Commentary

Transit Freefall in Santa Clara

Light rail ridership is lower that it was a decade ago. Bus ridership is at its lowest point since 1981. From the Mercury News: The trolley system has been hardest hit. Ridership stands at 17,047 each weekday, a 44 percent drop from three years ago when more than 30,000 trips a day were taken after the extension to Mountain View opened. It is the lowest figure since 1991. But the decline in bus riders is perhaps more alarming, since the 40-foot vehicles serve as the workhorse of the county transit system. Slightly more than 109,000 trips are being made each weekday, a 28 percent decline from three years ago. Since it looks like fares and service will continue to move in the wrong direction, it’s unlikely that ridership will improve: The VTA has cut service 15 percent during the past two years, avoiding a 21 percent cut this year by borrowing $80 million from a future sales tax for transportation. A 3 percent reduction in bus and light-rail operations will take effect next month and fares next summer are certain to be raised, the third increase in the past 2 1/2 years. Many buses that used to run every 15 or 20 minutes now cover the same routes every 30 to 60 minutes. Trolleys once churned through downtown every 10 minutes; now it’s every 15 minutes to once an hour on some weekend routes.

Ted Balaker is an award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and founding partner of Korchula Productions, a film and new media production company devoted to making important ideas entertaining.