County Connection Changes Several Bus Routes 12/22/13

Several bus routes in the County Connection system will undergo changes effective Sunday, December 22, 2013. The schedule changes are made to accommodate increasing ridership, passenger requests, and changing traffic conditions. The new schedules are available now by contacting Customer Service at 925-676-7500, and will be distributed to BART stations, City Offices, libraries, and hospitals beginning December 16th. For immediate information, please call Customer Service at 676-7500.

SERVICE CHANGE SUMMARY:

Weekday Service Changes

ROUTES 2 and 5

  • Both schedules are rewritten. Some trips are removed and realigned for better transfer connections.

ROUTE 6

  • 2 new trips are added to serve the Community Center leaving Orinda BART at 10:10 AM and 1:30 PM

ROUTE 25

  • The 10:30 AM and 12:30 PM trips leaving Lafayette BART are removed
  • The 10:00 AM and 12:00 PM trips leaving Walnut Creek BART are removed
  • The 11:30 AM trip leaving Lafayette BART leaves 10 minutes earlier at 11:20 affecting all timepoints
  • The 11:00 AM trip leaving Walnut Creek BART leaves 10 minutes earlier at 10:50 affecting all timepoints

ROUTE 35

  • A new trip is added leaving Dublin/Pleasanton BART at 3:03 PM

Express Route Changes

ROUTE 96X

  • A new trip will leave Walnut Creek BART at 7:47 AM and leaves the San Ramon Transit Center at 8:14 AM
  • A new trip to Walnut Creek BART will leave Bishop Ranch 3 at 4:14 PM and the San Ramon Transit Center at 4:19 PM.

600 Series – School Days Only

  • Routes 602 – All afternoon timepoints are adjusted
  • Routes 611, 613, 616, and 619 – School day Wednesday trip to Minert Rd. and Weaver Ln. at 1:10 PM adjusted to leave 5 minutes later.
  • Route 635- The school day trip at 3:10 adjusts to leave 5 minutes later.

About County Connection

County Connection provides fixed route and paratransit service throughout central Contra Costa County.  For information on all transit services, visit www.cccta.wpengine.com or call County Connection Customer Service at 676-7500.

Free Mid Day Program For Senior and Disabled Passengers Starts Sunday

Recently, County Connection’s Board of Directors approved a plan to establish a promotional free ride program for senior and disabled riders during the mid-day hours of 10am and 2pm seven days a week on any County Connection regular or express fixed-route service. The promotion will take effect on Sunday, December 22.

“County Connection is responding to a need in our community for reliable transportation options for the elderly and persons with disabilities,” said Bob Simmons, County Connection Board Chair and City of Walnut Creek Council Member. “Because this group is often living on a fixed income, we are pleased to offer this Free Ride Program during the mid-day, in addition to our already reduced rates to ride at other times of the day.”

To take advantage of the Free Ride Program, riders need to show bus operators proof of eligibility. Seniors need only show a photo ID with a birth date of 65 years of age or older. Other forms of eligibility include an RTC Discount Card, DMV placard registration receipt, a Medicare Card, or a Veteran Disability card.

The Free Ride Program will be offered by County Connection for a promotional period of six months, after which the feasibility of extending the program will be studied. As a general reminder, the first few seats of the bus are designated to allow easy access for elderly and disabled riders.

 

 

Rt. 4 Free Ride Trolley Runs Later During Holiday

County Connection’s Route 4 Free Ride Trolley will run later evening service Monday-Saturday throughout the holiday season.  The Free Ride Trolley runs between the Walnut Creek BART station and Broadway Plaza through the traditional pedestrian retail district. As the name implies – it’s a free service to all riders.

Through December 14, the final evening trolley will leave the fountain in Broadway Plaza at 10:10 PM Monday -Saturday. Beginning December 16 through December 23, service hours will be extended even further with the last trolley leaving Broadway Plaza at 11:06 PM. Finally, between December 26 and December 31, the last trolley leaves Broadway Plaza at 10:10 PM.

There will be no extended service hours on Sundays, Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve, and there will be no service on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day. Check out the extended service schedule.

Holiday Schedule

 

How is a bus route scheduled?

Adhering to an advertised bus schedule is vital in the public transit business. Did you ever wonder how a bus schedule is established in the first place? The scheduling of buses is both art and science. Here are a few examples of the factors that make bus scheduling more complex than you’d think.

Two primary issues in the scheduling process are the path the bus will travel and how often service is provided. For instance, the longer the route, the lower the frequency of service to each stop. Related to this, is the route-choice taken between the end points of a route. The more straightforward the routing, the quicker the bus travels between end points. However, this also means people have to walk farther to reach the bus stops. What we are talking about is balancing speed of bus travel, with access to bus stops, and street coverage. Most of the time, route scheduling requires a balancing of these competing three conveniences – all of which are important to the traveling public.

Providing easy access and direct service is easier when local streets are laid out in a grid pattern, like they are in San Francisco. Balancing these factors in an area full of cul-de-sacs, dead end streets, and non-grid patterns, which are typical in suburban areas, is much more challenging.

One way to overcome the non-grid street challenges and fully address all three conveniences is to put more buses and routes into service. However, that requires a financial investment of public resources well beyond what is available or realistic. Instead, we must pursue the art and science of balancing access, coverage, and directness.

Another factor considered when scheduling a bus is what we call trip generators, which is the reason why you take the bus, like a destination. Trip generators for County Connection service include BART stations, schools, libraries, shopping, restaurants, medical offices and hospitals, and other bus routes.

