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South Bay Transportation Information

This article is posted twice a month in the sbay.transportation newsgroup, which is chartered to serve for discussions of transit, road, bicycle, pedestrian and air travel issues specific to the South Bay Area, or commutes and travel to the South Bay from surrounding regions of Northern and Central California. Please send updates to

On this page...

If you have a web page about a South Bay transportation issue, even if it's your own opinion, please post the URL in sbay.transportation or mail it in as an update for listing on this page.
Transportation has grown to one of the top concerns among residents of the South Bay Area. Surveys have confirmed it but no one needed a survey to tell us that. If you live or work here, you know.

This introduction describes a little about the area. The remainder of the page is dedicated to links about transportation resources in the South Bay Area.

The growth of San Jose isn't just some new Podunk town coming of age. The 2000 US Census showed that Santa Clara County is the 14th most populous county in the US, the 5th largest in California, and the largest in northern and central California. San Jose alone, without the rest of the county, is the 11th largest incorporated city in the US and 3rd largest city in California. For comparison, San Francisco is the 62nd most populous county in the US, the 13th largest incorporated city in the US and 4th largest city in California. So that should establish South Bay transportation as topic big enough to warrant its own newsgroup.

Humble Beginnings... As the State Capitol

The settlements in the valley have longstanding roots in the region. San Jose is the oldest civilian settlement in California, founded in 1777 along the old Spanish "King's Highway" trail, also known as El Camino Real. San Jose was briefly the first capitol of California following statehood in 1850. It was still very much an agricultural center at the time.

The meager roads of the time along the original Spanish trail routes. which set the general paths of travel between the area's towns. But horses pulled everything on the roads in those days.

It was also at that time the rail line now existing on the peninsula was originally planned for the purpose of connecting San Francisco with the state capitol in San Jose. So the history of today's road and rail transportation begins back then. Later, our network of roads was slowly expanded from unpaved trails linking towns to fully-connected paved roads to every home and business throughout the 1900's.

Since the Gold Rush, the Bay Area has revolved around San Francisco. Even in recent decades, residents used to just accept that you couldn't compete with the recognition that San Francisco gets for the world's most recognizable skyline, financial district and tourist attractions. Even Star Trek science fiction movies portray San Francisco as the location of "Star Fleet Headquarters" in the future, publicity that couldn't be bought at any price. (Though it wasn't picked at random. Rather the creator of Star Trek was recognizing San Francisco as the site where the United Nations was founded and first met.) All the commute and transportation infrastructure in the Bay Area was built around a commute to San Francisco.

The original El Camino Real became known as Highway 101 in the 1920's when route numbering was introduced. An alternative route was built in the 1930's along the peninsula was called the Bayshore Highway which went around the peninsula cities on the bay side, avoiding the greater cross traffic on El Camino Real. The Bayshore Highway was upgraded to a freeway in the 1950's and took the 101 number away from El Camino, which became state route 82 as we know it today.

Santa Clara County built its expressway system in the 1960's to augment the state's plans for freeways. The original plans to upgrade all the expressways to freeways was never implemented - the money wasn't available before development took the areas where construction of ramps and bridges would have been needed.

The Bayshore Freeway was extended through the Coyote Valley to Gilroy in the late 80's, taking the Highway 101 number from the accident-ridden Monterey Highway which had earned a reputation as "blood alley". As with the stretch of El Camino Real on the peninsula, the former Route 101 became Route 82.

There were some late arrivals to the local freeways. Highway 87 from South San Jose to I-280 opened in 1994, two years after the light rail line from downtown that runs in its median. Highway 85 (between South San Jose to I-280) opened in 1995. Highway 237 was also upgraded to a freeway that year. A ballot measure in 1996 funded reconstruction of interchanges on I-880 at Highway 237 and at Brokaw Rd, as well as widening the last remaining 4-lane section (2 each way) of that freeway to 6 lanes in 2003.

All this infrastructure slowly took shape as technology businesses and other economic infrastructure were being built in the valley. Up until about 1995, some residents jokingly referred to San Jose as "the biggest city nobody's ever heard of." Locals would cringe when people from outside the area simply lumped San Jose in as part of their picture of San Francisco.

Emergence of Silicon Valley

Universities, industry, financial capital, and a large number of engineers and technical workers in the population all increased in the South Bay Area since the 1930s. Stanford University alone has spawned many large and small technology companies in the Valley, starting with Hewlett-Packard but also including Yahoo, Sun, Cisco, SGI and others. By the 1980's Santa Clara County had become known as "Silicon Valley", for its high concentration of electronics and chip manufacturing companies. More importantly, it had built up infrastructure and industry needed to support this economic specialization within the region.

