VTA to expand Gilroy bus lines

The new Bounce Buses commuter shuttles will have two departure times each weekday morning from both the Morgan Hill Cal train station and, above, the Gilroy Transit Center. It's buses will make round trips to stops in San Jose and Santa Clara.

GILROY—The Valley Transportation Authority plans on expanding bus service in the Garlic Capital in the fall, starting with two lines between Saint Louise Regional Hospital and downtown Gilroy and extending weekday hours of buses between Gavilan College and the city core.
VTA General Manager and CEO Nuria Fernandez announced Tuesday at the Gilroy Rotary Club meeting that the authority expects to provide better coverage beginning in October with the expansion of lines 14 and 17, which lead southbound from the hospital and northbound to the intersection of Monterey Street and Las Animas Avenue, respectively.
The changes follow completion of a systemic review the VTA performs every two years, she said.
“Rather than having (either line) end, they will combine so those near the Gilroy Transit Center would be able to go to the hospital and back,” added Fernandez.
Service along line 18, which carries riders between Gavilan College and the Gilroy Transit Center, will be extended during the weekdays.
As it stands now, service discontinues on weekdays at 6 p.m. on line 18, but beginning in October it will be in operation until 9:30 p.m., according to Fernandez. However, service on the weekends along that line is slated to be discontinued in the fall.
The wait times between buses citywide will also improve, the authority’s chief executive officer assured.
“We’ve heard a lot of comments about that (from residents),” Fernandez said. “We have a number of buses that operate in Gilroy and we’re trying to make the most of the assets we have down here in a way people using the system have asked for.”
Residents who use VTA buses to travel to downtown San Jose can also expect the frequency of bus arrivals to increase on the weekends. Fernandez said buses will operate every 20 minutes between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
In addition to adjustment of the bus operating schedule, the VTA hopes to complete a slew of projects, nearly $1.2 billion in total, to upgrade the most heavily used freeways and roadways in southern Santa Clara County—including U.S. 101 and State Routes 152 and 156.
The authority plans on adding “express lanes” along 66 miles of U.S. 101 through replacement of the carpool lane between Morgan Hill and Palo Alto, according to the VTA proposal.
No driver will pay more than $5 to use the express lane, Fernandez said, and the organization hopes to have the lanes moving at speeds of 45-miles-per-hour or greater. That project alone has a preliminary price of $600 million—nearly $100 million per-mile on U.S. 101.
Another improvement Fernandez said VTA has in its sights is the creation of a new flyover on State Route 152 near Casa de Fruta between southeast Gilroy and Hollister, which will allow drivers to drive direct to State Route 25 near the San Benito County line. That project could cost more than $300 million, VTA Board Chair and Gilroy Councilman Perry Woodward said.
While a “vital artery that connects the Central Valley, Central Coast and San Francisco Bay,” Fernandez said traffic pressure on the two-lane highway needs to be relieved.
“Trucking on a two-lane road is not the safest option for moving goods,” she said. “If we can improve safety and traffic operations for travelers and the community, and provide an alternative for regional traffic that’s separate from local traffic, I think we can say ‘job well done.’”
Fernandez also wants to see safety increase and traffic decrease along State Route 152, the Pacheco Pass Highway leading out of Gilroy, pointing to a “two-lane bottleneck.
“Those are the things that are some of the issues this project is going to try and solve,” she added.
VTA is currently undertaking efforts to gauge the feasibility of introducing a countywide sales tax measure that could generate the money needed to complete the transportation projects.
For a sales tax hike to go on the November 2016 ballot, the VTA must submit proposed ballot language to the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters by August 2016.