SamTrans route changes recently implemented across the board have led to increased ridership on some bus routes, agency officials said.
The sweeping changes are part of the SamTrans Service Plan, an initiative that introduced a host of route changes in January. Every transit route served by the agency has been altered in some way, with the total number of routes growing from 49 to 73.
However, SamTrans spokeswoman Christine Dunn said the increased service has not necessarily resulted in more buses on the road. Prior to the changes, some routes had “deviations” at certain times of day, where a bus would follow a certain route for most of its trips, but deviate from that path in order to serve a school or some other location, Dunn said.
Under the new plan, those routes have been split into two lines, in which one deviates and the other does not, Dunn explained. This is consistent with the agency’s goal of making its routes simpler and easier to understand, she said.
One improvement that has made travel easier for passengers has been the new ECR route, which expanded from weekends to full-time weekday service and replaced the 390 and 391 routes, offering service along El Camino Real from Daly City to Palo Alto, Dunn said. SamTrans says the new route has been so popular that it’s seen an 8.5 percent increase in weekday ridership compared to last year.
SamTrans altered another route to make trips to San Francisco International Airport easier for Pacifica, Daly City and South San Francisco residents. Route 140, which connects those cities to stops on Skyline Boulevard and the San Bruno BART and Caltrain stations, has been expanded to include the AirTrain station adjacent to SFO’s rental car center.
For residents in Pacifica, the FLX-Pacifica line follows a fixed route in the Linda Mar valley from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. Any resident living within a half-mile of the fixed route can also call SamTrans to schedule a pickup from the FLX-Pacifica right at their front door.
A similar pilot program has been introduced in San Carlos to test the viability of demand-based service, according to SamTrans. The FLX-San Carlos bus line follows a fixed route during peak commute hours, but unlike the FLX-Pacifica, it does not have regularly scheduled trips during midday, nonpeak hours. In order to eliminate extraneous trips by empty buses, the FLX-San Carlos only makes midday trips if commuters request pickups ahead of time.
Dunn said SamTrans is closely monitoring various types of information, including ridership data and feedback from riders and bus operators, to determine whether the route changes and new practices are helping the agency offer better service to more riders.