Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority light rail
A VTA light rail vehicle at Winchester station in February 2019
|Locale||Santa Clara County, California|
Cities: Campbell, Milpitas, Mountain View, San Jose, Santa Clara, and Sunnyvale
|Transit type||Light rail|
|Number of lines||3|
|Number of stations||60|
|Daily ridership||26,700 (Q4 2019)|
|Annual ridership||8,335,100 (2019)|
|Website||Santa Clara Valley|
|Began operation||December 11, 1987|
|Operator(s)||Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority|
|Number of vehicles||Kinki Sharyo light rail vehicles (low floor)|
|Train length||90–270 feet (27.43–82.30 m)|
|System length||42.2 mi (67.9 km)|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
|Electrification||Overhead lines, 750 V DC|
|Top speed||55 mph (89 km/h)|
VTA Light Rail (reporting mark SCCT) is a light rail system serving San Jose and its Silicon Valley suburbs in Santa Clara County, California. It is operated by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, or VTA, and consists of 42.2 miles (67.9 km) of network comprising three main lines on standard gauge tracks. Originally opened on December 11, 1987, the light rail system has gradually expanded since then, and currently has 60 light rail stations in operation. VTA operates a fleet of Kinki Sharyo Low Floor Light Rail Vehicles (LFLRV) to service its passengers. The system's average weekday daily ridership as of the end of 2019 is 26,700 passengers and a total annual ridership of 8,335,100 passengers.
VTA Light Rail
VTA operates 42.2 miles (67.9 km) of light rail route on 3 lines. All the lines and the corridors they run through are designed to move passengers from the suburban areas of Santa Clara Valley into the major business areas in Downtown, the Santa Clara County Civic Center, and northern Silicon Valley, site of many high-tech company offices.
Light Rail also serves to connect travelers to other transportation systems at several key points: Diridon station offers connections to Caltrain, ACE, Amtrak's Coast Starlight, the Capitol Corridor trains; Milpitas station offer connections the BART system; and Metro/Airport station offers a connection to the San Jose International Airport via VTA Bus route 60.
Lines runs for 20 hours per day on weekdays, with headways of 15 minutes for most of the day. On weekends, the train runs at 20-minute headways for most of the day. After around 8 pm on weekdays and weekends trains run at 30-minute headways.
From north to south, the Blue Line starts at Baypointe station in North San Jose, travels south on First Street on tracks shared with the Green Line through downtown San Jose, until reaching the San Jose Convention Center where the line enters the median of State Route 87, until it approaches the interchange with State Route 85, where it briefly exits the median to serve Ohlone/Chynoweth station and enters the median of State Route 85 to its terminus at the Santa Teresa station in South San Jose. The route is approximately 17 mi (27 km) long and takes approximately 55 minutes for the entire trip.
From north to south, the Green Line starts at Old Ironsides station in Santa Clara, travels east along a section of track in the median of Tasman Drive, shared with the Orange Line, at First Street, the line turns south onto tracks shared with the Blue Line through downtown San Jose, until reaching the San Jose Convention Center where lines split the Green Line continues west to Diridon Station, then turns towards the southwest to its terminus at the Winchester station in southern Campbell. The route is approximately 22.3 mi (35.9 km) long and takes approximately one hour for the entire trip.
From west to east, the Orange Line starts at Downtown Mountain View station in Mountain View, California, travels toward the east, passing under U.S. Route 101 at Ellis Avenue, following Mathilda Avenue to Java Drive, crossing State Route 237 and turning east on Tasman Drive, which eventually becomes Capitol Avenue. For the rest of the trip, the line follows Capitol Avenue until it reaches its terminus, the Alum Rock Transit Center in San Jose. The route is approximately 15.8 mi (25.4 km) long and takes approximately one hour for the entire trip.
The Almaden shuttle was a 3-stop spur from the Ohlone/Chyoweth station to Almaden station at the Almaden Expressway in the Almaden Valley. The shuttle, which ran a single 1-car train, took about 4 minutes to travel between Ohlone/Chynoweth and Almaden. This line had one track, with sidings at Almaden and Ohlone/Chynoweth. The line was discontinued in December 2019.
The Commuter Express service operated along the same route as the current Blue Line between Baypointe and Santa Teresa stations, with nonstop service between Convention Center and Ohlone/Chynoweth stations. This weekday, peak-period service offered three trips in the morning and three trips in the evening. The service was introduced in October 2010 and was eliminated in August 2018 due to low ridership.
