Following a comprehensive service analysis and feedback in late 2011 and early 2012, SamTrans is proposing a substantial service overhaul. The proposed service revisions build on SamTrans’ strengths by increasing service in core cities and improving east-west connectivity, reduce duplication with other transit services, and slash sparsely used routes.
SamTrans plans to beef up service in Daly City/South San Francisco, Redwood City, and East Palo Alto, in areas where transit is a competitive travel option, with high concentrations of residents, jobs, or both. SamTrans also proposes to add two new routes providing better East-West connectivity in San Mateo/Burlingame and Redwood City.
Meanwhile, SamTrans plans to cut service that duplicates other transit routes. Outside of peak hours, instead of connecting to San Francisco, the KX will terminate at SFO connecting to BART, the 292 will terminate in San Bruno connecting to Muni and Caltrain, and the 391 will operate more frequently, but terminate in Daly City connecting to Muni and BART.
And SamTrans proposes to cut some routes with the lightest ridership, including 123 and 132 in North County, 359 in Central County, 280 in South County, and 118 coastside. (Slides and a spreadsheet of the proposed changes were presented at the board meeting, but the documents were not posted online. We will post them when SamTrans makes them available.)
The service revisions will modestly help but not nearly solve SamTrans’ financial woes. SamTrans planner Aidan Hughes projected that the changes would add a net of 1,000 riders per day, and improve SamTrans’ budget by about $300 thousand per year. Meanwhile, SamTrans has been hemorrhaging cash, drawing down about $10 Million from its reserves last fiscal year, and projected bankruptcy as soon as 2015. Updated financial projections are expected to be available by the SamTrans next board meeting in September.
SamTrans plans to conduct a public outreach effort to get feedback on the proposed schedule changes in Fall 2012, present changes for Board approval in late 2012/early 2013, and start implementing the changes in Summer 2013.
Public feedback will be important to vet the changes. At first glance, these appear to be good moves that build on the strengths and distinctive capabilities of bus service – the ability to provide service to transit-friendly areas and to provide connectivity to trunk rail service. It makes the area’s transit system more like a system.
However, by cutting service where the bus provides an option that is redundant with other transit services, but slower and cheaper, the proposed changes highlight pricing equity issues. Many people take the slower bus rather than the faster train because the bus costs less (but is more heavily subsidized).
It would be more equitable, and better customer service, if riders who transfer between services got a discount instead of paying a penalty. Currently, SamTrans provides transfer credit only to Caltrain monthly pass holders. The region as a whole penalizes riders who connect among services. Clipper should be used to reward these riders instead.