Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority (VTA) light-rail trains could be back up and running as early as this weekend after service was abruptly halted following a deadly mass shooting at the Guadalupe VTA rail yard near downtown San Jose on May 26th. Nine VTA employees were killed in the shooting, and the agency has been struggling ever since to get back to normal.
But now, after major delays, the VTA says limited light-rail service could be ready to go by Sunday. One of the first lines in operation would shuttle passengers to and from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara for the San Francisco 49ers/Las Vegas Raiders preseason NFL game.
The VTA started doing light-rail test runs Tuesday by operators who had to go through a new training and certification processes. The agency says it will be monitoring each part of the system to see if all the technology and equipment is ready for the public. According to San Jose Spotlight, the test trains will travel along North First Street to the Baypointe Station, then return back to the rail yard. VTA officials are reminding the public to be aware of safety around the tracks given the fact that the trains have not run in more than three months.
The VTA made it clear that when service starts it will be very scaled back, and there is no date set for full light-rail service to return. “We’re hoping to have some level of service as soon as possible. We have to check and certify every element that will allow the safe operation to be performed. And that’s what’s going on right now,” VTA director of rail operation Dale Austin Jenkins told San Jose Spotlight.
Light-rail service was originally supposed to resume in July. The extended delay is partly due to the damage to light-rail operating equipment sustained during the shooting rampage, in addition to staffing issues. Morale has also been low for workers who witnessed the shooting. One VTA worker who was there during chaos recently committed suicide. There is also an investigation into claims of hostility and harassment from managers inside the agency’s information technologies department which Hoodline reported on earlier this month.
“That’s why we have taken the time for a very deliberate trauma-informed approach and helping our employees come back, taking care of people takes time. We are trying to build a foundation for these employees to be able to come back to work without having setbacks,” VTA General Manager Carolyn Gonot told KPIX.