Dismal VTA '49ers Express Train' Ticket Sales to Levi's Stadium - NBC Bay Area
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Dismal VTA '49ers Express Train' Ticket Sales to Levi's Stadium

"And the 49ers have not stepped up to help us recover the costs," a VTA spokewoman said.

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    Dismal VTA  '49ers Express Train' Ticket Sales to Levi's Stadium
    Valley Transportation Authority
    A VTA train takes 49ers fans to Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara. (Aug. 11, 2016)

    The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority had hoped to sell 2,500 "49ers Express Train" tickets as a way to get football fans to Levi's Stadium faster, and to offset rising taxpayer costs.

    Instead, the VTA had only sold 11 of those season ticket passes by Monday.

    "It's not going as well as we hoped," VTA spokeswoman Stacey Hendler Ross told NBC Bay Area, hours before the 49ers take on the Los Angeles Rams for the home season opener.

    In addition, she admitted that VTA didn't foresee another problem: The express trains going to the stadium are often getting stuck behind the regular trains, and therefore slower than promised.

    "We just didn't anticipate that," Hendler Ross said. "But it's only for about three or four minutes." She said the big advantage of the pricier express train $20-tickets will be getting home from the games. In the past, there are often 10,000 fans leaving Levi's Stadium and it has taken up to an hour to get on board. Express train ticket holders get to board first and leave as soon as the trains are full, she said.

    Express train tickets went on sale on Aug. 12, and cost $149 for a light rail season pass, or $20 per ticket. Regular round-trip tickets are $4.

    Since the stadium opened in 2014, VTA has been losing $500,000 each year by going to and from the 49er games because adding extra trains and extra drivers (who are paid overtime) ends up costing the public agency money, Hendler Ross said.

    Fans lining up at the Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara. (Aug. 11, 2016)
    Photo credit: Valley Transportation Authority

    The VTA finance wizards came up with a plan to try to offer a faster service for riders, as well as recoup some of those losses, she said. The hope was that at least 2,500 riders would buy the express train tickets to help VTA break even, she said.

    But that hasn't come even close to happening.

    And Hendler Ross called on the 49ers management to do more. "We're sending people to the Niners games with taxpayer money," she said. "And the 49ers have not stepped up to help us recover the costs. We think they could be doing something more to offset this service."

    49ers Vice President and Stadium Operations and General Manager Jim Mercurio told NBC Bay Area in an email that the service was launched in August, so "few fans have gotten a chance to experience its benefits" and spread the word. He said the team has been supporting the idea through social media, emails to season ticket holders and online. 

    But there may be more reasons that fans aren't flocking to see the 49ers, either by train or by car.

    Season ticket holder Surendra Mistry of Cupertino sold many of his tickets to the games this year because the "team performance has been really bad," and he's very uncomfortable sitting in the new $1.2 billion stadium, which he finds very hot in the sun with no shade.

    Express train tickets went on sale on Aug. 12, and cost $149 for a light rail season pass, or $20 per ticket. Regular round-trip tickets are $4. (Sept. 12, 2016)
    Photo credit: Damian Trujillo/NBC Bay Area

    In addition, Mistry doesn't feel "serviced" at Levi's Stadium like he does as a season ticket holder with the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park, where he said his personal client representative really goes the extra mile to make him feel special as a fan.

    Both full-season and single-event light rail passes can be ordered online or bought at the Visa Box Office at Levi’s Stadium. Express train riders who are disappointed with the service are able to ask for their money back, Hendler Ross said.

    Contact Lisa Fernandez at lisa.fernandez@nbcuni.com or 408-432-4758. Follow on Twitter at @ljfernandez