Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority light rail Article

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Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) light rail
VTA logo 2017.svg
VTA light rail san jose penitencia creek station.jpg
A Santa Teresa-bound VTA train waiting at Penitencia Creek Station
Locale Santa Clara County, California
Cities: Campbell, Milpitas, Mountain View, San Jose, Santa Clara, and Sunnyvale
Transit type Light rail
Number of lines3
(plus 1 peak hour express line)
Number of stations62 [1]
(plus 4 planned)
Daily ridership33,400 average weekday riders
(Q4 2015) [2]
Annual ridership11.03 million (2015) [2]
Website Santa Clara Valley
Transit Authority
Began operationDecember 11, 1987 [1]
Operator(s) Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority
Reporting marksSCCT
Number of vehicles99 Kinki Sharyo light rail vehicles
(low floor) [1]
Train length90–270 feet (27.43–82.30 m)
(1-3 LRVs) [3]
System length42.2 mi (67.9 km) [1]
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge [3]
Electrification Overhead lines, 750 V DC [3]
Top speed55 mph (89 km/h) [1]
System map
VTA light rail system map

VTA Light Rail ( reporting mark SCCT) is a light rail system serving San Jose, California and its suburbs in Silicon Valley. It is operated by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, or VTA, and consists of 42.2 miles (67.9 km) [1] of network comprising two main lines and a spur line on standard gauge tracks. Originally opened in 1987, [1] the light rail system has gradually expanded since then, and currently has 62 light rail stations in operation on the three lines. VTA operates a fleet of 99 Kinki Sharyo Low Floor Light Rail Vehicles (LFLRV) to service its passengers. [1] The system's average weekday daily ridership as of Q4 2015 is 33,400 passengers; [2] the greatest daily average recorded over a month was 37,536 in June 2008. [4]

Current service

VTA Light Rail
System diagram
Caltrain      Mountain View
Moffett Park
Lockheed Martin
Fair Oaks
Old Ironsides
Great America
Amtrak Altamont Corridor Express Lick Mill
Cisco Way
River Oaks
Great Mall/Main
San Jose International Airport Metro/Airport
Guadalupe Division
Penitencia Creek
Civic Center
Gay Avenue
Alum Rock     
Saint James
Santa Clara
Paseo de San Antonio
Convention Center
Discovery Museum
San Fernando
Tamien Caltrain
Altamont Corridor Express Amtrak Caltrain
San Jose
San Carlos
Downtown Campbell
Blossom Hill
Santa Teresa     
     Alum Rock–Santa Teresa
     Mountain View–Winchester


VTA Light Rail Car
Interior of a VTA Light Rail Vehicle
Average Daily Ridership, San Jose, Light Rail, Jan 2002 thru Nov 2016

VTA operates 42.2 miles (67.9 km) of light rail route on 3 lines. [1] There are 4 major corridors of light rail which the lines run on. The first and most important is the Guadalupe Corridor in South San Jose along CA-87 north to Tasman Station, which runs through Downtown San Jose and the business areas of central and North San Jose. It is serviced by two lines, making frequency along this corridor around 7.5 minutes. Other corridors include the Tasman East/Capitol Corridor in East San Jose, the Mountain View/Tasman West corridor in Northwest Silicon Valley, and the Winchester corridor, which services communities in Campbell and West San Jose. Frequency along these corridors are around 15–30 minutes.

All the lines and the corridors they run through are designed to move commuters from the suburban areas of Santa Clara Valley into the major business areas in Downtown, the Santa Clara County Civic Center, and the high-tech and office areas of northern Silicon Valley. Light Rail also serves to connect commuters/travelers to the San Jose International Airport, Diridon Station and the transit systems it serves: ( Caltrain, ACE, the Coast Starlight, the Capitol Corridor); and moves LRT riders to and from Silicon Valley, the Greater Bay Area, and beyond. Eventually BART and California High Speed Rail will connect with light rail and the other rail systems served by Diridon Station.

