Silicon Valley transit agency offers buses while light rail is down
A woman boards a VTA bus near Diridon Station in downtown San Jose. File photo.

    VTA is launching a temporary bus service next week, offering some relief to South Bay commuters frustrated by two months without light rail.

    The buses will start Monday and run every half hour on weekdays from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m, and hourly on weekends from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

    These “bus bridges” or modified bus lines mimic light rail routes and stops. Bus service will run along First Street in San Jose from the Paseo de San Antonio station to Baypointe station, then to the Milpitas Transit Center along Tasman Drive.

    Light rail operations have been suspended since May 26 after an employee shot and killed nine workers and then himself. Officials say the shooting damaged buildings and computers necessary to light rail operations.

    The agency ran bus bridges in the days following the shooting, but suspended it because of staffing shortages.

    VTA spokesperson Stacey Hendler Ross said the rides are free and will run until light rail trains are restored. The transit agency, which previously said light rail service would resume at the end of July, does not have a estimate of when service will come back.

    “VTA is working diligently and compassionately to ensure employees impacted by the tragic events of May 26 feel safe and confident to return to their normal duties,” Hendler Ross said in a statement.

    SV Transit Users founder Eugene Bradley said the temporary bus service is something he’s fought for since VTA stopped the first round of bus bridges on June 1.

    “I’m stoked VTA actually heard people like me and about 4,000 others that were missing service,” Bradley told San José Spotlight. “And the best part is this provides that service while light rail staff heals from May 26.”

    VTA unveiled a six-phase timeline in June that outlined a schedule for the return of light rail service. The first phase, which ended on June 30, involved finding essential employees willing and able to return to work. The agency also relocated light rail operations at the rail yard in downtown San Jose—where the shooting occurred—to a temporary worksite.

    Now in the second phase of the plan, VTA is moving employees and equipment to temporary locations and making sure workers have the resources to do their jobs. Once this stage is complete, VTA will start onboarding workers, completing infrastructure repairs and conducting trial runs of service without passengers.

    SEIU members who work at the light rail yard are anticipated to return on Aug. 2.

    The light rail system transported roughly 30,000 daily riders across the South Bay prior to the pandemic. With the arrival of COVID-19, the number declined to about 7,600 daily riders, according to VTA data.

    Reporter Eli Wolfe contributed to this story.

    Contact Stephanie Lam at [email protected] or follow @StephCLam on Twitter.

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