Golden Gate Transit advances plan to cut routes

The Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District Board of Supervisors met Thursday morning to address public reaction to proposed fare increases and service reductions on two routes.

The board discussed changes to Golden Gate Transit bus routes, 70 and 10 as part of the Strategic Vision for Golden Gate Transit Regional Bus Service approved in December 2013. Route 70 connects Novato with San Francisco seven days a week, while Route 10 runs weekdays between downtown and Strawberry Village, and weekends to Marin City.

Route 10 currently moves the lowest volume of passengers per trip — roughly 15 at peak times and 12 during off-peak times — and will be supplanted by a brand-new Route 30. The planned new route will serve the same stops as Route 10, but will continue on from Marin City to the San Rafael Transit Center along Highway 101.

Route 70, which gets 57 percent of its ridership from within Marin County, would reduce its rate of departure from once every half hour to once every hour, a delay that one member of the public, Anthony Nachor spoke out against for safety reasons:

“There have been cases in Marin City, wherein people with intent to do bad things hang out. Even though I go there all the time, I still feel unsafe going through that area. If that is going to be a long wait for transfers, we have to make sure that the area is not only safe but pleasant for commuters.”

Nachor also presented the issue of Tam Valley, an area near Marin, which would lose its route into San Francisco.

Ron Downing, Golden Gate Transit director of planning, dismissed the concern as a minor issue:

“Not [concerned] at all. There’s very low ridership, maybe one or two people per bus, and they have alternate service on the West Marin Stage Coach or if they walk to Tam Junction, we have a Route 4 bus into The City which comes every six or seven minutes. So there is a very high level of service, there isn’t a high level of ridership and there are alternatives available.”

Thursday’s hearing also addressed a 4 percent fare increase on fares for bus and ferry transit, as agreed to in Initiative 22 of the October 24, 2014 Strategic Financial Plan.

The 4 percent increase that would take effect on July 21 presents a different approach than previous 5 percent raises, according to Golden Gate Transit general manager, Dennis Mulligan.

Mulligan said the board is staying away from a longer-term plan because the next five-year cycle is expected coincide with advancements in technology, including an overhauled Clipper card system:

“We’re looking at some innovative things to help grow transit ridership and make it easier for people to ride our service, so we’re looking at a variety of options that are more complicated to implement so we need more time to develop those before we reach out to the public.”

The lone public comment in response to the fare program expressed support, from citizen Benjamin Peters:

“Big support of public transportation is needed to support global environmental challenges as well as our region transportation gridlock. So there’s constantly this narrative of this class that is forced to take public transit and those who can afford not to. We need to change the narrative to ‘we can’t afford not to take public transit.’”

Peters also expressed his approval for the short term deal:

“I’m giving them one year to come back with something really impressive. At that point I’ll decide if I’m going to remain in favor of future raises.”

Both plans will be presented for the next step of recommendation to the Financial Board and Transportation Board on March 10.