To address a mounting structural deficit, SamTrans is conducting a comprehensive operational analysis hoping to boost productivity and reduce costs. SamTrans calls the process the "SamTrans Service Plan." The agency is planning public meetings throughout the county in the next few months and plans to wrap up the process next year.
SamTrans's process is particularly overdue because its financial problem has threatened Caltrain service earlier this year. This process is being conduct in parallel to MTC's Transit Sustainability Project, which is a region-wide effort to address the transit funding shortfall.
Unlike most transit agencies in the Bay Area, the transit corridor in San Mateo County centers around Mission Street/El Camino Real, which is also served by BART and Caltrain nearby. The county also has areas of low income, high transit demand communities like East Palo Alto as well as extremely wealthy, low transit demand cities like Hillsborough and Atherton. San Mateo County also have strong intercounty commute particularly to and from San Francisco.
Besides the large number of cities, the county also has many city and employer sponsored shuttles, with some of the service created to fill the gaps left by SamTrans (e.g. Foster City). One of the reasons SamTrans was established was to unify the transit operations that were operated by the cities. Because of service reductions by SamTrans, many cities used their own funding to operate shuttles. While shuttles are valuable to cover the service gap, the transit system is no longer unified.
A problem SamTrans has is poor schedule planning, which resulted in duplicative service. This is especially apparent between routes 390 and KX between San Mateo and Palo Alto. There are many weekday and weekend trips that these two lines depart and arrive at the same time. When that happens, there's wasted capacity and that riders who can't make the schedule have to wait 30 minutes or more for the next bus. If the trips are staggered (like VTA lines 22 and 23), then the effective frequency would be every 15 minutes, a big difference especially for riders trying to connect with VTA in Palo Alto.
Let's see whether this effort will help SamTrans address those planning issues, which if done correctly it could have an immediate improvement in service and increase in ridership.