Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority
The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) operates a mass transit system in the Silicon Valley area of Northern California, serving the city of San Jose and the surrounding 326 square mile urbanized region. With an annual operating budget of almost $400 million, VTA maintains a fleet of 450 buses and 100 light rail vehicles (LRV), with approximately 2,100 employees.
The 42.2 mile light rail system is one of the longest to be built in the United States in fifty years and, with sixty-two stations, serves the communities of San Jose, Campbell, Santa Clara, Milpitas, Sunnyvale and Mountain View. Ridership in 2009 was almost 11 million people, with an average of 35,000 passenger each weekday. Each LRV train set comprises two self-contained powered cars, each with a maximum capacity of 171 people (66 seated and 105 standing).
VTA operates a web site where customers can leave comments and suggestions for service improvements. During 2010 the most requested feature was passenger Wi-Fi. VTA commissioned Xentrans to design a pilot program that would equip the newly-launched Commuter Express service with free-Wi-Fi and evaluate its impact and usage. The Express route operates during peak hours between Santa Teresa and Baypointe stations, and shortens the busy commute time by skipping smaller stations.
Customers riding the new Commuter Express light rail would be able to access Wi-Fi, free of charge, while on board these trains. Trains with Wi-Fi capability are marked with “WiFi On Board” signage inside and out. Passengers would be able to enjoy the added convenience, reduced travel times, and free Wi-Fi hotspots for the same fare that VTA charges for existing light rail service.
Each train is equipped with a mobile cellular router and Wi-Fi access point, delivering wireless Internet connectivity over 3G and 4G networks. Clearwire has built a 4G WiMAX network throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, and the VTA pilot would assess the availability and performance of 3G EV-DO, HSPA and 4G WiMAX services from various mobile carriers throughout the LVR operating area. In addition to Wi-Fi, the pilot would conduct experimentation with remote access to onboard CCTV equipment, and in-hotspot digital advertising.
The Wi-Fi pilot launched in October 2010 and ran through January 31st 2011, at which time Xentrans provided a full project assessment report and made recommendations. VTA is planning to continue the free Wi-Fi scheme, and expand it to other vehicles in the fleet during H1 2011.