Community members from the MidPeninsula provided input to SamTrans on proposed changes to bus operations and routes for its Reimagine SamTrans project at an April 29 community meeting, with several asking for continued express service in Foster City.
Reimagine SamTrans proposes three bus service alternatives that the agency argues would improve efficiency, grow ridership and improve the rider experience, with one combined alternative set to be picked. Several participants pushed for an alternative that restores commuter express Route FCX connecting Foster City to San Francisco, including Foster City Vice Mayor Richa Awasthi.
“I would request for consideration to not eliminate Foster City FCX service,” Awasthi said.
Awasthi asked on behalf of residents of Foster City who rely on it for work to restore and keep Route FCX. Route FCX offers weekday morning and evening express service between Foster City and downtown San Francisco. Route FCX goes from Foster City to San Francisco but had its service levels reduced due to less demand. Awasthi mentioned she worked from home now, but she and many other residents will need to commute to San Francisco.
Another resident asked for Route FCX to modify its route name, as it serves parts of eastern San Mateo along the shoreline. He asked for San Mateo in the route name, as he felt a third of the people on the bus are San Mateo residents.
Under Reimagine SamTrans, routes throughout San Mateo County could change, like the discontinuation of Route FCX under alternative one but would be saved in alternatives two and three. SamTrans is asking for public feedback through May 31. SamTrans said public participation and an online survey would affect how routes are designed and considered, with one preferred combined alternative picked from the three options.
Alternative one focuses on direct, high-frequency service to places within San Mateo County. Alternative two expands connections to rail stations and the region outside of the county. Alternative three maximizes geographic coverage of service within the county. The alternatives all recommended consolidated school trips and routes and possible route elimination in bus service options in Portola Valley.
SamTrans will get board approval of an alternative in February 2022 and implementation in August 2022. The alternatives would reduce SamTrans costs through the efficiency of scheduling and resources and improve reliability and connection as it emerges from ridership slumps caused by the pandemic. Jonathan Steketee, an operating planning manager with SamTrans, said COVID-19 ridership was down about 60% from prepandemic numbers but is slowly coming back.
“Every month, we are seeing ridership come back,” Steketee said.
One speaker asked if more proper bus stop shelters would be added, suggesting it for the new Reimagine SamTrans project.
Jessica Epstein, a government and community affairs officer with SamTrans, said the transit agency was aware of the demand and was working on ideas.
“We understand shelters are really important to the community, and they are how people see us. We are going to work at the best and most equitable ways to put them throughout the county,” Epstein said.
Another speaker, Sonia Elkes, asked for San Carlos to get a SamTrans line through the hills down to Caltrain stations for kids and students. Elkes said getting youth involved on the line could also get more parents to ride and get the wider community involved in the area.
Residents also asked about the SamTrans Transit Signal Priority project, which reduces travel times for buses on El Camino Real by allowing green lights to be extended for buses running behind schedule. Sensors on the bus send signals to the traffic light to keep it green or turn it green sooner. SamTrans plans to have 125 intersections along El Camino Real and 161 SamTrans buses equipped with signal priority equipment, with testing currently ongoing this year and completion in the fall.
“SamTrans is for sure pursuing it,” Steketee said.
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This story has been changed. It had previously incorrectly stated Route FCX was suspended. It had its service routes reduced due to low demand.