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San Jose: LRT Rolls Ahead With Tasman East-Capitol Extension

Light Rail Now! Publication Team – July 2004

Despite the catastrophic economic plight of California's so-called Silicon Valley region, and a relentless barrage of attacks from rail critics and various news media, San Jose's LRT system has nevertheless been forging ahead. On Wednesday, 23 June 2004, the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) launched light rail service to East San Jose with the opening of the Tasman East-Capitol Extension – a $435 million, 6.3-mile (10.2-km) line routed down Capitol Avenue to Alum Rock Avenue, with siginificant segments on elevated viaduct (see map, below). The line is the fruition of over a decade of campaigning for the project by community leaders such as former councilman Ron Gonzales.
[San Jose Mercury News, 23 Jun. 2004; photo: VTA; map adapted from VTA map]

At least 1,000 people attended the hour-long inaugural ceremony, described by the San Jose Mercury News as "a huge throng for this kind of event." The News pointed out that "When the Highway 101 widening north of Morgan Hill – a vital transportation improvement – was dedicated last summer, a couple of hundred people showed up and most were state officials or local political honchos."
[San Jose Mercury News, 23 Jun. 2004]

The News continues:

The difference today: most were residents of Milpitas and East San Jose, ones who have hungered for improved transit for years. Many rode a bus to the rally, and took light rail home.
There were moms pushing kids in strollers, an old man holding the hand of his granddaughter. Shoppers walked over from the Great Mall. Kids and teachers came from nearby schools. One fellow wore a conductor's hat. An elderly man limped on a cane. Retired couples, young families. All were here.

The Tasman East-Capitol LRT extension into the East Valley was completed on time in and nearly $14 million under the approved project budget. This accomplishment is particularly remarkable in the face of the serious economic decline in the Silicon Valley region, which has resulted in ten consecutive quarters of decreased sales tax revenues and thrown VTA into a budgetary crisis.
[VTA website, July 2004]

With the latest extension, VTA now operates a 36.8-mile, multi-route LRT system extending from south San Jose through downtown to the northern areas of San Jose, Santa Clara, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, and now East San Jose. While ridership has dropped in the past couple of years as a result of the region's economic slump (loss of jobs means loss of commuters), the LRT system nevertheless has rertained about 22,500 riders on an average weekday.

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Updated 2004/07/26

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