It’s taken months, but Santa Clara County’s public transit agency is almost fully back in action.
Starting this weekend, VTA officials said the entire light rail system will be back on track.
The agency announced an expansion of light rail service earlier this week to include the entire Blue Line, which runs from Baypointe to Santa Teresa. This means the only part of the light rail system not yet reactivated is a section of the Green Line from Diridon Station to Winchester Station in Campbell. VTA spokesperson Stacey Hendler Ross told San José Spotlight the agency ran a test train Tuesday night.
“VTA is working steadily to reactivate the entire system,” she said.
VTA is getting closer to bringing back its three-line rail network following a May mass shooting at the Guadalupe rail yard in downtown San Jose that forced the agency to ground trains for almost three months. The agency previously estimated it would restore light rail service by the end of July, but scrapped that timetable to deal with traumatized workers, repair equipment and establish temporary work sites. Limited light rail service resumed at the end of August, with VTA bringing workers back to tour the light rail yard for the first time since the shooting.
VTA offered riders a bus bridge service while light rail was down, but some commuters were still upset with the shuttering of the 40-mile light rail network that affected thousands of people who rely on the trains to travel to destinations across the South Bay, from Mountain View to San Jose.
VTA also announced this week that free fares for light rail scheduled to end Sept. 12 will extend through Sept. 30. But there is still grumbling from riders waiting for the return of service in their neighborhoods.
“Great. Those of us beyond Diridon are still stranded, “wrote Mark Romoser in a comment on VTA’s website.
Transit advocates say they’re pleased to see the agency reopening its rail network.
“I am grateful and thankful that light rail is being restored,” Eugene Bradley, founder of Silicon Valley Transit Users, told San José Spotlight. “It should not have taken this long.”
Bradley said that after the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, the Port Authority Trans-Hudson, which ran a line near the site, resumed service in about a week. He’s concerned VTA and other Bay Area transit agencies aren’t capable of quickly restoring service in the event of a natural or manmade disaster.
“The Bay Area isn’t prepared for that in general,” he said.
A more immediate concern for VTA is getting the public to re-acclimate to the presence of trains. Hendler Ross said pedestrians, cyclists and drivers should be aware of trains, especially at intersections.
“One of the most frequent occurrences is when a car fails to pay attention to the left turn signal, and goes when the train signal is activated, crashing into the train,” she said. “We want to remind our community to please be aware of all signals and warnings, and always watch for trains near the system.”