With respect to these trip generators, County Connection takes into consideration the timing of BART train and regional route connections and school bell times. County Connection policy calls for a goal for 95 percent of scheduled buses in the AM commute period to arrive at BART stations between three and 15 minutes prior to a train departure to San Francisco. Likewise, our goal is to have 90 percent of scheduled buses depart BART within three to 10 minutes of the arrival of a BART train. We also meet the school bell times of middle and high schools in our service area. Sometimes, meeting a school bell time means that we can’t meet a BART train arrival/departure that is further down a given bus route, for that particular trip.

In short, scheduling County Connection buses involves making choices between competing demands. Meeting a school bell time versus meeting a bus connection, or providing access versus directness of routing requires both art and science to be applied to bus scheduling. Add in the scarce resources we have available to deliver important transit service for the residents of central Contra Costa County, and you begin to see the delicate balances required.

I hope this sheds some light into our scheduling process. Next month, I’ll give you the inside scoop on a related topic, when I answer the question, “Hey, why is that bus empty?”

Thankful for a great County Connection team

As I write this inaugural County Connection General Manager blog, I am struck by the thought that Thanksgiving is already upon us. On my Thankful List are all 254 employees at County Connection. Without their hard work and dedication, there would be no County Connection and no bus service in central Contra Costa County.

Public transportation service is very much a people business. As we like to say in the industry, “It’s All About the People!” Each person involved with County Connection plays a vital role in the delivery of our services each and every day. I’d like to briefly walk you through the organization, so you can see what it takes to ensure that we provide as valuable a service as we can.

Capable and caring bus operators
County Connection bus operators are some of the best-trained and safest bus operators in America. Upon hire, each operator goes through a demanding seven week training course before they are allowed to service the public. They also go through a minimum of eight hours of refresher training every year. Our bus operators are the front line folks, and public face of County Connection as they interact with the public and our passengers. They do us proud at County Connection as they operate a large piece of machinery through busy streets, and get thousands of passengers safely and timely to their destinations each day.

Top shelf mechanics and maintenance crews
The bus operators could not perform the great job they do, without reliable, safe, and well maintained equipment. Our maintenance staff ensures this is what they have and are among the best in the world. Today’s transit buses have an array of intricate pieces of equipment from wheelchair lifts to fareboxes, to communication systems, all controlled in part by computer systems. A bus mechanic is really a bus systems specialist with an understanding of complex technology. County Connection road calls for equipment failure is extremely low, and boasts one of the best maintained bus fleets in the industry. Our miles between road calls are often more than double the national standard.

Experienced support staff
Both our bus operators and mechanics are supported by the finest administrative staff in the industry. The scheduling of our fixed-route services is highly technical and complex. The scheduling process – which is computer aided – must take into account BART train schedules, school bell times, traffic conditions, rest breaks for our bus operators, as well other factors. Without good route schedules, our services cannot be reliable, on time, or even safe. Thus, our schedulers perform a critical function. Our customer service employees daily help countless individuals plan their use of County Connection, as well adjoining services like BART. Meanwhile, our marketing staff can often be found at events, like farmer’s markets, art fairs, or local schools, promoting County Connection and generating ridership interest.

Finally, we have a great support team that ensures that meeting agendas are posted timely and accurately, that inquiries from the public are responded to promptly, that our financial records are complete, accurate, and timely, and so on. These folks are dedicated to ensuring the public can understand what services we offer, how those decisions are made, and how they can participate in that.

Each year, we recognize a few employees that have gone above and beyond, and are more than outstanding in their service to County Connection. It is always a difficult decision, because there are often many deserving individuals. At our recently held 2013 Employee Appreciation Day we recognized a few outstanding individuals. Among them was our Chair’s Award for Excellence winner for 2013: County Connection bus operator Sheila Hunter. Sheila frequently receives unsolicited commendations from her passengers and has a great safety record. But, it was a unique and selfless moment in 2013 that contributed to her recognition. In short, she helped a wheelchair bound person that had fallen over get back upright, and tended to the individual until her ride arrived to pick her up and she wasn’t even a County Connection passenger!

This is the kind of spirit and initiative that permeates our employees at County Connection. It is why we are so successful as an organization and why I’m thankful this holiday season to be a part of it.

Rick Ramacier
County Connection General Manager

County Connection Bridges The Gap

With a tentative deal reached in the BART strike, everyone took a collective sigh of relief – but not for long.

Once BART service resumed service on Tuesday, Oct. 22 they learned the service between Lafayette and Pleasant Hill stations would be closed for several hours while the NTSB continued an accident investigation on this section of BART tracks. With less than 24 hours notice County Connection developed a plan to shuttle BART passengers between Lafayette and Pleasant Hill BART stations. At the peak, County Connection had 15 buses shuttling passengers between Lafayette, Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill BART stations transferring up to 500 passengers every 15 minutes.

Within just a couple hours of the successful completion of this mission BART called upon County Connection to assist with another bus bridge between Orinda and Lafayette BART stations, when a fire broke out on the tracks and suspended service at the Orinda station.

“County Connection has maintained a strong working relationship with BART for many years providing bus bridges in times of need, and they know they can call on us when emergency situations such as this arise,” said Bill Churchill, County Connection’s Director of Transportation. “While these types of events usually occur without much notice, we are able to work with BART to quickly get service up and running in a smooth manner.”