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Marin, Golden Gate Transit Improve Service Connectivity (Part 1)

Change has finally come to Marin Transit and Golden Gate Transit with a major revamp that includes a few line eliminations, several route modifications, and new services that, hopefully, will translate to better service for regular commuters and tourists visiting San Francisco. In part 1, I will describe the changes made by Marin Transit, as well as sharing images of the new services the agency now operates.

More Consistent, Frequent Canal Service

As promised, service to the Canal has been greatly improved to a point that from 7:30am to 7:30pm weekdays and from 7:30am to 6:30pm weekends and holidays, Routes 35 and 36, two of Marin Transit’s most productive routes, operate alternately every 30 minutes, resulting in buses between San Rafael Transit Center and the densest neighborhood in the county operating every 15 minutes in a counterclockwise loop.

​Similarly, two routes, the new Route 23X and a restructured Route 29, now operate on a clockwise loop during peak periods (between 6 and 10am, and between 2 and 9pm), complementing existing services on Route 23 which operates all-day on both loops. Not to mention that Routes 23X and 29 interline within the Canal that an eastbound 23X from Fairfax Manor continues as a southbound 29 to Marin General Hospital via College of Marin, and a northbound 29 from Marin General via Larkspur Landing continues on as a westbound 23X to Fairfax Manor (see details below). As a result, clockwise loops around the Canal now operate every 15 to 30 minutes during peak hours; outside those hours, Route 23 operates through the neighborhood hourly.

Perhaps the best part of these service improvements is the fact that Canal residents don’t need to transfer to other local services to get to their final destinations:

  • Routes 23 and 23X provide one-seat services between the Canal and Downtown Fairfax, both of which operating hourly. Route 23 operates daily to Shoreline Parkway (at Target), while Route 23X runs weekday peak periods only.
  • Route 29 has been streamlined to provide a one-seat service between the Canal and Marin General Hospital via San Rafael Transit Center and Larkspur Landing. Take note, however, that service to College of Marin is provided southbound only; to return to the Canal on Route 29, passengers must board the 29 to Marin General Hospital, go through a short layover, and stay on the same bus for the return trip to the Canal via San Rafael Transit Center. Alternate services available on Routes 22 and 228; transfer at San Rafael Transit Center to either Routes 23, 23X, 35, or 36. 
  • Route 35, originally operating between San Rafael Transit Center and the Canal, has been greatly expanded to serve Marin Civic Center, Northgate Mall, and Novato every 30 minutes daily, absorbing most of the former Routes 45 and 45K. Weekday service to Novato operates from 6am to 9pm; weekend and holiday services north of San Rafael Transit Center is provided from 7am to 8pm. Service around the Canal remains the same from 5am to 2:30am, operating every 30 minutes.
  • Route 36, originally operating weekday peaks only, has been expanded to operate all day, every day service, with buses running between Marin City and the Canal every 30 minutes from 7am to 8pm weekdays, and from 7:30am to 6:45pm weekends and holidays.

Two New Local Express Routes

Learning from the success of Golden Gate Transit’s Route 101 which operates as a limited-stop express between Santa Rosa and San Francisco via Novato and San Rafael, Marin Transit came up with two, brand new, limited-stop express lines that will, hopefully, translate to faster commutes and better service for many riders traveling within Marin County.
Route 23X, dubbed the “Ross Valley Express”, operates weekday peak periods only from 6am to 10am, and from 2:30pm to 7:30pm. This line complements the local Routes 22, 23, and 68 along the Fourth Street and Miracle Mile corridors, in which it operates as an express between San Anselmo Hub and San Rafael Transit Center (travel time of around 10 minutes), using Third Street westbound and Second Street eastbound. West of San Anselmo, it operates as a stopping service to Fairfax Manor, similar to Routes 23 and 68; east of San Rafael Transit Center, it operates as a stopping service around the Canal District in a clockwise fashion, which eventually turns as a Route 29 ​(see below).

This line operates hourly, leaving San Rafael at :30 past the hour both ways.

Route 71X, on the other hand, is an improved version of the old Route 71, which operated as a stopping service between Novato and Marin City via the bus pads along US-101, essentially duplicating service on the longer Route 70 from San Francisco. The limited-stop version of Route 71 now stops at fewer bus pads along US-101, skipping the Alameda del Prado, Marinwood, Lucas Valley/Smith Ranch, Terra Linda, North San Pedro Road, Lucky Drive, and Tamalpais Drive (Corte Madera) bus pads. At the same time, it has been expanded to serve Sausalito directly, creating a quicker service for riders traveling between Novato and southern Marin.

