According to various sources, VTA is embarking on a COA for the light rail system. VTA is trying to boost ridership on the light rail just like what the agency tried to do for the bus network last January.
With fixed infrastructure and the lack of funds to improve them, it is not clear how large of a scope the light rail COA will be. It is also not clear whether that COA will effectively address some of the chief criticisms such as:
- Light rail operates too slow through downtown San Jose.
- Light rail is too slow to get to Mountain View from South San Jose.
- Light rail is too aroundabout to get to downtown from East San Jose.
- Transfer is required from Milpitas to Mountain View and from Almaden to basically everywhere.
Some believe that light rail should've skipped downtown and head straight on the freeway to the airport. A lot of people think the Almaden light rail shuttle is a joke and should be discontinued, which VTA actually considered as a part of a 21% service reduction proposed in 2003.
Despite criticisms, light rail does work for some people. Light rail is popular for folks in South San Jose and Campbell to get to downtown, as it is the only market where light rail is actually competitive with automobiles. However, most of the jobs are not in downtown.
It is hard to imagine major operational improvements to the light rail without having significant price tags. For instance, the Mountain View-Winchester line has several single track sections that may need to be double tracked for scheduling flexibility. Also, an extra track or two may be required to provide express light rail service, an idea which VTA General Manager Michael Burns once expressed an interest in. VTA's already in a hole when it comes to money for projects, where will the money come from to expand the tracks?
It is interesting that the same group of delusionals, such as Rod Diridon, who created the light rail system are also advocates for the BART extension.