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VTA's Next Network Project


PART I: This is part of a series of Headways Blog posts about VTA’s Next Network Project, which will redesign VTA’s bus transit network.

How can VTA make sure our transit service is best meeting the needs of travelers throughout Santa Clara County? 

That’s the question we are asking as we embark on an effort to redesign the entire county transit system, known as the Next Network Project.  In Fall 2017, BART will begin to serve two new stations in Milpitas and the Berryessa neighborhood in San Jose.  An expected ridership of 23,000 will access these new stations and will need to easily connect to the rest of our transit network.  Improving BART connectivity isn’t the only reason to redesign the system.  We have the opportunity to make other adjustments to better meet the needs of our traveling public. 

VTA General Manager Nuria Fernandez has launched a Transit Ridership Improvement Program (of which redesigning the system is a crucial component) to increase VTA’s overall ridership and improve the agency’s farebox recovery rate (the percentage of transit’s operating cost that is covered by passenger fares).  Trends over the past 15 years may help explain why this is important. 

Santa Clara County’s population has increased by more than 10 percent since 2001, but the amount of transit service that VTA has been able to provide has declined by roughly the same amount.  Our ridership is down more than 20 percent compared to 2001. This is partly because transit operations funding has not increased to keep pace with population growth.  VTA spent $320 million on bus and light rail operations in 2015, this same amount was spent on transit 15 years ago.

From a farebox revenue perspective, VTA’s recovery rate is around 12 percent, lower than its peers among service areas of similar size.  A number of factors contribute to this, such as the cost of transit operation, VTA fare policy, trip patterns and the types of transit service that VTA provides.  But there are a number of ways to improve cost recovery, including redesigning transit service to generate more ridership, restructuring the fare policy and better managing operations costs.

To help with the Next Network Project, VTA is working with Jarrett Walker and Associates, an international transit network design firm with an expansive history of redesigning transit services around the world.  The firm’s first task was to do an independent assessment of VTA’s transit service, the Transit Choices Report challenges conventional wisdom about what makes transit appealing, and makes a series of recommendations for VTA to consider.  Join us during our summer-long public conversation about VTA’s transit network design priorities, VTA will be hosting multiple community meetings and community leader workshops (dates coming soon) starting in late April continuing through August.  You can also offer your input through our fun and informative interactive site which will launch in early April.

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