changed with expensive and time-consuming construction.

    Since buses travel on a common right of way, they don't require maintenance of a right-of-way dedicated to their exclusive use.

    Since buses carry their own fuel, they don't require maintenance of overhead wires to transmit power.

    Buses are much less sensitive to breakdowns. When a streetcar breaks down, every other car on that track is delayed. When a bus breaks down, it can quickly be replaced and no other bus is delayed.

  6. The biggest problems with light rail are its speed and its route. Grade separation would help a lot. They also need to make appropriate signal upgrades so trains can run at 79+ mph in the sections in which it is already grade separated.

    I wish they had the budget to turn both bus 23 and bus 22 into light rail lines.

    What they really should have done is build an elevated monorail. From what I understand, the street was never closed when the elevated monorail in Seattle was built. :)