The West Contra Costa County Express Bus Implementation Plan, which seeks to expand express bus services by connecting west Contra Costa with destinations in Berkeley, among other cities, is seeking final community input before finalizing the plan.
Residents of several counties, including Contra Costa and Solano counties, commute daily to job centers in San Francisco and Berkeley by traveling along the Interstate 80 corridor, according to the plan. This freeway is one of the most congested in the Bay Area and expanding the express bus services would ease commuters’ stress and increase efficiency and sustainability of their travel.
“I think it’s a very interesting project because it’s really trying to make transit competitive and provide the resources that are needed to shift the vehicle mode choice that people make from single-occupant vehicles to transit,” said Leah Greenblat, project manager at the West Contra Costa Transportation Advisory Committee.
With the plan, growing employment centers in cities like Oakland, Emeryville and Berkeley in Alameda County would be connected to West County with the current express bus service from West County to San Francisco also being improved through the plan. These four economic hubs are the destinations of 45,000 west Contra Costa County workers.
After gathering qualitative feedback from Bay Area employees and analyzing quantitative data to ensure the accessibility of the bus services, eight bus routes were proposed, according to the plan. These routes are presently not sufficiently taken by BART or the express buses from AC Transit and WestCAT.
“What’s really important about this plan is that it’s going to help communities of concern have better access to job centers,” Greenblat said. “(It will) really open up a wider area where people can commute to get jobs.”
There are two main anticipated funding sources for this new bus service, but neither are ready for immediate use, according to the plan. Regional Measure 3 is grappling with an unresolved court case and the Contra Costa County 2020 Transportation Expenditure Plan needs voter approval in the March ballot.
Considering these funding constraints, the routes that are expected to save the most time and yield the largest market size have been prioritized so that decision makers can implement these routes over others, according to the plan.
If both funding sources are available, funds will begin to be available by the fiscal year 2021-22, but an additional 18-24 months would be needed to order the buses, according to Greenblat. Therefore, the earliest date of service for some routes is 2024.
“I welcome discussion on ways to promote the expansion and accessibility of public transit in the region,” said Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín in an email. “Investment in public transit will help reduce our dependency on cars, resulting in quicker commute times and a cleaner environment.”