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Exploring Options: Developing Better Transit Routes in Concord

County Connection has been one of the most interesting transit agencies I’ve noticed since I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area over a decade ago. While it provides vital public transportation services in central Contra Costa County, stretching from Martinez to Dublin, Orinda to Concord, I believe it has a lot of room for improvement. Luckily, I have a few suggestions that can boost ridership, especially if we consider the number of schools Concord has at the moment. However, it involves addressing the highly dispersed nature of its commercial centers, schools, and other activity centers.
Picture

One attractive solution to address Concord’s anemic access to public transportation, especially to Cal State University East Bay and Diablo Valley College, is to streamline transit options that serve multiple activity centers in as few transfers (or lines) as possible. Currently, services through Concord BART, the city’s transportation hub, are split during the weekdays and weekends, with no consistent scheduling:
Weekday schedules

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Line
Operating Area
Service Span
Frequency
10
Concord BART – Clayton
5am to 11pm
Daytime: every 15 to 30 minutes
​Nighttime: every 60 minutes
11
Concord BART – Pleasant Hill BART via Oak Grove Rd.
​6am to 8pm
Peak: every 30 to 45 minutes
​Off-peak: every 90 minutes
14
Concord BART – Pleasant Hill BART via Detroit, Del Rio
5:50am to 9:30pm
Every 40 minutes
15
Concord BART – Walnut Creek BART via Landana, Treat Blvd.
5:30am to 8:45pm
Peak westbound: every 30 to 45 minutes
​All day: every 65 minutes
16
Concord BART – Martinez Amtrak via Alhambra Ave.
5:20am to 10pm
Every 40 minutes
17
Concord BART – North Concord BART via Olivera, Solano
6:15am to 7:40pm
Peak: every 30 to 45 minutes
Off-peak: every 75 minutes
19
Concord BART – Martinez Amtrak via Pacheco Blvd.
6am to 7:50pm
Every 2 hours
20
Concord BART – Diablo Valley College
6am to 10:20pm
Every 15 to 30 minutes
91X
Concord BART – Airport Plaza Loop
6:20am to 8:45am
3:20pm to 6:15pm
Every 30 to 40 minutes
260
Concord BART – CSU East Bay Concord
7:40am to 9:50am
11:30am to 2:15pm
4:45pm to 10:30pm
Every 60 minutes
Nighttime: every 30 to 60 minutes

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Weekend service, on the other hand, is far less robust than its weekday counterparts.

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Line
Operating Area
Service Span
Frequency
310
Concord BART – Clayton & Kirker Pass
7:25am to 9:30pm
Every 40 minutes
311
Concord BART – Walnut Creek BART via Oak Grove Rd.
​7:20am to 7:10pm
Every 90 minutes
314
Concord BART – Diablo Valley College via Monument Blvd.
6:50am to 8:40pm
Every 40 minutes
315
Concord BART – Clayton & Treat via Landana
8:20am to 6:15pm
Every 90 minutes
320
Concord BART – Diablo Valley College via Diamond Blvd.
9:45am to 7pm
Every 45 minutes

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More Frequent Service to CSU East Bay, Diablo Valley College

With County Connection operating a different set of schedules and routings on weekdays and weekends, it has become a challenge for me to develop a service that, not only fits the profile of the neighborhoods served, but also the attractions people want to go on a regular basis. Looking at the profiles of Clayton and Concord in order for me to develop a bus line that suits the needs of both communities, I have come up with 
Notice that on the map, a concentration of activity centers can be found on the following areas:

  • Clayton Road (currently served by Line 10 weekdays and Line 310 weekends)
  • Concord Boulevard (only portions of it are served, with Line 15 weekdays and Line 315 weekends)
  • Area surrounding Concord BART (which includes Downtown, served by all lines mentioned above, but requires a bus ride to access most of them)
  • Diamond Boulevard (currently served by Line 19 from Pleasant Hill BART weekdays, Line 320 from Concord BART weekends)

A much deeper problem lies with how spread out the activity centers are in Concord, in which shopping centers like Park and Shop, Sunvalley Mall, Seafood City, and Willows Shopping Center (to say the least) are spread out among each other, making a unified transit line difficult to achieve with the least turns made on any line or missing any important attractions along the way.

Based on those principles, I chose the following major points of interest I want to serve in a few lines, based on the existing line conditions mentioned above:

  • Downtown Clayton
  • California State University, East Bay – Concord
  • Concord BART
  • Downtown Concord
  • Seafood City
  • Sunvalley Mall
  • Diablo Valley College

Perhaps the most difficult roads to get to by transit from Concord BART include Concord Avenue and Diamond Boulevard, both of which get very limited direct service from Concord BART on Lines 19 (every 2 hours) and 91X (operates during peak periods only). In my opinion, both corridors have to be served in one way or another, especially that several commercial centers can be found on both corridors.

Picture

Here are two ideas I made to address the issues found in Concord and Clayton. Plan A involves expanding the current weekday Route 20 to serve CSU East Bay Concord directly and ultimately serve Clayton in the process, displacing its current interlining with Route 10. The weekday service will operate via Concord Avenue instead of Willow Pass Road to provide faster access to and from Diablo Valley College. Its weekend counterpart, called Route 318, will also serve CSU East Bay Concord directly, but will also consolidate Route 320 and be routed via Sunvalley Mall instead of Diamond Boulevard to promote ridership to the shopping center. It is from here that I have been in a bind: given that the current Route 20 serves Sunvalley Mall while my planned Route 20 will not serve the mall directly, how shall I develop a service that will provide direct access to that mall every day rather than weekdays or weekends only?

In addition, I will ask a planner over at County Connection regarding why service to Clayton stops at 8pm every day and resumes again at 5am, especially that it is a long walk to and from the nearest bus stop at Kirker Pass & Clayton. The expanded Route 20 will also serve Clayton directly (paralleling Route 10), with the eastern terminus at the Clayton Library. Route 318, on the other hand, will use Ayers Road after leaving CSU East Bay eastbound, serve Concord Blvd directly, and terminate at Kirker Pass & Clayton. Schedules for both weekday Route 20 and weekend Route 318 can be seen below.

Picture

Route 20 in black ink, Route 318 in blue ink
Plan B, perhaps as a way to address circulation concerns around Downtown Concord and to increase access to the city’s commercial centers, involves creating a brand new circulator line. Called Route 22, this service will operate between Concord BART and Diablo Valley College, serving the following attractions along the way:

  • Todos Santos Park
  • Park and Shop
  • Willows Shopping Center
  • Seafood City
  • Concord DMV (albeit indirectly)
  • Concord Post Office (albeit indirectly)
  • Target
  • Sunvalley Mall

A weekend equivalent of this line can be integrated with Route 318, linking Diablo Valley College with CSU East Bay Concord and Clayton directly. However, that decision will have to be made by County Connection and city officials from Concord and Clayton.

Picture

Proposed Route 22, the Concord Shopping Circulator
As you might imagine, given the wide dispersal of activity centers in Concord, it can be especially challenging to provide adequate, reliable transit service through the city. While weekday Route 10 and weekend Route 310 do an adequate job of serving Clayton Road directly, other routes require needed attention to better serve neighborhoods in the cities of Concord and Clayton. Planning in such suburban communities can be especially challenging, in which great care and consideration for the built environment are necessary to develop an adequate public transportation network that can serve more people.

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