VTA proposes cuts to South County service

Staff will host online community meeting Sept. 29

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A woman waits for the bus at the Gilroy Transit Center as the Route 68 bus pulls into the station. Photo: Erik Chalhoub

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority is requesting public feedback on its 2021 Transit Service Plan, which proposes various scenarios for service changes and reductions due to the impact of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

In South County, the proposed changes in public bus service include a new “Rapid Route 568” that would take commuters to and from San Jose Diridon Station and stations in Gilroy and Morgan Hill every 30 minutes from 5:30am to 6:30pm. The proposed changes also include reduced service on the Route 68 bus; a possible discontinuation of weekend service on Routes 84 and 85 to Saint Louise Regional Hospital; slight reductions in service to Gavilan College; and a possible discontinuation of service of the Route 168 Express bus between Gilroy Transit Center and Diridon Station.

All details of the potential public transit service cuts and changes can be found on the VTA’s 2021 Transit Service Plan website, at vta.org/projects/2021-transit-service-plan.

The VTA board is scheduled to vote on the 2021 plan after considering public feedback and revisions to the proposals over the coming months. 

“The 2021 Transit Service Plan will have to reflect several new realities related to the Covid-19 pandemic, including lower sales tax revenues, new travel patterns, and potentially lower ridership,” reads an email from VTA spokesman Ken Blackstone. “Three proposals are the subject of community engagement through mid-October.”

These proposals represent a 10-percent, 20-percent and 30-percent reduction in VTA service hours as compared to the pre-Covid network. Some of these proposals would result in fewer trips and shorter daily operating hours for local bus routes.

The 2021 “80-percent” and “90-percent” plans would create a new Rapid Route 568 bus that would replace the Route 168 Express bus that transports riders from South County and Diridon Station and back. The 568 route would not be an express line, but would stop less frequently than the existing Route 68 (which also provides service between the Gilroy and San Jose stations).

The “70-percent” plan would leave Route 168 intact, but with only four morning trips and four evening trips, according to the 2021 Transit Service Plan proposals. Pre-Covid service for the Route 168 bus included seven trips in the morning and seven in the evening.

Many of the proposed changes—including the new Rapid Route 568, reductions to Route 68 and others—would also impact VTA service in Morgan Hill. The 70-percent plan would discontinue the Route 87 bus as a local route from Morgan Hill Civic Center to Burnett Avenue, and convert it to a school route. The 80-percent and 90-percent proposals would leave Route 87 service intact, with a bus every 60 minutes from 6:30am-9am and 2pm to 5:30pm.

An introduction to the VTA’s 2021 Transit Service plan reads, “An immediate return to previous levels of service will not be feasible given the economic and financial changes brought on by the pandemic that need to be addressed in the draft 2021 Transit Service Plan scenarios, such as: Preserve as much ridership as possible system-wide; ensure reductions are fair and equitable; minimize service reductions by achieving transit speed increases; and ensure schedule running times are accurate and reflect real traffic conditions.”

Images below, from the VTA website, detail the different proposals to reduce public transit service on various routes in South County:

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