Unusually for light rail systems in the United States, most VTA Light Rail stops are made by request. Similar to VTA's bus network, passengers must be visible to the operator while waiting at stations, and must notify the operator using the bell before the train arrives at their destination. Trains will typically skip stops (other than line termini) if no one is waiting on the platform and no one requests to disembark.
As of January 2019[update], the fare for one single ride for adult passengers is $2.50. This fare is standard for both Light Rail and Bus transit, and is good for two hours of travel. No transfer fees between light rail vehicles are required, but upon inquiry riders must provide a proof-of-payment. Passengers without a ticket could be fined up to $250, under Penal Code 640.
From 1987 when the system was launched until September 2003, the system was served by a fleet of high-floor light rail vehicles (LRVs) built by Urban Transportation Development Corporation and designated ALRV. The first car arrived in March 1987. Accessibility for disabled riders was provided by wheelchair lifts at each station. The original high-floor fleet was leased to investors (for a 33-year term, starting in 1998), and then subleased back to VTA. In May 2003, VTA sub-subleased the UTDC LRVs to other light rail operators for an initial 13-year term, with a renewal term of 9 years; VTA retains responsibility for LRV operation, maintenance, and insurance. 29 were sent to Utah Transit Authority (UTA, $5.2 million rental payments), and 21 were sent to Sacramento Regional Transit (RT, $4.1 million rental payments). In September 2013, RT exercised its option to purchase the 21 sub-leased vehicles at $1,000 each. UTA subsequently exercised its purchase option for the 29 sub-leased vehicles in 2017. 28 of the UTA vehicles, renumbered 1042–1069, were sold at auction on December 26, 2017. The UTA cars were withdrawn from service in 2018.
In 2002, VTA introduced new Kinki Sharyo low-floor LRVs. The Kinki Sharyo LRVs are equipped with a low floor over 70% of the passenger area at 14 in (356 mm) above top-of-rail (ATOR), with the remaining high-floor area 35 in (889 mm) ATOR and up to three LRVs may be coupled into a single train. The low-floors initially operated only on the Tasman West line (Downtown Mountain View to I-880/Milpitas) because their floor height only matched the 14-inch (356 mm) platform height along that line. After VTA reconstructed platforms along North First Street from the Japantown/Ayer stop northward (with wooden ramps provided for the lead car's front door elsewhere), VTA replaced the entire fleet in 2003 with low-floor LRVs. Currently, all stations provide level boarding at all doors.
|Type||Car numbers||Manufacturer||Built||Image||Into service||Status||Seats/
|High-Floor LRV||801–850||Urban Transportation Development Corporation||1987||1987||Retired 2003||67/155||50|
|Low-Floor LRV||900–999||Kinki Sharyo||2001–2005||2002||In service||64/170||100|
|Parameter||UTDC high-floor/ALRV||Kinki Sharyo low-floor|
|Length[a]||88 ft 6 in (26.97 m)||90 ft (27 m)|
|Width||8 ft 8 in (2.64 m)||8.67 ft (2.64 m)|
|Height||12 ft 5 in (3.78 m)||11.08 ft (3.38 m)|
|Weight||98,700 lb (44,800 kg)||99,980 lb (45,350 kg)|
|Motors||4×190 hp (140 kW),|
2 motors/powered truck
|Wheels||26 in (660 mm) dia.|
|Max Speed||55 mph (89 km/h)||62 mph (100 km/h)|
|Acceleration||4.4 ft/s2 (1.34 m/s2)|
|Deceleration||5.1 ft/s2 (1.56 m/s2)|
- Over couplers
VTA also maintains a small historical fleet of streetcars, which sometimes operate along the downtown San Jose loop portion of the system. These are now normally kept year-round at the History Park at Kelley Park, southeast of downtown San Jose, which has its own operational trolley line, with rides given for free every weekend. Much of the restoration work on the streetcars that eventually entered service on the light rail line took place at Kelley Park. For several years starting in 1988, vintage streetcars operated regularly on the downtown section of the light rail line. Cars 73 and 124 (see table below) were available for use on this service during its early years, along with 129, which was similar to 124 but has since been sold to Sacramento Regional Transit (in 1999). Ex-Melbourne car 531 entered service in January 1990 and ex-Milan car 2001 in October 1992.
