Bus Alternatives For VTA Light Rail

Light rail service in Santa Clara County is still down. The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) continues to suspend all light rail service after the shootings at Guadalupe Yard May 26. VTA briefly ran shuttle buses in the place of light rail from May 27 until June 1, until limited shuttle bus service was restored August 2. There is currently no ETA for when light rail service will be restored.

Meanwhile, here are some tips for you to use VTA bus (and Caltrain) service that parallels light rail.

Table of Contents

Background

This is a guide that will help you map out which VTA bus lines (or commuter rail like Caltrain) serve or are a short, 5-10 minute walk away from which light rail stations. This guide also lists which bus lines run parallel to light rail.

Be advised: “parallel” referred to here does not always mean running directly next to light rail. Some bus lines that run parallel to VTA light rail are up to two (2) miles away. This will be noted in the guide as needed. Be prepared to walk between light rail stations you normally use and the bus lines.

Services are listed by light rail line, bus line(s), and light rail station they serve or are near.

Distance and walking times between light rail stations and bus stops calculated via Google Maps using the fastest, most direct route. Double the walking times if you are on crutches, or use any mobility device for your travel.

Call VTA Customer Service at (408)321-2300 or email VTA Customer Service to obtain more information on current bus and rail options running parallel to or serving closed light rail stations.

Have a desktop computer, tablet, or smart phone? Use Google’s Trip Planner to help you plan alternate bus, walking, bicycle path, and other travel options while VTA light rail remains suspended indefinitely.

WORD FROM THE WISE

Take note of the VTA light rail shuttle buses currently running between Milpitas BART station, Great Mall, and downtown San Jose (Paseo de San Antonio) via Tasman Dr. and N. 1st Street. More information on those shuttle buses can be read below.

When traveling using these alternate bus routes, allow at least 30-60 minutes’ more travel time than with light rail. This allows for extra travel from bus riding, any bus-to-bus transfers, and travel on foot, wheelchair, or other manual means to and from light rail stations. In other words, plan leave up to an hour earlier to reach transit destinations you normally get to on light rail.

Don’t know how to ride a VTA bus and pay the necessary fare? Read our first-time transit rider’s guide for help.

Light rail stations served by other rail service require separate fare and tickets to use the those rail systems.\

ORANGE LINE (Mtn. View <-> Alum Rock via Milpitas)

As of August 29, full service on VTA light rail’s Orange line will return. Here’s the current schedule for Orange line trains. The information below is just for reference purposes.

Mountain View

  • 21 – Mountain View, Middlefield (Louge/Middlefield bus stop – 0.2 mile and a 5 min. walk away)

Sunnyvale

  • 523 Rapid – Moffett Park, Lockheed/Martin (Transit Center)
  • 56 – Lockheed/Martin (Transit Center), Borregas, Crossman, Fair Oaks (bus stops next to these stations)
  • 55 – Reamwood (bus stops across from this station)

Santa Clara

  • 55, 59 – Old Ironsides (bus stops across from this stations)

San Jose

  • 59 – Baypointe (bus stops across from this station)

Milpitas

  • 44 – Alder (formerly I-880/Milpitas) – (bus stops across from this station)
  • 60, 47, 71, 66, 70, 44, 77 – Milpitas BART station and Transit Center.  (0.8 mile, 20-minute walk away from Great Mall)

San Jose

  • 70 – Hostetter (bus stops on Hostetter/Capitol 0.2 mile, 5 min. walk away)
  • 61 – Berryessa (bus stops on Berryessa east of Capitol Ave. 0.3 mile and a 6 min. walk away)
  • 64A & 64B – McKee (bus stops on McKee east of Capitol Ave. 0.3 mile and a 6 min. walk away)

Between Cropley and Alum Rock light rail stations, the 71 bus runs slightly parallel to (east of) VTA light rail’s Orange Line along Piedmont and White.  Between Cropley and Hostetter, the 70 bus runs parallel to light rail via Morril, with the 70 intersecting the light rail line near Hostetter station.

Here’s more of how that parallelism works between the 71 bus line and light rail between Cropley and Alum Rock stations:

  • Between Cropley light rail station and Piedmont/Cropley 71 bus stop for the 71: 1.7 miles (35 min. walk)
  • Between Hostetter light rail station and Piedmont/Hostter 71 bus stop: 1.5 miles (32 min. walk)
  • Between Berryessa light rail station and Piedmont/Berryessa 71 bus stop: 1.3 miles (27 min. walk)
  • Between McKee light rail station and N. White Rd./McKee 71 bus stop: 0.7 miles (14 min. walk)
  • Between Alum Rock light rail station and White/Easthills 71 bus stop: 0.6 mile (12 min. walk)

For Alum Rock station, get off at White/Alum Rock and transfer to a Valley Medical Center or De Anza College-bound 25 bus to Alum Rock station.

