VTA considering cutting bus routes

Valley Transit Authority (VTA) is considering discontinuing some all-day routes, along with some express and school routes, and removing some route deviations, as well as trimming hours and frequency in the early morning and late evening.

However,the authority said some high-demand areas may see an increase in transit frequency. The VTA board proposed the changes at a Jan. 10 meeting.

Commuter routes for South County riders could be affected, according to draft plans posted on the VTA blog. A post by the authority announcing some of the changes said the VTA board is attempting to avoid decreasing transit in the South County because of the high number of commuters riding to and from San Jose.

“Routes 14, 17, and 19 in Gilroy would still be restructured into a bidirectional loop as proposed in the 2017 Next Network Plan, but service levels would not change. Route 16 in Morgan Hill would be renamed to Route 87, but would otherwise remain unchanged,” wrote Holly Perez, public information officer for the authority, in the blog post.

The VTA is proposing to cut two “commute period trips” on Express Route 168, which connects the Gilroy Transit Center with Diridon Station, reducing the number of trips from seven to five “to better match demand without sacrificing rider convenience.”

Perez told this newspaper in an email that additional proposed South County changes include changing the frequency for weekday midday on Route 68 between Santa Teresa Station and Gilroy to every 15 minutes from 30 minutes, eliminating three of nine daily trips in each direction on Express 121, eliminating two of seven daily trips in each direction on Express 168 and discontinuing routes on Express 185.

The VTA said it will continue to consult the public on the 2019 draft transit service plan. The plan will not be adopted until fall of 2019, and public input is being sought as the authority considers cutting routes or changing service schedules.

VTA scheduled a “virtual meeting” Feb. 12 to continue collecting community input on the changes. According to a VTA blog post, the authority is facing a $26 million deficit in 2019.

The proposed changes are set to save the authority $15 million annually, with 70 changes across bus and light rail services in the current draft of the plan.

Perez said the VTA is asking for all community input before Feb. 28, so it can be included in the final draft of the plan. Perez wrote in an email, “The community feedback will inform the final draft plan that is scheduled to go before VTA advisory and standing committees in April and to the board for final approval in May 2019.”