Regular "Historic Trolley" service in downtown began on November 18, 1988, and operated seven days a week (but not during rush hours or evenings). Weekday service was discontinued in fall 1992, and in 1994 the schedule was cut from year-round service to summer months only, generally from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend. In 2004, the Historic Trolley service operated only during the Christmas and holiday season, and this pattern continued through 2008, and running Saturdays-only after 2004. Service was suspended entirely in 2009–2011 before resuming holiday-season-only service in 2012. In 2019, vintage trolley service known as the Holly Trolley was provided on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from December 6 to December 22, subject to cancellation during inclement weather (planned service on November 29–December 1 was cancelled due to rain).
|Streetcar||1||Sacramento Electric||1905||Used in Sacramento (1903–06) and Santa Cruz (1906–23). Discovered as derelict in Santa Cruz in 1985. Seats 36. 39 ft × 12.4 ft × 8.25 ft (11.89 m × 3.78 m × 2.51 m) (L×H×W) and 38,000 lb (17,000 kg).|||
|73||Jewett Car Company||1912||Built in Newark, Ohio, and was owned and operated by San Jose Railroad. Used as a house in 1934 along with Car 124. Seats 36 with 20 standing. 43.5 ft × 11.25 ft × 8.5 ft (13.26 m × 3.43 m × 2.59 m) (L×H×W) and 38,000 lb (17,000 kg).|||
|124||American Car Company||1912?||Built in St Louis, Missouri, and was owned and operated by San Jose Railroad. Used as a house in 1934 along with Car 73.|||
|143||St Louis Car Company||1922||Built in St Louis, Missouri, and was operated in Fresno. Is a type of streetcar known as a Birney car.|||
|168||?||1934||Built in Portugal and operated in Porto; moved to San Jose in the early 1980s.|||
|531||Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board||1928||Retired by the Melbourne tram (streetcar) system in the 1980s and purchased in 1986 for $30,000. Seats 48 with 40 standing. 48 ft × 10.5 ft × 9 ft (14.6 m × 3.2 m × 2.7 m) (L×H×W) and 38,000 lb (17,000 kg). Is a Melbourne W2-class car.|||
|2001||Officine Meccaniche Lodigiane||1928||Originally from Milan, Italy and donated in the mid-1980s. Enter service October 1992, after conversion to double-ended (bi-directional) configuration and addition of a pantograph. Seats 40 with 44 standing. 44.3 ft × 10.6 ft × 7.75 ft (13.50 m × 3.23 m × 2.36 m) (L×H×W) and 40,000 lb (18,000 kg).|||
Major accidents and incidents
Virginia station derailment
On March 21, 2008, at approximately 7:10 p.m., a southbound 2-car light rail train derailed just north of the Virginia station. Four people, including the train operator, were injured, and the train was heavily damaged. At the time of the accident, trains were operating on a single track through the area because of construction at three nearby light rail stations. The train involved was attempting to switch between tracks when it derailed. VTA ruled out mechanical or equipment failure as a cause for the accident. An investigation indicated human error ("the train traveling southbound stopped over the switch and reversed, which are violations of operating rules").
Lincoln Avenue collision
On July 8, 2018, at around 12:34 p.m., a northbound single car light rail train collided with a car in the Lincoln Avenue crossing near Auzerais Avenue on the Mountain View-Winchester Line. Two occupants of the car were killed. The train operator was taken to a hospital according to standard operating procedures. The twenty passengers on the train were not seriously injured. The lead segment of the train (934B) left the tracks and knocked down a pole supporting the LRT catenary wires.
This section may be too technical for most readers to understand. Please help improve it to make it understandable to non-experts, without removing the technical details. (January 2020) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
The VTA light rail system consists of multiple rail corridors, mostly double-tracked, with overhead catenary wires. The Guadalupe Corridor was the first, opened to revenue service in four stages between 1987 and 1991; the short Almaden Corridor was also opened when Guadalupe was completed in 1991. The first major expansion opened in 1999, extending the rails via the Tasman West extension to Mountain View. Mountain View is the second connection between VTA light rail and Caltrain, after the Tamien station was added to the Guadalupe Corridor in 1990.
In 2000, voters approved Measure A, which promised the construction of a Downtown/East Valley light rail line, connecting downtown, San Jose City Hall, and San Jose State University via a new alignment along Santa Clara Street, meeting the Capitol line at Alum Rock station and then turning south to Eastridge Mall. Measure A also provided funds to develop plans for two new light rail corridors. Other potential corridors that were studied using Measure A funds included:
- Sunnyvale/Cupertino, extending south from the Tasman West corridor
- Santa Teresa/Coyote Valley, extending south from Santa Teresa station
- Stevens Creek Boulevard, extending west from downtown San Jose
- North County/Palo Alto, extending north from Downtown Mountain View station
The Tasman East extension pushed into Milpitas by 2001, and was completed in 2004 along with the Capitol extension, which extended the line east to Alum Rock station. The first phase of the Vasona extension was completed in 2005, extending the VTA light rail line from downtown San Jose through Campbell to Winchester. The Vasona extension mostly followed the Union Pacific right-of-way and also added a third connection to Caltrain at San Jose Diridon.
