VTA could bill arenas, stadiums for extra transportation costs

South Bay sports arenas and stadiums may soon be forced to pay for extra transportation for special events.  Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) decided Thursday night to start billing for extra buses and light rail vehicles.

Getting to and from major events could cost venue operators and promoters more money. Money problems between the 49ers and City of Santa Clara aren’t new. Add to the mix, a projected balance of $22-million for VTA’s coffers next year and change is imminent.

"We’re in a position where we have to re-evaluate and examine everything we can that's costing us extra money," said VTA spokeswoman Tracy Ross.

Just weeks ago, there was a euphoric glow from a U2 rock concert at Levi's Stadium. The show is long over, but the transportation bill remains. VTA officials say some 6,000 concert-goers used the agency's light rail to get to and from Levi's Stadium. The cost: $61,000, which hasn't been paid by the tenant—the San Francisco 49ers.

The agency's board voted to start billing all venue operators in Santa Clara County for the extra buses, light-rail trains, and personnel used for events. That includes SAP Center games and shows, and soccer matches at Avaya Stadium. The goal is to stop VTA from bleeding red ink.

"The issue is that extra service costs us a lot of money and so we've got to find other ways to pay for it," said Ross.

On average, she says it costs VTA $50,000 to $60,000 per event. A projected deficit won't be helped by shelling out that kind of cash, especially for the 49ers, who have eight regular season home games each year. City council member Teresa O'Neill is floating the idea of additional fees as a solution.

"Have a fee that could either be paid by the tenant or whomever is promoting the event," said O'Neill. "I'm willing to look at doing things like possibly putting a surcharge on the cost of parking."

The 49ers’ cite "productive discussions" this week with the parties involved, but declined to talk on camera.

"We don't want to negotiate this in the press," reads a statement from team spokesman Bob Lange.

"We're working behind the scenes for an equitable solution for all of our partners." VTA officials say they're sending a bill over to The Stadium Authority for the U2 costs, but it's unclear if they'll find what they're looking for. The three sides, VTA, 49ers, and Stadium Authority will meet to flesh out this issue in the coming weeks. As for the other venues, Avaya officials say they'll work with the new costs of doing business, and SAP hasn’t been officially notified, yet.