$25M budget shortfall forces VTA to make cuts

It's been a rough road for the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), which runs light rail and bus service in Santa Clara County. And now a massive $25 million budget shortfall is forcing the agency to make serious cuts.

According to the agency, ridership is down, expenses are up, and something needs to be done.

At a meeting this week, the board approved moving forward with a plan to fix the problem. On the table are fare increases, cutting underutilized routes, and offering buyouts for some employees.

They'll work out the details and framework in the coming months. Incoming Vice Chair Cindy Chavez said these will be difficult, but necessary decisions to make.

"Taking a deep dive at this to make sure we're protecting and spending public dollars in wisest way we can and then making sure we're providing a service people really want to use... that's our job."

But VTA cautions the public not to panic. There will be plenty of time for their input.

VTA spokesperson Holly Perez says, "This is really a first step in the process. No final decisions have been made. And the real work is now starting."

But regular riders are worried that their routes might be the ones that get cut or that they may not be able to afford steeper fares.

"It would cut their wings because you need the buses. People that don't have cars, like right now I don't have a car, and I need the bus," said rider, Marguerita Avila.

Rider Kiara Gaspard added, "I think people will probably just use Uber more or Lyft, or maybe like the little scooters. I feel like that would probably be their best option if they cut the routes here, yeah."

The board is expected to hear the plan in January, take it to the public, and then vote on it in the next six months.