A series of sweeping, system-wide changes for SamTrans means that Palo Alto residents now must hop-scotch through bus transfers and BART to get to and from San Francisco as of Sunday, Jan. 26.
SamTrans has changed every line in its service and is increasing the number of bus routes from 49 to 73. The overhaul represents the most comprehensive alteration of bus service on the Peninsula in more than a decade, according to SamTrans officials. The changes include altered bus stops, routes or schedules for almost all passengers.
Palo Alto riders now must make transfers using the ECR line, which runs about every 15 minutes on weekdays and 20 minutes on weekends along El Camino Real from the downtown Caltrain station to the Daly City BART station. Riders can then switch to BART trains to San Francisco.
SamTrans' "KX" bus line, which served both cities during peak hours, now excludes Palo Alto and operates between Redwood City and San Francisco on weekdays. Palo Alto passengers can reach the Redwood City station by taking the 296 bus from East Palo Alto and then transfer to Line 398 to the Daly City BART station. A limited route from the Palo Alto Transit Center to Redwood City, Line 297, runs from 3:45 a.m. to 12:22 p.m.
The only direct route remaining from Palo Alto to downtown San Francisco is Line 397, but that bus runs only from 12:48 a.m. to 4:54 a.m., according to SamTrans schedules.
Menlo Park riders will lose Line 295, which runs to San Mateo. The line will now travel between San Mateo and the San Carlos Caltrain Station. A new weekday route, 286, provides service between the Menlo Park Caltrain station and Sharon Park.
East Palo Alto riders will see changes to Line 281, with improved frequency to every 15 minutes on weekdays. But the route won't serve the Hamilton/Almanor/Ivy area. Instead, it will travel along Ringwood Avenue to reach Newbridge Street. The Line 280 schedule between East Palo Alto and Stanford Shopping Center will also be adjusted to avoid duplication with 281.
"It is critical that SamTrans make these changes for the long-term survival of the agency. After years of budget shortfalls and declining ridership, SamTrans must take action to more efficiently align its resources to meet demand and stabilize and grow its ridership," the agency said in a statement.
SamTrans began a bus rapid transit study in November that could improve service for the 26-mile El Camino Real corridor from Daly City to the Palo Alto Transit Center. Currently, there are 29,000 car trips along El Camino each day. With San Mateo County's population and job market projected to increase by 30 percent by 2040, congestion in this corridor is also expected to increase.
SamTrans will also consider adding dedicated bus lanes and improved transit stations in the long-term. Recommendations will be presented to the San Mateo County Transit District Board of Directors in spring or summer 2014.
The new bus schedules and routes are available at www.samtrans.com/schedulesandmaps. Customer assistance is available through 800-660-4287(TTY 650-508-6448).