Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority light rail

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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 lines 3
(plus 1 peak hour express line)
Number of stations 62[1]
(plus 4 planned)
Daily ridership 33,400 average weekday riders
(Q4 2015)[2]
Annual ridership 11.03 million (2015)[2]
Website Santa Clara Valley
Transit Authority
Began operation December 11, 1987[1]
Operator(s) Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority
Reporting marks SCCT
Number of vehicles 99 Kinki Sharyo light rail vehicles
(low floor)[1]
Train length 90–180 feet (27.43–54.86 m)
(1-3 LRVs)[3]
System length 42.2 mi (67.9 km)[1]
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge[3]
Electrification Overhead lines, 750 V DC[3]
Top speed 55 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[edit]

VTA Light Rail
System diagram
Caltrain      Mountain View
Moffett Park
Lockheed Martin
Fair Oaks
Old Ironsides
Great America
AmtrakAltamont 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     
St. James
Santa Clara
Paseo de San Antonio
Convention Center
Discovery Museum
San Fernando
Altamont Corridor ExpressAmtrakCaltrain
San Jose
West San Carlos
Downtown Campbell
Blossom Hill
Santa Teresa     
Transfer station
Planned station
     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[edit]

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 late 2017), 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 light rail service[edit]

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 currently operates between Baypointe and Santa Teresa stations. This service, with three trips each in the morning (to Baypointe) and in the afternoon (to Santa Teresa) stops at every station, with nonstop service between Convention Center and Ohlone/Chynoweth stations. This service offers free WiFi on board, and fares are the same as other local light rail services.[6][7]

Mountain View–Winchester[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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 be 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.[8][9]


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 if no one is waiting on the platform and no one requests to disembark.[10]


As of October 2016, the fare for one single ride for adult passengers is $2. 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.[11] Passengers without a ticket could be fined up to $250, under Penal Code 640.[12]

Clipper cards[edit]

Monthly passes loaded onto Clipper cards are also valid on Light Rail.[13]

Rolling stock[edit]

A Kinki Sharyo Low-Floor Light Rail Vehicle in Tasman Station, used by VTA since 2002
UTDC-built high-floor light rail vehicle, used by VTA from 1987 to 2003, pictured later in Salt Lake City but still wearing an old Santa Clara paint scheme

From 1987 until September 2003, the system was served by a fleet of high-floor light rail vehicles built by Urban Transportation Development Corporation. In 2002, VTA introduced new low-floor light rail vehicles by Kinki Sharyo into the fleet. The low-floor vehicles initially operated only on the Tasman West line (Downtown Mountain View to I-880/Milpitas) because the vehicles' floor height matched the 14-inch (360 mm)[14] platform height only at that line's stations and was only able to provide level boarding there. In 2003, after VTA reconstructed platforms along North First Street from the Japantown/Ayer stop northward (with wooden ramps provided for the leading car's front door at all other stations), VTA replaced the entire fleet with low-floor light rail vehicles. Of the high-floor light rail vehicles, 29 (802–830) were sold to Utah Transit Authority and 20 (831–850) were sold to Sacramento Regional Transit, with the remaining car retained as a wrecker. Currently, all stations provide level boarding at all doors.

VTA Light Rail Cars
Designation Car numbers Manufacturer Year of Manufacture First used Retired No. of Seats/
Overall Capacity
Low-Floor LRV 900–999 Kinki Sharyo 2001–2005 2002 In service 64/170 100
High-Floor LRV 801–850 Urban Transportation Development Corporation 1987 1987 2003 67/155 50

Major accidents and incidents[edit]

Virginia station derailment[edit]

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.[15] An investigation indicated human error ("the train traveling southbound stopped over the switch and reversed, which are violations of operating rules").[16]

Future service plans[edit]

Track and station improvements[edit]

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.[17]

Planned extensions[edit]

In 2000, voters approved Measure A, which was to provide funding for two new light rail corridors.[18] 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[edit]

In 2005, VTA extended light rail service to Winchester station, completing most of a proposed light rail extension to Los Gatos, California.[19] 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.[19] 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[edit]

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.[20] 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. [21]


  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. 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". Retrieved 2012-08-02. 
  8. ^ Richards, Gary (5 May 2017). "VTA Fare Hike Vote in June". The Mercury News. Retrieved 20 May 2017. 
  9. ^ "VTA Light Rail System" (PDF). Retrieved 20 May 2017. 
  10. ^ VTA. "How To Use Service". 
  11. ^ "Fares". Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA). 2016. Retrieved 2016-10-28. 
  12. ^ California State Assembly. "Public transit: prohibited conduct". Session of the Legislature. Statutes of California. State of California. Ch. 765 § 1. 
  13. ^ "Clipper on VTA - Fares". Clipper Cards. Retrieved 2016-10-28. 
  14. ^ "Santa Clara-Alum Rock Transit Improvement Project Final EIR — Project Description". VTA. Retrieved 22 May 2016. 
  15. ^ Swift, Mike (2008-03-23). "'Mechanical causes' Unlikely in Derailment". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 2008-03-26. 
  16. ^ Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (2008-04-03). "Board of Directors Minutes 4/3/08" (PDF). Retrieved 2017-11-21. 
  17. ^ "Projects, Studies and Programs: Light Rail System Analysis - Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority". Retrieved 2012-08-02. 
  18. ^ "NOVEMBER 7, 2000 MEASURE A". Archived from the original on 2010-07-12. Retrieved 2016-01-20. 
  19. ^ a b "Projects, Studies and Programs: Vasona Light Rail Extension Project - Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority". Retrieved 2012-08-02. 
  20. ^ "Capitol Expressway Light Rail Project". Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. Retrieved June 26, 2017. 
  21. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-07-11. Retrieved 2011-03-19. 

External links[edit]

Route map: Google

KML is from Wikidata