The Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury is slamming the Valley Transportation Authority.
In a 61-page report, the jury criticizes the bus and light-rail operator's leadership and how it is spending taxpayer money. The report comes as VTA workers appear headed for a strike.
"VTA operates one of the most expensive and least efficient transit systems in the country," the report said. "Empty or near-empty buses and light rail trains clog the county's streets, but are used regularly by fewer than 5% of the county's commuters."
"If they were more efficient in the way they operated, then probably more people would use it," VTA rider Joseph Bedodo said of the agency.
Other VTA riders said the trains do not run as frequently as people need them and that fares keep getting more expensive.
Some riders defend the agency and said it does exactly what they need.
"You can get pretty much anywhere in the city using the buses or the light rail," VTA rider Anthony Castillo said.
The Civil Grand Jury report is also critical of VTA board members and their "poor performance."
"The level of capability does not appear to be present" when it comes to making the right changes, the report said.
The grand jury said the multi-million dollar Eastridge Extension Project is also an issue, writing "The project makes no financial sense and survives only because powerful forces continue to support it."
VTA's board chair was not available Friday for an interview about the report.
VTA posted the following on its website in response to the grand jury report:
The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) received a report from the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury dated June 18, 2019.
This report carefully examines the operation and governance of VTA as part of their responsibility to assure the public interest in governmental entities.
VTA is appreciative of the time and effort that this Civil Grand Jury expended on the operation and governance of this large and complex organization. VTA is responsible for the provision of public transit through the operation of bus and light rail in Santa Clara County as well as partnership in regional transportation operations such as Caltrain, ACE and Capitol Corridor. VTA is the Congestion Management Authority for the County and provides for the construction of highway and interchange improvements. We serve as the custodian of the public’s resources in order to provide transportation options that allow people to access jobs, education, health care and entertainment.
VTA is committed to transparency and the prudent allocation of the resources entrusted to us. To that end, the Board established an Ad Hoc Financial Stability Committee that provided direction on steps to improve the financial direction of the organization. Many of these steps are already implemented. An Ad Hoc Board Enhancement Committee is currently meeting to address improving the effectiveness of Board Members and making better use of the time spent in Board and Committee meetings.
We intend to carefully review the report provided by the Civil Grand Jury. The report will help to inform the work we are currently performing. After a careful and thoughtful review of the issues presented in the report, VTA will provide a response as requested within 90 days.