The inside of a train station in San Jose
Diridon Station in San Jose is a major transit hub for Caltrain and Amtrak and in the future BART. Photo by Jason Torres Iraheta.

Silicon Valley is the heart of innovation and the tech economy. For decades, it’s been a place where people from all over the world come to turn their brightest ideas into successful companies.

Silicon Valley boasts a gross domestic product of $382.8 billion and is home to 200 of the 500 largest companies in the world by revenue. Despite this success, the burgeoning potential of public transit is often overlooked.

Some see San Jose and Santa Clara County as sleepy suburbs undeserving of transit investment. However, the reality is that Silicon Valley is a major economic powerhouse that continues to grow. By 2040, San Jose alone is expected to grow from a population of almost 1 million to 1.5 million and add 172,000 jobs.

City analysis shows driving will double by 2040 if we continue on the same path, resulting in gridlock for commuters and negatively impacting air quality, the environment and our quality of life. We need to go big on transit.

Thankfully, despite challenges during the pandemic, progress is being made on transit in Santa Clara County. Testing is underway for electrified Caltrain service, which is expected to begin in September. Electrification will provide faster and more frequent service throughout Santa Clara County and the peninsula.

BART Silicon Valley, which will connect BART to downtown San Jose, San Jose State University, Diridon Station and Santa Clara, has also continued to move forward. Early construction activities started in April, and VTA has submitted an updated financial plan to the Federal Transit Administration and hopes to receive a full funding grant agreement by the end of the year. Upon completion, the extension will serve an estimated 54,600 riders and help take cars off the road.

On the local service side, VTA — the primary transit operator in the county — has experienced a remarkable uptick in ridership growth, ranking in the top five in the nation for two consecutive years. As of March, bus ridership has rebounded to 90% of pre-pandemic levels, with overall ridership hovering at about 85%.

Some of VTA’s service categories, including the frequent bus network and event service, have reached or exceeded pre-pandemic levels. This shows local transit service is a growth market, especially if service is increased, as outlined in VTA’s visionary transit network.

Critics may argue the costs of improving transit are too high and it will take too long to build. However, the benefits of increased mobility options, lower emissions and reduced traffic congestion will far outweigh the initial costs and challenges.

In Silicon Valley, we can make seemingly impossible things come true with hard work and an unwavering belief that anything is possible. It’s time for that mindset to be applied to transit as well.

As our region continues to grow, we must ensure transit grows in parallel. By recognizing Silicon Valley as a growth market for transit and investing in rail and improved transit service, we can create a more vibrant, connected and sustainable community for our future.

Lucescamaray Blog columnist Monica Mallon is a transit advocate and rider in Santa Clara County. Her columns appear on the first Thursday of every other month. Contact Monica at [email protected] or follow @MonicaMallon on Twitter.

Comment Policy (updated 5/10/2023): Readers are required to log in through a social media or email platform to confirm authenticity. We reserve the right to delete comments or ban users who engage in personal attacks, hate speech, excess profanity or make verifiably false statements. Comments are moderated and approved by admin.

Leave a Reply