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VTA inches toward faster Mountain View light rail service

Taking light rail from Mountain View to San Jose could be much faster under plans in the works at the Valley Transportation Authority.

On May 6, the VTA board of directors approved a set of short- and long-term plans to increase the county's light rail ridership by 10,000 riders by 2018. The system, which reaches deep into east and south San Jose, currently has 35,000 daily riders.

In Mountain View, a $28 million double-track extension would replace the single track into downtown Mountain View from Whisman station, allowing express train service into downtown that would skip unpopular stops, making trips 20 to 30 percent faster. Light rail trains would run every seven minutes under the plan, instead of every 15 minutes.

City council member Margaret Abe-Koga, who also happens to sit on the VTA board of directors, said it currently takes her 34 minutes to ride light rail from downtown Mountain View to the River Oaks stop on North First Street in San Jose. But under the plan, that trip time could be cut down by 30 percent.

"The time becomes comparable to driving, especially in rush hour traffic," Abe-Koga said.

However it is uncertain when the improvements in Mountain View would happen. The VTA hasn't really even begun the engineering for the Mountain View double tracking, calling it a long-term plan. It is one of many light rail improvements on a wish list that totals $250 million. But Abe-Koga has asked VTA staff to consider a more practical "mid-term" solution. Express service could connect just north of downtown at Whisman station, she says, which would not require double tracking into downtown.

Under current plans, VTA transit manager Kevin Connolly told the City Council Tuesday that express trains leaving downtown would stop only at Lockheed Martin before reaching the Old Ironsides station in Santa Clara. He said the VTA will be studying Abe-Koga's request for a mid-term solution.

The operating costs for light rail are expected to increase by $3 million in the next few years and will eventually add $6 million to the current $38 million operating budget.

The changes are being proposed after a VTA study found that Santa Clara County's light rail system lags behind many similar systems in the United States in terms of ridership, Connolly said.

Comments

Posted by Space Ranger, a resident of The Crossings
on May 26, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Is there space for double tracks? Didn't they have to move Central Expressway just to make space for the single track?


Posted by Rodger, a resident of Sylvan Park
on May 26, 2010 at 6:36 pm

The fares for this system do not even come close to paying operating costs, it needs tax money for day to day operation. Any costs for new construction are an additional drain on tax money. My suggestion is to give up and shut the system down saving us money.


Posted by tommygee, a resident of Rex Manor
on May 26, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Double tracking from Whisman station to downtown Mtn. View? What about the HSR tracking? Just where will all these tracks fit along Central Expressway?


Posted by Paul, a resident of Castro City
on May 27, 2010 at 8:44 am

I knew the light rail was not a good solution for me when I saw I was going just as fast with my road bike (and I am no Floyd Landis).

By the way, it takes a little bit more than 1 hour to go from downtown Mountain View to San Jose Diridon, and that's a 13-mile trip by car.


Posted by Rider, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 27, 2010 at 11:25 am

Daniel -- Regarding the statement by Margaret Abe-Koga - "City council member Margaret Abe-Koga, who also happens to sit on the VTA board of directors, said it currently takes her 34 minutes to ride light rail from downtown Mountain View to the Fair Oaks stop in San Jose." I think this should refer to the River Oaks stop, not the Fair Oaks stop. River Oaks is in San Jose and is about 34 minutes from downtowm MV now. Fair Oaks is in Sunnyvale and is only about 20 minutes away.

@Paul - "By the way, it takes a little bit more than 1 hour to go from downtown Mountain View to San Jose Diridon, and that's a 13-mile trip by car." This is true, but it's not a very relevant comparison. You wouldn't take light rail to Diridon from downtown MV, you would take Caltrain, which takes between 14 and 23 minutes depending on whether you're on a Baby Bullet or a local. Caltrain and light rail serve different areas and purposes, but work together in the overall system.



Posted by John the Man, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 27, 2010 at 12:02 pm

When I worked at First and De La Cruz and lived in Mountain View, I used to beat the Light Rail home in the evenings.... on my bicycle. I'd average only about 14-15 mph on a bike and still beat the trolley home.

Pathetic. Who would bother to commute on such a slow vehicle?


Posted by Jack, a resident of Whisman Station
on May 27, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Light rail has never met expectations and won't. The trains are empty. They cannot possibly sped it up enough to make it worthwhile. It should be shutdown now.


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