This is a new series I've started for the blog profiling transit systems I've ridden and found interesting.
When I was out west at Railvolution a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to ride down to San Jose and spend a few hours there. I have to say I was impressed. I was expecting a car-oriented suburban landscape of office parks, but found that the city has a nice core downtown.
The city has a light rail system which operates along 42 miles of track with 62 stations. The system first opened in 1987, and has been upgraded and expanded since. It is operated by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, VTA. The LRVs currently used on the system are low-floor. They replaced the original fleet of high-floor LRVs in 2003. Platforms are presently being brought up to allow for level boarding.
Portions of the system still are single-track, but most of the system is double-tracked. Still, I found frequencies somewhat lacking. I had to wait almost 30 minutes for a train at Diridon Station. Ridership seemed to be decent considering the context. Approximately 37,000 people board the system every day, putting it in 14th place for American light rail ridership.
In my opinion, the San Jose Light Rail offers a few notable practices.
Downtown, the line operates in a pedestrian mall-type environment on parallel one-way streets. The picture at top illustrates this. Here, the rails are embedded in a linear-plaza setting, and between trains people walk and bike along the tracks. With street trees planted only feet away from the sides of the vehicles, the catenary wire is almost invisible. (See UMD, it can be done!)
Additionally, ample space for bikes is provided on board. I've ridden many light rail systems, but nowhere can I remember seeing quite so much space allocated for cyclists. This system is definitely bike-friendly, and I found that interesting, because I never imagined San Jose to be a great bike city. Apparently, however, the two-wheeled mode is popular in the Silicon Valley.
Unfortunately, I only had enough time to ride a small portion of the system. I wish I'd had more time to explore, but I suppose I'll be back in the Bay Area eventually.
San Jose Diridon - St. James,
Lick Mill - Mountain View
San Jose Diridon,
Paseo de San Antonio,
I'm interested in your opinions on this new segment. So comment with the following questions in mind:
1. What other information would you like to see in the segment "Profiles in Transit?"
2. What thoughts do you have on VTA Light Rail?