It's about riders. It's about service. It's about time.
It is the SamTrans Service Plan and the goal behind it is to reinvigorate the bus system for a new generation of riders.
Over the past decade, since SamTrans last re-evaluated its system, riders' transit needs and travel patterns have changed dramatically. The SSP is the result of in-depth research on the SamTrans service and the customers currently being served and who potentially could be served. Out of that research and an extensive public outreach process, the SSP is intended to generate new proposals designed to meet those changing needs.
"We want to do more of what works, less of what doesn't and try new things," said Aidan Hughes, who is directing the SSP effort. "Those are the three basic directives that came out of the study process."
The distinctive challenge facing the agency is to make meaningful and effective changes within the current budget by seeking better systems for serving current customers and reaching new customers.
SamTrans staff will be seeking public input through a months-long outreach process that will kick off in September with outreach to community groups and city councils throughout the county and will culminate with public meetings and a hearing before the SamTrans Board of Directors later this year. Outreach also will include meetings targeted specifically at current riders and the men and women who deliver the service on the county's roads and highways.
"What we want to do is get more bang for our buck. Reinventing a complicated network of buses with connections to other services takes careful consideration of the needs of our customers, now and in the future," said April Chan, executive officer of SamTrans' planning and development. "We have to live within our existing means. Any service that we add has to be taken from some other area and that's where the balancing act can be challenging."
The proposal came out of an 18-month study that included two previous rounds of outreach to riders and other community organizations. The outcome was clear: SamTrans' previous model for bus service had become outdated. The Transit District had too many buses operating to areas where people didn't need to go. By improving service in areas with larger populations and employment centers, SamTrans has an opportunity to grow its ridership while staying within its financial means.
Staying within the existing budget is particularly important due to the pressures of an ongoing structural deficit driven by the substantial cost of providing federally-mandated Paratransit service, contributions required to maintain Caltrain operations and ongoing debt obligations.
SamTrans' service proposal breaks the changes into four categories; routes that are performing well but can serve even more riders through improvements; routes that could perform better with some modifications; routes that should be eliminated; and areas where alternative service models should be tested.
More Of What Works
Nearly 50 percent of all SamTrans trips take place along the El Camino Real corridor. With the high demand for service in this area, the study demonstrates the need to streamline the amount of service we offer on the routes serving El Camino and increase the travel options for riders.
Similarly, the study identifies core markets where employment and population growth are driving greater demand for service. There's a real opportunity for ridership growth by providing more, better service in these areas. Those core markets include: Redwood City, San Mateo/Burlingame and the Daly City/South San Francisco region. Routes proposed for improvement include: 120, 130, 291, 296, 390 and 391.