Alum Rock–Santa Teresa

Designated as 901, this line runs from the Alum Rock Transit Center in east San Jose near Alum Rock to Santa Teresa station in the Santa Teresa neighborhood of San Jose, passing through Milpitas and downtown San Jose on the way. When BART inaugurates service from Fremont's Warm Springs Station to San Jose's Berryessa district (estimated mid 2018), this VTA line will connect with BART's Milpitas Station at VTA's Montague Station. There are 36 stops on this line. South of downtown San Jose, the line operates in the median of State Route 87 and 85. A proposed future expansion will extend the line past Alum Rock along Capitol Ave. and Capitol Expressway to the Eastridge Transit Center, which would effectively duplicate (and possibly replace) the current service by the 522 bus line along this corridor. [5]

Commuter Express

Introduced in October 2010 as a complementary service to the Alum Rock–Santa Teresa light rail line, the weekday, peak-period only Commuter Express light rail service operated between Baypointe and Santa Teresa stations. This service, with three trips each in the morning (to Baypointe) and in the afternoon (to Santa Teresa) stopped at every station, with nonstop service between Convention Center and Ohlone/Chynoweth stations. This service offered free WiFi on board, and fares were the same as other local light rail services. [6] [7] On August 2, 2018, the VTA Board voted to discontinue Commuter Express service effective October 8, 2018 to reduce operating costs. [8]

Mountain View–Winchester

View of the Hamilton Station.

Designated as 902, this line runs from Downtown Mountain View station in Mountain View through Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, and San Jose along Tasman Drive, North First Street, Downtown San Jose, and the Southwest Expressway on its way to its terminus at the Winchester station in western Campbell. It has 37 stops, 14 of which are shared with the Alum Rock–Santa Teresa Line. To reach San Jose Diridon Station (interchange to Amtrak and commuter rail services) the line tunnels under the station and rail yard. South of Diridon Station, the line travels alongside Union Pacific Railroad freight tracks en route to Winchester.

Almaden Shuttle

Designated as 900, this is a 3-stop spur from the Ohlone/Chyoweth station to Almaden station at the Almaden Expressway in the Almaden Valley. The Ohlone/Chynoweth station provides connection to the Alum Rock–Santa Teresa Line, the intermediate stop serves the Westfield Oakridge mall, and the Almaden station connects to VTA bus service. The shuttle, which runs a single 1-car train, takes about 4 minutes to travel between Ohlone/Chynoweth and Almaden. This line has one track, with sidings at Almaden and Ohlone Chynoweth.

BART service changes

With the commencement of BART service to San Jose, light rail operations will be reconfigured to provide for increased ridership. Lines will be referred to by colors: Alum Rock–Santa Teresa will retain its Blue Line; Mountain View–Winchester will be truncated to Old Ironsides station, but will also retain the Green Line; the Almaden Shuttle will be recolored to the Purple Line; Commuter Express will gain the designation of Yellow Line (with service doubled to six trains during commute hours); and a new Orange Line will run from Alum Rock to Mountain View. [9] [10]


Santa Clara Station in Downtown San Jose.

Unusually for light rail systems in the United States, most VTA Light Rail stops are made by request. Similar to VTA's bus network, passengers must be visible to the operator while waiting at stations, and must notify the operator using the bell before the train arrives at their destination. Trains will typically skip stops (other than line termini) if no one is waiting on the platform and no one requests to disembark. [11]


As of January 2019, the fare for one single ride for adult passengers is $2.50. This fare is standard for both Light Rail and Bus transit, and is good for two hours of travel. No transfer fees between light rail vehicles are required, but upon inquiry riders must provide a proof-of-payment. [12] Passengers without a ticket could be fined up to $250, under Penal Code 640. [13]

Clipper cards

Monthly passes loaded onto Clipper cards are also valid on Light Rail. [14]

Rolling stock

From 1987 when the system was launched until September 2003, the system was served by a fleet of high-floor light rail vehicles (LRVs) built by Urban Transportation Development Corporation and designated ALRV. [15] The original high-floor fleet was leased to investors (for a 33-year term, starting in 1998), and then subleased back to VTA. In May 2003, VTA sub-subleased the UTDC LRVs to other light rail operators for an initial 13-year term, with a renewal term of 9 years; VTA retains responsibility for LRV operation, maintenance, and insurance. [16] 29 were sent to Utah Transit Authority (UTA, $5.2 million rental payments), [17] and 21 were sent to Sacramento Regional Transit (RT, $4.1 million rental payments). In September 2013, RT exercised its option to purchase the 21 sub-leased vehicles at $1,000 each. [18] UTA subsequently exercised its purchase option for the 29 sub-leased vehicles in 2017. [19] 28 of the UTA vehicles, renumbered 1042–1069, were sold at auction on December 26, 2017. [20]

