Martinez Community Shuttle – Route 3 Begins Monday, August 17th
I’ve said it before here, but it’s worth repeating: I strongly believe good collaborative planning often leads to better results. On Monday, August 17 such a product of good collaborative planning will take hold in Martinez. That is the first day of County Connection’s new Martinez community shuttle – Route 3.
Here’s a re-cap of how the long-awaited Route 3 finally came to be:
The City of Martinez identified the need for some type of shuttle between downtown and the neighborhoods in its 2009 Downtown Martinez Community-Based Transportation Plan. Unfortunately, shortly after that, the recession hit and County Connection was forced to cut service – rather than increase it – due to massive losses of sales tax revenues.
Flash-forward four years, as the area emerged from the recession, County Connection completed its Adaptive Service Plan (ASP) in 2013. This plan was the result of a joint planning effort involving County Connection, the City of Concord, the City of Clayton, the City of Martinez, the City of Pleasant Hill, and the City of Walnut Creek. The five cities participated through TRANSPAC, one of the four Regional Transportation Planning Committees (RTPC) of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority. The purpose of the plan was to identify projects to extend transit services to areas that were either underserved or could benefit from a non-traditional approach to transit service.
The ASP made recommendations for service improvements in Martinez and Walnut Creek. The two service improvements in Walnut Creek were implemented in 2014. This involved making service improvements to Route 5, which connects the high-density area of Creekside in Walnut Creek directly to downtown Walnut Creek, including the BART station. The City of Walnut in turn, chose to subsidize the fares of riders on Route 5 making it “free” to the passenger. This has led to a nearly four-fold increase in average daily ridership on this service!
Another service improvement in Walnut Creek from the ASP was a streamlining of Route 7, which connects the Pleasant Hill BART station with the Shadelands business park. The improvements make it much more attractive to shuttle back and forth between these two locations. This in turn has led the Shadelands property owners to underwrite the fares on Route 7, making this route also “free” to the public. Similar to Route 5, ridership on Route 7 has increased by approximately 50 percent since these improvements were made. And, as of this summer, the Route 7 buses have a special wrap that clearly identifies the bus as a Shadelands BART Shuttle.
Both of these ASP recommendations were made possible by restructuring Route 2 (with a ridership of less than 50 people a day), which was another ASP recommendation. Thus, these improvements were cost neutral. The area Route 2 serves has been identified for future innovative technology-based transportation options (i.e. Uber style services).
The remaining ASP recommendation from 2013 was to implement a community shuttle in Martinez. While the ASP provided a cost neutral recommendation to pay for a new community shuttle, public meetings and outreach indicated that restructuring services in Martinez was not the preferred course of action. Instead, it was determined to wait until new funding for the new community shuttle could be secured.
This is where the final piece of the puzzle comes into play. In 2014, the State of California enacted a spending plan for the revenue raised through a state cap-and-trade greenhouse gas reduction program <http://www.arb.ca.gov/cc/capandtrade/capandtrade.htm>, as a response to climate change. This program started in January 2012. Within this spending plan, the state allocates transit funding to various parts of the state to make transit improvements that will both reduce greenhouse gases, as well as provide new transit options to “disadvantaged communities (DAC)”. The state defines these DACs largely using indicators of the considered ill effects of air pollution.
Looping back to the City of Martinez, the zone identified for the desired Martinez community shuttle provides direct services to an area of Martinez that the state has designated as a DAC. Therefore, it qualifies for newly available funding from the cap-and-trade program. In the Bay Area, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) is the entity that disburses cap-and-trade transit funding to Bay Area transit operators. County Connection applied for cap-and-trade funding to MTC to fund the new Martinez community shuttle and MTC agreed to fund it!
As a result of this multi-partner collaborative planning process, we begin service on our new County Connection Route 3 on Monday, August 17. It is exciting to enable people living in Martinez to be minutes away from their downtown by transit, where they work, play and enjoy all the wonderful new and old things to do in downtown Martinez, including the Martinez marina.
This is a prime example of how good planning and good transit can enrich the community experience.