The Valley Transportation Authority is 25 years old. And South Bay residents celebrated the same way they have for a quarter-century, since the first train rumbled through an onion field: By not riding.
The VTA's "nearly-empty trolleys" are some of the slowest in the United States, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
This leads drivers to sit steaming in San Jose traffic, even as they end up paying for it: Fewer than 1 percent of area residents ride, but each ride is subsidized by taxpayers up to $10, or 85 percent of the total cost.
The VTA took $2 billion to build and requires $66 million annually to operate, the newspaper reported. And for some reason, it's grossly more inefficient than comparable lines, the newspaper reported.
The VTA requires 30 percent more money to operate while carrying 30 percent fewer passengers, the newspaper reported. And the per-passenger cost of $11.74 is 83 percent more than the U.S. average, and the third-most expensive in the nation.
Some of the inefficiency is by design: the train line's first routes were built along onion fields, rather than already-congested corridors. Rather than link existing sprawl, the VTA planned for growth that didn't quite pan out. Today, some lines do run downtown, but others run alongside orange groves, the newspaper reported.
Sacramento, a city comparable in size, sprawl and landscape, has a light rail that carries 40 percent more passengers per day than the VTA, the newspaper reported.
The VTA will spend $27 million to add express trains, which require new tracks, the newspaper reported, but authority officials admit that "the basics" need to be done better. Maybe in another 25 years?