SAN JOSE (KPIX) — A Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) spokeswoman announced Thursday there is a five-point plan to get its light-rail system up and running by the end of July after the service was halted when a disgruntled agency worker shot and killed nine of his co-workers.
“We hope to have it restored by the end of July but we can’t be firm on a particular date,” said VTA spokeswoman Stacey Hendler Ross. “It’s an extremely traumatic situation. We don’t want to just push people back into work, into a place where they’ve suffered a horrific situation. We’re trying to do all we can to get through it.”
Ross said the agency is in its first phase of reaching out to its employees about whether each one is ready to return to work and if they’re OK with returning to their original position or need to be transitioned into another role.
The employees have been provided mental health and counseling services to deal with the impact of the mass shooting. Ross said some employees are eager to return to work while others are more hesitant.
The second phase of the plan to resume services involves identifying temporary facilities and moving into those locations. Some of the structural and technical equipment at the Guadalupe railyard where the shooting took place were damaged during the attack. Ross said it’s also a place that many will find difficult to return to so soon.
The last three phases involve ensuring the light-rail system is ready for service and will include checking whether employees are up-to-date with training and testing equipment that has sat idle for weeks. Among the tasks is checking the light-rail lines. Ross said that many of the shooting victims had held that responsibility.
“It’s a monumental process to bring back something like light rail service,” Ross said. “It’s not a matter of flicking a switch and the trains are running again.”
The halt of the light-rail system has impacted thousands. Ross said that during the pandemic around 7,000 riders used the light rail each day. Prior to the pandemic daily ridership was around 20,000. Bus service, which services thousands more, has been running since the shooting.
“Don’t own a car, been relying on VTA pretty much my entire life to get around,” said VTA rider Monica Mallon. “I completely understand the frustration but I really think that riders need to have a lot more compassion for them and for everything that’s going on.”
Others, like Silicon Valley Transit Users CEO and founder Eugene Bradley, feel that compassion should also trickle down to the community that relies on public transportation. He said he has been frustrated with what he feels is the VTA’s lack of open communication with the community about its plans to return to normal service.
“One shooter has affected the travel of over 4,000 families,” Bradley said. “Public means of the people, according to Webster’s dictionary. I know everybody is grieving but tell people something.”
Ross said they have been trying to inform the public of updates through social media, blog posts and via their website.
She said the agency has been working hard to return to full service in the community while balancing taking care of their own.
“We understand that public transit is very important to keep a community running,” said Ross. “We’re trying to be as sensitive as possible to our employees because they are our priority right now.”