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Marin Transit Approves June 2016 Service Adjustments

After months of deliberation and public outreach, the Marin County Board of Supervisors has approved the service changes being proposed by Marin Transit on 28 March 2016. Originally designed as part of the transit agency’s Short-Range Transit Plan for 2016-2025 promulgated last year, the route adjustments will be implemented on 12 June 2016 and will involve major adjustments in central and northern Marin.
Marin Transit received comments from concerned riders and community groups in the months leading to the Board approval last Monday, in which those have been gathered through public hearings, focus groups, and meetings with community stakeholders. Even I wrote my own arguments and ideas on the upcoming service changes, in which I sent an email to Robert Betts, one of Marin Transit’s transportation planners, on the changes that will happen in Novato.

Route 49 Adjustments

Based on my email conversations with Robert and Melody Reebs, senior planner for Marin Transit, they have cleared up the upcoming service changes on Route 49, the local San Rafael-Novato service via Northgate Mall and S Novato Boulevard.  Here’s a comparison of what was originally planned versus the revised plan approved last Monday:
Weekdays: every 30 minutes peak periods, hourly off-peak

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Northbound
Original
Revised
First trip
6:15am
6:15am
Last trip
6:15pm
8:15pm

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While the proposed southbound departure times remains the same (first trip 6:18am, last trip 7:18pm), Melody explained the 30-minute headways during peak periods as operating at the following times:

  • Northbound: between 7:15am and 9:15am, and between 1:15pm and 6:15pm
  • Southbound: between 6:18am and 9:18am, and between 12:18pm and 6:18pm
Weekends, however, were more interesting. I will list down the departure times for three different time periods and note the differences between them:

  • Route 49 (and 49K) when it last operated in 2013
  • Route 259, which operates today
  • Revised Route 49 (I would call it revived too)

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Northbound
Route 49 (2013)
Route 259
Revised Route 49
First trip
7:00am
7:00am
7:15am
Last trip
8:00pm
8:00pm
9:00pm

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Southbound
Route 49 (2013)
Route 259
Revised Route 49
First trip
7:05am Saturdays
​8:05am Sundays
8:05am
8:25am
Last trip
8:05pm
10:16pm*
10:10pm

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Note: * – Select trips interline as Routes 251 and 259, operating from Novato to San Rafael via Vintage Oaks and Indian Valley College before continuing to Hamilton and Northgate Mall.

Observing the weekend schedules, I’ve noticed discrepancies that I will do a schedule simulation to determine how that setup would work and analyze any run time issues.

  • The first trip on the Route 259 is at 7am, while the first trip on the revised Route 49 leaves 15 minutes later. To me, it means that there may be a scheduling issue as that bus may not start from San Rafael Transit Center and instead begin from Northgate Mall. However, that also gives me the impression that the bus may run faster in the morning that a later start time is suggested.
  • A more interesting observation is the first trip southbound, in which it leaves up to 20 minutes later than the original schedules. I don’t think any vehicle will make the complete journey from Novato to San Rafael via Hamilton and Northgate Mall in roughly half an hour because one has to go through multiple turns, especially around Hamilton and Terra Linda.
  • Those planned departure times seem to me more like approximate driving times for a car than a bus. Those also fail to take into account potential transfers along the way, especially out of Downtown Novato, Ignacio, Hamilton Theater, the bus pads, Northgate Mall, and Marin Civic Center.
  • The previous incarnation of Route 49 and the current Route 259 leave consistently on the hour on weekends; the revised Route 49 makes slight deviations from its original schedules. It could lead to passenger confusion and bus bunching, especially if the services are timed too tight with Route 35 between Northgate Mall and San Rafael Transit Center.

Proposals Left Out

While Route 49 will see some scheduling adjustments, most of the original service changes laid out in 2015 have remained intact. However, there are still a few lingering ideas that still need to be addressed:

  • With Route 245, there is a loop alignment issue in Terra Linda that needs to be cleared up. There are four roadways involved, namely Nova Albion Way, Freitas Parkway, Las Gallinas Avenue, and Montecillo Road. A total of eleven stops are involved, in which there are more southbound stops (7) than northbound. My idea has been:
    • Northbound (from US-101): straight on Freitas Parkway, left on Montecillo Road, left on Nova Albion Way, and left on Las Gallinas Avenue. To put it differently, after Northgate One, serve Scotty’s Market, Kaiser Hospital, and Vallecitos Elementary School in that order.
    • Southbound (from Smith Ranch Road): straight on Las Gallinas Avenue, serve the bus stop at Las Gallinas & Nova Albion (across Northgate One), right on Nova Albion Way, right on Montecillo Road, and right on Freitas Parkway straight shot to US-101. In other words, it will provide a more express route for passengers traveling from Terra Linda High School and Kaiser to San Rafael, saving them up to 5 minutes’ worth of travel time.
  • Another thing that was left out of the service changes was the potential realignment of Route 228 to serve E Sir Francis Drake, Andersen Drive, and Lindaro Street in south San Rafael.
    • Considering the fact that the Route 580 is the only available service along Andersen Drive between E Francisco Blvd and Lindaro Street, and no replacement service will be made between Andersen & Bellam and Larkspur Landing, it would mean longer walking distances for passengers needing access to the Golden Gate Transit facility and the light industrial areas along Andersen Drive.
    • While it may add up to 15 minutes’ worth of travel time per direction (especially during rush hour), that adjustment would have maintained adequate level of service for workers in the area.
    • Perhaps the biggest sticking point would be the persistent congestion along E Sir Francis Drake Boulevard between US-101 and I-580: that congestion is among the worst in Marin County that a lot of minutes have been wasted stuck in traffic, especially during the afternoon peak (from around 2 to 6pm).
    • To make transit service run faster between Larkspur Landing and Andersen & Lindaro, there needs to be a “transit and carpool vehicles allowed on shoulder” rule along E Sir Francis Drake that needs to be closely monitored so that such vehicles can travel faster through that highly-trafficked roadway leading to the Richmond Bridge.
  • Perhaps the thing that was truly left out in the service adjustment plan was to maintain the current Route 257 routing through Smith Ranch Road and serve Marin County EDD. I find this, however, to have a silver lining: while the 257 runs weekdays only, the proposed Route 245 that will replace Route 257 will go through that same area daily, a welcome news to riders from that part of north San Rafael.

    • In this case, passengers from Novato having to go to Smith Ranch Road and Marin County EDD will have to return to the old routine of boarding and getting off at the Lucas Valley Road bus pads and walking up to 15 minutes to get to the EDD or the Regency Cinemas.
    • With that adjustment, service through Marinwood will return to a weekday-only level of service, forcing riders to walk once again to the Marinwood bus pads on the weekends to catch a bus down to San Rafael, San Francisco, and points in between.
    • The proposal would have been to extend the 245 north to serve Marinwood and operate it as a one-way loop (with the last stop being at Miller Creek Road & Marinwood Avenue)  so that daily service could be maintained in that neighborhood. And, with scheduling adjustments, the 245 can be interlined with the Route 228 to Fairfax Manor so that vehicle deployment can be made more efficiently.
    • Coinciding with the above proposal, the 257’s route alignment will stay exactly the same, albeit with longer operating hours, to maintain needed service between Novato and Marin County EDD. That way, passengers who need access to Smith Ranch Road will not need to walk that far to access that major county facility.
I will be in conversation with Robert and Melody even more to see what future developments and adjustments will be made before 12 June 2016, including the potential handover of Routes 22 and 49 from Golden Gate Transit to MV Transportation, and all of those adjustment proposals I have.

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