Kiss Express Light Rail Goodbye In October3 min. read

vta express light rail train photo

VTA staff on hand to welcome the first express light rail train in October 2010. Photo courtesy

Nearly eight years after its introduction, express light rail trains in San Jose will be no more.  At its August 2nd meeting, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) Board Of Directors voted to end the express trains as of October 8 of this year.  The decision, according to VTA, is being done to save between $720,000 and $820,000 of operating expenses.

More details on the decision follow.

VTA Staff’s Discussion Points

During the discussion (starting at 1:21:00 of the video stream), VTA staff revealed that the express light rail trains had 538 total riders per day, at a cost of $5.98 per rider.  The express light rail service consisted of three (3) northbound trips in the weekday morning rush hour, and three (3) southbound express trips in the weekday evening peak rush hour.  The express light rail trains, when in service, skipped stations between Children’s Discovery Museum in downtown San Jose and Ohlone-Chynoweth in southern San Jose.  Time savings, according to VTA, was about 4 minutes.

VTA Board Member (and San Jose City Councilmember) Johnny Khamis wanted staff to review the efficiencies of the express light rail service at a later date. (at 1:32:25 of the video stream).

What Some Of the Public Had To Say

Public comments on the proposal to discontinue the express light rail trains start at 1:33:40 of the video stream.

John Rainville argued how the express light rail trains are needed so that people don’t have to wait as long – especially in wet weather.

Aboubacar “Asn” Ndiaye from Working Partnerships USA expressed some concerns that VTA staff did not provide a clear impact on how the ending of express light rail trains would result in overcrowding on other trains.  He also expressed concern that this process should be part of the “Financial Stability” committee process and not separated.

One other member of the public expressed concern that at least one of the express trains should remain.  She was also concerned of the loss of the express trains’ ability to skip stations where all of the boarding and unloading delaying travel occur.

Roland LeBrun the express trains bypassed poorer areas like Capitol, Curtner, Tamien (where some Caltrain “baby bullet” trains serve). Expressed this as a “Title VI” civil rights issue. Also expressed frustration seeing an express train stop at a red signal at Tamien, and seeing passengers being unable to board the stopped express train.

Glenn Hendricks, Mayor of Sunnyvale, expressed concern about the costs of the express light rail service vs. VTA’s $20 million operating deficit.

Here’s what others had to say on the proposal on Twitter:


My Own Thoughts

This Twitter thread sums up my feelings on VTA’s proposal to end express light rail:

Some history documenting VTA’s Express Light Rail is in the next section.

What’s Related To This Story?


What are your thoughts on the VTA Board Of Directors’ vote to discontinue the express light rail trains?  What do you think VTA can do better if and when it wants to implement express light rail trains again in the future?  Most important, what are YOU willing to do to make it all better? Please comment below.

Eugene Bradley
Founder, Silicon Valley Transit Users