In 2002, VTA introduced new Kinki Sharyo low-floor LRVs. The Kinki Sharyo LRVs are equipped with a low floor over 70% of the passenger area at 14 in (360 mm) above top-of-rail (ATOR), with the remaining high-floor area 35 in (890 mm) ATOR and up to three LRVs may be coupled into a single train. [21] The low-floors initially operated only on the Tasman West line ( Downtown Mountain View to I-880/Milpitas) because their floor height only matched the 14-inch (360 mm) [22] platform height along that line. After VTA reconstructed platforms along North First Street from the Japantown/Ayer stop northward (with wooden ramps provided for the lead car's front door elsewhere), VTA replaced the entire fleet in 2003 with low-floor LRVs. Currently, all stations provide level boarding at all doors.

VTA Light Rail Vehicles
Type Car numbers Manufacturer Built Image Into service Status Seats/
Total capacity
High-Floor LRV 801–850 Urban Transportation Development Corporation 1987 Salt Lake City LRV 1066 - ex-San Jose and still in Santa Clara VTA livery (2011).jpg 1987 Retired 2003 67/155 50
Low-Floor LRV 900–999 Kinki Sharyo 2001–2005 VTA Tasman Station (August 11th, 2005).jpg 2002 In service 64/170 100
VTA Light Rail Vehicle comparison
Parameter UTDC high-floor/ALRV [15] [23] Kinki Sharyo low-floor [21]
Length [a] 88 ft 6 in (26.97 m) 90 ft (27 m)
Width 8 ft 8 in (2.64 m) 8.67 ft (2.64 m)
Height 12 ft 5 in (3.78 m) 11.08 ft (3.38 m)
Weight 98,700 lb (44,800 kg) 99,980 lb (45,350 kg)
6/1 6/2
Motors 4×190 hp (140 kW),
2 motors/powered truck
Wheels 26 in (660 mm) dia.
Bochum 84
Capacity 50–75 seated
180 standing
65 seated
Max Speed 55 mph (89 km/h) 62 mph (100 km/h)
Acceleration 4.4 ft/s2 (1.34 m/s2)
Deceleration 5.1 ft/s2 (1.56 m/s2)
  1. ^ Over couplers

Historic fleet

VTA also maintains a small historical fleet of streetcars, which are free to ride in History Park at Kelley Park. [24]

VTA Historical Fleet [25]
Type Car numbers Manufacturer Built Image Notes Ref.
Streetcar 1 Sacramento Electric 1905 Used in Sacramento (1903–06) and Santa Cruz (1906–23). Discovered as derelict in Santa Cruz in 1985. Seats 36. 39 ft × 12.4 ft × 8.25 ft (11.89 m × 3.78 m × 2.51 m) (L×W×H) and 38,000 lb (17,000 kg). [26] [27]
73 Jewett Car Company 1912 Built in Newark, Ohio and was owned and operated by San Jose Railroad. Used as a house in 1934 along with Car 124. Seats 36 with 20 standing. 43.5 ft × 11.25 ft × 8.5 ft (13.26 m × 3.43 m × 2.59 m) (L×W×H) and 38,000 lb (17,000 kg). [26] [28]
124 American Car Company 1912? Built in St Louis, Missouri and was owned and operated by San Jose Railroad. Used as a house in 1934 along with Car 73. [26]
143 St Louis Car Company 1922 History San Jose (16858105417).jpg Built in St Louis, Missouri and was operated in Fresno. Designed by Charles Birney. [26]
168 ? 1934 Built in Portugal and operated in Porto; moved to San Jose in the early 1980s. [26]
531 Melbourne and Metro Tramways 1928 Retired from Melbourne Trolley system in the 1980s and purchased in 1986 for $30,000. Seats 48 with 40 standing. 48 ft × 10.5 ft × 9 ft (14.6 m × 3.2 m × 2.7 m) (L×W×H) and 38,000 lb (17,000 kg). [26] [29]
2001 Officine Mechaniche Lodigiene 1928 Originally from Milan, Italy and donated in the mid-1980s. Seats 40 with 44 standing. 44.3 ft × 10.6 ft × 7.75 ft (13.50 m × 3.23 m × 2.36 m) (L×W×H) and 40,000 lb (18,000 kg). [26] [30]