In rapid succession, events in 1990's turned the Bay Area transportation system upside down. San Jose passed San Francisco in population in 1992, taking its place as the largest city in the Bay Area and Northern annd Central California. The Internet economic boom thrust San Jose into the spotlight as the center of a region of its own when Santa Clara County's contribution to US exports equalled or surpassed New York City from 1998 to 2000. Though we fell back behind NYC during the dotcom bust of 2001, it's surprisingly impressive to have rivaled New York by any economic measure for any amount of time.

But even during the economic downturn, San Jose passed Detroit in 2003 to become the 10th largest city in America, giving California three of the top 10 spots. (The others being Los Angeles and San Diego.) At that time, the US Census bureau officially renamed our metropolitan area as the "San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland Bay Area", putting San Jose first in the name.

Housing and Transportation Get Squeezed in the Internet Boom

The economy was creating jobs faster than housing during 1995-2000. And even since the economic downturn of 2001, the Internet isn't going away. Many people expect it to resume the job growth in a shorter timetable than infrastructure planning and housing construction take. Economic indicators kept pointing to a possibility that the economy bottomed out in late 2001, though economic indicators didn't begin to show a more general recovery until 2003.

As housing availability decreased and costs rose in the valley, more people have chosen or been forced to live outside the Valley while maintaining high-paying jobs in the Valley. In the late 90's, commutes actually reversed directions as more people now commute from San Francisco to San Jose than the other way around, exactly the opposite of what planners expected decades ago. Every road into and out of Silicon Valley (through mountains or around the Bay) is a chokepoint during commute hours.

Studies released in 2002 have shown that all the area's freeways double in traffic on average every 14 years. Since there's no more room to build new freeways after Highway 87 (from downtown San Jose to the airport) the realization that regional planners had known is now becoming evident to the population. We can tweak and fine-tune the freeways to work out unnecessary bottlenecks. (For example, the "hourglass section" of I-880 where it narrowed to 2 lanes each way between Montague and US101 was able to sustain backups at 3AM on Sundays. That was no longer the case after the widening was completed.) But they alone won't be able to sustain the region through another doubling of traffic in the next 14 years. The worst of the traffic at the peak of the dotcom boom in 1999 showed us a glimpse of how it will be again in the relatively near future.

This has called attention to the gaps in all modes of transportation, particularly the passenger rail infrastructure. Our transportation system is already beyond capacity. Santa Clara County voters passed Measure A in 2000 to fund numerous transit projects including new light rail lines within the county and extending the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system from Fremont to San Jose. In December 2001, an agreement between BART, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) and the San Francisco Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) set the BART extension to San Jose as the Bay Area's #1 priority for state and federal transportation funds. But state budget cuts in 2003 have sent local officials scrambling for alternate sources of money to replace state funds now delayed and/or in doubt.

Current and planned construction point toward San Jose becoming the rail hub of the Bay Area, with every regional line converging at the San Jose train station. It currently serves Caltrain, Amtrak, ACE and many bus lines. A light rail station is due to open at the train station at the beginning of 2006. The proposed BART extension would add a subway station underneath it. And the California High-Speed Rail Authority, a long-term project to build a statewide 230 mph bullet train also plans to have San Jose as the entry point to the Bay Area for trains from Sacramento and Los Angeles. The HSR plan has moved far enough that a $6 billion bond measure to build a "starter line" from San Jose to Los Angeles has been put on the November 2004 ballot, which if approved would use the Caltrain tracks to also reach San Francisco.

Special interest groups also seek to close gaps in bus, bicycle and pedestrian access as transportation alternatives. Employers are increasingly participating in programs to buy annual transit passes for their workers and other programs to reduce their contributions to road congestion.

Yet for all the progress made with these measures, sometimes it seems like we can't seem to even catch up with the growth. Even though traffic scaled back in 2001 back to around 1999 levels, it remained worse than the mid-90's until new road construction was completed. And more rail and road projects are scheduled for completion in 2004. Still, we'll be back to gridlock soon if the economy continues to improve. (And we all hope it does.) Everyone has different views on the best ways to solve the problems.

And that's where things stand today. You can find current discussion about South Bay transportation issues throughout the media and in the sbay.transportation newsgroup.

