Marin Transit proposes major bus route changes

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.

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