On Twitter, some transit advocates did criticize the VTA. They're probably right. I've never been to Silicon Valley, but it sounds like it was relatively badly planned. It also sounds like there's a zoning issue behind the fact that many of the farms bordering on the lines haven't been built up with dense, walkable neighborhoods. That said, there's a bigger factor at play, one that I've touched on many times in the past: transportation myopia.
In the twenty-five years since the first VTA trolley ran, the federal, state and county governments and the VTA have widened four competing highways and built numerous interchanges and other "improvements." Here are a few that I could find details on:
|CA 237||Convert to "freeway standards"||1997|
|I 880||Widen from US 101 to Montague Expressway||2004||$76.3m|
|CA 17||Add auxiliary lanes||2007||$28.2m|
|CA 87||HOV lanes south and north||2007||$121.9m|
|I-280||Ramp Metering and Widening||2010||$5.5m|
As you can see, just about every branch of the VTA light rail system has seen millions of dollars invested in competing roads. Add to that the cost of constructing the 101, 280, 680 and 880 to begin with, which only happened within the previous twenty-five years. Those wouldn't have affected the design of the system, and thus the "Cost to run a light rail vehicle for an hour," but they have definitely sapped ridership, which affects all the other indicators mentioned.
Rubin is actually half right when he says "I think the original concept was very seriously flawed." Whatever the flaws of the original trolley concept and zoning, they pale in comparison to the flaw in the concept of building a trolley system at the same time as you expand the competing road network.