Marin Transit is proposing major changes to half of its local bus routes, including canceling or consolidating some routes, reducing trips, removing express routes and changing stop locations.
Robert Betts, the agency’s operations director, said the proposed changes to routes 22, 23, 23X, 29, 35, 49, 71, 219, 251, 257, 645 and 651 are in response to an ongoing driver shortage, the return of regular traffic conditions and an effort to align with service changes by Golden Gate Transit and ferry service.
“We are continuing to face some challenges with the reliability of our service,” Betts told the agency’s board of directors on Monday. “And this is largely due to traffic conditions which have come back now to pre-COVID conditions and an onset of driver shortages that have plagued us throughout the pandemic, but really seem to be hurting us in the last six to eight months.”
The agency has scheduled a 10 a.m. March 6 public hearing to hear feedback from riders and local residents on the proposed adjustments. If adopted, the changes would take effect on June 11.
The proposal would affect 12 of the 24 local bus routes provided by Marin Transit. Overall, Betts said the changes would decrease fixed route service hours by about 3%.
“So it’s not a big service cut but in order to achieve some of the efficiencies, it’s a lot of rearranging of the pieces throughout the fixed-route network,” Betts told the board.
The proposal would also decrease the number of buses used by about 7.5%, which Betts said would reduce the number of drivers needed.
Unlike other transit agencies that are still struggling to recover ridership lost during the pandemic and its aftermath, Marin Transit has recovered about 90% of its ridership. Betts said financial issues are not driving the route changes.
Novato would experience the largest changes to its bus service. Route 251, which serves several Novato neighborhoods, would be discontinued. These neighborhoods would still be served by service changes made to Route 49 and the addition of a new route, Route 257.
“My read of what you’re proposing is that potentially people will be getting on a bus with a different number and some minor route changes sometimes but their experience from getting one point to the other may not be that different than what they’re experiencing today,” Marin Transit board member and Marin County Supervisor Katie Rice said during Monday’s meeting.
Riders going from the Canal neighborhood up to Novato would have to make a transfer at the San Rafael Transit Center because of the proposed changes to Route 35. The agency is planning to discontinue Route 35 service north of the Northgate Shopping Center. Northbound service to Marinwood and Novato would still be offered through Routes 49, 71 and 257.
“It’ll be a timed transfer,” Betts said during the meeting. “The service levels will be just as high, the frequency will be just as high, but it will require getting on and off a vehicle.
Paratransit also will be impacted by changes in operating hours of fixed routes, Betts said.
Additionally, service is proposed to be reduced in Tiburon and Larkspur. Residents in the Tiburon hills currently served by Route 219 will now have to travel to Tiburon Boulevard to board the bus. Betts said the changes are a response to low ridership.
“Ridership is about 50-55% of pre-COVID levels whereas most of our fixed route services are back at 90-100% of pre-COVID levels,” Betts said.
The agency is also proposing to remove two of its supplemental school routes — Routes 645 and 651 — that serve students in Novato and San Rafael. Betts said other fixed bus routes will still provide service to the schools and at an increased frequency compared to the existing routes.
To address the driver shortage, Betts said the agency will be looking to increase wages and continue to upgrade and build operations and maintenance facilities. On Monday, the board voted unanimously to increase the starting driver wages by $2.44 per hour, or about a 13% increase, with current wages increased by a similar amount.
Additional information and maps of the proposed changes can be found at marintransit.org/2023servicechanges.
Bus route changes
Marin Transit is proposing to make the following changes to 12 bus routes:
Route 22 (Downtown San Rafael — Sausalito)
- Remove Strawberry Village stops in the northbound direction. Stops at Strawberry Village would be served by Routes 17, 36 and 219. Northbound stops will still be provided at the Seminary and Tiburon bus pads.
- Cancellation of southbound service from San Rafael Transit Center at 6:30 p.m., 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. weekday trips.
- Cancellation of northbound service from Marin City at 8:04 p.m., 9:09 p.m. and 10:09 p.m. weekday trips; 8:01 p.m. and 9:01 p.m. weekend trips.
Route 23/23X (Canal — Fairfax Manor)
- Cancellation of Route 23X and consolidate with Route 23.
- Remove the express segment of Route 23X on Second and Third streets in San Rafael. Service would be moved to Fourth Street serving all bus stops.
- All westbound trips extended to Fairfax Manor.
- Increase trip frequency from hourly to every 30 minutes.
Route 29 (East Corte Madera — MarinHealth Medical Center)
- Discontinue service to the Canal neighborhood. Alternative service would be provided by Routes 23, 35 and 36.
- Discontinue service west of Bon Air along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard toward College of Marin and part of Magnolia Avenue. Alternative service would be provided by Routes 22 and 228.
- Service extension south of Bon Air along Magnolia Avenue, Doherty Drive, Tamal Vista, Tamalpais and Paradise Drive to end in east Corte Madera.
- Trip frequency would not change.
Route 35 (Canal — Northgate Shopping Center)
- End all service north of Northgate shopping center in Terra Linda. Alternative service to Marinwood and Novato would be provided through Routes 49, 71 and the new Route 257.
- Service would be extended to serve Nova Albion and Las Gallinas.
- Weekday trips will start and end at Terra Linda High School.
Route 49 (Downtown San Rafael — Novato)
- End service between Redwood Avenue/Grant Avenue and the San Marin SMART station in Novato. Alternative service would be provided by Routes 71 and 257.
- Discontinue service to Nova Albion/Las Gallinas in San Rafael. Alternative service to be provided by Route 35.
- Extend service to serve San Marin neighborhood and connect to the San Marin SMART station.
Route 71 (Novato — Marin City)
- Increase midday trip frequency from hourly to every 30 minutes from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. Trips after 6 p.m. will run every hour until about 12:30 a.m.
Route 219 (Tiburon — Strawberry)
- End service on the 219F alignment into the Tiburon hills. Service will only operate on Tiburon Boulevard.
- Reduce service frequency from every 20-30 minutes to every 30-45 minutes.
Route 251/257 (Downtown San Rafael — San Marin)
- Discontinue Route 251 service. Alternative service would be provided by Route 49 in the northern portion and Route 257 in the southern portion.
- Discontinue Route 257 service to the Hamilton neighborhood in Novato. Alternative service to be provided by Route 49.
- Route 257 would be modified to serve Alameda del Prado.
- Route 257 service to be extended north to Vintage Oaks shopping center, downtown Novato and the San Marin SMART station.
- Increase Route 257 frequency within Novato to every 30 minutes on weekdays. Add 60-minute trip frequency on weekends in Novato.
- Discontinue both supplemental school routes.
- Route 35 would provide continued service from the Canal neighborhood to Terra Linda High School.
- Routes 49 and 257 would provide continued service for San Jose Middle School, Novato High School and San Marin High School.
Source: Marin Transit
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