By Len Ramirez

SANTA CLARA COUNTY (KPIX) — Some activists are planning a “rolling protest” on board a VTA bus Wednesday night as they rally to save the route that doubles as an overnight shelter for many homeless.

The VTA’s 22 bus route runs from Eastridge to Palo Alto in Santa Clara County. It is the system’s only route that runs 24 hours a day.

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It’s known as “Hotel 22” because homeless people ride the bus from end to end overnight seeking only shelter. People just like Richard, who is homeless and frequently rides the 22 in the winter.

“Especially if the weather is like this. This is where it gets devastating. It’s cold,” he said.

Bus drivers tell KPIX 5 that Route 22 has been popular with the homeless for years. As the homeless crisis has worsened,
the buses are now practically full, sometimes with entire families.

But the VTA could put the brakes on the overnight portion of the route as part of a system-wide service overhaul and cost-cutting plan.

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority is facing a $50 million budget shortfall.

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“Overall, our proposed changes — about 70 on the table — could save us $15 million annually. As we look at Route 22, discontinuing those overnight hours between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. could save us $500,000 per year,” said VTA spokesperson Holly Perez.

Homeless advocates argue the route should be saved.

“When you have 157 people last year dying on the streets, why take away another lifeline?” asked homeless advocate Shawnn Cartwright.

Homeless activists plan to join homeless people by riding the bus Wednesday night to protest the proposed change as well as giving out food and blankets to those in need.

“You have elderly people. You have parents, children. You have women who ride this bus to stay away from danger. And this is the best people can do, it saves people’s lives,” explained Cartwright.

The effort to save the overnight service for Route 22 is also supported by the bus driver’s Union Local 265.

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A final decision on the route is expected in May.