Also, between Cropley and Alum Rock light rail stations the 77 bus line runs slightly parallel to (west of) VTA light rail’s Orange Line via Story Rd., Mabury, and Lundy. To use this bus line, from Alum Rock station, ride any Palo Alto-bound 522 Rapid bus to Alum Rock/King (Mexican Heritage Plaza). Transfer there to a Milpitas BART-bound 77 bus and ride it to connect to the light rail shuttle bus at Milpitas BART station. Alternately, ride the same Palo Alto-bound 522 Rapid to N. 1st/Santa Clara in downtown San Jose for the light rail stops there.

BLUE LINE (Old Ironsides <-> Santa Teresa)

San Jose

  • 20 – Orchard (Bus serves Sunnyvale Caltrain station and Milpitas BART station. Sunnyvale-bound stop behind NB (Old Ironsides-bound) platform; Milpitas-bound bus stop is behind southbound (downtown San Jose) platform.)
  • 60 – Metro Airport.  60 bus serves Milpitas BART station, Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC), Santa Clara Caltrain Station, and Winchester light rail station. Milpitas BART-bound bus stop is in front of Bay 101 Casino. 60 buses bound for SJC, Santa Clara, and Winchester board in front of 1737 N. First St.)
  • 61 – Civic Center (bus stops across from this station)
  • 72, 73 – St. James (bus stops next to respective northbound and soutbound platforms)
  • 23, 66, 68, 72, 73, 523 Rapid – Santa Clara, Paseo de San Antonio (bus stops next to respective northbound and southbound platforms – look for stop signs for your bus line)
  • 23, 523 Rapid – Convention Center (bus stops across from this station, a short walk to Children’s Discovery Museum)
  • 25, 56 – Tamien (Transit Center)
  • 26 – Curtner (Transit Center)
  • 37, 71 – Capitol (Transit Center)
  • 64A, 83 – Ohlone/Chynoweth (Transit Center)
  • 27 – Blossom Hill (in front of main station entrance)
  • 66 – Snell (Transit Center)
  • 27, 68 – Cottle (Northbound [downtown San Jose] bus stop in front of park-and-ride lot near station entrance; Southbound [Santa Teresa, Morgan Hill, San Martin, Gilroy] stop at Cottle & Palmia across from Kaiser San Jose.)
  • 42, 68 – Santa Teresa (Transit Center)

VTA 64A Bus Line and the Blue Line

Between Virginia and Curtner light rail stations, the 64A bus line runs parallel to VTA light rail’s Blue Line to the west, via Bird, Cox, Lincoln, Almaden Expwy, Coleman, Winfield and Chynoweth to the Ohlone/Chynoweth light rail stop. Here’s how that works, with estimated distance and walking times between bus and rail stops:

Between Virginia light rail station and Bird/Virginia bus stop: 0.4 mile, 8 min. walk

  • Between Tamien light rail station and Lincoln/Minnesota bus stop: 1.1 mile, 23 min. walk. Alternately transfer to a Lockheed-bound 56 bus and get off at Lincoln and Minnesota.
  • Between Curtner light rail station and Lincoln/Curtner bus stop: 1.0 mile, 21 minute walk. Alternately, transfer to a Westgate or De Anza College-bound 26 bus and get off at Lincoln and Curtner.
  • Between Curtner light rail station and Almaden Expwy/Foxworthy: 1.1 mile, 22 minute walk. Alternately, transfer to the 37 bus and get off at Almaden and Foxworthy.

The 64A bus’s southern terminus is Ohlone-Chynoweth light rail station. This bus line also serves the former Almaden and Oakridge light rail stations at the Winfield/Coleman and Winfield/Blossom River bus stops, respectively. The Ohlone/Chynoweth and Almaden light rail stops have FREE parking, enabling you to “park-and-ride” your car there. From either parking lot, ride the 64A bus to and from downtown San Jose.

Going beyond Ohlone-Chynoweth, up to Santa Teresa light rail station? For travel along the Blue Line light rail between Ohlone-Chynoweth and Santa Teresa, ride the 27 bus line. Transfer from the 64A to the 27 at Almaden Expwy and Blossom Hill Road. The 27 bus directly serves Blossom Hill station, parallels Snell (at the Blossom Hill/Snell bus stop, intersects light rail at Cottle (see bus stops mentioned above), and ending at Santa Teresa light rail station.

