|Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority|
|Locale||San Jose, California|
|Transit type||Bus and light rail|
|Number of lines||82 bus, 3 light rail|
|Number of stations||62|
|Daily ridership||102,123 bus, 32,978 light rail (FY 2007)|
|Operator(s)||Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority|
|System length||42.2 mi (67.9 km) (light rail)|
Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) is a special-purpose district responsible for public transit services, congestion management, specific highway improvement projects, and countywide transportation planning for Santa Clara County, California, United States.
In 1969, Santa Clara County had three private bus companies, all of which were in serious financial trouble: Peninsula Transit, San Jose City Lines, and Peerless Stages. The California Legislature passed a Santa Clara County Transit District Act in 1969. However, the Act did not supply any funding for the new district, and county voters were reluctant to tax themselves to fund a public bus system. The formation of the Santa Clara County Transit District was rejected in 1969 and 1970 before it was finally approved by county voters on June 6, 1972. The SCCTD took over the operations of the three old bus companies on January 1, 1973.
On September 26, 1974, the county Board of Supervisors dissolved the Public Works Department. Non-transit operations went into a new General Services Agency, while transit operations were placed into a new Santa Clara County Transportation Agency.
The biggest problem facing SCCTD in its early years was to replace the aging bus fleet it inherited from its predecessors. At first the district bought propane-fueled Twin Coaches and Gilligs. SCCTD switched to an all-diesel fleet after six buses went up in flames between December 1977 and April 1978. At the time, critics referred to the buses as "rolling propane bombs."
Another issue was improving the diversity of its workforce. In December 1978, the SCCTD approved an affirmative action plan for the Transportation Agency. After a long legal battle, the U.S. Supreme Court by a 6-3 majority upheld the gender component of the plan against a civil rights challenge on March 25, 1987.
On January 1, 1995, the SCCTA merged with the county Congestion Management Agency to become the SCVTA. For convenience, the acronym was later shortened to VTA.
In 1996, voters approved a half cent general county sales tax, Measure B, and a companion list of transportation projects recommended to be funded with Measure B, called (1996) Measure A. The two measures were designed to circumvent the rule in the California State Constitution that requires a two-thirds supermajority to pass any special purpose sales tax, but only a majority vote to pass a general sales tax. The measure was challenged, but in 1998, the California Supreme Court ruled that the two measure system was valid. The tax was to be collected for ten years.
In 2000, voters approved a 30 year extension of the 1996 sales tax to fund an extension of Bay Area Rapid Transit to Santa Clara, which was strongly advocated by San Jose mayor Ron Gonzales. 2000 Measure A also includes funding for light rail extensions, bus service expansion, and expansion and electrification of Caltrain service to San Jose International Airport. The measure was placed on the ballot by the VTA and does not include funding specifically for highway projects. It was criticized by residents in the western and southern portions of the county, who stated that not enough benefit was being provided to those areas. Nevertheless, due to growing congestion during the dot-com boom, the measure passed with 70% of the vote. Revenues from the sales tax would not begin being collected until April 2006.
After 2000, due to the dot-com bust, existing revenue sources declined and VTA was forced to cut service and increase fares. VTA embarked on a series of fare hikes starting in 1998 and culminating in 2005. Base fares have increased 59%, monthly passes by 86%, and day passes by 139% over that time. VTA's farebox recovery is approximately 12%, which is far below the national average. Attempts to increase VTA's low farebox recovery has resulted in fare increases and service cuts, which continue to reduce ridership and paradoxically do not result in major improvement in farebox recovery. A single consultant said in a 2003 editorial board meeting that in general increasing fares could scare away customers and VTA contemplated a 21% service reduction in 2003  to address its budget problems. Instead, VTA changed routes to respond to customer demands and by 2008 saw surging ridership numbers.
In the process of obtaining the federal funding necessary to build the BART extension, VTA received a blow when the Federal Transit Administration issued a "Not Recommended" rating in January 2004. The FTA was concerned about the ability for VTA operate BART and other bus services at the same time. Nevertheless, VTA continued to design BART and prepare the required environmental documents.
