The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s (VTA’s) 81 mile long, light rail system is widely regarded as the most ill-conceived in the entire country. According to the National Transit Database, in 2013 the VTA’s 56 light rail cars carried just slightly over 35,000 riders a day. The reasons for this exceptionally low ridership are not hard to find.
First, much of the area traversed is low-density sprawl, incapable of generating enough ridership to justify the high cost of passenger rail service. To the South the density ranges from low-density, single family to miles of empty land bereft of virtually any potential riders. To the north the rail system meanders its way through Silicon Valley, passing sprawled out hi-tech “campuses”, each surrounded by acres of beautifully-landscaped free parking.