Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) provides bus and light rail transit service within Santa Clara County, located at the south end of San Francisco Bay. The 42-mile light rail system serves the central business district and civic center of San Jose, the residential areas to the south and east, and the “Silicone Valley” technology campuses to the north. Its five corridors include exclusive rights-of-way in freeway median, operation in transit mall and local street median governed by traffic signals, and four sections of single track. Three service lines provide links to VTA bus lines and employer shuttles, and connections with Caltrain, Altamont Commuter Express (ACE) and the Amtrak Capitol Corridor regional rail services. Future connections will be provided to the planned BART extension into San Jose.
In 2008, VTA requested proposals for professional services to perform a comprehensive operations analysis of its light rail system. LTK, as part of a larger consulting team, was selected to manage this effort following a highly-competitive selection process.
The objective of the study is to recommend a strategy that is two-fold:
- Improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the existing service, by attracting more ridership while controlling operating costs, and.
- Position the system to provide the service capacity necessary to meet projected increases in demand through 2035.
The scope of the study includes a restructuring of the existing services as well as moderate capital improvements. Service considerations include the addition of express and skip-stop services, rearrangement of service patterns and the closure of lowest-ridership stations, all with the objective of improving the travel times for the majority of riders. Capital improvements include: double-tracking the single-tracked sections, relocating one station to improve the transfer to regional rail, and right-of-way improvements to enable trains to operate at higher speeds in the downtown mall, in-street and along the freeway. Two line extensions, one new station and grade separation at key locations are also being examined.
Ten system scenarios have been defined for analysis, based on inputs from the VTA Operations, Planning, and Construction departments and the BART Silicon Valley Rapid Transit Corridor (SVRT) project, as well as the results of a preliminary analysis of travel demand in the service area. Service and operating plans for each scenario were then developed, including yard put-ins, yard lay-ups, equipment cycling and detailed train schedules. Using sophisticated simulation software, LTK then calculated run times for each service and identified any operational constraints that may occur due to express and local service co-location, or conflicts at merge points, intersections and junctions. The resulting travel times are being used to forecast ridership for each scenario.
Three of the most promising ten scenarios will be selected by VTA for further analysis. Capital costs and annual operations and maintenance costs will be estimated, along with the development of a financial risk analysis. Additional network simulations will be performed to more closely examine service coordination and scenario modifications.
Throughout the project, the consultant team has held a number of workshops with VTA management and staff from stakeholders departments to discuss, refine and select the scenarios for further study. This has proven to be very effective in guiding the project, providing a forum for open discussion of agency objectives and requirements, feedback on early task findings and recommendations, and direction on future tasks.
In addition to overall project management, LTK’s work products include simulation model results, operations and maintenance costing at various projected levels of service, operations analysis and evaluation of the adequacy of infrastructure, capacity analysis of the light rail fleet, and an evaluation of technical requirements to raise maximum speeds from 55 mph to 65 mph.