New transit centers bring buses and light rail to South Bay, BART service still delayed
The Valley Transportation Authority opened the Berryessa Transit Center in San José on Dec. 28, 2019. Photo Courtesy the VTA.

In the hopes of boosting ridership in 2020, the Valley Transportation Authority overhauled its service plan for the first time in more than a decade — including opening two shiny new transit centers that will eventually connect South Bay commuters to BART for the first time.

“The Milpitas and Berryessa transit centers, that will also include future BART service were opened on December 28 with our new service rollout,” said VTA spokeswoman Brandi Childress. “We have bus service at both transit centers and light rail connects to the Milpitas station.”

Now that the Milpitas and Berryessa transit centers are open — without BART service, for now — those areas are sure to feel the impact of thousands of people passing through every day.

Those changes can’t come soon enough for Brian Bumb, owner of the San Jose Flea Market on Berryessa Road. When BART finally comes to the neighborhood, he expects that to be good for business.

“It will only be a positive,” Bumb said. “But it is unknown what level of positivity it will actually reach.”

Even with the Berryessa station open to a mix of new express buses coming from all over Santa Clara County at least every 15 minutes since Dec. 28, Bumb says he won’t really know what the impact will be until BART trains start rolling in — which is expected later this year.

“I hope to capitalize on it,” Bumb said. “It could potentially bring thousands of customers every weekend to us.”

Bumb’s family has owned the market for generations, going back to when the neighborhood was mostly fruit orchards. He took over day-to-day operations in the 1990s when Berryessa was still partially undeveloped and isolated from the rest of San Jose — tucked away in the northeast corner of city, closer to Milpitas than City Hall.

Not long after, Bumb said the VTA and BART approached him with their earliest plans for the station — which now sits about a quarter-mile away from the market.

“We started negotiating with the VTA and BART essentially in the year 2000,” Bumb said. “Here it is 20 years later and I’m still waiting. But I’m looking forward to it.”

He’s not alone, Childress said. The transit riding public in the South Bay has been anticipating the opening of the hubs for almost as long. Indeed, both stations were originally planned to open in 2016. And until November 2019, BART and the authority were planning on having both stations fully operational before the end of the year.

“It has been decades in the making,” Childress said. “But that’s what happens with large scale infrastructure projects.”

But the VTA created a new service plan for the entire system based on the Milpitas and Berryessa stations being operational in 2020. So the authority couldn’t wait for BART service to open to roll out its new plan — which was designed to increase sagging ridership.

“The changes were so significant that we needed to make them all at once and open the transit centers anyway, regardless of whether BART was there,” Childress told San José Spotlight.

“We still don’t have a date for BART opening passenger service,” the VTA spokeswoman added. “We are going through our testing phase for a bit longer and then we will turn it over to BART, and they will make the call on when it is safe and reliable to open the system.”

Riders with questions or concerns about the new service are encouraged to call the VTA customer service line at 408-321-2300 or visit the VTA website for help with trip planning.

Contact Adam F. Hutton at afhutton.sjspotlight@gmail.com or follow @adamfhutton on Twitter.

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