Atta Ikede

August 22, 2008

San Jose Public Transit – VTA

Filed under: San Francisco, Uncategorized — attaikede @ 6:22 pm

The best thing about San Jose is the public transit. They’ve implemented some very thoughtful touches! The system is called the “VTA”.

People love to hate public transit and it’s no different for VTA – Everybody told me that it sucks and that it’s dangerous. I was only in town for a few days, didn’t ride the transit at odd hours and didn’t travel extensively on the network so it’s possible that the system does suck and is dangerous at times; however I can say with certainty that it’s pleasant to ride sometimes and definitely connects the most important places in San Jose.

(Side Note: The most important places in SJ are, in my opinion: (1) downtown .. this is where the convention center and hotel cluster is at (2) Santana Row .. this is where the nice restaurants are (3) Mall 1 .. a high end mall near Santana Row and (4) Mall 2 .. a lower end mall. Mall 2 has a Target. Mall 1 has a Banana Republic.)

I didn’t want to bore you with all my obscure observations on how great the VTA is, so here are my top 2 favourite things about it:

Multi-language support

All messages in the train and even many of the ads were translated from English into Spanish and … Vietnamese! San Jose apparently is to Vietnamese people what Chicago is to Polish people. It’s like their HQ outside their homeland or something. The order of the translation was very consistent too .. always English, then Spanish, then Vietnamese. Cramming 3 messages onto every sticker and notice could have led to very ugly signs but overall, the messaging was clean and well organized. It reminded me a lot of Singapore, where they have 4 official languages in the transit system (English, Malay, Tamil and Mandarin)

Stickers on Train

VTA has a train system and a bus system. I rode both. The informational stickers on the train were excellently placed. Everything in there was so clear and organized! For example, they have a black font on yellow background sticker that says “Welcome Aboard” on top of both doorways on the train. With that colour and placement, you can’t help but notice it when you walk in! Another example is that they have a large bike icon sticker on the window where the bikerack section is in the train. The windows of the train are tinted. The decal is white when you look at it from the outside (white on black tint .. good contrast) and is black when you look at it from the inside (black against glass … good contrast again).

Interestingly, it looks like whoever designed the information display in the train didn’t work on the train stops themselves. At the train stop, the system map is on the back of the ticket dispenser, so you can’t look at the map while figuring out what ticket to buy! There’s an electronic readout but it doesn’t say when the next train is coming or where it’s going. The display is pretty much useless

Oh! Northern californians are really into riding bikes. All public transit systems I’ve used around here allow you to bring your bike on board. Don’t worry .. I haven’t gotten into bike riding. Bike riding requires a person to be either rich or strong. Rich because the lightweight bikes that a weakling like me could carry around don’t come cheap and strong because well, if you only have $50to spend on a bike then you have to buy one at walmart and you’d need huge biceps and deltoids to be able to lift it up and down stairs and over transit payment gates.


Note – I just had the worst day of work since 2002. Pity me. Pray for me. Feel free to mail me chocolates.



  1. Awwww… I haven’t read your post but I just saw the note you left at the end.

    There there.
    *Hugs* (sorry I can’t offer any kisses – I’m just not that friendly – it’s nothing personal)

    Hope you’re feeling better now.

    Comment by rabbitdownunder — August 23, 2008 @ 7:14 pm

  2. Here: An imaginary tim horton chocolate. Proudly Canadian.

    Comment by picnic buddy — August 25, 2008 @ 9:09 am

  3. I can tell you the idea of a city so populated with my people that we rank 3rd in the official languange makes me want to put the city on my bann list. Consider how much competition I would have. Or how often I would get harrass about whether or not I spoke the languange. No, I have enough trouble in Toronto, where I can’t get a manicure without having to provide a personal history, just so the vietnamese manicurist doesn’t destroy my cuticles. I’m being unfair to my own people but really folk, the vietnamese are EVERYWHERE, there is no getting rid of them. My friend recently when to Morocco and he told me he went to a Vietnamese restaurant there. And did you know that in Romania they have some kind of trade union with vietnam that they get shrimp chip in the convenance stores.

    This is how the vietcon were able to beat the US, they just didn’t go away, they were everywhere, the Vietnamese are everywhere. We all know how many chinese there are but did you suspect the Vietnamese?

    I say if your having a bad day, go to the local pasty store and treat yourself to some yummy cakes.

    Comment by Julie — August 26, 2008 @ 8:15 am

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