San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans)

CA: SamTrans Board Approves System-Wide Service Reinvention

The SamTrans Board of Directors unanimously adopted the SamTrans Service Plan recommendations at its board meeting, approving a plan that will make significant improvements to the county’s bus service.

The two-year service planning process included four rounds of public outreach, collected comments from nearly 2,000 stakeholders and went through extensive changes in response to public feedback.

“The SSP process set the bar for public outreach,” said Carole Groom, chair of SamTrans Board of Directors. “The process was inclusive and extensive and reflected the needs and requests of the community while still meeting the objectives set forth by the service plan. I was proud to cast a vote in favor of reinventing SamTrans service.”

The SamTrans Service Plan has three objectives: do more of what works, less of what doesn’t and try new things. These objectives translated in specific goals for the plan — provide more service in places that will attract more riders, identify and reduce routes that are not working efficiently and try innovative pilot projects. The latest draft includes a number of revisions in response to feedback and recommendations made by customers, members of the public, bus operators and elected officials.

The changes reflect dramatic changes in San Mateo County in employment and population centers, commute patterns and growing public need for transit and demand for alternatives to the automobile.

The major components of the plan are service improvements to core ridership corridors, including El Camino Real and major transit hubs in Daly City, San Mateo and East Palo Alto. Other routes are being proposed for realignment to improve ridership and efficiency.

The service plan projects that the improvements to service will lead directly to increased ridership by realignment of some routes to improve their access and availability and the elimination of some low-ridership routes, which allows the deployment of resources to locations where ridership is more likely.

“This is not a static, one-time-only change,” said April Chan, executive officer of planning and development. “This is a dynamic foundation for service and we will make changes and take advantage of new opportunities as circumstances and demand changes.”

To achieve this continual improvement, a robust monitoring system will track the success of the changes and will help to identify areas where additional improvements can be achieved.

Some of the proposed changes include improving frequencies and streamlining routes to provide better core service, realigning or eliminating poor performing services and adding pilot programs of alternative service models in Pacifica and San Carlos. If successful, similar alternative service models could be used in other parts of the county.

“The adoption of the SSP signals the end of the planning process and the beginning of the implementation process,” said Chuck Harvey, deputy CEO responsible for bus operations and service. “While we believe the service improvements will bring in new riders, we want to make the changes as seamless as possible for our existing customers.”

In the coming weeks, SamTrans will bring forward a timeline for implementing the service changes.