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Light Rail Speed and Safety Improvements

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Project Description

The Speed and Safety Improvements are part of a program identified in VTA’s Light Rail Systems Analysis and Efficiency Study (2010).

VTA is developing conceptual designs and recommendations for speed and reliability improvements in three study areas: one along North First Street, one in Downtown San Jose, and one comprised of key, low-speed zones and specific spot locations throughout the system.

Project Goals

  • Enhance safety, mobility, and access for all travelers
  • Improve travel times and reliability for transit passengers
  • Increase transit ridership
  • Support community input and adopted land use and mobility policies

Current Activities

  • Advancing project definition, technical studies, and conceptual design
  • Defining and beginning stakeholder outreach
  • Securing additional funding

North First Street Speed Improvements Study

The project area is along North First Street between Interstate 880 (I-880) and Tasman Drive. Light Rail currently operates at 35 mph in the median of this stretch of North First Street.

This study is reviewing alternatives that range from operational enhancements, like improved transit signal priority, to more intensive capital projects such as fences and gating. Implementations to the improvements could be phased beginning with improving signal priority and coordination with the City of San Jose, fencing the corridor between intersections, and station access upgrades. Recommendations will be available in late 2017.

Downtown San Jose Speed and Safety Improvements

The current maximum light rail operating speed in the Downtown San Jose transit mall is 10 mph. The existing slow speeds are due to a number of factors including the design of the transit mall, track configurations, number of intersections, closely spaced stations, and unrestricted pedestrian access.

Staff is focusing on near-term, low-cost improvements that have minimal impact to the community. These could include construction of physical and/or visual warning systems that would enhance delineation of the track way from the sidewalk creating a safer pedestrian environment. Staff is currently working with the City of San Jose and the San Jose Downtown Association to review potential opportunities, including a pilot project in a section of downtown to test different potential treatments. Recommendations will be available in late 2017.

Slow Speed Analysis

In addition to the North First Street and Downtown San Jose corridors, there are many locations throughout the Light Rail system that could potentially operate at higher speeds.

VTA is studying various locations and is generating a list of potential improvements that would enhance speed and reliability. Improvements will generally include changes to signal timing, modifications to existing operations, and minor capital enhancements. Planning work will be complete by late 2017.

Project Cost & Funding

The total costs and funding sources will be determined by the project study recommendations expected in late 2017. 

Project Schedule

  • Late 2017 Complete North First Street Improvements Study
  • ​Late 2017 Complete Downtown San Jose Improvements Study
  • Late 2017 Complete Slow Speed Zone Analysis
  • Construction of Safety Improvements Pending Funding

Fact Sheets 

Contact Us

VTA Community Outreach
Phone: (408) 321-7575
TTY Only: (408) 321-2330


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