Tomorrow, an AC Transit committee will receive a report on potential express bus service to the South Bay.
AC Transit proposes four express routes from the East Bay to the Great America area. The Great America area has the largest concentration of jobs in the South Bay for East Bay residents, and most of the these East Bay residents come from the Fremont area.
1. Hayward BART station, via areas west of I-880, to Union City before entering the freeway to Great America
2. Union City, via Newark before entering the freeway to Great America
3. MacArthur BART in Oakland, via Fruitvale BART
4. Bay Fair BART Station
Because VTA already provides bus service from Fremont BART station to the Great America area in addition to Milpitas and Downtown San Jose, AC Transit chooses to focus on areas in the East Bay, such as Newark, that are not close to BART. However AC Transit proposes to begin these routes at BART stations because these stations, tend to be the hubs for AC Transit local buses, have a greater "rider concentration."
AC Transit estimates these routes would carry almost 2000 riders per day and generate a farebox recovery rate ranging from 30% to 80%. The total subsidy required is estimated to be $1.4 million per year.
However, AC Transit did not identify a funding source for these proposed routes, nor the agency currently has the vehicles needed to operate the service.
AC Transit, which carries more than twice as many bus passengers as VTA, has been entrepreneurial in recent years. It is a major receipient of Regional Measure 2 ($1 extra bridge toll) funds for operating transbay bus service across the Bay Bridge, San Mateo Bridge, and the Dumbarton Bridge, along with the All-nighter owl service in the East Bay. AC Transit has a partnership with Stanford University where Stanford contributes 30% of the operating cost for the U line from Fremont, and in turn AC Transit provides free rides for Stanford students and employees. Also, AC Transit is the operator of the Dumbarton Express service, in which VTA is one of the funding partners.
Because AC Transit does not operate nor plan to build rail lines (that is the job for BART in the East Bay), AC Transit can only focus on delivering higher quality bus service. For many transbay commuter lines (including the U line to Stanford), AC Transit operates over-the-road MCI coaches. Compared to the standard buses that VTA runs on express routes, these coaches provide a quieter and more comfortable ride. Some of these buses also offer free wi-fi service.
Extending AC Transit service to the South Bay is certainly a possibility. Unlike the BART extension, it would provide direct point to point service within the East Bay to South Bay employment destinations, which are located far away from the proposed BART alignment.