In 2006, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors placed a ½ cent general sales tax increase for unspecified transportation projects along with other county services. It was advocated by supporters of the BART extension and labor groups, to avoid the likelihood of having two separate sales tax measures competing for voter support.  The tax increase would have meant that Santa Clara County would have the highest sales tax in the state. Recent California Supreme Court decisions had prevented the county from using the same technique as in 1996, so the transportation projects were not listed. The measure funded improvements to local hospitals, clinic and transportation. On June 6, 2006, voters defeated the measure by a margin of 58% to 42%.
Currently, VTA's plans still include the BART extension. In December 2006, the VTA board allocated $185 million to continue engineering work and environmental clearance on the extension, with a proposal to bring a tax increase to operate the BART extension in 2008.
The Santa Clara VTA special district is governed by a 12-member board of directors whose members are:
In June 2004, the Santa Clara County Grand Jury criticized the governance structure by calling it "too large, too political, too dependent on staff, too inexperienced in some cases, and too removed from the financial and operational performance of VTA." Since VTA board members are required to be elected officials, they must juggle their other duties in addition to VTA. The Grand Jury recommended that the VTA board be shrunk to 5 to 7 members, with members either appointed solely for transportation issues or directly elected by the voters.
VTA's current General Manager is Michael Burns, previously the General Manager of San Francisco Muni.
VTA also serves as the Congestion Management Agency for Santa Clara County. In this role VTA makes decisions on what local projects can utilize federal and state funding, and manage sales tax revenue that is specified for VTA usages, such as 1987 Measure A and 2000 Measure A sales tax measures.
VTA operates three light rail lines, a number of bus lines, and paratransit service. VTA is a member agency of Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board that manages Caltrain commuter rail, providing one-third of annual operating funds and all the funding for specific improvement projects within Santa Clara County. VTA is also a member agency of Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority that manages Capitol Corridor intercity rail service.
VTA operates 82 regularly operating bus routes as of April 2006. Many of these routes connect to VTA light rail service and Caltrain stations. VTA also provides express bus service, including express bus service to BART in Fremont.
VTA's longest and most-used bus route is the 22, which connects VTA's Eastridge Transit Center in East San Jose with the Caltrain station in Palo Alto, which serves as a transfer point for SamTrans buses from San Mateo County. Line 22 is the only line with 24-hour, 7 days-per-week service, including night bus service as part of the regional All-Nighter Network. One side effect of Line 22's 24-hour schedule is that it doubles as a moving homeless shelter. Line 22's fleet of coaches primarily consists of articulated low floorbuses.
On July 5, 2005, VTA implemented its first rapid bus line along the VTA's busiest corridor. Modeled after the Metro Rapid service in Los Angeles, rapid bus Line 522 follows most of the Line 22 route, and features limited stops, headway based schedules, low floor fleet, and signal priority along El Camino Real. The VTA is currently studying the feasibility of implementing similar Bus Rapid Transit service along San Carlos/Stevens Creek Blvd., which would supplement Line 23 between San Jose and Cupertino, and along Monterey Highway, which would supplement Line 68 between San Jose and Gilroy.
On January 14, 2008, VTA implemented major updates in its bus service. Some routes became part of a community bus network that utilizes shorter buses and charges a cheaper fee than standard bus service. Others became part of a core network with headways of 15 minutes or less. Additionally, some bus routes underwent changes in routing, while other, less-used routes were deleted completely.
Altogether, VTA's bus lines serve San Jose, Milpitas, Saratoga, Santa Clara, Cupertino, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Alviso, Morgan Hill, San Martin, Gilroy, Campbell, Los Gatos, Los Altos, and Sunnyvale within Santa Clara County; in addition, there is trans-county express service to and from Fremont, Union City, Scotts Valley, Santa Cruz and Soquel, and service to and from 49ers football games in San Francisco.
VTA operates a vintage trolley service seasonally. It operates between Civic Center and the San Jose Caltrain stations. Information on this service can be found on VTA's website.
Paratransit service is door-to-door shuttle service available to disabled people that meet the requirements of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. Outreach, a non-profit agency, is the contract paratransit broker for VTA.
Besides providing transit services to residents of Santa Clara County, VTA also manages countywide highway projects that uses county sales tax revenues, in conjunction with Caltrans. In this role, VTA was responsible for several highway projects such as widening portions of US 101 between San Jose and Morgan Hill, and Interstate 880 within Santa Clara County. VTA will also be the leading agency in SR 152/SR 156 interchange and future widening projects.