The New Year brings significantly revised transit service that emphasizes running buses more frequently, in an effort to make public transit a more attractive mobility choice. We know change can be difficult, but once passengers get used to it, we think it will be a welcome change that results in giving more people greater access to places than before. An additional 204,000 jobs and 266,000 residents in the county are now on our frequent network of routes, compared to our old service (within a ½-mile).
The new service plan rolled out on December 28, with dozens of VTA “street teams” on hand at bus and light rail stops throughout Santa Clara County to answer customer questions and explain the changes. Even after 18 months of public engagement, traditional and social media messaging and discussions at VTA board and committee meetings, there were still lots of questions and feedback from customers about the newly designed service.
Among the most significant changes is the major “transit corridor” along Santa Clara Street and Stevens Creek Boulevard, which includes the new 523 service that traverses Sunnyvale, Cupertino, downtown San Jose and serves the Berryessa BART station. Downtown Santa Clara Street now has 6 bus lines to choose from, including lines that previously ran on San Fernando Street which is now dedicated for improved bicycle and pedestrian access.
There’s also a new light rail line. The Orange Line now provides direct service between the Alum Rock Transit Center and Downtown Mountain view, with a stop at the Milpitas BART station due to open this year. Customers coming from South San Jose (now referred to as the Blue Line) or Campbell (now referred to as the Green Line) will transfer from Baypointe Station or Old Ironsides to get to Alum Rock, Mountain View and stops in between, respectively.
Room for improvement
The Baypointe Station, originally built to be a main transfer hub (as opposed to the former Tasman Station), is once again just that but now home to three light rail lines instead of two. With more trains and competing pedestrian and car movements at this overwhelmed intersection, transfers at Baypointe are struggling. Data from the first two weeks of our new network show that 98% of our northbound Blue Line trains arrive at the Tasman Station on-time, with only 38% of them arriving at the next station, Baypointe, on-time.
We understand the frustration being experienced by our customers and are working on it urgently. We are in the process of talking with our city partners to find ways to improve transit on-time performance through signal timing tweaks, while looking at ways we can adjust route schedules.
In the transition from focusing 70% of our resources on high-ridership, frequent routes to focusing 90% per cent of our resources on those routes, we know our customers are facing a few challenges. Some lower performing routes were discontinued altogether, and we know, even for the small number of passengers who depended on those lines, that’s hard to get used to. But we are dedicated to providing the best public transit service to the greatest number of people we can for the limited resources we have.
Please tell us how we're doing
In the coming weeks, we welcome your feedback on how the new service is working for you as we continuously look for ways to improve. Please check our website, vta.org, and social media channels Instagram (@SCVTA), Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, for updated information. And as always, our Customer Service representatives stand ready to help with any trip planning needs you may have. That number is 408-321-2300 or email at Customer.Service@vta.org.