VTA trying to speed up trains, increase ridership

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- The Valley Transportation Authority is preparing to launch a pilot program to help improve safety in-and-around its stops in the downtown corridor.

"We know that our riders want fast, frequent, reliable and safe service, so with this pilot project, we're looking to do all of that," said VTA spokesperson Holly Perez.

Light rail passengers know the trains in Downtown San Jose are possibly some of the slowest in the country, due to the original design concept from the late 1980's. The tracks, which seem to blend in with the rest of the streetscape, were created to be a smooth walkable surface. But what may have made sense back then, doesn't seem to be working well now.

"The light rail operators are having to blow their horns, or slow down to avoid hitting somebody that may be crossing the tracks as they're coming by," said San Jose City Councilmember and VTA board member Raul Peralez. "Ultimately, it slows them down quite a bit."

As part of a $900,000, six-month pilot program on Second St. between San Fernando and San Carlos, VTA officials are planning to enhance crosswalks and install new railings to prevent pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers from coming into contact with the trains.

Officials are hoping with the added safety features, the trains, which currently travel at an average of five to seven miles per hour through downtown will be able to go a little faster.

"If people are beating transit on their e-scooters, that's not a good sign," said Mayor Sam Liccardo, who also serves as VTA chairman. "We've got to speed up the light rail trains, so that way, folks will be motivated to use them."

Designs are expected to be finalized by the end of the summer. Construction should be done by the end of the year, just in time for when crowds arrive for the College Football National Championship.

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