Major accidents and incidents

Virginia station derailment

On March 21, 2008, at approximately 7:10 p.m., a southbound 2-car light rail train derailed just north of the Virginia station. Four people, including the train operator, were injured, and the train was heavily damaged. At the time of the accident, trains were operating on a single track through the area because of construction at three nearby light rail stations. The train involved was attempting to switch between tracks when it derailed. VTA ruled out mechanical or equipment failure as a cause for the accident. [31] An investigation indicated human error ("the train traveling southbound stopped over the switch and reversed, which are violations of operating rules"). [32]

Lincoln Avenue collision

On July 8, 2018, at around 12:34 p.m., a northbound single car light rail train collided with a car in the Lincoln Avenue crossing near Auzerais Avenue on the Mountain View-Winchester Line. Two occupants of the car were killed. The train operator was taken to a hospital according to standard operating procedures. The twenty passengers on the train were not seriously injured. The lead segment of the train (934B) left the tracks and knocked down a pole supporting the LRT catenary wires. [33]

Future service plans

Track and station improvements

VTA has considered plans to increase the overall speed of its light rail system. These include adding fences along track on North First Street, which would increase speed along this corridor to 45 mph, and a new Great America station to better facilitate transfers to commuter rail. [34]

Planned extensions

In 2000, voters approved Measure A, which was to provide funding for two new light rail corridors. [35] Some of the proposed corridors were through office parks in Sunnyvale and Cupertino, an extension further into Santa Teresa and to Coyote Valley, Stevens Creek Boulevard, El Camino Real, and routes in North County and Palo Alto. However, VTA ultimately opted to build line going through Campbell to Winchester and the Vasona Junction, a route along Alum Rock Avenue to Downtown San Jose, and an extension along Capitol Expressway.

VTA completed most of the Vasona extension in 2005, and plans to begin construction on the light rail extension along Capitol Expressway in 2012. However, VTA lacked sufficient funds to build light rail along Alum Rock Avenue. The originally planned light rail route in Alum Rock, as well as one on El Camino Real, will instead be built as Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). [5]

Vasona light rail extension

In 2005, VTA extended light rail service to Winchester station, completing most of a proposed light rail extension to Los Gatos, California. [36] The Vasona Light Rail Extension would complete the original proposed extension. The additional extension is 1.57 miles long and will run alongside Union Pacific Railroad lines. Construction will include lengthening of platforms at the Winchester, Campbell, Hamilton, Bascom, Fruitdale and Race stations. Two new stations (Hacienda and Vasona) will be constructed with the entire project costs projected to be $157 million. [36] The VTA Board of Directors approved a Supplemental Environment Impact Report in February 2014 [1]. The construction schedule is dependent upon available funding.

