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VTA approves visionary plan for abundant service but doesn’t mention rider-requested connections

On June 16, the VTA board approved a visionary plan for much more frequent service, based on community feedback earlier in the year.    At full implementation, the Visionary Network would offer 83% more service compared to current 2023 service, with 77% more service on weekdays and 87% more service on weekends.  The service improvements are anticipated to cost 44% above the current operating budget, and to attract 45-70% more riders

Network would bring VTA’s transit service per capita in line with peers such as AC Transit and Denver RTD (and would remain far below San Francisco Muni and Portland TriMet).    VTA’s research showed how the amount of service it provides has fallen well below the growth in county population, and how the agency provides dramatically less service than most similar agencies in the US.

The recommended Visionary Network emphasizes making lines that already run fairly frequently – every 15 minutes on weekdays are proposed to improve to every 10 minutes, and weekend service is slated to improve to every 15 minutes.  The Visionary Network calls for local routes to run on weekends, and for improved local route frequency based on demand.

VTA plans dovetails with regions plans to fund service

VTA’s visionary plan will serve as the base to pursue operating funding, likely in phases. 

VTA’s plan will feed well into the region’s planning, since the Bay Area region is starting planning for a regional funding measure for 2026, which is intended to have a major focus on funding for service. Public feedback for the regional measure will be coming up shortly in August.

VTA’s plans for transit priority will help achieve greater frequency before new funding is available. VTA’s studies have found that projects such as bus stop balancing, transit signal priority, and bus priority lanes, which collectively have the potential to improve average bus speeds by 10-30% could save up to 30% in annual operating costs. 

Listening to riders about service – but not connections

VTA’s adopted visionary network took into account the feedback from community members who prioritize adding service, including frequency, weekend service, and extended service.

However, VTA riders also provided feedback asking for better transfers, including better transfers to regional service such as Caltrain and BART.  Transfer improvements would fit nicely with regional plans for free and reduced price transfers starting in 2024, and with the Connected Network Planning that MTC will be conducting with transit agencies starting this year.

But VTA’s approved plan does not mention improving transfers at all.  Very high frequency is the most powerful strategy to improve connections, but VTA is expecting to increase frequency in multiple phases over time.   The agency’s website already states that “VTA works closely with other area transit operators to provide convenient transfers for regional trips, including regional transfer locations and inter-operator transfer or fare agreements.“  

There are surely opportunities to improve some schedule connections in the nearer term, even with current frequencies, and by using interagency connections as one of multiple factors in determining routes for which to improve frequency.

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