VTA responds to Grand Jury: Thanks but No Thanks

By Robert Haugh

In July, The Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury body slammed the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA).

They wrote a report that documented how the VTA is the worst transit agency in the nation.

They even showed it to us in charts like this one:

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Now, the VTA has responded to the Grand Jury. It’s short but it’s not sweet. The VTA response is basically ‘thanks, but no thanks” to the recommendations.

Here’s an example. The Grand Jury made this finding:

Finding 5 

VTA continues to consider an extension of VTA’s light rail system to the Eastridge Transit Center, at an additional capital cost of over $450 million, although VTA’s light rail system is one of the most expensive, heavily subsidized and least used light rail systems in the country, many transit experts consider light rail obsolete, and VTA is suffering from chronic structural deficits that would be exacerbated by the continuation of the project as currently defined.

Wow. That’s a pretty serious finding. But here’s VTA’s response:

Response 

VTA disagrees with the finding. The Eastridge to BART Regional Connector has been approved by the voters and the Board. See response for Recommendation 5a for more details…

The recommendation has been implemented. Prior to this recommendation, the Board initiated a review of light rail technology due to the anticipated cost of necessary upgrades and replacements for the existing system.

Huh? So you may be right, but we’re going to build it anyway. And we’re going to upgrade it, too.

You can read the full VTA response to the Grand Jury report here.  It was signed by Santa Clara City Councilwoman Teresa O’Neill. She is also the VTA board chair this year. It’s dated September 13, 2019.

It’s a disappointing response. When you’re really bad at what you do, you should welcome advice. Or you should at least take a Grand Jury report seriously.

Since the Grand Jury report, Santa Clarans have shared with us their experience and opinions of VTA. It’s not good. We’ve received some info about staff salaries and bus lines.  So we’ll be writing about those issues in the future.

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6 comments

  1. We can’t fully blame Teresa O’Neill for all of this. VTA is been a mess for years, and continues to be ( this goes back to early 1990’s). Yet Id give her the benefit of the doubt. I feel there could have been more done for Bus Route 65. It is wrong that they removed it.

    https://sanjosespotlight.com/riders-mourn-the-loss-of-a-san-jose-bus-line-relied-on-by-vulnerable-residents/

    “The bus zig-zags through the region and serves serving seniors, people with disabilities and students at San Jose State University and San Jose City College”

    I know many and including myself that would take this bus. This is going to have such dire consequences and already many in San Jose are saying they will not re-elect SJ Councilmember Raul Peralez for his actions. It’s a travesty for many as they have to rely on this bus, while other people have options most don’t have that luxury.

    Does anyone on that board actually take the bus or train ??? I know Teresa rides her bike often, I give her that credit yet I think she is the only one.

    When my car died for 7 months I had to rely on public transportation from the VTA bus/trolley and the Caltrain. There would be times where it wasn’t consistent and harder to plan. Trips to mountain view or Sunnyvale would take over an hour or more. Trips to downtown SJ would be say. It was to the point that it was getting unreliable for my demanding schedule. Yes, I want to help make the environment better but when the busses and trains don’t fit your schedule, or you would have to leave 3 hours early to make it to work it turns your 8 hour work day into 11-12 hours. I ended up buying a new car and my commute is 30-40 mins up to an hour on a bad day. The positive on that was the “free will’ to drive, but i paid for it via gas, insurance and a car payment….but it was worth it. Id love to see bay area transportation get to be like in the East Coast where it’s more often and more reliable to take and be “green”. Until then more cars, and more traffic and Santa Clara is in the crosshairs (remember most bay area commuters cut through Santa Clara via 101, 280, San Tomas and Lawrence Expressways including many side streets).

    For Teresa O’Neill I ask her to push harder on making VTA a better service now that she is the head of it; flex that power ! . Santa Clara needs better transportation services. Those less fortunate need better services. I hope Teresa can provide redeeming qualities to maybe bring back 65 after all the pushback. I hope she rolls up her sleeves and tussles with leadership there to deliver better services.

    We should focus on the peoples needs to get places rather than giving raises to the ones upstairs that run VTA.

  2. I don’t think Teresa has much to do with the current state of the VTA. It was a total steaming pile well before Liccardo robbed it and dropped it in her lap. And yes, now she has the impossible task to fix VTA. A 10% improvement isn’t going to do it.

    VTA needs a total revamp and I don’t believe the board is capable enough to do the difficult job. The valley needs a new more modern approach to transportation.

    • Agree Richard! This is not O’Neill’s doing. SJ Sammy and the other SJ centric members have put their cities above others and dumped the mess on O’Neill. They are happy to take credit for the good and show up for the photo ops but when it stinks just push little Teresa in to take the heat. Unbelievable!

    • Hey Richard,

      You’re right that VTA is F*****up. But O’Neill has some responsibility. She’s chair. Did she do anything to try to fix VTA?

      I read the VTA’s response. O’Neill signed it. She’s drinking the Koolaid!!

  3. Very disappointed in Teresa O’Neill. Looks like she’s just another politician who’s gonna defend VTA to keep the unions contributing to her campaign. Too bad she doesn’t have more respect for the taxpayers who are getting screwed.

  4. VTA’s performance is so sad. To think of all the residents of this county and how their hard earned dollars are being wasted. This money can’t be used for something else because VTA consumed it.

    This is a sin. The entire VTA should be revamped as they have no vision. VTA is very hard to trust although our tax dollars continue to pour in. How do we stop the bleeding.

    Just another example of government control.

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