VTA Releases Final Recommendations for 2019 New Transit Service Plan
04/05/2019
holly.perez@vta.org

VTA has released final recommendations for the 2019 New Transit Service Plan.

Before we look at the final plan, let’s start with a look back.

Background

First shared in January 2019, the draft 2019 New Transit Service Plan, was a modification of the Board-adopted 2017 Next Network plan with goals of better connecting VTA transit with the Milpitas and Berryessa BART stations, increasing overall ridership, and improving VTA’s farebox recovery rate.

The 2019 New Transit Service Plan adds three new parameters set by the VTA Board of Directors in December 2018:
  • Reduce the plan’s overall service level equal to today’s service level (the Next Network plan would have incurred a $14.7M increase in annual net operating costs over today).
  • Adjust the network’s ridership/coverage balance to 90 percent ridership and 10 percent coverage.
  • Minimize service cuts in South County.

Comparison of Current Service, the 2017 Next Network Plan and 12/6/18 Board Direction

Current Service 2017 Next Network Plan 12/6/18 Board Direction
1.52M Annual Bus Hours 1.52M Annual Bus Hours 1.52M Annual Bus Hours
1.56K Annual Light Rails 192K Annual Light Rail Hours 156K Annual Light Rail Hours
70/30 Ridership/Coverage 83/17 Ridership/Coverage 90/10 Ridership/Coverage

Community Engagement and Final Revisions

The draft plan outlined roughly 70 proposed changes across VTA bus and light rail service. Throughout March, VTA planners reviewed and assessed thousands of community comments received during the six-week public comment period in January and February for the Draft 2019 New Transit Service Plan.

The majority of comments fell into five primary categories: Route 22 trips between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m.; Route 83 in Almaden Valley; VTA’s Express Bus Network; Blue Line from Alum Rock to Baypointe Station; and Route 65.

VTA staff used the collective feedback to revise the draft plan while not increasing overall network costs. Staff focused service reductions on low ridership lines in the network to minimize impact to riders and maintain as much of the Next Network’s projected ridership increase as possible.

This resulted in seven recommended service changes in the final staff recommendation compared to the draft plan that is expected to result in better operational performance, increased productivity, and opportunities for third-party partnerships. They include:   

Maintain overnight service on Route 22: The final plan would continue overnight service on Route 22 between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. as offered today (one trip per hour in each direction). Subsequent ridership analysis and community feedback revealed that a number of individuals (roughly 120 boardings across the six overnight trips) use the bus for mobility needs unrelated to shelter.
 
While we recognize that members of the community have used VTA buses as a safe haven, the cities and County play a critical role in tackling homelessness. We have been meeting with, and will continue to partner with, social service agencies and the County to identify appropriate housing solutions for those who use these buses for shelter.
 
Keep Route 522 frequency: The draft plan proposed to increase the frequency of service on Route 522 in the mornings and evenings from 20 to 15 minutes. The final plan would keep frequency as is which will help maintain current service on Route 22. Any future changes to morning or evening frequency would be implemented when transit demand along the corridor increases and as VTA resources permit.
 
Modify Route 42 service in South San Jose: The draft plan proposed that Route 42 travel to a new area on the southern/western side of US 101 along Cottle Road and Raleigh Road. The final plan proposes to redirect Route 42 to the northern/eastern side of US 101 along Silver Creek Valley Road, Hellyer Avenue, Silicon Valley Boulevard, Bernal Road and San Ignacio Avenue to serve community-oriented destinations such as the VA Clinic, Mexican Consulate, Carrington College, Northeastern University and the San Andreas Regional Center.
 
Restructure bus service in Almaden Valley: Merge Routes 63 and 64, Retain Route 13 as Route 83: The final plan proposes multiple changes from the draft plan that are based on efficiency improvements identified by VTA staff and ideas contributed by the Almaden community.
 
Routes 63 and 64 would be consolidated into a single Route 64 with 64a and 64b branches. This combination and routing change saves service hours in Downtown San Jose that can be used to extend the routes further south and retain service as far south as Almaden and Harry Road.
 
VTA’s current Route 13 would be renamed Route 83 and be modified (as proposed in the 2017 Next Network Plan) to travel along McAbee Road and Camden Avenue to serve the Almaden Community Center.
 
Improve weekday midday frequency on Route 66 north of Milpitas BART to every 15 minutes: The draft plan proposed that the segment of Route 66 south of the Milpitas BART Station operate at a 15-minute frequency while the segment north of the Milpitas BART Station operate at a 30-minute frequency on weekdays. The final plan proposes to operate the entire route at a 15-minute weekday frequency.
 
Implement a new express routes service model in 2020:  Driven by low ridership and the high cost per boarding (over $30/rider, compared to $7 for core routes), the draft service plan proposed to reduce Express Bus program costs by roughly $2.5 million. The plan called for the discontinuation of four express routes (101, 122, 182 and 185) and the reduction in the number of trips on four others (102, 103, 121 and 168).
 
The final plan proposes to defer the draft plan’s express bus service changes until early 2020 so that VTA can respect the financial contributions that employers have made to purchase annual SmartPasses for their employees. In early 2020, VTA will implement a new Express Route program model that includes third-party funding partnerships that would offset the high cost of operation and bring the routes into compliance with VTA’s performance standards. It’s important to note that the Express routes serving Fremont/Warm Springs BART stations will still be discontinued once BART service begins as proposed in the 2017 Next Network plan. The remaining nine Express routes will be the subject of this new Express route service model and partnership program.
 
Lastly, the staff analysis of the discontinuation of Route 65 and changes to the light rail Blue Line are also part of the final recommendation to the Board.

All other elements of the draft plan remain part of the final plan. The final plan includes approximately 1.5M annual hours of bus service and 171K annual hours of rail service, which is 125,000 fewer hours of service than adopted in the 2017 Next Network Plan. Overall, the final plan increases the number of people who live near 15-minute or better service by about 266,000.

What’s next?

This final service plan will be presented to VTA committees in April, and to the VTA Board May 2 for their consideration. These meetings are open to the public and can be found on VTA’s website. They present another opportunity to weigh in on what is ultimately approved by the Board.

The final transit service plan would then be implemented with the start of BART service to Santa Clara County projected for late 2019.