San Jose Mayor Liccardo Wants More VTA Service Cuts5 min. read

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo wants to repeat failed history.  In his first Chairperson’s Report at the January 4 Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) Board Of Directors’ meeting, he advocated for further reductions in VTA transit service to help close a $20 million operating deficit this fiscal year, and a $26 million operating deficit in 2019.  He announced the formation of a committee to address VTA’s structural operating deficit, and provide solutions.  The gist of Mayor Liccardo’s comments start at the 2:00 mark of the audio clip above.

Learn more about how this service cut strategy fails to resolve any VTA operating deficit – and what YOU can proactively do to change history in your favor – below.


At the February 1 VTA Board Of Directors’ meeting, the VTA Board Of Directors approved a formal list of who is on the “Ad-Hoc Financial Stability Committee.” That committee will be headed by Jeannie Bruins, last year’s VTA Board Of Directors’ Chair, representing “small city groups.” Fellow VTA Board Of Directors’ member (and County Supervisor) Cindy Chavez will represent unincorporated areas of Santa Clara County. Fellow VTA Board Of Directors’ member (and San Jose City Council member) Johnny Khamis will represent City of San Jose.

Here’s who else will be on this current edition of the “Ad-Hoc Financial Stability Committee”…

  • Santa Clara County City Managers Association
  • Santa Clara Coalition of Chambers of Commerce
  • Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG)
  • Transit Justice Alliance (see footnote below)
  • SPUR
  • Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 265
  • Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 521
  • Transportation Authority Engineers & Architects Association (TAEA) Local 21
  • American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 101 (AFSCME)
  • South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council

Note the lack of taxpayer, senior/disabled, and environmental groups on the committee.  Such groups are most likely to have the ideas needed to resolve VTA’s current operations fiscal crisis.  Also note that the Transit Justice Alliance was convened by Working Partnerships USA – an organization that once employed Cindy Chavez.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. Photo courtesy KQED.

This follows similar committees VTA formed in 2003 and 2010 to address VTA’s prior operating shortfalls.  Both prior committees recommended transit service reductions as part of the solutions to resolve the operating deficits at the time.  More details and history of prior “financial stability” committees will be provided in a future follow-up post.

Talking Points

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo’s statements at the VTA Board Of Directors’ meeting January contradict his own calls for the city to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”  Worse, Liccardo’s advocacy for further reducing VTA transit service helps violate San Jose’s own General Plan goals.  One of those goals: reducing Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) by motorists in San Jose by 40% by 2040.  Read more about how Mayor Liccardo wants to create more automobile traffic gridlock in San Jose here.

The chart above, courtesy of the Almaden Valley Community Association, shows VTA’s historical bus ridership.  Now, VTA has 1/3 less bus service now than what it promised voters who approved Measure A back in 2000.  Compare that chart to VTA’s own bus ridership and bus service facts, which you can see below:

Note that VTA has 12% fewer active buses, 7% fewer peak (rush hour) buses, 3% fewer total scheduled hours, and 17% fewer weekday riders now than when its predecessor, County Transit, had in 1988.  This despite Santa Clara County’s population growing by over 23% between 1988 and 2017.  One reason why VTA’s bus service has failed to keep up with the county’s population can be found in a report on where your sales tax money went.

Another factor not talked about publically in VTA’s latest “financial crisis” – unfunded pension liabilities.

VTA owes over $195 million in unfunded pension liabilities.  This can be found in VTA’s approved fiscal year 2018-2019 biennial budget.

Remember Measure B, a transit and highways VTA ballot measure from November 2016?  That ballot measure is currently tied up in appeals court, and thus “out of play.”  No date has been announced as to the final appeals court verdict.

In terms of cities with public transit, Seattle is the current trend setter.  Meanwhile, Silicon Valley continues to be at best a trend follower and is on the path of being a trend repeater.  Let’s change that NOW.

Starting Now, What Can I Do?

Let Mayor Liccardo know he must put public transit – especially buses – as top priority instead of adding more auto traffic.  Call him at (408)535-4800 or email him at today.  This is especially true if you live in San Jose, as you are one of the managers he reports to.  If you live outside San Jose, make sure to contact the VTA Board member representing YOU

If at all possible, come to the March 1 VTA Board Of Directors’ meeting in San Jose, and tell him face to face that he must prioritize transit – especially buses – in Santa Clara County.

WHEN: Thursday, March 1 at 5:30pm
WHERE: County Supervisors’ Chambers, Santa Clara County Government Center, 70 W. Hedding St. (at N. 1st Street), San Jose
GETTING THERE: VTA’s 61, 62, 66 and 180 express bus lines, and VTA light rail, stop one block south of the Government Center.  Read our map for details on transit service in the area.

During every VTA Board Of Directors’ meeting, as this year’s VTA Board Chair, Mayor Liccardo reports to YOU – in his “Chairperson’s Report.”  Learn how to be heard at any VTA public meeting here.  If possible, request to speak after the Chairperson’s Report; otherwise, request to speak during Public Comment at the start of the VTA Board meeting.

Beforehand, read up on VTA’s latest budget to learn where your sales tax money is going this year.  Based on VTA’s latest biennial budget, what do you think VTA needs to cut in terms of its operations budget? Please discuss in the comments.


More on the committee – and its public meetings – will be posted as soon as information is available.  Starting now, let’s make sure failed history does not repeat itself.

Eugene Bradley
Founder, Silicon Valley Transit Users