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Riders Frustrated By Delayed Opening Of South Bay BART Extension

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) -- The Valley Transportation Authority is disputing reports that it has missed another deadline in the long-awaited opening of BART service to Santa Clara County.

But the VTA still has no firm date on when the extensions into San Jose and Milpitas will open.

"When we give a date and move past it, people get upset," said VTA Board Member and San Jose City Councilman Lan Diep.

Diep says he has heard the complaints and frustrations from some of his Berryessa district neighbors about BART delays and the uncertainty.

"We're trying to be cautious and not giving a date," said Diep. "Not that we know one, but there's no target and people are getting frustrated that there's no target."

But South Bay commuter and regular BART user Peter Ortiz said he wanted the BART extensions opened yesterday.

"I think they've been talking about making the BART expansion into San Jose since I was a kid in elementary school. So it's kind of disappointing that we see all the construction has been done, but we still have to go out of our way, two cities up in order to catch the BART," Ortiz said.

The extension into Santa Clara County is a joint operation:  VTA built the tracks and the stations but BART will run them.

And since late last year, BART has identified 750 things that VTA needs to fix. They range from small quick fix items
at the stations to lingering software glitches that affect the control of the trains.

"One of the items that we're addressing is to ensure that the trains stop precisely so that the doors line up with the passengers and that facilitates safe and efficient exit and entry for the trains," said VTA spokesperson Bernice Alaniz.

VTA crews are working double shifts to fix the items by March so they can move on to the administrative process of turning over the extension to BART for passengers service.

When asked if BART in the South Bay would open in 2020, Alaniz was cagey. "That is the plan and we are working towards that," she replied. "I don't want to speculate a day. We are working as expediently as possible to deliver the system."

In the meantime, transit riders in the South Bay are having to make alternate plans.

Milpitas resident Manju Pawar said delays in bringing BART to San Jose are keeping her from taking a job.

"I was planning to get a job in San Francisco, but I imagine now without public transport, it's very difficult for me," said Pawar. "If you take a car, it's so long to commute."

"What's important to me is that when BART finally does open, it opens without any kinks. It opens and performs safely for people," Diep said. "We won't have to start and stall again. I'd rather have a delay up front, then once it opens, everything runs smoothly."


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