VTA is currently looking to hire a consultant to study express buses in the Valley. VTA call it "highway-based BRT" to differentiate with the other type of BRT (bus rapid transit) that operates on main thoroughfare like the 522. The study will be an addition to the work, such as market analysis, already performed for the COA.
An outcome of the study is to provide a list of improvements that can be completed for the next 10 years. After that, VTA assumes that BART would be extended and that somehow everything about the transit market would be different.
Unlike other cities, Santa Clara County is different when it comes to express bus service. In most cities, express bus service focuses on bring people from the suburbs to downtown. Just in San Francisco, express buses operated by various agencies take riders from the East Bay, the North Bay, and San Mateo County to downtown.
Until recently, the only express service to Downtown San Jose was line 180 from Fremont. In January, VTA added another express bus route (168) to downtown from Gilroy and Morgan Hill. The rest of the express bus routes take commuters from Fremont and other parts of the county to major office parks on the north and west side of the county, such as Lockheed Martin/Moffett Park and Stanford Industrial Park.
Unlike Downtown San Jose, these office parks provide ample free parking, and offer few if any outside amenities within walking distance. In these environments, some commuters would want to bring their cars just so that they can run errands during lunch time.
Also, some of the major Santa Clara County employers provide their own shuttle service. The most prominent one is Google, which some said its shuttles from San Francisco is influencing the real estate prices there. Besides Google, Apple, Yahoo, and VM Ware hire charter bus operators to shuttle their employees. Part of the study will ask whether VTA is providing the service that these employers are looking for, and whether VTA could fulfill their needs.
Finally, VTA does not have its own fleet for express buses. Agencies like AC Transit and Golden Gate Transit operate MCI coaches that provide more comfortable rides. Regular buses with high back commuter seats are used on Dumbarton Express and Highway 17 Express. On the other hand, VTA uses regular buses, often filthy and sometimes without padded seats, on all of its express routes. VTA once operated commuter buses in the past, but these buses were retired in 2003 without replacement. The study will consider providing better passenger amenities, including onboard wi-fi internet access.