Since 2005, no new lines have been added to the system, but VTA has proposed several more. By 2007, VTA was planning for the Downtown/East Valley route along Alum Rock and Santa Clara to Downtown San Jose (either by rail or bus), and the Capitol Expressway extension south from Alum Rock.
The extensions with the most complete plans are the Capitol Expressway extension (phase 1, to Eastridge) and completion of the Vasona extension (phase 2, to Vasona Junction). VTA completed most of the Vasona extension in 2005, and planned to begin construction on the light rail extension along Capitol Expressway in 2012. However, VTA lacked sufficient funds to build the Santa Clara / Alum Rock corridor as light rail. That route as well as another route along El Camino Real/Monterey Road, will instead be built as bus rapid transit (BRT). With the completion of the Berryessa phase of the Silicon Valley BART extension, the first connection between BART and VTA light rail will be at the Montague (to be renamed Milpitas) station.
|Corridor||Phase||Map color||Opened||Terminus 1||Terminus 2||Length||Stations||Ref.|
|Guadalupe||1||December 11, 1987||Old Ironsides||Civic Center||6.8 mi (10.9 km)||12|||
|2||June 17, 1988||Civic Center||Convention Center||1.8 mi (2.9 km)||5|||
|3||August 17, 1990||Convention Center||Tamien||1.6 mi (2.6 km)||3|||
|4||April 25, 1991||Tamien||Santa Teresa||8.6 mi (13.8 km)||8|||
|Almaden||Ohlone/Chynoweth||Almaden||1.1 mi (1.8 km)||2|
|Tasman West||December 17, 1999||Old Ironsides[a]||Downtown Mountain View||7.6 mi (12.2 km)||16|||
|Tasman East||1||May 2001||Baypointe||I-880/Milpitas||1.9 mi (3.1 km)||2|
|2||June 24, 2004||I-880/Milpitas||Hostetter||2.9 mi (4.7 km)||4|||
|Capitol||Hostetter||Alum Rock||3.5 mi (5.6 km)||4|
|Vasona||1||October 1, 2005||Convention Center||Winchester||5.3 mi (8.5 km)||8|||
|2||TBD||Winchester||Vasona Junction||1.5 mi (2.4 km)||2|
|Santa Clara / Alum Rock||TBD||San Fernando||Alum Rock||4.3 mi (6.9 km)||11|||
|Capitol Expressway||1||TBD||Alum Rock||Eastridge||2.4 mi (3.9 km)||3|||
|2||TBD||Eastridge||Capitol||5.7 mi (9.2 km)||6|||
- Baypointe station and Champion infill station were added as part of Tasman West project.
Light Rail Efficiency Project (2010)
VTA has considered plans to increase the overall speed of its light rail system. These include adding fences along track on North First Street, which would increase speed along this corridor to 45 mph, and a new Great America station to better facilitate transfers to commuter rail. These were eventually bundled with other capital improvements into a larger Light Rail Efficiency Project, which resulted in two completed sub-projects:
- Santa Clara Pocket Track and Double Crossover, which added a third track on Tasman
- Mountain View Double Track, which double-tracked the line between Mountain View and Whisman
The original scope of the Light Rail Efficiency Project included the following planned improvements:
- Reconfiguration of lines:
- Red Line (Mountain View – Alum Rock), connecting Caltrain (at Mountain View) with a new Milpitas BART station (at Montague), as the sub-project Northern Express
- Blue Line (Santa Teresa – Alum Rock), expanding the pilot Commuter Express to an all-day service bypassing stops between Convention Center and Ohlone/Chynoweth, as the sub-project Southern Express
- Green Line (Almaden Local), extending the Almaden Shuttle all the way to Mountain View
- Purple Line (Winchester – Downtown San Jose), slightly extending the Vasona extension north to St. James, where passengers would transfer to Blue or Green Line trains
- System speed improvements to prioritize transit signals and increasing vehicle speeds from 35 to 45 mph (56 to 72 km/h) along North First Street
- Special event service along the new Red Line to bypass certain stops for peak commute hours and connections to Levi's Stadium
The planned improvements would result in predicted 23-30% reductions in travel times at a total cost of $60 million. The Light Rail Efficiency Project was anticipated to complete in 2017.