VTA’s 66 & 68 Bus Lines and the Blue Line

Between Virginia and Curtner light rail stations, VTA’s frequently-running 66 and 68 bus lines run parallel to VTA light rail’s Blue Line to the east, along S. 1st St. and Monterey Highway. 

The 66 bus line runs along Skyway, Snell, and Santa Teresa to Kaiser SJ (near Cottle light rail station), directly serving the Snell light rail station.

The 68 bus line also serves Cottle light rail station, then travels along Santa Teresa Blvd. to the Santa Teresa light rail station, then on to South County. Both Cottle and Santa Teresa light rail stations have FREE parking, so you can “park-and-ride” your car at either lot, then take the 66 or 68 bus to and from downtown San Jose, respectively.

VTA's 66 and 68 bus lines run parallel to Blue Line light rail along N. 1st St. and Monterey Highway.
VTA’s 66 and 68 bus lines run parallel to part of the Blue Line south of downtown San Jose.

Here’s how the 66 and 68 bus lines run parallel to light rail between Virginia and Capitol light rail stations

  • Between Virginia light rail station and S. 1st/Virignia bus stop: 0.6 mile, 12 min. walk away.
  • Between Tamien light rail station and Monterey Hwy/Alma bus stop: 0.8 mile, 17 minute walk. Alternately, transfer to an Alum Rock-bound 25 bus at Tamien Station and get off at Keyes/Goodyear and S. 1st St. bus stop.
  • Between Curtner light rail station and Monterey Hwy and Curtner/Tully: 1.0 mile, 20 minute walk. Alternately transfer to an Eastridge-Bound 26 bus at Curtner station and transfer to the 66 or 68 at the Monterey Hwy and Curtner/Tully bus stop.

For alternate bus service for Branham, Capitol, and Ohlone/Chynoweth light rail stations, it is strongly recommended to use the 64A bus line instead. Read up on how that works here.

GREEN LINE (Old Ironsides <-> Winchester)

As of August 29, partial service on the Green Line between Old Ironsides and Civic Center stations has returned. Here’s the schedule for that partial Green Line service.

Read the Blue Line VTA bus alternatives for Green Line light rail stops between Orchard and Convention Center for buses stopping near or at these stations.

San Jose

  • 64B – Race (Southbound bus stop for Almaden/Camden 0.3 mile, 7 min. walk away at Meridian/Parkmoor; Northbound bus stop for downtown San Jose and McKee/White 0.4 mile, 8 min. walk away at Meridian/Harmon)
  • 25 – Fruitdale (Westbound bus stop for VMC or De Anza College 0.1 mile, 3 min. walk away at Fruitdale/Southwest Expwy, in front of the apartment building Eastbound bus stop for Tamien light rail station or Alum Rock light rail station is also on Fruitdale/Southwest Expwy. in front of the convenience store.)
  • 61 – Bascom (Bus stops in both directions at Bascom/Pamlar. Northbound [Sierra/Piedmont] is on the near side of Bascom; Southbound [Good Sam] requires safely crossing Bascom.)

Campbell

  • 56 – Hamilton (Eastbound bus stop for Eastridge is on Hamilton, between light rail station elevator and freeway entrance. Westbound stop for Westgate, Sunnyvale, and Lockheed is across Hamilton, in front of an investment firm building.)
  • 26 – Downtown Campbell (Eastbound bus stop for Curtner light rail station and Eastridge at Orchard City Dr. next to the platform. Westbound bus stop for Westgate Shopping Center/El Paseo de Saratoga and West Valley College is 0.2 mile, 4 min. walk away at Civic Center/Central.)
  • 60, 27, 37 – Winchester (Transit Center)

For travel between Winchester and Blue Line light rail stops at Blossom Hill and Cottle, use the 27 bus line as a short cut.

How To Ride VTA’s Light Rail Shuttle Buses

Until further notice, VTA has temporary light rail shuttle buses running along N. 1st St. and Tasman Dr. between downtown San Jose (Paseo de San Antonio) and Milpitas BART station. The shuttle buses will only stop at light rail stations, that are normally served by VTA light rail. The light rail shuttle buses will run on the following schedule:

  • On weekdays (Monday-Friday), shuttle buses run every 30 minutes between 5:30am-8:30pm in both directions.
  • On Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, shuttle buses will run every 60 minutes between 7am-7pm in both directions.