This line operates weekdays only, from 6am to 8pm in both directions, with most services leaving San Rafael at :45 past. Extra services during peaks are provided, leaving at :15 past.

More Service to North San Rafael, Novato

As a result of line adjustments, Route 49 is no longer operated by Golden Gate Transit; instead, it is operated under contract to MV Transportation. In addition, this route has been restored to operate daily service instead of having shuttle vans operating daily between Novato and San Rafael, and more weekday services have been added, with buses every 30 minutes from 6am to 9am, and from 12:45pm to 7pm. Most importantly, weekend departures have been adjusted such that almost all 49 trips leave at :15 past the hour instead of on the hour with the former Route 259.

In short, all Route 49 trips leave San Rafael at :15 past the hour from 6:15am to 8:15pm, with additional trips leaving at :45 past the hour during peak periods (6:15 to 9:15am, 1:15 to 6:15pm) on weekdays. On weekends and holidays, buses leave San Rafael hourly from 7:15am to 8:15pm, with an additional bus leaving at 9pm; from Novato, buses leave hourly from 8:25am to 7:25pm, then from 8:10 to 10:10pm.

Speaking of the former Route 259, adjustments to shuttle routes operated by Marin Transit have also been made to better suit the changing commute patterns of riders between Novato and San Rafael. A new service, Route 245, operates as a semi-express service between Smith Ranch Road and San Rafael Transit Center, serving the North San Pedro Road bus pads, Northgate Mall (stop at Las Gallinas & Northgate), Kaiser Hospital, Scotty’s Market, and Contempo. The Marin County EDD, however, will continue to see weekday-only service. This route operates daily, with hourly departures leaving at the top of the hour, from 7am to 6pm.

Route 257, a weekday-only service between Indian Valley Campus (IVC) in Novato and San Rafael Transit Center via Dominican University, Northgate Mall, and Hamilton, has been adjusted to serve Kaiser Hospital, Scotty’s Market, and Miller Creek Road in Marinwood. At the same time, its service hours has been expanded to operate until 10:30pm, with the last trip from San Rafael leaving at 8:30pm, and the final trip from IVC leaving at 9:30pm.

Central and Southern Marin Adjustments

In addition to Route 49, Route 22, a service operating between San Rafael Transit Center and Marin City via College of Marin in Kentfield, has been transferred from Golden Gate Transit control to Marin Airporter. Its schedules have been unified to provide a more consistent service daily, ending the long tradition of interlining select early-morning trips at College of Marin to become the Route 18 to San Francisco. Other than being operated with newer Gillig BRT buses, no significant schedule or routing changes have been made on this line. 
Services to Fairfax, however, have been adjusted, such that:

  • Route 23 now ends at Downtown Fairfax (Broadway and Bolinas) and does not continue to Fairfax Manor, with no schedule or routing adjustments
  • Route 23X replaces the axed big bus service from Route 23, operating weekday peak periods only from 6 to 10am, and from 2:30 to 7:30pm
  • Route 228 has been upgraded to become a daily service between San Rafael Transit Center and Fairfax Manor via Sir Francis Drake, with new service along S Eliseo Avenue to serve more of Greenbrae
The biggest change came with a massive restructure of Route 29. In Spring 2016, it operated between San Rafael Transit Center and Fairfax Manor via the Canal District, Andersen Drive, Larkspur Landing, and Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. It also operated hourly most of the day weekdays only from 6am to 9pm, with additional services leaving at 6:30am, 7:30am, 2:30pm, and 3:30pm, operating up to San Anselmo only.

Now, it operates with a much shorter alignment, operating between the Canal District and Marin General Hospital via San Rafael Transit Center, Larkspur Landing, and College of Marin. Its operating hours have been significantly reduced also, now operating weekday peaks only from 6:30am to 10am, and from 2pm to 9pm, leaving San Rafael on the hour on both directions. Once a northbound 29 arrives in the Canal District, it turns into a westbound 23X bound for Fairfax Manor and vice versa.

As a result, service along US-101 bus pads, along with nearby attractions and major hubs, have changed to give riders even more options to commute around the county. Here’s a reference list showing which bus lines serve various bus stops and major attractions:

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In Part 2, I will discuss what happened with Golden Gate Transit’s service changes and my first impressions on the new services provided by both agencies.

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