Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority

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Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) is the public transit service of Santa Clara County, California, covering San Jose and the surrounding Silicon Valley area.

VTA service includes three light rail lines, a number of bus lines, and Paratransit serivice.


Light Rail

The VTA operates trains along 30.5 miles (49.1km) of track, currently consisting of two main lines and a spur line. The light rail system was opened in 1987 and was gradually expanded.

Missing image
A VTA Low Floor Light Rail Vehicle in Mountain View

From 1987 until September 2003, the system was served by a fleet of high floor light rail vehicles built by Urban Transit Development Corporation. In 2002, VTA introduced new low floor light rail vehicles by Kinki Sharyo into the fleet. The low floor vehicles initially operated only on the Mountain ViewI-880/Milpitas line because the floor height of the vehicles matched the platform height at all the stations along that line and was able to provide level-boarding. In 2003, after VTA reconstructed platforms at some of the older stations (with mini-high platforms provided for the remainder), VTA replaced the entire fleet with low floor light rail vehicles.

Mtn. View — Baypointe (Soon to be Mtn. View to Winchester)

Runs from Mountain View through Sunnyvale, Santa Clara and into the Baypointe station in north San Jose. It has 17 stops along the way. The Baypointe station is the transfer point to the Alum Rock-Santa Teresa Line.

This line was opened in December 1999 as a part of the Tasman West Light Rail Project. Initially the line ran between Mountain View and Baypointe. In May 2001. The line was extended two stations east from the Baypointe station to the Interstate 880 station in Milpitas.

In May 2004, due to the opening of the Tasman East/Capitol Light Rail Project. The line was shorted to the initial segment from Mountain View to Baypointe. The stations east of Baypointe became a part of the Alum Rock-Santa Teresa Line.

Staring in August, 2005, trains leaving Mountain View will operate south on North First St. and continue south on the Vasona Extension, thereby doubling the service along North First St. to Convention Center Station.

Alum Rock — Santa Teresa

Runs from the Alum Rock station in East San Jose to the Santa Teresa neighborhood of San Jose, via Milpitas and downtown San Jose. There are 36 stops on this line. In South San Jose, the line operates in the median of California State Route 87 and 85.

On June 24, 2004, the 8.3-mile (13.4km) Tasman East/Capitol extension was opened, incorporating 8 new stations. This extension runs from the I-880/Milpitas station east along the Great Mall Parkway in Milpitas, then into East San Jose on Capitol Avenue to Alum Rock Avenue. This extension brings service to the Great Mall of Milpitas. A connection to BART on this line is proposed for the Montague station. The total cost of this extension is $448.9 million. Future additions to this line may include a station at Gay Avenue, pending funding, and an extension further south on Capitol Expressway to Eastridge Shopping Center and to California State Route 87.

Almaden Shuttle

There is a 3-stop spur from the Ohlone/Chynoweth station to Almaden Valley. The Ohlone/Chynoweth station provides connection to the Alum Rock-Santa Teresa Line. It receives little traffic, even though there is an intermediate stop at the Oakridge Shopping Mall.

Under Construction: Vasona Extension

The Vasona extension is an 11-stop 6.8-mile (11km) addition to the VTA network. It will connect to the Alum Rock — Santa Teresa line in downtown San Jose and run southwest through Campbell to the Vasona Junction stop at California State Route 85 in Los Gatos. One of the stops will be at the San Jose Diridon Station, providing connections to Caltrain, Amtrak and Altamont Commuter Express. The extension is to be completed in two phases, the first, scheduled for revenue service in August, 2005. This line includes service as far as Winchester Blvd in Campbell.

Service on this extension will operate to Mountain View Station, doubling the service on the Main line from Convention Center Station along North First St.

The extension's capital cost is budgeted at $379.9 million, including both phases. Construction began on the first phase in March 2001. Completion estimates for the second phase are unavailble due to uncertainty of funding.


The Mountain View and Tamien stations connect with Caltrain. The Lick Mill station connects with Amtrak and Altamont Commuter Express.

A connection to BART is planned for the future at the Montague stop. Additional connections to Caltrain, Amtrak and Altamont Commuter Express are planned for the Vasona extension at the San Jose Diridon station.

Bus Routes

VTA operates 83 bus routes as of June 2004. There are many commuter-based services and connections to VTA light rail service and Caltrain stations.

VTA's longest and most famous bus route is Line 22, which connects Eastridge Shopping Center in East San Jose with the Caltrain station in Menlo Park via El Camino Real. Line 22 operates 23 hours per day, 7 days per week. Because the buses are relatively warm and safe at night, in comparison to sleeping on the street, the line has gained a reputation as an impromptu homeless shelter. Line 22 has been occasionally mentioned by the international news media in stories that examine the stark contrasts between the lives of the rich and poor in the United States (and in particular focus on ostensibly wealthy places like Silicon Valley).

One sign of Line 22's importance is that VTA bus passes are in high demand among the local transient population.

Although heavily subsidized and mostly well-run (given the circumstances), VTA is regularly mocked and criticized by the San Jose Mercury News for its mediocre quality of service (especially on the bus lines). The problem is that the population density of most of VTA's service area is simply too low to ever make mass transit efficient or financially self-supporting; if buses were to run every five minutes on all lines to match the convenience of automobiles, most of those buses would be running empty. The obvious solution would be to rezone areas along major mass transit corridors like El Camino Real to allow for construction of high-density housing, but this has been opposed by most Silicon Valley residents. Many such people moved to Silicon Valley from high-density cities like New York and Los Angeles, and equate such environments with high levels of noise and crime.


Paratransit service is door-to-door shuttle service available to disabled people that meet the requirements of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. Outreach, a non-profit agency, is the contract paratransit broker for VTA.

Congestion Management

VTA serves as the Congestion Management Agency for Santa Clara County. In that role it makes decisions on what local projects can utilize federal and state funding.

See Also

External links

  • VTA (
  • VTA Riders' Union ( - A VTA Riders' advocacy group not affiliated with VTA

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