Anything Goes Commute Challenge: VTA Light Rail

11 Apr

When I moved to Silicon Valley in the mid-1980s, the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) was busy launching their first light rail lines from the mostly residential South San Jose through downtown to the technology office parks in North San Jose. Then in the late 1990s, not long after I quit my job in North San Jose, they extended the line to the Caltrain station in Mountain View, a 20 minute walk from my home.

VTA Light Rail was specifically designed to reach the major South Bay employers and indeed it does. I’ve worked at five different employer sites within 1/2 mile of a station. That’s almost half of my total work sites. But I’ve never ridden it regularly. VTA Light Rail is not particularly fast and the walk isn’t particularly short or fun.

VTA Light Rail Wide

My current job is once again within 1/2 mile from a station, so it’s natural for me to try VTA light rail again. Since I now carry a laptop every day, the one mile walk to the station feels even longer. Bikes are allowed on board, but the racks are designed for lighter bikes, not city bikes with panniers and front baskets. My solution: a push scooter with a messenger bag. It shortens my time by 1/3 and makes me feel like a kid again.

The Advantages: At $2 a trip without a pass, VTA is definitely a bargain. The trains are clean and quiet with free Wifi that works well enough for me to work on the train. Using the push scooter exercises different muscles than I use on the bike and I get a solid 20 minutes of exercise and 50 minutes of work time.

The Disadvantages: The overall trip time is longer than riding my bicycle the whole way to work. That’s slow. There are decent sidewalks on the route, but the San Jose segment is not a pedestrian-rich area, so drivers are less careful. After almost getting right-hooked when walking across a driveway on N 1st Street, I switched to taking the sidewalk against traffic so I can see the cars coming. It’s harder to go out to lunch and the after-work shopping is limited to what I can carry in a messenger bag. And I can’t wear most of my heels.

Light Rail

The Upshot: Riding VTA Light Rail is great for getting a solid 45 minutes of work in route to the office, and riding a scooter is a fun way to work out your gluteal muscles.

Next up in the Anything Goes Commute Challenge is Caltrain with my bike. How will it will compare?

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Posted by on April 11, 2013 in Anything Goes, Around Town


8 responses to “Anything Goes Commute Challenge: VTA Light Rail

  1. Richard Masoner (@cyclelicious)

    April 12, 2013 at 10:20 am

    Nobody really likes the hanging hooks for bikes on light rail. People w/ heavier bikes just sit down with the bike in front of them or alongside in the aisle. Kickstands like you hvave are handy so you don’t need to hold onto the bike for the entire trip.

    • ladyfleur

      April 14, 2013 at 11:06 am

      For short trips I’ve sat with the bike in the aisle, but for the long haul home it’s a pain. You have to be ready to move it at a moment’s notice which makes it hard to work or even read on the train. The scooter is pretty much fold and forget.

  2. Erica B-W

    April 14, 2013 at 9:56 am

    Wonderful series on options! I too am a collector of red shoes. Looking forward to warmer weather so the red sandals can come out. Are you adding to your red sandal collection this year? 🙂

    • ladyfleur

      April 14, 2013 at 11:08 am

      I have a pair of red patent pumps, but I don’t have any red sandals. Something to add to my collection.

  3. prashchopra

    January 8, 2014 at 2:54 am

    Just the kind of info I was looking for, thank you! Any recommendations for a scooter brand?

    • ladyfleur

      January 8, 2014 at 11:59 am

      I didn’t research much before I bought mine. I just chose the only one that Razor sells that was rated for adult weights, not kids. It has bigger wheels too.

      The person I’d ask is Kent Peterson in Seattle. Here’s his blog:

      • prashchopra

        January 10, 2014 at 6:48 pm

        Thank you!


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