South Bay General Transportation Links

These are sites about general transportation issues across the region.
sbay.transportation newsgroup
sbay.transportation newsgroup charter
South Bay Transportation Information (this page)
Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University
"Mr Roadshow" - SJ Mercury News transportation columnist Gary Richards
South Bay Transportation Politics
Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group - Transportation Legislation Issues
Bay Area Transportation and Land Use Coalition

South Bay Transit Links

These are links related to mass transit in the South Bay.
Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) - bus and light rail
VTA Announcements
Eco-Pass (VTA bus/rail pass from employers or apartment complexes)
VTA Park & Ride lots
VTA Bus Routes and Info
VTA Bus Schedules
Route 22 Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Project
VTA Bus Info (by Leon Norrington)
VTA Bus Overview (by Eric Rosenberg)
VTA Light Rail Projects and Info
VTA Light Rail Schedules
Tasman East/Capitol Light Rail Project (Milpitas/Berryessa/Alum Rock)
Tasman East Light Rail Bridge (info by Ian Kluft)
Vasona Light Rail Project (Downtown SJ/Campbell/Los Gatos)
1996 Measures A+B Transit and Highway Projects
San Jose, California light rail (pictorial tour at
San Jose Light Rail (pictorial tour by
Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Case Studies: San Jose Light Rail (light rail study by City of Seattle)
San Jose Light Rail Map (by Loren Petrich)
San Jose Light Rail Track Maps (by Loren Petrich)
San Jose Light Rail GPS Map (by Ian Kluft and Gary Haussmann)
VTA Light Rail Station GPS Locations (by Ian Kluft and Gary Haussmann)
Connecting San Jose to BART
2000 Measure A Transit Projects (by VTA)
BART Extension to San Jose study (by BART)
Silicon Valley Rapid Transit Corridor (SVRTC) study (by VTA)
San Jose-to-BART Connection: Comparison of BART and PRT (by Rob Means)
SVRTC Watch - news & background about the Silicon Valley BART extension
mBART Proposal (by Andy Chow)
Comments on the SVRTC Study (by Ian Kluft)
VTA Riders Union (VTARU) - watchdog organization, not affiliated with VTA
VTARU home page
VTARU mail list
Heavy Rail Transit
CalTrain (commuter rail: Gilroy - San Jose - San Francisco)
CalTrain Schedule for PalmOS (Palm Pilot software by Robert Baynes)
Bay Rail Alliance (rail rider advocacy group, formerly Peninsula Rail 2000)
Altamont Commuter Express "ACE" (commuter rail: Stockton - Livermore - Fremont - San Jose)
ACE Rider web site
ACE Rider mail list
Amtrak Capitol Corridor (intercity rail: Auburn - Sacramento - Oakland - San Jose)
Amtrak Capitol Corridor FAQ (at
Amtrak Coast Starlight (passenger rail: Seattle - San Jose - Los Angeles)
City of Palo Alto "Way2Go" alternative transportation assistance
Stanford Campus Transportation
Commuter Shuttles & Buses
Breathe Easy Express "BEE" (Santa Clara) hybrid/electric shuttle bus
BEE shuttle maps at - commuter bus pool coordination in Silicon Valley
HPAC Shuttle - from ACE/Amtrak at Great America to HP/Agilent/Compaq in Cupertino
"How to Thrive on Public Transportation in and about Santa Clara Valley" by Anthony Nispel
Advanced Transportation Research and Projects
Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) intro and proposal for South Bay (by Rob Means)
Cities21 - Palo Alto Page Mill Corridor Design Competition
Transit connections to/from other counties
BART - Bay Area Rapid Transit District
SamTrans (San Mateo County)
AC Transit (Alameda County)
Santa Cruz Metro
San Benito County Transit
Van pools, charter/express buses from Livermore/Pleasanton to Silicon Valley
WHEELS (Livermore Amador Valley Transit) shuttles to Lockheed and Intel
SMART (Stockton transit) interregional routes, several to Silicon Valley
Van pools, charter/express buses from Merced County to Silicon Valley
City of Los Banos commuter van pool program
United Brothers Charters
Other Regional Bus and Rail
Amtrak (stations at Santa Clara/Great America and Downtown San Jose)
Greyhound (station at 70 S Almaden Ave in Downtown San Jose)

South Bay Street/Highway Links

These are links for roads, highways and construction in the South Bay.
City of San Jose Department of Transportation
Santa Clara County Roads & Airports Dept,4760,sid%253D13079,00.html
Expressway info by Santa Clara County
CHP Incidents in the San Jose area
San Jose Downtown Parking
Highway 87 Freeway Construction (CalTrans)
I-880/237 Interchange Construction (City of Milpitas)
VTA Highway projects from 1996 Measures A/B
Santa Cruz County Road Conditions (includes Hwy 17)
Highway Info
US 101 - Bayshore Freeway
SR 9
SR 17
SR 82 - El Camino Real, The Alameda, Monterey Hwy
SR 85 - West Valley Freeway
SR 87 - Guadalupe Parkway
SR 130 - Alum Rock Blvd, Mt Hamilton Road
SR 152 - Pacheco Pass Hwy, Hecker Pass Hwy
SR 237 - South Bay Freeway, Mtn View-Alviso Road, Calaveras Blvd
SR 262 - Mission Blvd connector between I-880 and I-680 in Fremont

