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Public transit in San Jose (and the entire South Bay portion of the Bay Area) is provided primarily by VTA, which operates bus and light-rail (modern streetcar) service. Caltrain also provides rail service throughout a portion of Santa Clara County.
Unlike San Francisco and the East Bay, the South Bay is more suburban and has consistently less density, which results in a smaller, less convenient public transit network. Public transit is a viable option for visitors to downtown San Jose, the many busy commercial corridors throughout town, and major tourist destinations. The airport is easy to reach on public transit too, as are several office parks located north of downtown. Public transit becomes far more difficult to use in many residential neighborhoods and office parks situated further outside of downtown.
Major Local Destinations
Downtown San Jose is compact, and one can reasonably walk to all destinations because there are no hills or other significant geographic restrictions in the area. If one would rather not walk, all major points in downtown are served by VTA's free DASH shuttle, which operates all day on weekdays. For travel at all times of day and night, one can board almost any VTA bus or light-rail line and get to all major points and then some.
Many major points of interest are downtown: the Tech Museum, San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose Repertory Theatre and other live performance venues, the Convention Center, HP Pavilion (the Arena), several major hotels (the Fairmont, De Anza, Montgomery, Sainte Claire, etc.), and countless night clubs.
Diridon Station is the city's primary rail station, and it is located at the west end of downtown just a block south of HP Pavilion. VTA's free DASH shuttle connects Diridon Station to the rest of downtown, and the Mountain View-Winchester light-rail line and Routes 63, 64, 65, and 68 do too.
Mineta International Airport is served by VTA Route 10, which connects to the Metro/Airport Light Rail Station and Santa Clara Caltrain Station. Buses are free and feature luggage racks, and service operates daily every 15 minutes throughout most of the day. From downtown, travelers should board any light-rail line and ride north to Metro/Airport to catch the bus.
Japantown is a small, non-touristy neighborhood just north of downtown. It can be reached easily by taking any light-rail line north to the Japantown/Ayer Station, then walking three blocks east to Jackson & Fourth Streets. Other popular business districts are Willow Glen, which can be reached by Route 64 (catch in downtown or at Diridon Station), and downtown Mountain View, which can be reached by riding the Mountain View-Winchester light-rail line to its terminus in Mountain View or riding Caltrain to the Mountain View Station. Palo Alto's popular University Avenue business district and nearby Stanford University can be reached by riding Caltrain to the Palo Alto Station.
Santana Row, Valley Fair, and the Winchester Mystery House are located west of downtown and south of Santa Clara. All three points of interest are adjacent to each other. From downtown, catch Route 23. From Santa Clara Caltrain Station, catch Route 60. Valley Fair has its own easily identifiable transit center with bus stops for each route. Santana Row and the Winchester Mystery House are served by bus stops in the vicinity of Stevens Creek & Winchester Boulevards; ask the driver for assistance in using the best stop.
The Great America amusement park can be reached by taking the Mountain View-Winchester light-rail line to the Great America Station.
San Francisco can be reached by taking Caltrain from Diridon Station or several other stations throughout the South Bay.
Santa Cruz has regular bus service available from Diridon Station (daily) and downtown San Jose (weekdays only) on the Highway 17 Express. The Highway 17 Express doubles as an Amtrak Thruway bus service, but it's usually cheaper to pay upon boarding rather than through the Amtrak reservation system.
Monterey has limited bus service (three trips daily) available from Diridon Station and downtown San Jose on MST Route 55. Route 55 doubles as an Amtrak Thruway bus service, but it's usually cheaper to pay upon boarding rather than through the Amtrak reservation system.
Amtrak trains and Thruway buses and ACE trains can be caught at Diridon Station and taken to various points in California. Amtrak's Capitol Corridor trains operate to Sacramento. Amtrak's Coast Starlight trains operate between Los Angeles and Seattle. Amtrak Thruway buses operate to Stockton (with connections to Yosemite), San Luis Obispo (with connections to Los Angeles), and Oakland (with connections to Sacramento). ACE trains operate to Stockton.
BART can be reached by taking Route 181 (weekdays) or Route 180 (all other times) from Diridon Station or downtown San Jose to the Fremont Station. BART provides frequent rail service to Oakland (with connections to Oakland International Airport), Berkeley, and San Francisco. Additional connections are available by catching Route 180 (all day, every day) from the Great Mall/Main Light Rail Station, or Route 140 (weekday peak periods only) from the Old Ironsides or Tasman Light Rail Stations.