Capitol Expressway extension

The first phase of the light rail extension will continue south of the Alum Rock station to the Eastridge Transit Center. Running on an elevated median along Capitol Expressway, it will be designed to provide a competitive commute time to driving on the expressway, which is generally considered one of the most congested traffic corridors in Silicon Valley. In 2012, VTA finished improving pedestrian and bus conditions on Capitol Expressway, with new sidewalks, bus shelters and improved landscaping. Eastridge Transit Center was rebuilt in 2015. Construction of the extension is scheduled to begin in 2019 and be complete in 2022. [37] There will be two stations: Story Road and Eastridge, with an optional intermediate station at Ocala Avenue. The pedestrian improvements and first phase of construction is expected to cost $60 million. The second phase of extension will travel south of Eastridge into South San Jose and will connect with VTA's Capitol station. [38]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "VTA Facts - Light Rail System Overview" (PDF). Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. Archived from the original (pdf) on 20 August 2013. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  2. ^ a b c "APTA Ridership Report - Q4 2015 Report" (PDF). Public Transportation Ridership Report (Report). American Public Transportation Association (APTA). 2016-03-02. Retrieved 2016-05-27.[ permanent dead link]
  3. ^ a b c "Santa Clara - Valley Transportation Authority - Technical Data" (PDF). Kinkisharyo International, LLC. Archived from the original (pdf) on 21 March 2015. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  4. ^ "VTA Ridership Hits Record High". Santa Clara County Valley Transportation Authority. Archived from the original on 2012-06-16. Retrieved 2016-01-20.
  5. ^ a b "Downtown East Valley Project". Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. Retrieved 2008-07-17.
  6. ^ "VTA introduces Commuter Express Light Rail service". Retrieved 2012-08-02.
  7. ^ "VTA Commuter Express". Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority.
  8. ^ Hendler Ross, Stacey (August 6, 2018). "Attention Express Light Rail Riders!" (Press release). Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority.
  9. ^ Richards, Gary (5 May 2017). "VTA Fare Hike Vote in June". The Mercury News. Retrieved 20 May 2017.
  10. ^ "VTA Light Rail System" (PDF). Retrieved 20 May 2017.
  11. ^ VTA. "How To Use Service".
  12. ^ "Fares". Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA). 2016. Retrieved 2016-10-28.
  13. ^ California State Assembly. "Public transit: prohibited conduct". Session of the Legislature. Statutes of California. State of California. Ch. 765 § 1.
  14. ^ "Clipper on VTA - Fares". Clipper Cards. Retrieved 2016-10-28.
  15. ^ a b "Chapter 1 - Introduction" (PDF). Public Surplus. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  16. ^ Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for fiscal year ended June 30, 2004 (Report). Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. November 22, 2004. p. 2-58. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  17. ^ Allegra, Michael A. (September 2008). UTA: FrontRunner and Beyond (PDF). AREMA 2008 Annual conference. Salt Lake City, Utah: AREMA. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  18. ^ Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for fiscal year ended June 30, 2014 (Report). Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. October 9, 2014. p. 2-84. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  19. ^ Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for fiscal year ended June 30, 2017 (PDF) (Report). Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. October 27, 2017. p. 2-96. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  20. ^ "Closed Auctions for: Utah Transit Authority". Public | Surplus. December 26, 2017. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  21. ^ a b "San Jose, CA - Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority: Technical Data" (PDF). Kinki Sharyo. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  22. ^ "Santa Clara-Alum Rock Transit Improvement Project Final EIR — Project Description". VTA. Retrieved 22 May 2016.
  23. ^ "Light Rail Fact Sheet" (PDF). Sacramento Regional Transit. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  24. ^ "Historic Trolleys". Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  25. ^ "Appendix C: Bus and Light Rail Vehicle Inventory". Short Range Transit Plan 2008-2017 (Report). Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. January 2008. pp. 96–105. Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  26. ^ a b c d e f g "The Collection". California Trolley & Railroad Corporation (CTRC). Retrieved 3 January 2019.
  27. ^ "Historic Trolley Car #1: Collishaw Trolley". Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. Retrieved 3 January 2019.
  28. ^ "Historic Trolley Car #73: Heritage Cablevision Trolley". Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. Retrieved 3 January 2019.
  29. ^ "Historic Trolley Car #531: Hugh Stuart Center Charitable Trust Trolley". Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. Retrieved 3 January 2019.
  30. ^ "Historic Trolley Car #2001: Metro Trust Fund Committee Trolley". Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. Retrieved 3 January 2019.
  31. ^ Swift, Mike (2008-03-23). "'Mechanical causes' Unlikely in Derailment". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 2008-03-26.
  32. ^ Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (2008-04-03). "Board of Directors Minutes 4/3/08" (PDF). Retrieved 2017-11-21.
  33. ^
  34. ^ "Projects, Studies and Programs: Light Rail System Analysis - Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority". Retrieved 2012-08-02.
  35. ^ "NOVEMBER 7, 2000 MEASURE A". Archived from the original on 2010-07-12. Retrieved 2016-01-20.
  36. ^ a b "Projects, Studies and Programs: Vasona Light Rail Extension Project - Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority". Retrieved 2012-08-02.
  37. ^ "Capitol Expressway Light Rail Project". Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. Retrieved June 26, 2017.
  38. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-07-11. Retrieved 2011-03-19.

External links

Route map:

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