South Bay Bicycle (Transportation-related) Links

These are links for bicycles as a mode of transportation in the South Bay Area. Note that bicycles as a sport or recreation are a topic of the sbay.sports newsgroup.
Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC) - advocacy group
Bike Commute Options (at RIDES)
Almaden Cycle Touring Club (ACTC) - includes cycling academy
Bikes on Transit (VTA)
VTA Bicycle Advisory Committee
San Jose Bicycle Transportation Map (303K PDF)
Sunnyvale Bicycle Advisory Committee
Morgan Hill Bikeways Master Plan
Bikeable Trails of the Baylands: From Dumbarton to Sunnyvale
San Francisco Bay Trail Section 3: South Bay
See also the SBAY Geek Ride at

South Bay Pedestrian Links

These are links to pedestrian transportation sites in the South Bay.
Walk San Jose - pedestrian advocacy group
Los Gatos Peds - pedestrian advocacy group

South Bay Air Transportation Links

Here are links for South Bay airports and transportation to the terminal.
San Jose / Norman Y Mineta International Airport (SJC), City of San Jose
Note about the renaming of the airport
In November 2001, the San Jose City Council voted to rename the city's airport after Norm Mineta, the US Secretary of Transportation and former mayor and congressman from San Jose. It is still understood and OK to call it "San Jose International Airport" but "San Jose Mineta International Airport" is now also correct. American Airlines continues to refer to it as "San Jose/Silicon Valley International Airport."
San Jose International Airport - home page for airline passengers
VTA's free "Airport Flyer" bus to light rail and CalTrain
SJC Airport Parking
Limosines service the SJC airline terminals
Taxis serving the SJC airline terminals
Commercial Shuttles serving the SJC airline terminals
"South Bay Flyer" shuttle bus between SJC and SFO terminals
general aviation
SJC info page at AirNav
San Jose Jet Center (General Aviation Terminal, FBO)
ACM Aviation (FBO)
San Jose International Airport - airport master plan
San Jose International Airport summary at RoadGeek's web site
Santa Clara County Airports web site
Reid-Hillview Airport (RHV), Santa Clara County
Reid-Hillview Airport Association (RHVAA), San Jose
Reid-Hillview Airport info (at BayFlyer)
RHV info page at AirNav
Palo Alto Airport (PAO), Santa Clara County
Palo Alto Airport Association
Palo Alto Airport info (at West Valley Flying Club web site)
PAO info page at AirNav
San Martin/South County Airport (Q99), Santa Clara County
South County Airport info (at Wings of History Air Museum site), San Martin
South County Airport info (at BayFlyer)
Wings of History Air Museum at South County Airport
Q99 info page at AirNav
Moffett Federal Airfield (NUQ), NASA Ames Research Center
Note about Moffett Federal Airfield
Moffett Field has remained closed to civilian use after the Navy left in the mid 90's. NASA, the new owner of the airfield, left policy control of this regional resource only to the most immediate neighbors in Sunnyvale and Mountain View, with predictable results. Moffett is the first and so far only airport in the Bay Area with rail transit access, with the VTA Bayshore/NASA light rail station. Rail transit is planned at other area airports over the next decade: San Francisco International (late 2002), San Jose International (2004-2006), Oakland International (2006) and San Jose Reid-Hillview (2008).
Moffett Federal Airfield (NASA Ames Research Center)
NUQ info page at AirNav
California Air National Guard 129th Rescue Wing at Moffett Federal Airfield

Regional Transportation Links

Here are links to transportation links in the surrounding San Francisco and Monterey Bay Areas. This includes transit links from other counties which which have transit connections to or from Santa Clara County currently, or are proposed to in the future.
Transportation Districts/Agencies
MTC - San Francisco Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission
Bay Area Transit Information (transit agency info/links)
California High-Speed Rail Authority
Mail Lists
Bay Area Transportation News (BATN) - news clippings
sbay.transportation newsgroup (Santa Clara County - South Bay/Silicon Valley)
ba.transportation newsgroup (SF Bay Area)
scruz.transportation newsgroup (Santa Cruz County)
If you have other items specific to transportation issues in Silicon Valley, send additions for this list to

Last updated January 21, 2012