The state of California granted $375 million to the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, or VTA, on Jan. 31 to extend the Berryessa BART line to Downtown San Jose and Santa Clara.
The $375 million grant is an important qualifying step for VTA to receive about $4.6 billion in federal funding, which is roughly half of the project cost, according to the VTA website.
“Increasing transit options and improving mobility for all Santa Clara County and Bay Area residents and employees is a primary objective of the extension of BART service into the heart of Silicon Valley,” said Matt Mahan, San Jose Mayor and VTA Board Member, in a press release.
The line continuation will include four new BART stations, with a projected average weekday ridership of 54,600 persons in 2040, according to the VTA website. Santa Clara County opted out of the BART District formed in the 1960s, so VTA will take over line extension efforts.
Major construction is set to begin in the fall of 2023, and testing will begin in 2028, according to the VTA website.
Tisha Hartman, former president of the Santa Clara University Commuter Student Union, alleged that she doesn’t expect the funds to impact students in a “meaningful” way in the next ten years while BART is still under construction. However, she noted that a large segment of Santa Clara University’s student population commutes from the East Bay, meaning the project will give students more options once completed.
“That said, there are a number of challenges facing commuter students in accessing public transportation that would still need to be addressed,” Hartman said in an email. “The present system lacks true student discounts with affordable monthly and annual pass options across all of the Bay Area transit providers, with current offerings only covering youth up to 19 years old, largely excluding the college student demographic.”
Hartman noted that rider safety and internet accessibility are also areas for improvement that could benefit students.
At San Jose State University, 15% of students commute to campus from the East Bay, according to Charlie Faas, Vice President of Administration and Finance at the university. He said these students could potentially take BART directly to the campus. The extension will also help SJSU realize their climate and sustainability goals, Faas noted.
The VTA website projected that the BART extension will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 333,036 tons per year by 2040.
“The idea of people being able to sit on a train and whether it’s a half hour or 45 minutes is going to allow us to live a little bit further away in more affordable areas and still get to downtown, whether it’s for school or for work,” Faas said.