What is the VTA Visionary Transit Network + how to support it

Monica Mallon
6 min readMay 7, 2023
Visionary Transit Summary by VTA

Over the next few weeks, the VTA committees and board will consider the visionary transit network, which is an aspirational transit service vision for Santa Clara County. This is really significant because we currently don’t have a vision to look to for transit service and an important step in making transit better is having a vision. I have personally been a huge advocate of us having more transit service for years, so I’m really excited about this vision and very proud of them for doing this.

Visionary Transit Network Highlights

The visionary transit network includes 83% more service (77% on weekdays and 87% on weekends) than we have today and would dramatically improve transit service in Santa Clara County.

Weekday Enhancements

  • 10 min frequent bus and light rail network
  • 20–30 min local bus network
  • Extended hours
Source: VTA

Weekend Enhancements

  • 15 min frequent bus and light rail network
  • 20–30 min local bus network
  • Weekend service on all local non-school routes
  • Extended hours
Source: VTA

General service enhancements

  • Local routes upgraded to frequent routes
  • Overnight owl network for core parts of the network
Source: VTA

Other transit service models & new transit markets

- Additional commuter service
- Additional school service
- Bus service in areas currently without service
- On-demand service

Source: VTA

Capital Projects Needed for the Visionary Transit Network

To make the visionary transit network possible, capital improvements will be needed. Improvements needed include additional buses to operate the service, additional bus yard space and charging infrastructure and double tracking Vasona (green line) to Winchester Station.

Source: VTA

Ridership Estimates

The estimated ridership for the visionary network is an additional 45–70% over the current 2023 Transit Service Plan.

Operations Costs

The visionary network is obviously expensive and it will cost around $190 million dollars annually to run the increased service. VTA currently doesn’t have the money for the visionary network, so if the board adopts the visionary network and wants to take the next steps, new revenue will need to be pursued.

Source: VTA

This was a summary of the main components of the visionary transit network. You can read the full memo and attachments here.

Overall, the visionary network would be a game-changer for transit in Santa Clara County and it would improve service in all cities and make transit a much more attractive option for residents. While this is just a vision for now and funding hasn’t been secured yet, having a vision is the first step in making things better.

How to Support It

If you like the visionary transit network and want to support it, here are a few ways to support it:

  1. Send a comment letter for the meetings. Letters can be sent to board.secretary(at)vta(dot)org. Include “visionary transit network” in the subject line and ask to have the letter sent to all committees you can also click here to automatically open up an email. In the letter, I would suggest talking about how the visionary network will benefit you and your city or area. There’s no need to go list off a bunch of facts. It’s going to be a lot more impactful for them to hear why this is important for their constituents.
  2. Talk to your board representative about why the visionary transit network is important to you and why they support it and take the next steps to make it happen. The elected officials in Santa Clara County don’t usually hear a lot of good things about transit, so saying something positive and saying that you believe in the visionary transit network will really go a long way. You can see who you're representative is here.
  3. Tell people about it and post about it. As most people are aware, VTA isn’t the best at hyping up their own initiatives, so anything you can do to help spread the word and get support will be really helpful.
  4. Speak at the meetings. You can make public comments at the board and committee meetings below on Zoom or at River Oaks for the committee meetings and the Board of Supervisors Chambers for the final board vote. Please make sure to check the agenda and comment on the visionary transit network agenda item instead of the general public comments section.

6/12/23 update: the visionary transit network has passed through the committees and it will be going to the full board on Friday, June 16th at 9am. The information for the board meeting is below.

Jun 16, 2023 9:00 AMBoard of Directors

Agenda link: http://santaclaravta.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_Meeting.aspx?ID=3929

Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89995146436

FAQs and Qs from Twitter:

Q: How will VTA be able to pay for the visionary transit network?

A: As I mentioned earlier, the visionary transit network will cost around $190 million dollars annually on the operations side and capital costs will be at least $500 million dollars for the initial investment. State and federal grants are available to cover the capital costs, but there are currently no grants for operations funding to run the service. So VTA will have to lobby for new operations grants to be created, increase local taxes, or find other revenue sources to pay for the visionary transit network.

Q: How long will it take for us to have the visionary transit network?

A: It’s difficult to tell and the visionary transit network will probably be implemented in phases because of its magnitude. The first phase can probably be implemented about 2 years after the funding is secured.

Q: What committee meeting is the most important to go to?

A: All of the committees are important, but if you can only go to one, I would suggest going to the Policy Advisory Committee (PAC) because it includes elected officials from all 16 jurisdictions in the county.

Q: What local routes will be upgraded to the frequent network first?

A: It’s hard to predict which routes, but it will most likely be routes that have high ridership. The top 5 highest ridership local routes (boardings per hour) are the 71 (already getting an upgrade in the 2023 service plan), 47, 55, 53, and 56.

Q: What improvements will be made first?

It will depend on what the board and staff want to prioritize, but it will be easier to implement night and weekend improvements first because they can be done with the existing fleet. The other improvements will require extra buses, infrastructure, and yard space, and it will take time to plan and build all of that.

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Monica Mallon

Thoughtful transit advocacy and coverage in Santa Clara County, CA