SamTrans is reinventing the way it provides service to customers along the system’s “backbone,” El Camino Real.
Beginning Aug. 12, weekday customers will be able to take advantage of Route ECR, which replaces the current routes 390 and 391 serving customers along El Camino. ECR began weekend operation as a pilot project in Aug. 2012. The service proved to be extremely popular among weekend customers adding new riders nearly every month since its launch.
The El Camino Real corridor has the heaviest bus ridership in San Mateo County, with nearly 50 percent of all SamTrans trips occurring on this major thoroughfare.
With the new Route ECR service, SamTrans expects to provide mainline service that is easier to understand, more reliable, more convenient and more frequent.
This major change is the result of the agency’s SamTrans Service Plan (SSP), a comprehensive assessment of all bus service, and is intended to grow ridership and improve efficiency by providing an upgraded customer experience. The service will offer faster and more frequent service operating between Daly City and Palo Alto and a schedule that is easier for customers to understand.
The new Route ECR increases frequency by providing service every 15 minutes on El Camino Real, eliminates confusion through the consolidation of bus routes and improves on-time reliability with more precise scheduling.
“With ECR, customers can throw away the schedule,” said Chuck Harvey, SamTrans deputy CEO of operations, construction and engineering. “The service is intended to be ‘spontaneous use,’ which means that a customer can walk out to El Camino and expect a bus every 15 minutes without consulting a schedule. Route ECR will take them anywhere they want to go along the corridor.”
Route ECR will provide service to all Caltrain and BART stations along the route – South San Francisco and San Bruno BART can be accessed via a short walk from El Camino Real – as well as other key transit centers served by the 390 and 391.
The reinvention of the weekday El Camino service is the direct result of a test program to implement the same service on weekends – a test that has proven quite successful.
Since ECR was launched last August as a weekend-only route, ridership along El Camino Real has grown by 4 percent and feedback from passengers on the new service has been overwhelmingly positive.
The ECR line is the first major service improvement under SSP, an initiative carried out by the San Mateo County Transit District to reinvent the bus system. The result of a two-year study, which included feedback from more than 2,000 stakeholders, the service overhaul will carry out three main objectives for SamTrans: Do more of what works, less of what doesn’t and try new things.
The ECR line is an example of that philosophy. Although they both traveled on El Camino Real, the 390 and 391 routes weren’t interchangeable at some locations and each line ran only once every 40 minutes. With the new ECR line, every bus goes to the same stops, so customers don’t have to worry about whether they are on the right bus. As a result, frequency will be increased significantly on El Camino Real. The weekend ECR provides service every 20 minutes and the weekday version will provide El Camino service every 15 minutes.
By making transit on El Camino Real more convenient for passengers, SamTrans will have the opportunity to attract new lifelong customers to its system.
ECR will operate between Palo Alto and Daly City, so the San Francisco portion of the 391 will be eliminated.
By eliminating the San Francisco segment, SamTrans is able to invest more heavily in its Peninsula service. With the cost savings, SamTrans can now afford to run every ECR trip into Palo Alto. Removing the San Francisco service also gives SamTrans greater flexibility with scheduling, meaning El Camino service reliability is expected to improve.
To get to San Francisco, customers still have a wide range of transit options, including the Route 292, Caltrain, Muni or BART.
ECR is the first of many efforts coming out of the SSP designed to expand ridership, better serve customers and ensure that SamTrans’ bus service is more reliable, effective and cost-efficient to operate.
Additional SSP changes will be rolled out in January 2013.