A Fresh New Approach at samTrans

Over the last 30 years, much of what has been ballyhooed in the Bay Area as transportation capital improvement has turned out to be special-interest/ pet parochial projects of small consequence and highway expansions accommodating increased Bay Area traffic.

For this reason, when something positive occurs it deserves recognition. On November 6, 2018, the voters of San Mateo County approved Measure W which, through a ½ % county sales tax increase, will provide about $40 million a year to pay for various for improvements to the San Mateo County Transportation Agency (SamTrans).  Along with Caltrain, SamTrans buses provide transit service throughout the Peninsula as well as north-south connections between Santa Clara County, San Mateo County and San Francisco County.

On August 23, 2019 SF Examiner reporter Joe Rodriquez summarized some interesting new steps that SanTrans is taking to make its service more visible and more relevant to riders and would-be riders in the West Bay.

SamTrans’s actions are focused on meeting six simple but practical objectives; namely:

            Provide Mobility Options for Regional Trips
            Increase Market Share in Corridor
            Develop a Cost-Effective System
            Improve Transportation Equity
            Enhance Access to Jobs and Population Centers
            Support Sustainable Land Use and Transportation Policies

As part of its program for increasing market share, SamTrans is seeking to attract both more reverse direction riders during peak commute hours, and more off-peak riders.

Attracting off-peak hours as well as peak commute riders is important.  Since many more auto trips are non-commute trips than commute trips it makes no sense for a transit property, or a State Legislature, to respond only to commute trips.

SamTrans is already having success with its productive new program which includes such interior amenities as wi-fi, vinyl seats, storage racks and USB charging ports.

The new FCX Express Line between Foster City and San Francisco began operations on August 19th.  The peak direction northbound ridership on the new express line has greatly exceeded expectations, to the point where SamTrans has both switched to higher-capacity articulated buses and added more buses.  Through a stepped up marketing program the Agency is striving to make more southbound San Francisco commuters aware of this new transit opportunity and is planning to open more Express Lines in the coming months.

Currently operating mainly on Mission Street and using conventionally-sized buses, instead of the privately-owned, over-sized, so-called hi-tech units that block residential streets and impede public transit vehicles, especially in San Francisco, SamTrans buses operate substantially the same way Muni buses do.

In the interest of thinning out the hundreds of thousands of Peninsula automobiles that flood the streets of San Francisco every day, the City and County of San Francisco should be doing everything possible to facilitate SamTrans in its efforts to attract more riders.  Such as for instance allowing some SamTrans buses to operate on Market Street instead of consigning every last one of them to Mission.

BATWG applauds SamTrans for its fresh new approach to better serving Peninsula transportation needs and strongly supports the program as outlined above.