For the first time, football fans have a chance to cruise to Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara more quickly, and for a bit more cash, thanks to a new VTA "49ers Express Train," which kicks off Sunday, just in time for the 49ers vs. Houston Texans pre-season opener.
This is the first time that the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority has offered an express train directly to the stadium, said VTA spokeswoman Stacey Hendler Ross.
Tickets went on sale Thursday, and cost $149 for a light rail season pass, or $20 per ticket. Regular Sunday round-trip tickets are $4. And these trips (with many stops in between) will still be in service, if passengers don't want to pay for the more direct, and expensive ride.
But what riders will gain is time. For example, there are normally 11 stops passengers getting on in Mountain View heading to Great America. Now, the express will now makes just one stop in between. As another example, passengers who get on at the Santa Teresa station will only have to make seven stops on the way to the stadium, instead of the normal 26 stops.
For fans leaving the game, the express train will be a boon, Hendler Ross said. Often after a game, 10,000 people have to wait in line for a train, she said, which can take up to an hour. The express train passengers will have their own, separate line with much fewer people.
"It's like first class," Hendler Ross said. "People sometimes want to may more for enhanced service."
The VTA decided to launch the express train, and offer a premium service, in large part because of finances, Hendler Ross said.
Since the stadium opened in 2014, VTA has been taking about 10,000 49ers fans to the games each season. And the VTA has also been losing $500,000 each year because of that, Hendler Ross said, as adding extra trains and extra drivers (who are paid overtime) ends up costing the public agency money.
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 is that at least 2,500 riders choose to buy the express train tickets to help VTA break even, she said.
“We take great pride in providing service to our customers and the cost of operations for Levi’s Stadium events is not cheap,” said VTA General Manager and CEO Nuria Fernandez. “As a public agency, this new pass will allow us to recover operating costs as we also provide enhanced service to Niners fans.”
Hendler Ross also noted that VTA didn't come to an agreement with the 49ers about this new service until a week ago.
Both full-season and single-event light rail passes can be ordered online or bought at the Visa Box Office at Levi’s Stadium.