Since the opening of the light rail in South San Jose in 1992, the Almaden branch has been operated as shuttle between Ohlone/Chynoweth and Almaden. Other than the crowd heading to the Oakridge Mall, the shuttle is largely useless. Riders coming from further south in the Almaden Valley could take a bus or drive to Ohlone/Chynoweth and take the light rail there directly to downtown San Jose.
In 2003, the shuttle faced possible discontinuation when VTA was planning for service reduction during the last budget crunch. Last year, the shuttle was temporarily discontinued for about two months for platform retrofit. While this shuttle survived the 2003 cut (which many bus lines didn't) and the platform retrofit, it may not survive this budget crisis.
However shutting down a light rail service, even on a temporary basis, isn't as easy as cutting a bus route. Unlike bus routes, light rail has a lot of fixed infrastructure that needs to be maintained regardless of its operating status. For instance, if light rail were to be discontinued, security must still be provided at stations and tracks must still be kept in a state of good repair. As we all know, vacant homes due to wave of foreclosures attract blight, vandalism, and crimes into the neighborhood because of the lack of care for these homes. VTA could save some money on power and labor, but VTA would still have to pay to keep the line maintained, especially when VTA won't have operators to keep an eye on a regular basis. VTA might as well keep the line running and keep the riders happy.
Meanwhile, VTA is studying options for the Almaden line for the light rail COA. In several scenarios, trains from Almaden would continue north on the mainline to Downtown San Jose and beyond, and that trains from Santa Teresa would operate non-stop between Ohlone and Downtown San Jose. Also in some scenarios, the Almaden line would be discontinued permanently. That said, any outcomes from the COA might require additional capital and operating expenses that VTA doesn't have, and which could require years to implement.