Transit fare and schedule coordination were best-ranked strategies for 101 Corridor Mobility Action Plan

Partners for the 101 Corridor “Managed Lanes” program are creating a “Mobility Action Plan” to identify and implement strategies in order to move more people in fewer cars, and to provide more equitable access to transportation. The new lanes can be used by buses, carpools, and by solo drivers who pay a toll.  The managed lanes started construction last year and are expected to be completed in 2022. h

To assess which strategies to use, SamTrans worked with consultants from Nelson\Nygaard, and have been reviewing the results with project partners and advisory groups.

The highest performing strategy was to “Improve transfers/ synchronization of multiple transit providers in MAP study areas, which included the 101 corridor and parallel roadways including 280 and El Camino Real, and connecting routes. 

This result mirrored the findings of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission which awarded fare integration the the grand prize in its “transformative project” contest for PlanBay Area. MTC’s modeling found that fare integration resulted in significant increases in ridership, substantial equity benefits for low-income populations, and strong cost-benefit performance.

A related top-tier strategy is a monthly, pay-as-you go “accumulator” fare using Clipper, which would allow transit users to pay for any transit service, one ride at a time, and earn free rides for the rest of the month once the value of pass was reached.  Such “pay as you go fare cap” strategies help make transit easier to use and more appealing for everyone, and especially for budget-sensitive households that find it a challenge to pay for a pass up front at the beginning of the month, don’t qualify for income or identity category discounts.

Other high-scoring strategies reached more people with affordable transit fares: 

Next in the scoring came a suite of strategies that extended affordable access to transit. These include expanding eligibility for bulk transit pass programs to include contractors, consultants, interns and temporary employees who work more than 20 hours per week; as well as TMAs, neighborhood associations, colleges.   Other high-performing options would improve fare affordability by expanding free or reduced price transportation for youth 18 years of age or under, and extending means-based fare structures to all transit providers throughout the study area, through regional programs such as MTC’s means-based fare pilot.

Another interesting high-performing “integration” option included a “transportation credit” program that would provide transit credit for toll lane users and toll credit for transit users, providing people with flexibility to meet their distinctive mix of transportation needs.

Higher standards for employers

In addition to the strategies that improved transit coordination and affordability, a suite of strategies scored highly that increased accountability for employers. These included

  • Enforcing transportation demand management requirements on employers and penalizing those not in compliance 
  • Enact trip caps for major employment centers at the city level 
  • Eliminating pre-tax commute benefits and replace with transit passes and other subsidies to employees
  • Open private employer shuttles to all onsite employees regardless of classification
  • Explore opportunities for coordination/partnership  on long-haul commute routes between employers, such as sharing / selling excess capacity on bus trips 

Speeding up transit

The study results also showed strong results for well-known strategies to speed up buses on 101 and other major corridor routes:

  • Support demonstration projects relating to bus priority on 101 and parallel routes such as 280 and El Camino
  • Improve transit speeds and priority on El Camino Real 

Special fares and perks for special destinations

Also high-scoring were special fares and perks for popular destinations such as sports games and airports. This has the potential to relieve congestion from these crowded trips and increase transit riderships. Although, since an important goal of the 101 Mobility Action Plan is equity and the people who directly benefit will skew higher income, it might make sense for these programs to accompany or follow other programs that benefit lower-income travellers as well. 

Refining the results and making decisions

Preliminary study results were presented to a stakeholder advisory group and technical advisory group on February 4. The project team has included TransForm, CalTrans, and SMCTA. Participants in the review process included funding partner agencies SFCTA, MTC, C/CAG and VTA. Strategies were evaluated considering results for increasing the use of high occupancy modes, improving reliability, and fostering healthy and sustainable communities, as well as readiness and cost.  For disclosure, your blogger is a member of the stakeholder advisory group.