Route ECR, SamTrans first major service upgrade in more than a decade, hits the streets Aug. 12, serving stops up and down El Camino Real between Daly City and Palo Alto.
The new weekday route streamlines service on El Camino Real and makes it easier for customers to use, while increasing the frequency and reliability as well.
SamTrans will host a launch celebration on Aug. 16 at the Redwood City Transit Center. SamTrans Board Chair Carole Groom, SamTrans Citizens Advisory Committee Chair Peter Ratto and Redwood City Mayor Alicia Aguirre will be on hand to speak about the importance of their new service to the agency, the customers and the communities it serves.
ECR replaces SamTrans routes 390 and 391, which operate along the El Camino Real. It provides service to Caltrain and BART stations along the route – South San Francisco and San Bruno BART are served with stops along El Camino Real – as well as other key transit centers previously served by either the 390 or 391. Since weekend 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 service improvement under the SamTrans Service Plan (SSP), an initiative carried out by the San Mateo County Transit District to reinvent the bus system. The SSP is the result of a two-year study, which included more than 40 public meetings and feedback from more than 1,800 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 and is an ongoing exercise in reinvention of the county bus service.
"SamTrans’ new ECR service achieves two important goals: improving the riding experience for current customers and providing a new service we believe will help increase ridership," said Chuck Harvey, SamTrans deputy CEO of operations, construction and engineering. "This line is a proven success on the weekends, showing consistent ridership growth each month. This new service is one of the key improvements to come out of the SamTrans Service Plan."
The ECR line is an example of this new approach. Although the 390 and 391 traveled on El Camino Real, the routes weren't interchangeable at some locations and each line ran only once every 40 minutes. Customers often were confused about which bus route went where.
With the new ECR line, every bus goes to the same stops, so customers do not have to worry about whether they are on the right bus. The change also allows a significant increase in frequency and reliability on El Camino Real. The weekday ECR will provide El Camino service every 15 minutes; the weekend ECR provides service every 20 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.
The new ECR does not operate into San Francisco. While the service is used by morning peak-hour commuters headed into the city, buses departing the city are typically very lightly used. By eliminating the lower-performing San Francisco portion from the ECR line, SamTrans is able to invest more heavily in its Peninsula service. With the cost savings, SamTrans can now afford to run every ECR bus 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, passengers can still take the 292 line, or transfer to Caltrain, Muni or BART to complete their trips.
The ECR line and the SSP are just the beginning of SamTrans' efforts to expand ridership, better serve customers and ensure that bus service is more reliable, effective and cost-efficient. Additional changes identified through the SamTrans Service Plan outreach are scheduled to be implemented in January 2014.