At that time the Valley was in the height of the dot-com bubble. VTA ran more service back then, with light rail service every 10 minutes. With the high employment rate there was an urgency to deliver more transit service to this sprawling area. There were nothing but high expectations for the Tasman West line especially when it would connect with major employment sites north of the freeways.
When all planned extensions are built, by 2004, ridership could top 40,000 a day. "I think we'll surpass that real quick,'' said Pete Cipolla, general manager of the Valley Transportation Authority, which oversees bus and light-rail operations. "I think we're real conservative on the 7,500 new riders we expect on Tasman West (the Mountain View line). "And when we go to the east, ridership will skyrocket.''
VTA began constructing the line from Mountain View, and proceed onto connecting with the original line at Old Ironsides. In March of 99, VTA trucked in its first light rail car from San Jose to Mountain View to begin line testing. Two months later, VTA closed the segment between Tasman and Old Ironsides stations to retrofit the platforms (which eventually took 9 years to complete systemwide). The Tasman West line was designed for low-floor light rail cars.
When the line opened in December, a few weeks before entering year 2000, VTA ran trains every 10 minutes throughout the day. For the first month, VTA waived fares on that line because of a delay in the delivery of ticket vending machines. Over the years, due to low ridership and decline in sales tax revenue, VTA reduced service. Today the light rail line runs every 30 minutes between 9am and 2pm, 1/3 of what VTA provided in 2000.
Nearly a decade later, with light rail ridership peaked at around 38,000 six months ago, the Tasman line is the least productive segment in the whole light rail network. According to the recent Annual Transit Service Plan, stations along the Tasman West line are among the lowest in terms of ridership:
Bayshore/NASA - 64
Evelyn - 79
Moffett Park - 79
Whisman - 115
Borregas - 122
Compare that to...
Great Mall - 1265
Santa Clara - 1338
Paseo de San Antonio - 1599
Note: Mountain View station's ridership is quite high at 1318 (3rd highest in the system).
Unlike other parts of the light rail, the Tasman West line largely runs on street median and has many sharp turns, which contribute to its slow speed. From 1999 to 2005, direct service to downtown San Jose was not available and riders had to transfer at Baypointe. It takes nearly an hour to get from Downtown San Jose to Mountain View on light rail. For riders commuting from south of downtown San Jose, the travel time is even longer. Overall, the light rail line was no faster than the bus (line 20 from San Antonio Shopping Center to Milpitas) that it replaced.
If light rail were not built along that corridor, that corridor probably wouldn't have enough ridership to support Bus Rapid Transit. However, some BRT critics said that BRT is based on the mentality that "public transit riders don’t deserve the highest quality transit available," and that BRT "has no place in any transportation system." Given the obvious failure of this line, BRT critics ought to ask themselves whether rail is always a superior alternative, especially if the alignment and surrounding land use do not favor transit? Improved bus service would at least provide a more flexible service, as well as running non-stop from residential areas directly to employment sites. After repeat attempts to cancel the service, VTA still operates line 122 (although only one round trip) from Santa Teresa to Lockheed Martin. The line somewhat duplicates light rail, but the bus travels faster. For the time the bus takes from South San Jose to Lockheed, light rail would only take you to Tasman for a transfer.