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Transit Stories: Golden Gate Transit – 3

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Public transit agencies share many characteristics as humans do: all companies have great qualities that they can be proud of, but, they also face issues as well. Hopefully, the issues transit agencies face can become a door of opportunity to improve their overall service.

Golden Gate Transit (GGT) operates daily from 4:00am to 2:30am the next day, depending on the area, and it operates mainly along US Highway 101 between San Francisco, Marin, and Sonoma Counties, as well as operating on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge to Richmond and El Cerrito. It also operates express commute buses during the weekdays and local services daily that complement with the basic services. Despite the fact that the agency operates long hours on many of its routes and cover a lot of areas, as well as many notable bus features, GGT suffers from some setbacks that limit its overall impact to the rest of the Bay Area, including:

  • Longer headways. Despite the fact that its basic services operate half-hourly and commute services more frequently, the operating headway overall is longer than other large bus companies. While Muni offers services every 5 to 30 minutes on all its routes all day, GGT offers services every 30 to 60 minutes, especially on the local routes, making passengers play the “hit-or-miss” game. Longer wait times forces passengers to either wait for the next bus or walk towards a freeway bus pad to ride a bus, making it inconvenient.
  • Shorter operating times. Basically, local services do not start until about 6am, and then most routes basically end before 9pm. One route, however, operates between 5am and 1am, making it a big inconsistency for local routes that serve more areas than others. Plus, many routes end their trips even before malls close, making it inconvenient for workers who use public transit to go home at night.
  • Lack of All-Nighter service. The Bay Area operates a network of bus routes called the “All-Nighter”, which allows passengers to travel home or work in the middle of the night when other agencies (like BART and Caltrain) are shut down. However, GGT does not operate such service, making the North Bay the only area in the region not to have any All-Nighter service, forcing passengers who want to travel to and from San Francisco to stay over for the night until the first buses leave at 4am in the north and 5:15am in San Francisco.
  • Limited coverage area. Despite the fact that GGT travels to four counties, the company does not operate to certain parts of many communities for many reasons, the most common being the physical landscape of the area and low passenger loads. GGT has a lower ridership rate than the other big transit agencies (like AC Transit, Muni, at VTA) caused by such limited coverage, and it results to residents living in such areas currently not served by transit to drive to get to anywhere they want to go to (particularly true in Marin County).
  • Funding struggles. Many transit agencies are struggling with increasing costs of fuel and overall maintenance as a result of an increase of demands for durable goods. However, GGT has tried to mitigate the situation by reducing only one or two trips (instead of whole lines) and increasing fares by 5% yearly to keep up with the situation.
  • Schedule unpredictability. While many agencies use GPS to track buses where they are, GGT currently does not have any such system in use, leading to passengers calling 511 to check for schedules or reading the schedule guide to “guess-timate” a bus arrival.

Simply, my suggestions would be:

  • Study the feasibility of an overnight service for Fridays and Saturdays
  • Expand coverage area to serve even more passengers
  • Extend operating times for routes that serve large malls to cope with both shoppers and workers leaving later than closing time
  • Study the feasibility of increasing headways for most routes to allow more people to use transit.

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