Next Network Project (2016–17)
On January 5, 2017, VTA published the Draft Transit Service Plan as part of the Next Network Project to update routing and frequency with the anticipated commencement of BART service to San Jose. Light rail and bus operations would be reconfigured to provide increased ridership, serving high-ridership areas with shorter headways and decreasing service to low-ridership areas. Lines would be referred to by colors, starting in Fall 2017:
- Orange Line: Mountain View–Alum Rock (new service)
- Blue Line: Alum Rock–Santa Teresa (matching existing service)
- Green Line: Old Ironsides–Winchester (truncating the existing Mountain View–Winchester service to Old Ironsides station)
- Purple Line: Ohlone/Chynoweth–Almaden (matching existing Almaden Shuttle service)
- Yellow Line: Commuter Express (existing Commuter Express service will gain a separate designation, and service doubles to six trains during commute hours)
New Transit Service Plan (2019)
The New Transit Service Plan was developed from the 2017 Next Network Project. Lines would be renamed in accordance with the prior Next Network Project, with two exceptions: the new Blue Line would be truncated at Baypointe, and service on the new Purple Line would be discontinued entirely and replaced with a new bus route. Proposed lines are:
- Orange Line: Mountain View–Alum Rock (new service)
- Blue Line: Baypointe–Santa Teresa (truncating the existing Alum Rock–Santa Teresa service to Baypointe)
- Green Line: Old Ironsides–Winchester (truncating the existing Mountain View–Winchester service to Old Ironsides station)
- Purple Line: Ohlone/Chynoweth–Almaden (discontinuing the existing Almaden Shuttle service)
In addition, two stations would be renamed: Montague would be renamed to Milpitas upon completion of the new intermodal station for the Berryessa BART extension, and I-880/Milpitas would be changed to Alder to avoid confusion with the renamed Milpitas intermodal station.
In 2018, VTA began installing Orange Line signage at stations in anticipation of the route reconfiguration.
|Proposed stations for Santa Clara / Alum Rock Corridor. Speculative names based on prominent features or intersecting streets (2003). |
Five Wounds (28th, walk to future 28th Street/Little Portugal)
Roosevelt Park (21st)
San Jose Medical Center (16th)
City Hall/SJSU (6th)
Transit Mall/Santa Clara (transfer)
Paseo de San Antonio
Downtown East Valley project
- Santa Clara / Alum Rock, running generally southwest along Alum Rock and Santa Clara from Alum Rock station to San Fernando, using single-car service.
- Capitol, running south from Alum Rock station along Capitol Expressway, then connecting to the existing Guadalupe Corridor at Capitol station (near the intersection of SR 87 and Capitol Expy), using two-car trains.
Vasona light rail extension
In 2005, VTA extended light rail service to Winchester station, completing most of a proposed light rail extension to Los Gatos, California. The Vasona Light Rail Extension would complete the original proposed extension. The additional extension is 1.57 miles long and will run alongside Union Pacific Railroad lines. Construction will include lengthening of platforms at the Winchester, Campbell, Hamilton, Bascom, Fruitdale and Race stations. Two new stations (Hacienda and Vasona) will be constructed with the entire project costs projected to be $157 million. The VTA Board of Directors approved a Supplemental Environment Impact Report in February 2014 . The construction schedule is dependent upon available funding.
Capitol Expressway extension
The first phase of the light rail extension originally proposed as part of the Downtown East Valley project would continue south of the Alum Rock station to the Eastridge Transit Center. Running on an elevated median along Capitol Expressway, it will be designed to provide a competitive commute time to driving on the corridor. In 2012, VTA finished improving pedestrian and bus conditions on Capitol Expressway, with new sidewalks, bus shelters and improved landscaping. Eastridge Transit Center was rebuilt in 2015. Two stations are included in the plan: Story Road and Eastridge, with an optional intermediate station at Ocala Avenue. The pedestrian improvements and first phase of construction is expected to cost $60 million. VTA approved the final environmental impact statement of this segment in June 2019, with construction expected the following year and passenger service in about 2025.
The second phase of extension would travel south of Eastridge along Capitol Expressway into South San Jose, adding a fourth connection to Caltrain at Monterey Road (Capitol), terminating at VTA's Capitol station.
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