Updated plan extends restoration timeline for Santa Clara light-rail service to return

July 14, 2021
Light-rail service will likely not return by the end of July as the transit agency intended and could stretch to September.

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) Board of Directors received a detailed update regarding plans to restore light-rail service, which has been shut down following a shooting at Guadalupe Yard on May 26.

Santa Clara VTA stressed it is working “diligently and compassionately” to return service, but those efforts may stretch beyond the end of July, which was the agency’s initial goal, and into September.

In a tweet following the board meeting, Santa Clara VTA said, “We know you are frustrated, but we are working hard to bring back light rail service. The plan is taking a little longer than we anticipated.”

The six-phase plan is currently in Phase 2. The first phase concluded on June 30 and is described by Santa Clara VTA as a “triage” to determine workspace needs, as well as readiness of employees.

Phase 1 involved identifying interim work locations because the main buildings at Guadalupe Yard, home of the Operations Control Center and the Way Power and Signal Department, are not structurally ready for use. A decision has not been made on whether to remodel or demolish and rebuild the Guadalupe buildings.

Phase 2 will focus on the complete setup of immediate workspaces, which means moving and setting up equipment and technology where employees are, as well as continuing services, continued wellness and safety programs for employees.

Phase 3 will see staff begin to return to work and infrastructure inspections and repairs made. Phase 4 will see light-rail trains operating test runs without passengers and onboarding of additional staff. Phase 5 includes the start of revenue service with Phase 6 focused on service increases outlined in the agency’s pre-pandemic new transit service plan.

The plan is designed for a phase to be completed before the next phase can begin.

“The most important of the restoration requirements is the readiness of employees, both mentally and emotionally, to return to work after the traumatic event of May 26 in which nine employees were gunned down by a VTA co-worker,” the agency said in a post explaining the updated timeline for the service restoration plan. “Management staff and union leaders have reached out to employees essential to accomplishing the initial service restoration work in Way Power and Signal and OCC to understand their needs in order to return to work with confidence.”

Santa Clara VTA General Manager and CEO Carolyn Gonot, who returned to the authority on July 12, issued a follow up statement on the plan: 

“VTA is navigating the complex process of relocating work sites, managing the technical details involved in reactivating service, and ensuring our 300+ Guadalupe Division employees have received the resources they need to feel safe, confident and ready to return to work. Due to these factors, the timeline for restarting light-rail service remains flexible. However, we are working diligently to return service as soon as possible. To our riding public, we understand this can be frustrating, and we appreciate your continued patience.”

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Updated July 15 at 6:00 p.m. to incorporate Gonot's statement. 

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.