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Rail News: Passenger Rail

Santa Clara VTA proposes service cuts, earlier-than-scheduled fare hike to offset budget deficit


Because of declining sales tax revenue, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s (VTA) board plans to begin evaluating a list of proposed reductions to light-rail and county bus service. If approved by the board in October, service cuts could be implemented in January.

In the third quarter of fiscal-year 2009, VTA’s sales tax receipts dropped 21 percent, representing a $5.8 million loss. The agency had projected an 8 percent decline for the period. In addition, VTA’s budget deficit has grown from $30 million to $36 million since June due to plummeting sales tax revenue.

Last month, the Transportation Authority Engineers and Architects, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and Service Employees International Union, which represent VTA workers, joined non-represented executive management and support staff in agreeing to $17.3 million in contract concessions, including furloughs and wage freezes for the next two fiscal years. The Amalgamated Transit Union is discussing a similar agreement with VTA. The labor concessions have “greatly minimized” the proposed service cuts, which call for a 6.5 percent reduction in light-rail operations, VTA officials said in a prepared statement.

The agency plans to hold seven public meetings from Aug. 10-13 throughout Santa Clara County to review the proposed service reductions. The board plans to vote on the measure at its Oct. 1 meeting.

Meanwhile, the board is considering whether to implement a fare increase as soon as October instead of in January 2010, as board members agreed last month. The fare hike — which is projected to generate $1 million — would partially address the sales tax revenue decline, VTA said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/21/2009