Light Rail Efficiency
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VTA's “Light Rail Efficiency Project” is advancing a series of capital improvements and service changes that were recommended in the 2010 Light Rail Improvement Plan. These changes are necessary to support anticipated growth in the county, including increased density in city-identified priority development areas, as well as the opening of the San Francisco 49ers Levi’s Stadium, and the extension of BART service to Silicon Valley. Investment in these capital improvements and new service will enable VTA to meet increased ridership demand and improve the system for current riders. Current modeling projects demonstrate that these changes, when fully implemented, will result in travel time savings of as much as 20 - 30% between key origins and destinations.
VTA’s 2010 Light Rail System Analysis found that improvement of our light rail service is enabled by several capital projects. The Light Rail Efficiency Project improvements will increase speeds, improve on-time performance, and minimize customer waiting time between connecting trains. The improvements will address existing system challenges related to single-track segments in Mountain View, Campbell, and San Jose, and also address inadequate transit signal prioritization, track layouts, and roadway designs that slow down service.
Although there are a number of projects planned for full implementation, VTA has prioritized planning efforts to advance four primary capital projects:
• Pocket Track and Double Crossover in Santa Clara in the vicinity of the new Levi’s Stadium
• Double Tracking the Mountain View single track segment
• System-Wide Speed and Reliability Improvements
• San Jose track improvements
Upcoming Construction Projects
What is the Santa Clara Pocket Track and Double Crossover?
The Santa Clara Pocket Track involves construction of a third track on Tasman Drive, north of the existing westbound track, between the Reamwood and Old Ironsides Stations, east of Calabazas Creek and installation of a Double Crossover.
Why is VTA building a pocket track and double crossover near the new stadium?
The additional storage and turn back capacity will enable flexibility and reliability for VTA’s service, supporting the 2017 BART LRT connection, and also Levi’s Stadium events.
The pocket track will enable storage of three, 3-car trains to mobilize trains quickly for special event and BART service. Planned Northern Light Rail Express service will provide new direct service from Mountain View, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara LRT to Milpitas BART with limited stops in 2017. This new service plan includes turning back one of the two Tasman West lines west of Old Ironsides Station to match anticipated demand. The double crossover will enable light rail vehicles to move from one set of tracks to another to change directions.
When will construction begin?
Construction is scheduled to begin February 2014.
When will construction be completed?
All track improvements will be complete and operational by September 2014.
Final construction in project area complete by January 2015.
What do the System-Wide Speed and Reliability Improvements entail?
The System-Wide Speed and Reliability Improvements include transit signal priority and other measures to increase operating speeds and reliability. The Light Rail Transit Signal Priority project will implement a real-time transit signal prioritization and light rail vehicle detection system throughout the LRT service area. This project will entail cooperation with city and county stakeholders to provide live, real-time train arrival management and prioritization whereby to increase LRT operating speeds. First Street Speed Improvements will increase maximum LRT speeds on North First Street from 35 to 45 mph, via a combination of signal prioritization, fencing and safety enhancements, and also seek to increase speeds on the Downtown Transit Mall.
Why is VTA working on System-Wide Speed and Reliability Improvements?
Transit signal priority for VTA’s Light Rail System is currently limited by an inadequate detection system. The current predictive priority system uses historical travel times and dwell times to schedule transit signal priority. In real-time, change happens constantly, for example, a train waits for a passenger with a disability boarding or for riders rushing to connect from Caltrain. Under normal operating conditions, this means that light rail trains frequently miss the priority green signal two blocks ahead and vehicle traffic is also not optimized. The current system prohibits transit priority for the next immediate signal cycle, so a train that misses the priority green may be delayed even longer had there been no priority at all.
The initial speed improvement project, Transit Signal Priority on LRT, will implement a real-time, reliable transit signal prioritization and light rail vehicle detection system that enables multiple city and county stakeholders to cooperate in providing live real-time train arrival management and prioritization. Intersections cannot be optimized in isolation, therefore this project will implement transit signal priority improvements system-wide to accrue the greatest benefits of this technology for light rail riders.
When will construction begin?
In November 2013, VTA will begin procurement of TSP units for light rail vehicles and intersections and work with stakeholders to plan for equipment installation in each location (San Jose, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Milpitas, Mountain View, County). Construction of Transit Signal Priority Improvements is scheduled to begin May 2014
When will construction be completed?
Construction for the transit signal priority project will begin mid-2015.
The Light Rail Systems Analysis found that changing the operating pattern of the southern half of the LRT system would have the highest benefits in terms of capital cost per passenger and operating cost per passenger. This new service plan will allow VTA to introduce direct service from Almaden to Mountain View and parallel Express Service all-day between Ohlone/Chynoweth and Downtown San Jose on the Santa Teresa- Alum Rock line. To achieve this change VTA must turn around Vasona line trains near Downtown San Jose. Given the way the system is currently configured, Vasona line trains are not able to turnback in downtown non-stop without creating conflicts with other trains on the Vasona Line.
VTA is in the process of completing the San Jose LRT Improvement Study to identify improvements necessary to turnback Vasona line trains. Once analysis is complete, VTA staff will present a recommendation and seek input from the public before adoption of a preferred alternative.
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