As transit ridership begins to recover, bus company FlixBus is starting bus service in Redwood City to offer long-distance bus travel options on the Peninsula, with hopes to soon add a San Mateo station.
“We are super excited to be in the Peninsula. We think the service is a great fit,” Pierre Gourdain, senior managing director in the United States for FlixBus, said.
Redwood City service on the 56-seat bus started May 6, with direct connections to Sacramento, Davis, Berkeley, Santa Cruz, Monterey, with direct connection options to South Lake Tahoe and Los Angeles coming in the summer. Initial trips to and from Redwood City will run five days per week, with plans to increase through the summer. The stop is on the north side of Redwood City Caltrain Station at the bus loading curb on Winslow Street.
From Redwood City, the furthest north riders can go directly is Sacramento in about 2 1/2 hours, for $14.99, while the furthest direct connection south is Monterey and Carmel at $14.99. People can go to Los Angeles for $25 to $35 after a San Jose transfer. FlixBus will have a direct connection to Los Angeles by July 4. A route from Redwood City to Sacramento to South Lake Tahoe begins in the summer. The south bus leaves every day at 11:40 a.m., while the north bus leaves at 5:40 p.m.
FlixBus started in 2013 in Munich, Germany, to make sustainable bus travel both comfortable and affordable, while FlixBus USA started in 2018 as a new alternative to long-distance travel across the country. The company has stops in Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and Santa Cruz and has destinations to major cities throughout the country, including Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York City, Houston and New Orleans. The company’s sweet spot for transit options is longer range travel, like going from Redwood City to Los Angeles, Reno and South Lake Tahoe. In response to comparisons to Greyhound, Gourdain said the company is newer and is an upgrade in affordability, space and quietness.
The company’s core customer base is a young demographic mindful of the environment and the financial and environmental cost of traveling by car. Many students expected to use the Redwood City station are students at Stanford University, young professionals in the area, those in the service industry, and some who work in tech. Gourdain lives on the Peninsula and says many younger people and college students do not have a lot of money left at the end of the weekend for travel.
“I see the need for long-distance and affordable quality transportation,” Gourdain said.
FlixBus looked at a Stanford University location but picked Redwood City due to its size, diversity, demand for service and more people living alone or couples without kids. In addition, people want to visit Redwood City and the surrounding area but do not want to take a car, and the area remains popular with European tourists due to its mix of nature, culture and people.
“We have been eyeing this station for a long time. This is a very dynamic hub,” Gourdain said.
In addition to the Redwood City station, FlixBus is looking at other stops at San Francisco International Airport, Millbrae and San Mateo later in 2021. Gourdain said FlixBus is considering the downtown San Mateo Caltrain station as the location, although it has not talked to San Mateo officials about the feasibility.
“That I’d say 99% happen in 2021,” he said.
Gourdain said FlixBus collaborates with public transit agencies and has a good relationship with most, particularly BART, although SamTrans has been unresponsive at times, something he hopes to fix with meetings with representatives.
“They are a bit missing in action right now,” Gourdain said.
COVID-19 caused a dent in ridership, with the whole bus network going dark at the start of the pandemic. The network restarted and grew until November, when a COVID-19 surge caused a second slump until March. FlixBus downsized its team and drivers and now has several safety precautions, including requiring face coverings. Despite the changes, Gourdain said FlixBus has been on a tear since launching in the United States and believes expansion gives riders in the Bay Area and across the country more options in the future.
“Hopefully, in a few years, it will be more like Europe,” Gourdain said.
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