Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority light rail
|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 in San Jose and nearby cities 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.
This section needs expansion with: planning. You can help by adding to it. (July 2020)
Santa Clara County Transit light rail began as a single line in San Jose that opened in four phases from 1987 to 1991, following what is now designated as the Blue Line. The first phase between Old Ironsides station and a temporary station at First and Younger, near the junction of the branch running west on Younger to VTA's Guadalupe Division rail yard, opened for revenue service as the Guadalupe line on December 11, 1987. An expansion in 1990 added the first connection to Caltrain at Tamien station. Expansion of the single line continued in sections until April 25, 1991, when the starter system was completed to Santa Teresa station in South San Jose, including the Almaden spur line.
In 2000, voters approved Measure A, which promised the construction of a Downtown/East Valley light rail line and provided funds to develop plans for two new light rail corridors. Measure A funds were used to study four potential corridors:
- 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
In May 2001, the first phase of the Tasman East extension opened, connecting the Tasman West line to Milpitas. New Kinki Sharyo low-floor light rail vehicles were introduced to this line the following year. The Tasman East/Capitol extension, completed in 2004, brought service east to the Great Mall of the Bay Area and the Alum Rock Transit Center.
On October 1, 2005, the first phase of the Vasona extension was completed, extending the system from downtown San Jose through San Jose Diridon station to Campbell along a former Union Pacific Railroad right of way.
No new lines have been added to the system since 2005. However, as part of a reconfiguration to serve the Silicon Valley BART extension, the underused Almaden spur line closed in 2019, Montague station reopened as Milpitas station in 2020.
On May 26, 2021, a mass shooting occurred at the Guadalupe Division. Ten people, including the gunman, were killed during the shooting, the deadliest in the history of the San Francisco Bay Area. As a result of the shooting, the entire light rail system was shut down for months. The system partially restarted on August 30, 2021, and fully restarted on September 18, 2021.
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/Chynoweth 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 and replaced by bus service.
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 because of 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 who have not paid the fare 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 as 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; up to three LRVs may be coupled into a single train. The low-floor LRVs 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||1985–1987||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 & Metropolitan Tramways Board 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 because of 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 Railroads. 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 Railroads. 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 & 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.
San Jose maintenance yard shooting
On May 26, 2021, a mass shooting occurred at a VTA rail yard in San Jose, California. Ten people, including the gunman, were killed during the shooting. It is the deadliest mass shooting in the history of the San Francisco Bay Area. As a result of the shooting, service was suspended indefinitely across the light rail system and returned in stages throughout August and September.
This section may be too technical for most readers to understand.(January 2020)
The VTA light rail system consists of the Guadalupe, Tasman West, Tasman East/Capitol, and Vasona rail corridors, along with a short Almaden spur line. The system is mostly double-tracked with overhead catenary wires. It variously runs along the medians of former railroad rights of way, freeways and surface streets, and pedestrian malls. It connects to Caltrain at Tamien, Downtown Mountain View, and San Jose Diridon stations. It also connects to Bay Area Rapid Transit at the Milpitas station.
VTA has studied or proposed several expansions to the light rail system, including the Downtown/East Valley project and a Capitol Expressway extension south from the Alum Rock Transit Center.
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 is at the Milpitas (formerly "Montague") 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)
2019 Transit Service Plan
The 2019 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 (existing Almaden Shuttle service cancelled and replaced with bus shuttle)
In addition, two stations had been renamed: "Montague" was renamed to "Milpitas" upon completion of the intermodal station for the Berryessa BART extension, and "I-880/Milpitas" was 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.
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. The line would connect Downtown San Jose, San Jose City Hall, San Jose State University, and the Alum Rock Transit Center to the system.
- Capitol, running south from the Alum Rock Transit Center along Capitol Expressway, then connecting to the existing Guadalupe Corridor at Capitol station (near the intersection of SR 87 and Capitol Expressway), using two-car trains. The line would connect Eastridge mall to the system.
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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