Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The second day of line 168

Line 168 is the only new express bus line that does not have an existing ridership base (unlike 181, which replaced 180 in Downtown SJ). It is a commuter route from the south county to Downtown San Jose.

People are boarding a short turn 68 bus that ends at Santa Teresa Light Rail Station. As a part of the bus changes, the frequency of line 68 has been reduced from 15 minutes to 30 minutes during peak hours south of Santa Teresa.

People are boarding the line 168 bus leaving at 4:36pm on 2nd Street. Two passenger have a regular day pass and is asked to pay a $1.75 upgrade per person to ride this bus. There is five passengers onboard.

The bus enters CA-87 from the Delmas onramp. From there the bus enters the HOV lane and is bypassing the usual slowdown at the I-280 interchange.

The bus stays on the HOV lane on CA-87, CA-85, and then on 101. There's a direct HOV lane to HOV lane connection at the 85-101 interchange.

The HOV lane the bus is running on was opened in 2003 along with a regular lane to the right, which doubled the width of the freeway.

The HOV lane ends at Cochrane and the traffic backup begins. That's where the bus exits the freeway. The bus arrives at Morgan Hill Caltrain station 10 minutes ahead of schedule.

Unconstrained by timepoints after leaving downtown San Jose, the bus arrives in Gilroy 15 minutes ahead of schedule. This bus now has almost half an hour layover before departing northbound as a regular 68. Other 168 buses that arrive later appear to be right on schedule.

Gilroy Transit Center is a transfer point to San Benito buses to Hollister.

The first afternoon Caltrain arrives in Gilroy six minutes after the arrival of the 168 bus. This train is scheduled to depart from San Jose nine minutes after the departure of the same 168 bus.

The Caltrain ridership in Gilroy has gone down significantly since the 2003 widening of 101, along with a 60% fare increase also implemented in 2003. The next Gilroy train won't come for another 90 minutes, while the next 168 bus will arrive in about half an hour.

Historically, the south county does not have the kind of express bus service to downtown San Jose similar to line 168. Before the opening of the Caltrain extension in 1992, VTA ran line 160 from Gilroy to North 1st Street and Tasman. The line ran every 30 minutes but did not run on freeways during any part of its trip. Another line, the 502 operated from Gilroy to San Jose Civic Center area via freeways, but only has one roundtrip each day.

Caltrain was later considered the primary connection besides line 68. Despite VTA's effort to add an extra track, VTA's effort to add freeway lanes undermined Caltrain. In 2006, with partial funding from VTA, Monterey Salinas Transit added a new bus route between San Jose and Monterey via Gilroy, adding another (abeit limited) alternative to Caltrain and line 68.

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