The VTA is Santa Clara County’s people-mover
SAN JOSE CA – Public transportation occasionally gets a rap as being unclean, uncomfortable, unsavory, and late. That may be true in selected cities, but it’s decidedly not the case with the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority or “VTA,” which cuts across San Jose. Its trains and buses are scrupulously clean. Its riders seem to respect each others’ privacy. And unless circumstances are unusual, the system runs like clockwork.
VTA’s dozens of passenger buses provide the bulk of the system’s street-by-street coverage. They can be slow, given the number of stops on any route. It could take riders between 40 and 60 minutes to travel only a few miles.
Happily, the backbone of the VTA is its light rail routes. Its trains are relatively fast and frequent; the wait for the next one is usually 20 minutes or less. They stretch over 60 stops from the city of Mountain View on the west to Alum Rock at the east, and from Santa Clara at the north through downtown San Jose to Almaden and Santa Teresa at the south.
Importantly for visitors, most of San Jose’s major tourist attractions are within easy walking distance from one or more light rail stations.
Riders can buy train tickets at any station, using cash or a credit or debit card. The one-way fare between most stations is about $2; few riders buy such tickets. Instead, there are two “great deals” offered by VTA: a $4 excursion pass that’s good for unlimited light rail rides over eight consecutive hours, and a $6 day pass good for 24 hours. Either one is a bargain, particularly for those who intend to do a lot of touring in the city and its suburbs.
Interestingly, VTA operates on a modified honor system. Passengers are expected to buy a ticket, and VTA inspectors can at any time demand to see it and ensure the fare has been paid. During a three-day November 2012 visit to the city, however, only one such request was made during several light rail trips. Theoretically, you could hop on and off the train without paying a cent. Don’t. Sooner or later you’ll be caught, and the associated fines are steep.
If you’re in San Jose and want to travel a bit farther – north to San Francisco, for example – VTA connects to CalTrain for that trip. Its day pass is a bargain, too; only $26.
This article was originally published on Yahoo! Travel