The Story of Bus Route 65: VTA Spends $100,000 in Two Months to Promote a Bus Route and Ridership Declines

By Robert Haugh

We’ve written a little about the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) recently. The Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury earlier this summer bodyslammed VTA for being the worst transportation agency in the nation.

Since then, we’ve been getting a lot of info from current and former VTA employees about how VTA operates.  Most of the info is not flattering.

Here’s an interesting story that a few people have pointed out. 

San Jose Spotlight has written a couple of stories about Bus Route 65.  They’ve focused on the riders who rely on the route to get to school and work. 

That’s an important story. A lot of people need public transit in our community.

The first story was written by Adam F. HuttonThe second story was written by Paolo Zialcita.

But they’ve missed other important stories, like VTA’s weak numbers and its lousy promotion campaigns.

In the Zialcita tory, the ridership numbers are pointed out. Bus Route 65, had 468 daily riders from June to July 2018. That’s total boardings per day. So one person riding to and from work equals two daily riders. That’s not good. 

But the VTA promotion of the route is worse. VTA spent $100,000 in June and July 2019. Guess what? Ridership fell to 380 daily trips.

Yup. That was after VTA spent $100,000. 

But here’s what’s really bad. Bus Route 65 is just the tip of the iceberg. Here’s info from a VTA memo an employee sent us:

While VTA’s bus network is experiencing declining ridership systemwide, Route 65’s ridership is declining at a faster rate. While systemwide bus ridership (boardings) fell 15% from 2016 to today, Route 65 ridership fell 20% over the same period. 

So there are a lot of other VTA bus routes that have declining ridership just like Bus Route 65.

No wonder the Grand Jury wrote a terrible report about VTA. Both the bus and light rail systems are in decline. And VTA’s expenses have gone way up in the last 10 years as this chart shows:

VTA needs to figure out how to increase riders or cut costs. But it doesn’t seem to know how to do either. So they’ll probably just go to the ballot for more tax money. Let’s hope voters read the Grand Jury report before they vote to put more money into a black hole.


  1. Amazing how an agency can continue shoveling our money into a hole and not just stay out of jail but keep their job. The power of inertia.
    Someone suggested ride share. I am convinced the solution will find us, and it is already trying. Autonomous (no expensive pensions) shuttles that hold 10 – 20 people that operate like a shared uber with enough room for packages. Some could hole bikes but not all would have to. For longer trips buses, trains, subways, drones, or who knows. But for around the city large buses are antiques and need to be retired. Stanford has been successful with theirs mostly because of how and where they are used.

  2. You have to be serious about a transportation system, you need to tunnel. London is adding on to their underground currently. Most great transportation systems are underground. I don’t believe VTA has the ability to pull something like that off.

  3. The VTA buses are infrequent and take too long. If you have a car, it’s not a good option. I feel sorry for people who have to rely on it. I don’t know how they keep their jobs.

  4. It might be less expensive if VTA got rid of the busses and gave out free rideshare.

    Just another example of the government wasting our hard earned tax dollars. We have the worst public schools and transportation in one of the wealthiest areas.

    Now the Communists want to take over healthcare, daycare, and college. I can’t find an example where the government has has improved anything cost effectively. They mostly waste taxpayer dollars and build empires. Don’t forget the DMV.

    I can’t imagine how anyone can support the liberal takeover agenda if you earn your own living.

  5. For what it’s worth, we’ve been on a trip to Paris. Several interesting points: 1) The streets are narrow & cars are small, and while there are mostly apartments/condos, they are no more than 4-6 stories; 2) Streets connect mainly in triangles or on roundabouts, so the sky is visible and green areas & statues are well interspersed; 3) Everu form of transportation is available, cars, bikes, scooters, buses, and a marvelous subway system; 4) There are more cars (and pedestrians) than bikes but the buses have fewer people still; 5) It’s the subway (Metro) that keeps transportation sane – we’ve been using Metro & walking everywhere.

    • I would concur about Paris metro system is great. The VTA needs to stop funding the bus that nobody is riding. Also please stop trying to turn Pruneridge into a one lane road. Nobody is biking on Pruneridge, it might be too late but I wonder the cost of a subway that runs under Kiely, LAwrence, San Tomas and Winchester and crosses with Stevens creek Pruneridge and el Camino?

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