The light rail shuttle buses are FREE to ride for everyone. Read the light rail shuttle bus schedule from VTA here. Here’s more on how to ride those light rail shuttle buses.

As you use Google Maps to plan trips around VTA’s light rail shuttle buses, they are identified “Rail Replacement” as their route name.

VTA light rail shuttle bus at Milpitas BART station.

At Milpitas BART station, the light rail shuttle buses board at Bay 3, in back of where the 104 Express bus line boards. Look for the plastic “A” sign at Bay 3 confirming that this is where you board the light rail shuttle bus.

Also, destination signs for VTA light rail shuttle buses will say “LIGHT RAIL BUS BRIDGE” at the front, sides, and rear of the bus.

Along Tasman Dr. and North 1st Street, the light rail shuttle buses stop at bus stops across the street lanes from that direction of the light rail platform. One example is shown below.

Light rail shuttle bus stop (on the right) across from the southbound platform at River Oaks station.

At these light rail stations, look for bus stops with blue signs that say “BUS BRIDGE” and a map of where the light rail shuttle buses stop at. One picture of a sample bus stop sign follows.

Light rail shuttle bus stop.

Need more help with using the FREE light rail shuttle buses? Call VTA at (408)321-2300 during normal business hours, or send email to customer.service@vta.org with your questions.

Bus Alternatives To Light Rail Destinations

Here are some VTA alternate bus routes for light rail for popular destinations.

Unsure how to ride a VTA bus and pay the necessary fare? Read our first-time transit rider’s guide for help.

Campbell and Downtown San Jose

Normally travel on VTA light rail between Campbell and downtown San Jose? You have two bus alternative routes for light rail. Note that both alternatives require a transfer to another bus to reach downtown San Jose.

Alternative 1 (Winchester Blvd.)

Ride any Milpitas-bound 60 bus line (northbound) along Winchester Blvd (west of downtown Campbell) to Stevens Creek and Winchester bus stop. Cross Stevens Creek Blvd., then Winchester Blvd., and walk to the bus stop in front of Big 5 Sporting Goods. There, take any San Jose State-bound 523 Rapid bus (eastbound) or Alum Rock-bound 23 bus line (eastbound) to W. San Carlos/Market in downtown San Jose, or other downtown San Jose destinations

Reverse the above when traveling from downtown San Jose to western portions of Campbell.

Alternative 2 (Bascom Ave.)

At Bascom and E. Campbell Ave. (east of downtown Campbell, across from the Pruneyard), ride any Sierra/Piedmont-bound 61 bus line (northbound) to Bascom and San Carlos. Cross San Carlos and walk to the bus stop near the Western Appliance sign. There, take any San Jose State-bound 523 Rapid bus (eastbound) or Alum Rock-bound 23 bus (eastbound) or to W. San Carlos/Market in downtown San Jose.

Reverse the above when traveling from downtown San Jose to eastern portions of Campbell.

Great Mall

VTA buses and light rail (shuttle bus) serving the Great Mall and Milpitas BART station. Map courtesy VTA

From Downtown San Jose and South San Jose

From Downtown San Jose (1st/Santa Clara) or South San Jose (Cottle), ride the 66 bus line to Milpitas BART Station. At Milpitas BART station. The 66 bus line ends at Kaiser San Jose, near Cottle light rail Station.

Alternately, from downtown San Jose (Paseo de San Antonio light rail stop) ride the FREE shuttle buses VTA is running between downtown San Jose and Great Mall. Information on that shuttle bus is found here.

As a second alternate between Downtown San Jose and Great Mall, ride either the 22, 23, or 522 Rapid buses to Alum Rock and King (Mexican Heritage Plaza). On King Rd., transfer to a Great Mall-bound 77 bus to Milpitas BART station.

At Milpitas BART station, walk toward the elevated light rail tracks, then cross Montague Expressway. The Great Mall stores are about a 5-10 minute walk away, on the right side of Great Mall Parkway

From Campbell, Santa Clara, or Metro/Airport light rail station

From Winchester light rail station, Santa Clara Transit Center/Caltrain Station, or Metro/Airport light rail station, take the 60 bus line to Milpitas BART station. At Milpitas BART station, walk toward the elevated light rail tracks, then cross Montague Expressway. The Great Mall stores are about a 5-10 minute walk away, on the right side of Great Mall Parkway

Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC)

With Metro/Airport light rail station closed, three (3) VTA bus lines on two corridors link downtown San Jose and Mineta San Jose International Airport. Those bus lines are the 22, 522 Rapid (Palo Alto <-> Eastridge), and 60 (Milpitas BART <-> Winchester LRT Station via SJC Airport). Allow at least 30-45 minutes total travel time. Note that the 522 Rapid can be up to 10 minutes faster along El Camino Real and The Alameda than the 22 local bus.

