Ryan Jones – County Connection

Free Rides in October on All Routes

Ride free in October on County Connection. (Image of a cartoon bus flying through the sky.)
  • All County Connection buses and paratransit are free to ride for the entire month of October, no payment required for any passenger. 
  • A month of free rides is made possible by federal stimulus funding and is intended to not only help essential workers save money but encourage commuters to take public transit. 
  • While public transit ridership numbers remain below pre-pandemic levels, County Connection has doubled its passenger count in the past two years. 

Have you heard? County Connection is offering free rides to all who board one of our buses along any route, as well as paratransit. A month of fare-free riding this October is just one of the ways County Connection, and other public transit agencies like WestCAT, hope to encourage more people in Contra Costa County to choose public transportation as a commute option.  

During Fall 2019, average monthly passenger levels were over 300,000 compared to the fall of 2020 when there were fewer than 100,000 monthly passengers, down by 71% from the previous year. By comparison, in August 2022, there’s been some uptick, with roughly 200,000 bus passengers.  

Infographic of monthly passenger averages by year, 2019-2022. Image reflects roughly 300k passengers per month in 2019, 100k in 2020, 150k in 2021, and 200k in 2022.

Although daily routines are returning to what they were before the pandemic, public transit ridership remains low. “County Connection is not the only bus agency that saw a dramatic dip in ridership,” says Bill Churchill, General Manager of County Connection. “Though an industry-wide trend, we are proud to have doubled our passenger count in the past two years.” 

Still, the commuter landscape has changed—maybe forever as more office-based work allows for flexible and on-going work schedules Those who do not have the option to work from home are choosing to drive alone on their commute, leaving many public transit routes with very little ridership.  

Federal funding has been made available for transit agencies to apply toward operational costs as well as a stimulus for increasing ridership. “We plan our routes and frequency of bus service based on our passenger counts,” explained Pranjal Dixit, Manager of Planning, “and travel patterns are still irregular.” In spring 2021, County Connection made a major service change to better match service levels to rider demand, which included shifting resources from peak-hour commute routes in order to preserve essential local service. 

County Connection serves Central Contra Costa County and is especially critical for the essential workforce who may not have any other commute option, as was evident during the height of the pandemic when 20% of passengers never stopped riding. In addition, given recent increases in traffic congestion, gas prices, and climate change impacts, public transit provides a greener, cost-effective alternative to driving alone. Free rides on County Connection will not only help essential workers save money, but hopefully persuade others to get back on transit–perhaps beyond October. 

For more information on County Connection routes serving your area, visit countyconnection.com or call Customer Service at (925) 676-1976.