VTA light rail is coming back to San Jose
VTA light rail train. Photo courtesy of VTA.

Light rail commuters in San Jose might soon be able to catch a train again after service came to a halt in late May, according to a timeline released Thursday by VTA.

The timeline includes six phases, with a goal to resume light rail service by the end of July. The update came after weeks of radio silence from VTA, which left many commuters frustrated.

“We know our light rail passengers are eager to see the trains running again. We are too,” the announcement of the timeline reads.

Light rail trains have sat idle in downtown San Jose since May 26 when a disgruntled VTA employee killed nine of his colleagues before taking his own life. The mass shooting damaged buildings and computers necessary to the light rail operation, officials said.

Last month, VTA launched a task force to oversee the mission of bringing service back. Under the new plan, VTA will relocate the light rail operation and ease traumatized employees back to work in phases.

On Twitter, commuters rejoiced over the news.

The three-line light rail system spans more than 40 miles across the South Bay, connecting residents along the peninsula from Mountain View to San Jose. The network served around 30,000 daily riders prior to the pandemic and 7,600 daily riders this past year, according to VTA’s data.

Screenshot of VTA’s timeline to resume light rail train service.

VTA’s roadmap of resuming light rail service shows that the first phase ended June 30. During that phase, VTA contacted workers critical to the light rail operation to make sure they can return to work. The agency also started to relocate the light rail operation to a temporary worksite and will detail new protection measures to workers once they return. The operation will stay there for at least three months.

The transportation agency plans to eventually move employees to another location where they will work for the next two to five years. The buildings where the shooting happened will either be remodeled or rebuilt in the meantime, the plan reads.

VTA is working on the second phase of its roadmap. The agency is finishing the relocation process and notifying maintenance employees of new work schedules. Once moving is done, workers will go through training and a “soft opening” at the new workplace prior to starting their assignments.

Soon, engineers will resume inspections and repairs as part of the third phase. Light rail operators will begin test runs on the trains with no passengers for five days in the fourth phase, and full service is expected to resume by the end of July.

VTA will then assess and make adjustments to service levels, according to the plan.

“It’s good that there’s a plan,” said Eugene Bradley, a longtime local public transit advocate and founder of Silicon Valley Transit Users. “But this is a rather awkward announcement.”

He noted that there’s no formal news conference for the plan, and that the announcement only came out after his group started to campaign for updates and the issue gained media attention.

VTA didn’t respond to inquiries from San José Spotlight about the timeline to resume light rail service.

Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter.

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