From Downtown San Jose to SJC

From Santa Clara/1st, Santa Clara/Market, or Arena bus stops, ride any 22 or 522 Rapid bus bound for Palo Alto (Westbound) to the Santa Clara Transit Center/Caltrain Station. Upon getting off, walk across the parking lot then cross the street to the bus stop for the 60 bus line. At that bus stop board the next 60 bus bound for Milpitas (Northbound) and get off at the terminal for your airline.

At the bus stop at Santa Clara Caltrain Station, look for an electronic sign at the bus stop telling you when the next 60 bus to Milpitas (northbound) due to arrive in. When riding the 60 bus, listen carefully for announcements for the airline and bus stop for the terminal for your airline.

From SJC to Downtown San Jose

From either terminal at SJC, follow signs for the VTA 60 bus stop for that terminal. Board the next 60 bus to Winchester (southbound) to the Santa Clara Transit Center. There, cross the street to the bus stop for the 22 (Eastbound) bus stop to downtown San Jose and Eastridge Mall. (TIP: go right around corner of the 22 bus stop. At that corner is the bus stop for the 522 Rapid (Eastbound) bus to downtown San Jose and Eastridge Mall.)

It’s roughly a 10-15 minute ride aboard the 522 Rapid or 22 bus line from Santa Clara Transit Center to downtown San Jose.

San Jose State University

A map of VTA bus lines and light rail (shuttle buses) stopping near the San Jose State campus.

San Jose State University’s Main Campus is two (2) blocks east of two of downtown San Jose’s light rail stations (Santa Clara and Paseo de San Antonio). This portion of the guide will point out several VTA bus lines you can take in the absence of light rail.

Unsure how to ride a VTA bus and pay the necessary fare? Read our first-time transit rider’s guide for help.

From Milpitas

Ride VTA’s FREE light rail shuttle bus to the last stop (Paseo de San Antonio). The stop is a short, 5 minute walk east to San Jose State’s Main Campus.

From Campbell and West San Jose

Follow instructions for Green Line VTA bus alternatives for light rail between Campbell and downtown San Jose first. To reach the San Jose State Main Campus, stay on the 523 Rapid bus or 23 bus and get off at Paseo de San Antonio light rail station, then walk 5-10 minutes east to the Main Campus. Or, stay on the 523 Rapid or 23 bus until the 7th and Santa Clara bus stop. The Main Campus is one block south of that stop.

From East San Jose

From Alum Rock light rail station, the 522 Rapid is the fastest, most direct bus to San Jose State’s Main Campus. The 522 Rapid makes few stops along Alum Rock Ave. and E. Santa Clara Street. The 23 bus is another alternative for direct bus service to San Jose State along Alum Rock Ave. and E. Santa Clara St.

From McKee light rail station, ride any westbound (Ohlone-Chynoweth light rail staiton or Almaden Expwy/Camden) 64A or 64B bus to 6th/Santa Clara

From South San Jose

Follow instructions for Blue Line VTA bus alternatives for light rail between South San Jose and downtown San Jose. The 64A, 64B, 66, and 68 bus lines stop within a short walk of the San Jose State Main Campus.

From Mountain View

Walk to El Camino Real/Castro, then take any Eastridge-bound 522 Rapid bus to 7th/Santa Clara in downtown San Jose. San Jose State’s Main Campus is one block south of this bus stop.

From Northern Sunnyvale

From the bus stop for Old Ironsides station for the 57 (Patrick Henry/Tasman), take any southbound 57 bus to El Camino Real and Kiely/Bowers. There, transfer to an Eastridge-bound 522 Rapid bus to 7th/Santa Clara in downtown San Jose. San Jose State’s Main Campus is one block south of this bus stop.

For more VTA Bus and Other Transit Options…

Read this list of ptjer VTA bus lines serving the San Jose State University campus in downtown San Jose.

Conclusion

This will be used in future as a guide for people to use alternate VTA bus routes, in the event of another system outage. Soon, we will have steps to help you encourage VTA to develop a time line for when light rail service will be restored.

Let’s all stay safe out there.

Eugene Bradley
Founder & CEO, Silicon Valley Transit Users

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