Santa Cruz Metro to begin roll out of Wave Service initiative in December

Nov. 16, 2023
At full implementation, which is expected in 2024, systemwide ridership is anticipated to double to 7 million rides per year.

Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District (Santa Cruz Metro) is set to roll out its Wave Service, which is envisioned to transform transit in Santa Cruz County. The Wave Service initiative is the result of a comprehensive community engagement process conducted in 2022 and 2023. Wave Service will be rolled out in two phases, with the first phase beginning in December 2023 and the second in 2024. At full implementation, systemwide ridership is anticipated to double to 7 million rides per year.  

“Wave Service is all about responding to the needs of our community,” said Santa Cruz Metro Board Chair Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson. “People want to get to their destinations faster. They want to be able to rely on buses that arrive on-time. They want to ride directly from point A to point B without making transfers from bus to bus. Wave Service will do all of that. We’re very excited about the opportunity to roll out this initiative during the coming months.”  

“These service changes will be transformational for our community,” said Santa Cruz Metro Vice Chair and Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission Vice Chair Kristen Brown. “Wave Service will deliver dramatically improved service for riders while creating dozens of new jobs and taking a stand against climate change. This is truly a win-win for our entire county.”  

Path to funding for Wave Service  

On Dec. 7, the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (SCCRTC) will vote on three areas of funding that will fully fund implementation of Wave Service for the next three years. Santa Cruz Metro’s preferred funding sources and amounts include:  

  • $27 million in Transit and Intercity Rail Capital funding from the state of California 
  • $7 million in Zero-Emission Capital funding from the state of California  
  • $5 million sourced from the $27 million available in Consolidated Grant Funding from SCCRTC. The funding will support installation of “transit signal priority technology” at key intersections to provide buses with green lights so they can keep moving on-time through traffic.  

Wave Service key benefits  

  • More service: Adds 43 percent more service for residents.   
  • More frequency: 15-minute all day service.   
  • Reliability: Straighter routes with transit signal priority (TSP) at intersections to keep buses moving fast, frequent and reliable.    
  • Access: In total, more than 100,000 residents will have access to Wave Service within a five-minute walk.    
  • Convenience: One-seat ride (no need to transfer buses) from Capitola, Live Oak to downtown Santa Cruz, and the UCSC campus. From Watsonville, Wave Service will create a frequent local route extending to Cabrillo College where an easy, free transfer can carry riders to destinations along Soquel Avenue, downtown Santa Cruz and on to UCSC.    
  • Added benefits: Faster service from the San Lorenzo Valley area into Santa Cruz, as well as more frequent service on many of the routes in Watsonville, and the return of Santa Cruz Metro’s popular all day express service from Watsonville to downtown Santa Cruz.  
  • Job creation: 64 new positions, including 60 bus operators, two mechanics and two supervisors.  
  • Reduce traffic congestion: Reducing estimated annual vehicle miles traveled by 9,852,903 miles.  
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions: Cutting an estimated 40,068 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually.